Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Northern Girl- The Extreme Fluctuations of Weather and Life Up In the True, North, Strong and Free.

I woke to the branches and ground heavily coated with snow...again. These last two months have been teasing spring only to take it away swiftly with a few more days of winter. Normally, I love winter but this year was different. This year I needed sunshine and outdoor sounds to lift my soul.

The week before the onslaught of rain and snow, there were a few days that were plus 14 degrees Celcius which were lovely. One afternoon, I sat on my porch and took a video of the sounds, for my small group of faraway friends on Instagram. Even over the light buzzing of my iphone, the sounds were still prominent. We live near a mini marsh area on the prairies peppered with bulrushes. When it's warm, every night the loud croaking of hundreds of mini frogs can be heard in harmony. The crickets chirping join in next with the occasional clicking of the gophers punctuating their chorus. Canadian Geese honk occasionally when they land around the marshy ground for a quick swim. Birds twitter over the gulping frogs and next door our neighbouring wolf dog howls because her family went to do errands. She is such a baby for the huge dog that she is. I kind of adore that about her because her howls make me feel that our family is placed in some western movie with loads of space and not another soul in sight. I like to close my eyes while the sun warms my face and pretend we are completely isolated. I am one of those people who thrive on solitary confinement. It probably helps that I have my family and the computer world at times, because technically I am not solitary, but still...in those moments, for awhile, I can pretend.

Alone but not lonely.

The warmer days were still morose and moody. The land was still budding and the repressive brown ruled. Yet even with that, it was a 'wuthering heights' sort of beauty. Muted browns and grey skies melding into the horizon when the sun didn't show. This matched my spirit of energy. And when the sun did brighten the sky into a deep hue of blue that stretched beyond the scope of the eye, the land seemed to buzz with signs of awakening. We were not yet at the stage of buzzing bees, although a few flies came out, but the precious stirrings of new beginnings were hopeful. Awakening is always a beauty to behold.

And then it snowed. 

The north has a way of giving and taking so suddenly. I believe this gives the many inhabitants a live or die mentality of savouring quick goodness and seizing unexpected moments quickly. Also installing resilience in those that manage to change with the seasons, or heck, the day to day. Sometimes I think life would be easier if we moved south. I can't imagine having a steady stream of seasonal change without a lot of influx of snow. The snow held off until December for us this year, and life was SO much easier. I had never realized that snow was such an obstacle in our wintering. The cold weather came without precipitation and walking places, driving, and going about life was less time consuming and took less energy. Maybe I would do better in a place without the snow factor? I like the four seasons and the beauty of the wild is something I cherish, but as these bones of mine get older (lol I sound SO old) cold is becoming a great hindering aspect of thriving. But maybe that is my Lyme or Anemia or even Mono? If I am at a certain temperature I have the least amount of symptoms. For some reason my temperature window is about 15 degrees Celsius to 25 degrees Celsius. Above that and I feel sick from being too hot and below I get chilled. Although, if I get to be inside, I don't mind our -30C days if I can crank my inside heat to +24C and go out for quick, vehicle heated errands. 

All of our lives depend on weather, but especially in places that are so prone to change. Every day we check because every day the weather forecast is a bit wrong for the next day, and our plans are dependant. The wind is also a huge factor. Because of our proximity to the great Rockies, our wind gusts can often be over the speed of a car on a highway.

My husband thinks that I am a reflection of the weather. He says it matches my moody, change by the moment, wild yet tame, full of surprises personality. Maybe that is part of the reason why I won't move south. I do have a kindred spirit to this land of mine. I also feel the changes in my body even if the weather man disagrees... I am usually the right one. 

The night before the snow, I felt achy and sick. I knew it was coming. I woke earlier because the room was brighter and knew without looking that the ground was covered. At first I groaned that the snow dare to show up and make my symptoms worse after the sun was beginning to heal. I was angry also that I was awake because with mono, every minute of sleep tastes like chocolate. But after my initial moaning and groaning, I actually looked out my window for the beauty. And there it was (pictured below), in all it's gently swirling whiteness.

I was nervous for the buds that were beginning to bloom but I realized they are probably as hardy as the other inhabitants here, and besides, there was nothing to do but embrace what IS. So I did. The sky was so white that after awhile my eyes became blurry but I still stared with wonder at the heavy white contrasted occasionally with a brown fence or a heavily burdened evergreen. It's a cold sort of beauty. Another quality my husband says I can be until I am occasionally full of warmth for a few moments of sappy goodness. I thought about this and smiled.

So this is my life?...

Ok, yes, this is mine and this is what I will do with it today...

I will turn on all my twinkle lights and fireplaces in Anam Cara. I will Hygge the entire house. And I will send out my children, bundled and pale to play in the piles of snow until they come in red cheeked and renewed. We will drink tea. We will play Christmas music even though it is almost May. In fact, I will blast it out our back window while they play because life is short. Because this IS what IS here, right NOW. Nothing is linear where I live. Like the weather, nothing is predictable, and maybe living here teaches these lessons in embracing, giving, dealing, thriving, or just getting by with acceptance? Perhaps more than most places? Or maybe that is just my persona putting it's own self into the land? Or a mix of both?

""Northern Girl" By Terri Clark

"Grew up drivin' on black ice
Spinnin' in circles under Northern lights
Laughter steamin', small town dreamin'
Digging tunnels in the deep snow
Sheltered from the shiver of a ten below
And I'm right at home

I'm a Northern girl, wild and free
I've got four strong winds to carry me
I've been East to West and all around the world
But I'll always be a Northern girl

Little cottage on a big lake
Sunshine would be a shame to waste
Warm days won't last - come and go fast
Bonfire in the moonlight
People I've known all of my life
That's where I belong

I'm a Northern girl, wild and free
I've got four strong winds to carry me
I've been East to West and all around the world
But I'll always be a Northern girl

Where I come from
What I'm made of
Where I wanna be
You can take me out of there
But you can't take it out of me

Northern girl, wild and free
I've got four strong winds to carry me
I've been East to West and all around the world
But I'll always be a Northern girl

I'm a Northern girl
True North, strong and free
Carry me
I'm a Northern girl"

I am a northern girl, wild and free with four strong winds to carry me...It's in me and I am in it. This is who I am and although I may complain at times, and it brings it's share of pain, it also brings great depth, freedom, raw strength and beauty. True, North, Strong and Free. 
Song Choice:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZWcqcNxmik Northern Girl- Terri Clark

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Having Mono at 33 With Chronic Conditions, Grace and Frankie, Celebrating LIFE, and 'Gettin' To Livin''

I knew something wasn't right. In February our family had a bought with Strep. Of course, being Strep, all of us were incredibly run down. My daughter and I seemed to be specifically exhausted. I thought it was just because we were taking longer to heal. But then, my normally bouncy Extrovert would often come up to me during the day and lean her head against my chest and just stand there. She would want extra snuggles. She asked to lie down...which was a shocker to me because this gal stopped napping at nine months old. She is the one who never wants to sleep for fear of missing out. She was the one who originally gave me sleep deprivation and even when she's sick she rarely naps. Something was very wrong.

A friend mentioned Mono and I thought about it, but didn't want to add another "diagnosis" to our seemingly "collector conditions." But after a month of her being off and complications of more strep and constant sore voice and throat for her, I took her in. The first doctor in Emerg swabbed her for yet another bought of Strep (even though she finished antibiotics for the first four weeks ago) but didn't test for Mono because they said it was unlikely. So I booked her into the clinic. We were at emergency because I thought her throat was closing up - it was so visibly swollen...so I didn't push blood tests at that time. At the clinic I made my argument and as an afterthought I asked to also be tested. The doctor said I looked pretty good for someone who would have low Ferritin AND Mono but she allowed me to be tested anyway. It is typical for me to present symptoms differently. I can look like I am functioning well and be very sick.

The next day we were visiting the therapist and he gave us our results with, "Your family is always full of surprises." Both of us were positive for Mono and my Ferritin had dropped one more point to a three. My first thought was, "Of course it's positive...of course I have Mono...why not? I seem to have everything else!" Followed by a deep urge to laugh (which I did later.) He asked if I had been feeling especially exhausted and I shrugged and said, "Exhaustion is my normal...not too much more than usual..." Because I am so used to being tired, and every day is hard for me because of this fact, I don't like to mention it in daily conversation. Everyone says they are tired. I didn't want to join the masses of complaining even if I had a legit reason. I want to LIVE my life. I know I make generally good choices to combat being busy ect. so I am not one of those people who are tired because I over schedule myself. I am tired because of my bodily conditions and I dislike drawing attention to this fact unless I need support or am writing a blog post. He replied to my daily tired statement, "With a ferritin of three being tired is pretty typical." But then as my thoughts caught up to me I realized the ridiculousness of my statement. I was WIPED. But technically this therapy appointment was not for me, so I moved on and concentrated on my hubby.

I can't believe I am 33 and have Mono. I have never had it before actually which is a shocker considering the fact that my body tends to be a breeding ground for all things depleting. Looking back on the last month it makes a lot of sense. I forgot that every night I felt like I was dying. I was scared to go to sleep because I thought I may never wake up and I wasn't sure I wanted to because sleep seemed like the most beautiful concept in the world. I also had these "hot flashes." I thought my hormones were going crazy. Turns out these were night sweats and typical with Mono. I am a person who is always cold. I am never hot, so this was a new fresh hell for me. At night I would strip off layers but in the morning I would, once again, wake up freezing. I was always so thirsty, especially at night when I had the fevers and I would constantly wake to headaches and nightmares. I took my temperature the other night and found out that indeed, I was also suffering fevers, which in hindsight explains a lot from last month. I wish I knew then...
(I also kept wondering why I had puffy eyes like in this picture-turns out they are also a symptom.)

Then there was the need to nap. I am like my daughter. I only nap if I just had a baby, have the flu or if I have a very bad time of the month (with low ferritin the heavy bleeding does me in.) I was napping after city trips and falling asleep when I would lie down on the couch...and the sleep felt like it was never enough. When the annual time/ clocks changed, I thought I was sleeping until eleven because I couldn't adjust. Yet, this sleep didn't feel like enough either. I felt like a teen again. I thought it was odd that I was sleeping the mornings away in the Spring, when usually that is when I prefer to wake earlier. My neck was also constantly swollen but I thought it was my lower thyroid nodule somehow affecting the lymph system higher up. My upper left abdomen was constantly hurting (which I brushed off as my annoying Lyme stuff) and my muscles were even more sore than usual after a walk ( again I thought it could be another Lyme flare.)

The problem with having chronic conditions, is that when you are sick it is tough to know if it should just be brushed off as a flare up or be checked for something additional or a run of the mill illness. I find that I have to be constantly in tune with my system. Every morning and evening I do regular "scans" of my bodily functions. It's what a person with chronic illness has to do to survive. I am eerily in tune with my body. I knew that if my daughter was positive for Mono, I would be too (because it is my lot in life to catch everything....plus I drink out of her water- yup whoops) and thus I am glad I pushed for my own blood work. Even if there is no treatment for Mono, it is good to know one is not going crazy with new symptoms and there is a solid reason for additional suffering. I am making my husband and son do testing next week because they have also been run down. My husband missed a week of work last month and I thought it was due to grief, but now I need to rule out of it was more or not...

Here is the kicker of this though. I was JUST getting myself back on track with life goals, health foods, and regular exercise. My physiotherapist rotated my hip back into place four weeks ago and I have not been the same since. I am often in pain, and if I would have known I had Mono, I would have been even more insistent that she leave my hip as it was. Walking is such a pain now and I hope that my slowly healing body will eventually adjust. I feel like I am eighty- but even that is not right because I watch the eighty year old women next to me in physiotherapy and they do BETTER than me. I often have to stifle giggles at my apparent weakness and their strength. Those older people are amazing. Plus, one of my favourite shows "Grace and Frankie" is about two close to 80 year olds who are gorgeous, fun, stunning and living life well. My husband often says both Grace and Frankie remind him of me in personality. He said it's odd because it is like the two sides of my personality and the conversations I regularly have, are mimicked between both ladies and they say and do EXACT things I have said and done. It is uncanny, the similarities. I can relate to both of them very heavily even though they are both very different. My put together, controlled, socially aware self is Grace, and my hippie, uncontrolled, boho spirited self is Frankie...but I WISH I had their energy and bodies! I would seriously trade places with women who are decades older than me. So thus, I realize this isn't about age.

Dolly Parton is another older woman I deeply admire. Her attitude, her energy, and her body exude joy and embody the spirit I want for life. Her song "Better Get To Livin'" always reminds me of my priorities. I do many things "right." I have researched diet and follow a mix of Weston Price and Mediterranean and GAP (depending on needs.) I go to physiotherapy even though I hate it. I force myself to walk because my weight has gone up despite eating well. I consume the right minerals and vitamins, I have low toxicity in my environment and the people that I surround myself with, I practice forgiveness, I have healthy boundaries and engage in beautiful moments with my loved ones. I steep myself in gratitude daily. I seriously love my life even with these conditions and we have a healthy amount of Hygge going on in our home too. Despite all of this, in the end, I have to engage in the GRACE to ACCEPT that this is my life. And I better get to LIVIN' in whatever condition I can show up in. I am doing my best. Life still happens even when you are taking empowering steps to live well. Some people look at this as depressing, and sometimes I admit I feel a bit depressed about it. That is normal and ok. But on most days, I realize that my dark circles are a winning mark of showing up and also a reminder that it is also ok sometimes to NOT show up. "Life's a dance you learn as you go, sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow, don't worry about what you don't know, life's a dance you learn as you go."- John Michael Montgomery

So my weight may be a few sizes larger than I normally prefer again, but I'm still beautiful in my own way. I may have dark circles that require a daily triple application of make up- but am I not lucky enough to have that make up in the first place? And hey, I'm still holding myself up and that is something! I am willing to make a better way and not sweat the small stuff, and still there are things that hurt. Luckily, Mono gets better which is more than I can say about my Ferritin or Lyme. My husband is slowly being healed through therapy and meds and we live in a time where this is a possibility. We are also a family lucky enough to have a therapist who used to be a practicing surgeon and family doctor, so he can help us with all of our myriad of issues. And he also finds us fascinating and fun... I think that's pretty awesome. I have more support than most people who suffer a lot more than I do, and so I refuse not to shine when I can. Sure, some days I feel like I'm a train wreck, but in general, I am in awe of this pretty amazing life I get to have despite all the hardships. What's even better is that I am considered "disabled" and in ways I am...I am considered a odd member of society which I wouldn't change for the world, even though I would change MANY aspects of society, and I think that those very mental differences are what enable me to be this positive during life trials. Of course I feel depression at times and sadness and frustration- I accept normal human frailty and emotion...but my point is, that I don't wish to wallow in them for long unless I am in a depression and then I allow myself to feel that too. Each expression is legitimate...if you are in a pessimistic phase right now, I have other posts on that and that is ok too.

Yes! I like to have reasons for feeling crappy but those reasons are not excuses to get in the way of living my best life. They are simply inner understanding for limits, boundaries and love. Even if that best life means napping more, sometimes being confined to bed, and regularly releasing pain. I am still alive and that deserves a bit of celebration. It also can be extremely painful, and I don't want to minimize that, but I have other posts on that...In this post I want to say...I am still worthy because I exist. I am still a beauty even if I do not meet the standards for typical beauty. I am still a member of the human race even if I relate more to alien life. I am still ME even if I was unable to do anything. Ableness does not equal happiness...it can but it's not everything. What I believe in fighting for- is worthiness and BEING...for you, for my children, for my loved ones, for the world, and for myself.

"Come on sing it- oh it feels so good to be alive...Living your life in this quick moment, and you never ever think its gonna go away but I'm here to say, yea I got things to do, yea I got mountains to move...feels good don't it? You've only got one life -live in the moment."- Meghan Trainor.

My mountains may be just getting out of bed, recovering after a shower, forcing myself to walk with my kids, balancing my hubby, or making sure that my children feel my attention even if I don't have a lot of it. Moving mountains does not mean you have to make a large mark on the world, or be a "normal, contributing member of society." Find your specific mountains and celebrate your unique movement of them. Because you are HERE NOW and ALIVE and this is enough for me to applaud your existence. You have worth. It may show up differently but your worth, simply from existence, is there!

With Love and Celebration;

Song Choices: Life's A Dance- John Michael Montgomery (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLrnwnNycoQ), Better Get To Livin'- Dolly Parton (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKeulwZ3sGE), Good to Be Alive Meghan Trainor (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBby1bOoA3A)

Skip the intro and go to the one minute mark for the song:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Disability and Depression, INFJ combined with Autism Depression, and Helpful Links.

*One of my favourite readers and most loyal commentator requested a few post topics. One of them was how invisible or social disability affects depression and how depression can look different from the perspective of those who are labelled differently. More specifically she wanted a personal account from my own experience of autism and how that combines with being an INFJ. I hope this post can apply to a broader range of people as well. I am actually not going into the more serious aspect of depression in this post but giving overall CONNECTIONS and CAUSE for depression. Please check out side labels for more serious looks at some of these conditions or steps to take. This post covers a lot of outer viewpoints instead of deeper issues. It is a lot to take in and I felt it was a lot to cover in a little post. It's an overview to help those who need to see the cause and connection. This post may not help you if you are looking for advice, or more serious matter on depression. Please always see someone safe if you are concerned about depression or anxiety. They are serious matters that need attention even if they do have a logical cause or connection. This is more anecdotal and information giving.*

In this post, I will highlight the top three reasons that I think depression and disability are linked. I will also provide a multitude of supportive links through out the post. At the end of this post I will explain what this depression actually feels like and what works for me in addressing the feelings.

1. Disability Depression Because of Not Being Able to Communicate My needs the Way "Normalized Society" are Trained to Hear Me:

The largest source of my ongoing depression is how, in important situations, I can not seem to communicate my needs or have them listened to. I find that often the very people who are supposed to be "specialized" in either special education, social work, disability, or varied professionals in the medical community, are the people who often write my needs off the most. I actually get treated worse, in general, by those who have read up on my unique brain wiring. The problem is that they are not working out of the Social Model of Disability (CLICK) but instead are only putting stock into older mentalities of research. They are often the type of people who value a person's educational criteria more than actual wisdom. They are often the type of people who value the "professionals" over the voices of those with the actual condition. Many of us can communicate our needs if given the time. We communicate through written word, nonverbal expression, emotion, grunts or body language. Unfortunately, often I feel I can't seem to communicate my needs because most of the time, only those with excellent presentation and superior verbal skills are the ones who are respected and listened to. Give me a sheet of paper and I can normally express, but put me in front of you and I will seem like I can't string two thoughts together. 

I had a guest post by Erin with a intro from me, called When do We Get To Be Autistic (click), and I feel it gives more context to this. I also find there is a huge difference between getting support, something each person - disabled or abled- needs in life to thrive, and receiving forced well intentioned "help." To see what this support looks like for autistics head on over to Sam's post HERE (click). I also wrote a post called "I am Autistic and Here Are Some Facts I would Like You TO Know (click) that also applies to this context. Doesn't Everyone Have A Little Autism In Them and Other Wounding Statements (CLICK) is another important post.

Michelle Sutton wrote, " But the thing is, in our society disabled people experience a constant stream of micro-aggressions that occur because we are seen as less able. People want to help, and they will help- whether the person they are helping likes it or not. And in our school system it is all too common to see programs set up to help the disabled kids- buddy systems where the non-disabled are encouraged to, and rewarded for, being “friends” with disabled kids. This so called altruistic behaviour is not actually helpful though (**). It sets up a relationship based on imbalanced roles, where one person helps another who needs to be helped and is rewarded for their efforts. I’ve seen promotional videos that say they are an example of inclusion, in which the non disabled kids feedback that they like having the disabled kid around because they “teach me to be a better person”, or they “have a lot to offer”, and other platitudes. But disabled people aren’t here to be a learning moment, and they don’t need to have stuff to offer to be valuable as a person.
The whole “I’m going to help you” and “I’m going to interpret for you” and “I’m going to look after you” aspect of the Julia videos I watched leaves me thinking the purpose of Julia has nothing to do with supporting Autistic people, and everything to do with teaching non autistic people how to tolerate us and to decipher the code to having us share space with them without disrupting it too much. I hope I’m wrong. I wish it was about rights and advocacy and empowerment for autistic people. But I don’t think it will be. It’s an opportunity to show autism in media in a way that autistic people can relate to and be proud of, but I that opportunity may have been missed. And instead, to me it looks like it’s just going to be another neurotypical interpretation of how other people can help us and make our tragic lives better. Please let me be wrong." (CLICK HERE for the rest of her post.)

This article "Hell Bent on Helping" (click) by a counselling and mediating group address this issue and give some solutions for future application of this issue. A few highlights are:

"In inclusive and co-operative education, we are working toward a time when asking for and receiving help is not considered an admission of inferiority, when being the helper does not imply moral or social superiority. The goal is a future in which the human community learns to merge help with respect. However, in the interim, it is important to acknowledge that the broader societal perception of help does not yet match this ideal, especially as it relates to individuals with disabilities.”... 

"We have gone on to say, "You can be with us but you must first be like us." In other words, if you can reform and reduce the evidence of your disability, look and behave "normally", then you can come back into society. Many remedial, therapy and life-skill programs have been expressly designed to help minimize the evidence of disability and to create an impression of greater "normalcy." The intent is to improve quality of life through increased "functioning" and skill development. The carrot held up is the promise of future belonging and acceptance. The real message is, "You are not valuable as you are.”...

"There have always been people with disabilities in society. Social justice for individuals who carry labels of disability will only come about as we learn to value diversity and recognize the multiplicity of gifts within the human community. Our strength is our diversity. We need a paradigm shift of the most profound kind, and, clearly, this paradigm shift will require a change in attitude. However, the problems inherent in the creation of attitudinal change continue to be difficult for the agents of any social movement. Attitudinal barriers stubbornly defy legislation, do not respond to architectural adaptations, and do not necessarily improve with the application of more money or better programming. They are notoriously slippery; the insidious products of unconscious socialization. To further complicate things, as any good social reformer with a modicum of honesty will admit, attitudinal barriers don't exist only among "those retrogressive oppressors out there," but are just as often within ourselves. In the immortal words of Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and he is us.""Inclusive education has begun to push society beyond blatant forms of oppression like marginalization and reform. On a daily basis we are confronted by our prior assumptions, called upon to question them, and asked to move toward a new awareness that differences do not imply deficiency, that people with disabilities are capable of significant contributions." 

"We must listen to both the verbal and non-verbal messages expressed by someone who may or may not want help. We must use this information to guide our actions and increase our sensitivity. It doesn't sound like much, but the ramifications are enormous. It is often during times that we are hell-bent on helping that we listen least well. We all know stories about people with visual impairments being forcibly "escorted" over crosswalks by well-meaning pedestrians, of people in nursing homes being fed when they are not hungry, of what the participants in the Dembo study aptly called "unexpected attacks" of help (Ladieu, Hanfmann, & Dembo, 1947, in Wright, 1983, pp. 309)." 

 2.) Depression Triggered by Expectations of Assimilation and Misinformation on Ability/Disability:

...We feel misunderstood because nonautistic people keep telling our stories, without asking us for our input. We feel misunderstood because nonautistic people make assumptions about what it’s like to be autistic and then present them as fact. We feel misunderstood because, like the adult in the video, people are talking to us and at us and about us but they’re not listening. I don’t need this kind of awareness. And I certainly don’t need to be tolerated. I need acceptance and I need for the voices of autistic people to be the ones speaking about autism..."

..."Many years ago, I thought that any conversation about autism was a good thing.  I thought that the  more people who knew about autism, the better and easier it would make my life and my son's life.  You see, we are both Autistic and it's not always been an easy road when faced with the ignorance and judgments of other people.  So, seeing people celebrating Autism Awareness in April seemed like a "Really Good Thing".   I slowly came to an understanding and appreciation of the huge difference between autism "awareness" and autism acceptance.  Awareness means that the rhetoric surrounding autism is dominated by people who are NOT Autistic.Parents, professionals, even siblings.  Acceptance means that  you don't just ask for our input but you recognize that we are going to lead the conversation. Awareness means that there is going to be a lot of misinformation.Because the people creating "awareness" do not have the lived experience of being Autistic. Often, they don't even consult with us when talking about us.   Acceptance means respecting diversity, valuing our humanity and recognizing and appreciating our place in the community and as experts on the Autistic life experience..."
My depression also gets triggered by misinformation spread by "professionals" and well intentioned parents who are "normal." I have been known, in my home, to throw books about autism across the floor. I even threw out one as I did not want one more copy of it in the world. At first I feel anger, but that anger does spiral into a helpless sort of depression. The copies found in my library are mostly BY Autistics themselves, and this aids in self empowerment and hope.

3.) Depression Because of Too Many Voices And Not Enough Down Time

I know this point is influenced by the fact that I am an INFJ (CLICK) which means that I am an introverted thinker with extroverted feeling. I need a lot of downtime. In fact, I have argued that being a hermit is what had calmed and added meaning to my life. Click HERE, HERE AND HERE. However, I also know as an autistic, that I also get overwhelmed by the sensory information going on around me. Whenever I have to pretend to be normal, socialize, or assimilate to society and the sensory overload, I DO get depressed.

I have to watch how much time out in the world I am experiencing. Even if it is good, I will most likely experience meltdown and then depression. Often the depression stems from a deeper issue of "not being enough" or fighting the shame because I am melting down after a delightful conversation. I have to fight feelings of being different all the time. While most times I eventually win and I am thankful I am autistic, it would be a lie to say that I don't have some deep struggles in tougher moments.

A recent example of this was after a party our family attended. It was delightful, the food was amazing, no one made me feel less than I was, and none of the conversations were controversial. I  was even able to talk about a few of my interests. However, a few times I was cut off by my hubby as he is an ENFP who gets excited about conversation. I had to fight that old feeling of "he cut me off because I was being too odd or boring or going on about an aspie obsession." We have worked through this in counselling and he actually loves my quirks and obsessions. His favourite moments are when I monologue. Unfortunately, in public, monologues are seen as selfish. I have wounds that run a mile deep in this regard, and I have to watch that I do not internalize them. I have to remember social context continually. This gets exhausting. We spent four hours conversing, after spending two hours in the theatre beforehand and the drive in which was almost two hours. For an autistic, this fact alone already was contributing to overload. It is hard to be put in new environments, adjusting to the subtle sensory aspects of each place, and also being fully present in socializing situations enough to satisfy everyone. I have the unfortunate habit, when I am out, of presenting or normalizing too much- and I still come across as odd. Because of how I grew up I am quite adapt at putting on the normal mask, which may do me favours as far as respect in the outer world, but sometimes I wish I could act how I do at home...this also depresses me- the constant dichotomy.

On the way home from this event I needed silence. My three extroverts ( ENFJ and two ENFPs) were on a socialization high. I am lucky that typically ENFPs are considered ambiverts. ENFPs tend to need a lot of downtime so usually our family does not run into too many conflicts with our introversion and extroversion. As long as I give my ENFJ daughter lots of phone or chatting time our conflicts run low, but this time we were running into issues. It brought me back to past moments of continual conflict in this category...something that I thought was resolved years ago. My husband kept taking my silence for crankiness. In reality I had no more reserves to communicate and even finding the right facial expression seemed confusing. I was upset because normally, he has read enough of my articles to know this, my silence is not crankiness but my unique needs being overlooked. Finally, after a few more irritated comments from him I snapped, "I just need SILENCE. Today has been so loud. SO LOUD. I have adjusted for the experience. I have taken your needs into account and played along...so just give me some downtime PLEASE." There was silence and then my little INTJ piped up, "I understand this too. Mommy is right. I know you guys are excited and having fun processing the day with talking but it feels like a lot." Surprisingly my ENFJ daughter added, "I kind of feel a little sick too- probably from being overloaded sensory wise but it's confusing because I also get a little high from being extroverted." 

I think this is the difference between being an extroverted autistic and being an introverted one. The needs are different. We may have sensory overload but each way of experiencing this is unique to us. I didn't want to be unfair for any needs being unmet so I decided to take the middle road, "Ok, how about we set the timer and the introverts get ten minutes of silence and music to process their day, and then the extroverts can discuss and process their day because we all need to process. We all have special needs and they are all showing up differently so let's alternate for the rest of the hour home?" Everyone was ok with this plan and it worked out surprisingly well. Sometimes a conversation was cut off at the time, or a song was cut off, but in the end each person had a little of what they needed. But even though this worked out, guess who felt guilt about it the next few days? Yup. Me. Which lead to a few days bout of depression.

What Depression FEELS like when Linked to Invisible or Visible Disability and How it Differs from Other Depression:

The days after the event, I kept telling my hubby I felt off and he knew enough to reply, "That is because your brain can not fully process the socialization of the day...even with ample time. You see things differently and while you understand others, you can not fully understand why they don't understand you." In these moments it feels like a fog has descended around me. I feel like I have lost my sense of self. Sometimes I feel shame for allowing my normalized self to override my true self. My husband once told me to not feel guilt for this because it is how our world unfortunately works, and I normalize to survive. He reminded me that as long as I can spend the majority of my time being me, I should not feel guilty for when I have to pull out the good old mask.

I have had PPD after children. I know the darkness of hormonally induced depression. I also know situational depression of PTSD. Most of my PTSD stems from sensory overload and experiencing life with a different brain wiring. I can not think of some of my past experiences without an immense sense of panic. I experienced the sensory information so much differently than those around me, and then they delegitimized my experience by saying, "Oh it wasn't that bad!" or "It didn't happen like that!" But it DID, in my brain. As a child I was hearing conflicting messages all the time of how valued I was but that my experience or translation of events was "wrong." Looking back a few years after diagnosis, I can see why this happened. I can't explain the difference of experience that sensory overload and different brain wiring does to a memory but I guess it would be akin to giving a normal person an injection of LSD without them knowing and suddenly they are experiencing the world and sensory data very differently from what others around them are seeing. (NOTE: I have not tried LSD but the way it is portrayed in shows has felt familiar in darker sensory experiences.)

Some tweaks in the brain are imperative for survival and medication is a legitimate option for many chemical depressions. Sometimes, for non chemical depressions meds are needed simply to cope. I have never been on meds for any of my depressions due to serious side effect aversion. I also know that my regular depression comes at intervals and is situational. Basically it stems from being a minority in a majority world. The world is not set up for the diverse. Thus, it is normal to feel a little depressed about this fact sometimes. I can usually pull myself out of darker moments with a little bit of self talk, processing, music, diving into my obsessions, writing, and then probably a little bit of professional therapy.

I think I am one of the longest standing patients of my therapist. I have seen him every month for twelve years. Yes, every month. If the time goes any longer I begin to get edgy, restless, overwhelmed or depressed. I need a safe outlet to speak. Often, in my therapy appointments, I spend the whole time talking...which is, I think, generally unusual. Most times, I think the therapist is often the one pulling information out of the client and finding ways to help. While my therapist DOES implement strategies and give feedback, I think he would be the first to admit, that most of the time is spent with me talking. He often jokes that the lists of topics I bring in are mini books. Most of the time, it is enough for me, to address some concerns and have a safe, professional outlet (where I know legally my information will not be gossiped about like it can be talking to a group of friends) about the social issues I have, the stresses of sensory overload, physical symptoms, and crazy dreams. Over the years, both my therapist and I, have educated each other. I have sent him links, blog posts and shared books. He has done the same for me. I feel that it is easier for me to accept his help because I also feel like I am helping. While he is more of the mentor in our context, I don't feel like I am only being "helped" in the degrading way I will often feel in other medical situations. I feel like an equal human being in his office, which is the greatest aid in depression.

Depression for those with invisible illness or invisible brain differences can often stem from the lack of acceptance and acknowledgement out in the world. We also often feel "less then" or we struggle with guilt complexes over "what we should have done or said." Shame is also something we have to face because we are constantly shamed. Until we learn that we are worthy because we exist, and hopefully also learn about others like us so that we feel less alone, we will always struggle with this shame. A book that helped me years ago was Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection (click). I also was greatly helped when I found out I was Autistic back when my eldest son was four and going through his diagnosis process. The information from other aspies/autistics was enough to make me feel worthy and valued FOR my differences.

Now, it is rare that I do not feel fully confident in whom I am. However, I do still deal with depression regularly. It is usually sensory triggered. Fluctuating weather, illness, lack of sunshine, gaining or losing weight, regular noise input, ect. typically affect me more than the average person. Most people get a little down about these changes, but changes for me can equal a full crisis. Because then I have to adjust and process all over again. My brain does this differently than most and it takes more time to process physical sensations. Add to that fact, that my lowest cognitive function as an INFJ is sensory, and I am double whammied. I can process intellectual or philosophical information at a rapid rate, but physical information takes a lot of time which leads to a lack of control. Lack of control leads to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and this leads to depressive tendencies.

I generally love my life, but this does not dismiss my regular interactions with depression. I do best when I am sheltered from most societal contexts. I thrive when I am left on my own or with a few I trust. I adore my existence in general. I do get frustrated by being Dyspraxic on a weekly basis, which can also lead to a few depressive episodes. I do also struggle with larger bouts of depression but they are easier to mask because I know WHY I am dealing with them. As soon as I can peg the underlying issue, I can plan my method of come back. It takes awhile and sometimes depression can not be addressed easily, but in these type of cases, it IS easier then PPD. However, constant,cyclical depression is not something to ignore either. Autistics also have different guts and levels of serotonin that contribute to our differences out in the world. While our gut bacteria are not the sole cause of our different wiring (another post for another time), this fact does contribute to the larger picture.

Depression is not something to take lightly. I have found that because I struggle with depression, I am able to be one of the least judgmental people. Many people are drawn to telling me their stories. They value my perspective, my trust, my empathy and my willingness to be completely flawed at crucial moments. I make mistakes and mostly am not ashamed of that, except for the normal moments I am needing more time to process these mistakes. I LOVE my life even when I hate it. I am a passionate soul that takes every ounce of life and uses it fully- even pain. I know myself enough to know that my fears would never allow suicide nor my avid, fundamental LOVE of life.  I often think there is a common misconception that depression equals suicide or suicidal thoughts. While it can increase risk, I have not yet had a suicidal thought in all my varied struggles with depression. I have had other weird thoughts but depression does not necessarily have to go there, however, suicidal thoughts are often a distress sign that requires investigation. Please do not keep these thoughts to yourself and find a safe person to express yourself to. It is important to treat depression seriously, which this post did not address much of, however, I also believe it is important to figure out cause, which I hope this post helped with.

I know this was a lot to cover and I don't feel like I gave a full picture but a glimpse. If you are curious to know more please click on the links covered in this post. Thank you S, for suggesting this post, and I hope I gave you some information that you were seeking. If not, please help direct me to more specific matter for a future post. 


Additional Links: Click HERE FOR PMDD RESOURCES and HERE. Here is another post on PPD (CLICK)

Song Choice: Since I ABSOLUTELY LOVED the Flash/ Supergirl Musical episode I am leaving a hopeful little melody from Guys and Dolls "More I cannot Wish You" that they covered:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Educational Resources Videos/ Podcasts for Children and Adults- Peace Out, Cosmic Kids, Crash Course, Personality Hacker, Heritage Podcasts, Wild and Free, And Julie's Green Room

I am passionate about children learning, enjoying magical play, free time and natural ways of education. I also believe in the freedom of religion. Education is important but more important is learning the art of happiness in any situation and being schooled in ethics as well as personality to have a balanced outlook on life. The resources below have aided my children in this progression of life. These are a few options that stand out as helpful media sources lately;

Peace Out (click)
Peace Out is a guided relaxation series made by the same creator, Jaime, as Cosmic Kids (see below.)  I find meditation hard, however, I joined my children for a few of these guided relaxation sessions, and after I was a calmer version of myself. My husband fell asleep during the short session so it was probably a little too effective for him! My daughter struggles with anxiety at night, so we gave her permission to listen to one or a few of these every night, and they have successfully aided her in falling asleep. I have also used these guides after meltdowns and they were more effective then other alternatives we have attempted after a sensory meltdown. The first session is below and I would also highly recommend her Zen Den series found HERE:

Cosmic Kids Yoga (click) 
In 2012 our family discovered Jaime's first video on Youtube called "Squish the Fish". We have been avid followers of her Yoga (click) series ever since and it has now grown into a large network, as it should, because this series is creative and fun. It may seem geared to younger children, but don't be fooled...if your older children have permission and freedom to act younger, they will enjoy this series and learn from it too. This is a great beginners Yoga class in story form. Even I enjoy the series and I was sad when my first physiotherapist told me I could no longer participate until I built up my strength. Sometimes, I watch my children with envy and I deeply miss giggling while performing these exercises together. My children often will start their day out with Cosmic kids. I have noticed the days they make this a priority, are the days they are happier, more motivated to do school and chores, and a tad more calm about their activities in general.

Crash Course Philosophy (click):

Sometimes when we were bored, my husband would suggest Crash Course, and we would all grumble at first, but as soon as we started one of the videos, we would all be into it. And that is how we often will find our free time filled- with Crash Course videos! Especially during the awful weather we have experienced this year! The Crash Course videos are chalk full of excellent materials, humourous cartoons and interesting facts. The subjects range from Crash Course Sociology, Physics, Astronomy, Psychology, History and Science ect. Click HERE for all of their videos. We are working our way through most of the series. The general history videos bothered our children at some points, but surprisingly the U.S History was more tame. We are Canadian but they are still educational and fun. The course we have completed in entirety thus far is Crash Course Philosophy by Hank Green, brother of John Green, who covers the History Crash Course. Yes, THAT John Greene- author of the Fault in Our Stars.

Hank Green was our favourite host thus far. By the end of the 46 quick video sessions (CLICK) my children knew more about choice, morals, ethics, theories and the reasons for varied religions, then most educated adults that we know. We had many valuable discussions which stemmed from these videos. One reason we loved them is that they always ended with an open question. Hank does not tell you what to think. He gives history, context, and theories and allows the watcher to come to their own conclusions. These are not just for children...my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent watching these. 

Personality Hacker:

Personality Hacker is one of our families go to choices for the 45 minute commute we often take for varied needs. These podcasts can also be streamed from Itunes for free. If you don't know your personality, take the test for free on Personality Hacker (click) or 16personalities(click). The 16personalities test is probably easier for children and I like how they give percentages at the end, however, Personality Hacker is more accurate for adults who get confused between two types. I recommend taking both tests and checking your outcome to make sure it is the same.

Antonia Dodge and Joel Mark Witt are fun hosts, once you get into the personality lingo, and their podcasts have changed the fabric of our family's inner lives. We have listened to each podcast on our own personalities and had discussions afterwords. If our seven year old could listen to it a few years back, any adult can also understand the concepts after a few key phrases are introduced like "intuitive," "Car model," "Systems thinking," or "Cognitive Function Stack." I recommend starting with the car model explanation HERE.

Heritage Podcasts (click):

Another podcast we often spend Sunday afternoons listening to while colouring, is the Heritage Podcast series (click) which you can also stream from Itunes for free. It is a complete Liberal Arts Education in Podcast form. We have almost completed the entire series. This series taught me more about history than my years from K-12 and College combined. Why was I not taught most of this information?!?

Will Webb is well articulated and a fun host. My children have LOVED this series. There have been some heavy topics and the host does not shy away from the typical exploits of history including violence, sex, and some heavier aspects of our heritage, but generally it is ok for most desensitized children. We did end up skipping a few later episodes due to some minor meltdowns, but after some time of recovery had some great discussions after. The subscription is free and worth the time!

Wild and Free (click):

Wild and Free focuses on the imaginative, play focused and freedom form of education. It's about preserving the "adventure, freedom and wonder of childhood." While it may stem from homeschooling/ unschooling mothers, I also recommend it to parents who are tired of the same old robotic approach to learning, over busy schedules and lack of play time for children.

Wild and Free is good but I prefer a few other recommended books on this topic; Dumbing Us Down(click), Deschooling Society(click), The Danish Way of Parenting, and Home Grown (click). I have heard self proclaimed "outside the box" thinkers who have not read the first two books or considered these alternatives to learning and I find this fact ironic. I actually have a tough time respecting a person's "educational credentials" if they have not considered these points, read about the downsides of differing current educational aspects, or respect the natural education of a person.

Wild and Free offers a free subscription podcast on Itunes. It does have a strong Christian bent. I like some of their resources but sometimes find this a little much. However, for those just beginning to dip their feet into the water of a different education and hopeful childhood magic for their children, the site is an inspiring resource.

Julie's Green Room (click):

Netflix just came out with this series and we have already binge watched most of it. When Idina Menzel came on the first episode I was hooked! Going backstage to Wicked brought squeals of delight from my entire family. Julie Andrews hosts this puppet show about theatre terms, acting, writing, and all things to do with the Arts. We are in love. The show is innocent, sweet and educational.

I highly recommend this fun show, even for older children and the adults may enjoy the varied guest stars:

"And Dance! Everybody we can Sing. We can tell a story. Pull it altogether and we can do anything...cuz many parts make up the Arts, each one brings joy to all our hearts." I love this show because I am passionate about Broadway, writing, and telling stories. This show focuses on ALL aspects of the Arts and not just the people in the spotlight.

The resources above have enhanced our personal lives, calmed, contributed to the way we engage with each other, and have helped form our unique outlook on life. I highly recommend making use of these beautiful, free tools. I can't help but feel excited at the wonderful world we live in, where resources like this are not only free but well done! What beauty! What luck to be alive during this time of endless possibilities.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Context for Complicated Grief/ Anger/ Adderall Effects in Grief/ Differing Faiths in Grief/ Losing a Mother. It Is Love We Must Hold On To

*Disclaimer: This is written from my perspective about my husband's grief of losing his mom combined with the side effects of Adderall this year and how it affected him, our children and myself. My husband is the youngest child, so while I know that his other siblings struggle just as much in other ways, our story is always  from a perspective unique to being the youngest. They have their own grief unique to being the oldest, or the only daughter, or the middle child. Each is legitimate and each will be vastly different in expression. Not less. Not more. Different. While it is written with his consent and approval, I am not claiming his story, but writing facets, and also the parts that are my story, hopefully to help him, to help others like him, and to process. I believe in telling our stories, we heal and become. This post serves as context combined with a few heavier aspects of death and healing. ALSO PLEASE BE ADVISED THIS POST HAS MAJOR TRIGGER ISSUES ON GRIEF, ANGER, VIOLENCE and SUICIDE. This is NOT a medical post and if you feel any of this may trigger you please do not read and seek the advice of a professional. *

Celine Dion once crooned, "Mamma, you gave life to me, Turned a baby into a lady, and mamma all you had to offer was a promise of a lifetime of love, Now I know, There is no other love like a mother's love for her child. And I know that Love so complete someday must leave. Must say goodbye.. Something so strong, can one day be gone, and we must say goodbye but goodbye's the saddest word I'll ever hear. Goodbye's the last time I will hold you dear. Some day you'll say those words and I will cry. It will break my heart to hear you say goodbye." (The rest of the song found HERE.)

Hearts break when good mothers die. No matter the age, even at ninety we feel deep loss. It may be slightly easier to let go of our moms at a ripe old age then unexpectedly but it still hurts to lose that love of a mother. While some mothers are horrid people with toxic patterns, if you are lucky enough to have a nurturing mother, who may be imperfect, but loves you with all of her being, there really is no other love. A light filled mother will love unconditionally and be bonded for life. Once that physical expression of love is gone, it's gone. There is no other love that comes close in that way. There are versions of love that are just as avid, like being a parent oneself or a partner, but it IS different. That difference makes life after loss both brutal and beautiful for having it in the first place. My husband lost this love. I know that if I lost that present love of my mother I would be devastated, and experiencing through him does not even come close to the feelings he has to deal with.

Last March, on the 31st, after a month long battle of surgeries, doctor's mistakes, and sepsis, my husband's young mother (in her early sixties) passed away. My husband was the last one out of her hospital room, after hours beside her body, weeping and holding on tight to her cold form. Today, after almost a year, I still have to wake him at night when he is weeping in his sleep, his arms held out from his body trying to grasp for an empty hug. He gets these dreams a few times a month. We have been assured they are part of processing. His sensitive and empathetic brain is trying to reconcile the vivacious, expressive, physically present mom he knew to the mom he witnessed at the end, but it breaks my heart to hear his cries in his sleep. When he wakes from these dreams the rest of the day is very tough, because his mother was present to him that night, telling him thoughts like, "You are my baby. I miss you baby." Or "I am not here but I live within your heart. I wish I could stay but I can't. I love you." He hears these beautiful yet tragic sentiments in his sleep, when she is so real that his sleeping body reaches out to envelope her in a hug, and he wakes to wisps of dreams.

Unfortunately, timing can be, well, unfortunate. When his mother died we were coming off of a six month, out of town, work schedule where my husband was not home often. In order to produce and be able to deal with some other issues, my husband was on Adderall. This stimulant gets him through various years on and off for important reasons. We did not understand what this would mean when it combined with grief, but we found out.

In November, after months of dealing with a Jekyll and Hyde version of my husband, in desperation I suddenly decided to type in Adderall and Grief into my browser and see what came up. After hours of deep digging, I found out that in a lot of cases, Adderall can stall the grieving process. It will not allow certain emotions to be properly processed, so the person is swung into a never ending cycle of anger. In fact, many in the Adderall forums had coined it "Madderall." In some cases it can cause violence and suicide.

All it would take was someone out of the home, asking my husband how he was doing, and I would close my eyes and cringe, because as well meaning as they were, my husband would politely answer but then my children and I would pay for this trigger at home later. While he never got too physical, other than throwing some dishes in the sink to break or stomping off or slamming doors, he was emotionally volatile. He was not the husband I married. The man I married had an occasional temper, but was generally a happy go lucky, ENFP spouting rainbows, shit stirring, good natured, get along with anyone type of guy. This other version of the man was morose. One minute he would be perfectly fine and a tiny trigger would happen and he would be screaming. It was the first time I lived in fear of a trigger. I spent time crying in our walk in closet trying to deal, then coming out to be the strong one because my children needed me. We didn't hide this difficulty from a few crucially important people, but for our safety during vulnerability we did keep it quiet, because well meaning people could contribute to possible violence. We could not afford a simple opinion to cause an outburst. Even the remaining grandparents were not privy to this very personal journey. We gave hints when needed for the sake of our children, but it was a journey we needed to take separately. Our therapist was notified right away and strategies were implemented. But no matter what we did, the effects were often the same, until I found the Adderall connection and he went off the drugs after a suicide contemplation mid November.

I could not speak about these things publicly because even well meaning people judge. In our community the judgments go immediately to faith. We are "the lost," and christians are "the found." There are no other boxes for many of the fundamentalist people in our community, where for us there are many boxes to life. We understand the importance of afterlife "certainty" and belief for them, but there is no understanding for the lack of that for us. We remember we used to believe that way, but we knew that faith actually wasn't the issue. It is pompous and self righteous to think that answers will be a band aid for everyone. I had to be meticulous about damage control, because the last thing our family needed was more well intentioned voices sabotaging the sanity we had left or blaming systems for ways of being. I fiercely protected our space.

I was not a victim. Again, I want to be clear here for anyone who is going through something similar that to be a scapegoat for anger physically or emotionally should never be an option. I would not tolerate violence towards the children or I, however, I also knew that my husband was not himself and that he was in deep, deep pain. While that is not an excuse for any sort of violence -and boundaries must be in place- it is a reason that is important to keep in mind while finding healing options. If my husband became too volatile I would phone my best friend because she understood and never judged. I would also tell him he had to leave our space until he calmed down, and lucky enough he always had sense enough to do so. During this time, by my boundaries my husband also learned his. He became more formed in what he needed in relationships, what he would have patience with and what he would distance himself from. He grew in relational perspectives but the benefits of these struggles still did not minimize the actual pain.

The night of the contemplated suicide, my husband had stormed off after screaming at my daughter because she accidentally spilled her salad. Let me clarify again, my husband has NEVER done this sort of behaviour before. While his reactions to clumsiness were sometimes to sternly ask the children to clean it up, he was never the temper sort. If he was, I would have honestly divorced him years ago. He ran down the stairs and his truck screeched out of our road careening with speed. By this time I had eight months of this on and off again behaviour, so I was emotionally numb. I felt nothing except the need to comfort my children and make them feel somewhat safe and normal. I actually am the sort of person that becomes emotional if others are unemotional but unemotional if there are a lot of emotions. I tend to feel and balance out the situation. I was very calm and capable during these times. The times I did cry in my closet were when everyone else was busy. Or if the kids were gone and I had just been sworn and screamed at and told various unpleasantries. Sometimes a girl needs an outlet. At the same time, I understood grief was complicated and that a man this changed and vulnerable needed constant checking up on.

That evening, after about an hour, I got a mental picture of my husband standing over his mother's grave with a knife to his wrist and blood dripping. I tend to have these flashes of insight, much to the chagrin of some of my more religious friends, who think it's witchcraft. I have had these images since I was young about people being pregnant, moves, life changes, break ups, health outcomes, deaths, and what marriages will last, which ones are fake and what friendships are for real and my gut knows it's just an INFJ perspectives taking way of being. Basically, I am connecting the dots, making a bunch of quick assessments and foreseeing an outcome. It's like Sherlock but with emotions and intuitions instead. I know to activate and listen to these immediately, even if they seem insane at the time, but I do tone them down because people think I am mad. Anyway, I quickly called my best friend in calm tones explaining what I saw but that "it's probably fine and he is probably just at the shop but maybe someone should check on him, but because of the children's vulnerability it can not be me and it can not be anyone religious or he will lose it on the simple answers and be even more prone to violence." She offered for her husband to drive out to the grave and suggested he would probably be there. I decided to use that as back up but on a gut feeling decided to text my husband's work partner because he is a strong advisor, father figure and friend in my husband's life with a neutral belief system towards my husband. I downplayed the situation but gave enough information for concern and the guy agreed to check up right away.

Later, I received a text from the mentor/friend saying my husband was with him. I found out that at the moment the friend texted my husband, my husband was just putting the knife to his wrist, wondering if it was an option for him to try or not, at his mother's grave. It sounds dramatic and like the stuff movies are made of, but in real life, everything moves slower and less dramatically. Also, it is a heart wrenching, complex bunch of emotions to know that you were right about your husband's death wish. That was a second form of loss. I often can not think about that night without feeling a mix of anger at my husband for daring to leave us and the selfish emotions that come with that on both our parts, compassion at how desperate he was, sadness at the point he had come to, and heart pounding relief that it didn't happen. My husband would not have picked up the phone or text from me, but he looked down at what his guy pal had texted, "K your wife is concerned and wanted me to text you." He said that seeing my name written from someone else snapped him out of his crazed moment. He spent the evening with his friend to which I will be forever grateful and the next day I made him quit Adderall cold turkey. Now, I do not recommend quitting anything cold turkey, as most times it can do more damage than good, but in this case it was a matter of life and death. Luckily, I have a husband who generally greatly respects my judgement calls, so it only took my exhaustive research to do the convincing on this course of action.

Quitting cold turkey did have it's affects. My husband was exhausted for two months and gained thirty pounds without any other changes in lifestyle, just from being off of Adderall. He lost his memory retention and drive at work. He also got physically ill and it lasted four weeks. However, he no longer had the energy to fuel so much anger. He also did not have the capacity to act out on suicidal thoughts. Instead he began processing.

There is so much more to this story. More that I could tell from my perspective one day for women dealing with similar issues. More story on the effects of children and their grief ( a subject I touched on in the previous post.) More about the effects of medicines that sometimes doctors do not always know. More about how to hold a family together and still find beautiful, joyous moments in this pain (which we also had many of) and more about the faith aspect or lack there of and what that means. I hope to explore more at some point in the future, however, the rest of this post, I want to concentrate on grief itself and my husband. The context has been laid out, so now you know how complicated it can be and why my husband's grief is hitting stages later than normal, due to all of these events.

Grief has phrases that one can go in and out of. This is normal and basic psychology. Here is an analogy that may help; When you lose someone, the spot in your soul reserved just for them, will never close up. That spot will always remain. At first it is raw and weeping with pain. It feels like an unquenchable hole that could at times, swallow you up with loss. But as time moves forward that aching empty void slowly begins, with proper processing, to get a layer of skin over top. Not to cover it up or deny it, but to give a little bit of protection. It is still a tender spot that will sometimes unexpectedly cause a bout of tears or laughter at a memory of that loved one, but with that little layer, those memories and emotions no longer tear at the very core of Being. In time, this becomes the beauty in grief. It is a complicated sort of sadness. Those moments, we realize that love and memory, "It flows like a river through the soul, protects, covers, and perseveres...And makes us whole." (Lyrics below) 

I don't believe in band aids to processing. Placid statements of,"Well, she is in heaven now, you should be comforted," are not statements that are helpful to those who are feeling the loss NOW, even if they do believe in heaven. Perhaps for certain personalities this surface level statement aids? If it does- that is great. But for some, that is just damaging. For others, like our father in law- his faith is what literally gets him through. He had decades and decades with his lovely partner and their focus was on biblical missions together. Of course his faith and certainty in heaven will be a huge healing point for him. We do not begrudge him that. We understand that this is what he needs to deal with the devastating loss of his wife. His belief in heaven is what keeps him hopeful and living. He needs to believe to live effectively. For him, these statements of her being in heaven feel deeper. He is also a different personality than my husband and one simply can't compare grief. He does what he does to get himself through and it's beautiful, and we each do the same. Maybe it helps to focus on what we do have in common? 

Love. Love is what we have in common. Love is complex. For some love equals God and for others it is a feeling that makes us whole that we do not attribute to a specific being but an overall, unexplainable beauty. In the end, we each take our differing perspectives about love, but focus on what unites. Grief is so hard because typically it stems from deep love. We lose that physically present love in our lives that we can no longer hold on to in quite the way we did before. We each have to carry onward in our own ways. Each of us, if we live long enough, will deal with the death of someone we deeply love, and each of us will face and process differently. My husband's processing was stunted and I am glad we found the reason why. We were lucky in that regard. Currently, he is in EMDR which is an effective quick form of processing therapy. I highly recommend reading about it and trying it if you are in a tricky stage of grief. (Click HERE.)

This has been a very hard year for our family, yet there have been some stunning moments, and as we are slowly pulling ourselves to a new phase, we are closer than before. We are also learning to embrace the imperfect and un-sweet moments. "Then when the shadows overtake us, just when we feel all hope is gone, We'll hear our song and know once more our song lives on."

Shelley, my husband's mom, lives on in her son. In those she loved. Her song is found within. My husband found hope in EMDR by thinking about carrying on her light ( CLICK HERE.) He realized he carries her hearty laugh and a persona close to hers. The Christmas before she died, Shelley did the 16personalities test, and she was what we guessed, an ESFP. My husband is an ENFP. They share their goofing off, joking, and extroverted quality. It is what people recognized as her indescribable personality. She was the type of person that had many light relationships everywhere she went and a few deeper ones on the home front. Because of her extroversion and sensory aspect she was able to be present to many people in physical form at a time and that in turn made many miss her physical presence even more. My husband often has the same quality, where he can capture happiness for someone in line at a grocery store. He makes daring statements and endearing jokes to put others at ease. A very 'Shelley' sort of quality. This discovery is how he has started reconciling her loss. He is starting to see her in himself and in differing aspects of his children. Her light is there even if sadly, her all encompassing hugs are not.

Grief is devastating. It can't be fit into one blog post nor can I summarize with platitudes or how to's. Yet, I do not want to leave this post without giving some sort of hope. This is merely the context to the year of grief we have had but it is not a deeper look. I hope to give more posts on what helped, what didn't and general musings on loss. Sometimes it can't be packaged...Today, I feel this post would be best summarized by the beautiful new song from Beauty and the Beast, sung by Celine Dion in the lyrics below. More will be written on this topic and some posts are in the grief label below. This year my husband, children and I held on to moments of love, like our lives depended on it, because in many ways they did. The small, ordinary kindness of a friend was sometimes what kept us going. A good meal became a hopeful light. Small, ordinary deeds kept the darkness at bay, just like Gandalf advised they would. It's not easy and sometimes the smaller things, or even recognizing these tiny deeds, takes concentrated effort, that feels barely there...but that is how happiness is captured. "How can in the midst in all this sorrow, can so much hope and love endure? I was innocent and certain, now I'm wiser but unsure. I can't go back into my childhood. One that my father made secure. I can feel a change in me, I'm stronger now but still not free. Days in the sun will return we must believe, as lovers do, that days in the sun, will coming shinning through..." ( Days in the Sun Lyrics from Beauty and the Beast.)

Shelley's song lives on, and so do the songs of all those who have passed their energy back towards their loved ones and moved forward. We must also find, within our grief, our own songs which morph into duets, sonnets or ballads at differing parts of our lives, but are still OURS to pass on. But that takes time and processing. If you are still in those volatile stages of grief, I urge you to hold on. Find a few who understand your heart and cherish their role. Find hope in unlikely places. Take morsels of small ordinary deeds as your armour and feel no shame at all the ranges of emotion and stages of grief. Some people stay in different stages longer than others and that does not mean weakness. In fact, sometimes the strongest loves and hearts fall into the deepest struggles. Do not measure your worth by your grief. Measure your life with the love within. Find the memories that infuse that worth and belonging and hold on tight. You are more than your loss but your loss is also an important facet of you. I wish, for each person struggling, a warrior to protect, a heart to pour out to, and love. Find it in yourself and find it in others if you can.

"[Verse 1]
How does a moment last forever?
How can a story never die?

It is love we must hold onto
Never easy, but we try
Sometimes our happiness is captured
Somehow, our time and place stand still
Love lives on inside our hearts and always will

Minutes turn to hours, days to years and gone
But when all else has been forgotten
Still our song lives on

[Verse 2]
Maybe some moments weren’t so perfect
Maybe some memories not so sweet
But we have to know some bad times
Or are lives are incomplete
Then when the shadows overtake us
Just when we feel all hope is gone
We’ll hear our song and know once more
Our love lives on

[Verse 3]
How does a moment last forever?
How does our happiness endure?
Through the darkest of our troubles
Love is beauty, love is pure
Love pays no mind to desolation
It flows like a river through the soul
Protects, covers, and perseveres
And makes us whole

Minutes turn to hours, days to years and gone
But when all else has been forgotten
Still our song lives on
That's how a moment lasts forever:
When our song lives on"- Alan Menken Sung by Celine Dion
Song Choice: How Does A Moment Last Forever?- Celine Dion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnLsaCLdoMQ 

Days in the Sun- Beauty and the Beast:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deVaBYbP3WY "How can in the midst in all this sorrow, can so much hope and love endure? I was innocent and certain, now I'm wiser but unsure. I can't go back into my childhood- one that my father made so secure. I can feel a change in me- Im stronger now but still not free...Days in the sun will return we must believe..."

It seems to be a Celine Dion sort of post. Music heals. Celine, amongst many other musical choices, has been a part of pivotal moments in Grade 8, Grade 12, Birthing, Marriage Moments, Christmas, Loss, and Comfort at various times in my life... Here are a few songs that help me during tougher times ( this list does not include some of my other favourites of hers...) :

How Does A Moment Last Forever?- Celine Dion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnLsaCLdoMQ 
Les petits pieds de Léa (not for recent loss of child unless a song about that comforts...)-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fASCN_yAWK4
Fly- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2uC_ODp-Dc
Call the Man- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GPLctCEGCk
Love is on the Way- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOxJ-4pcIDY
If That's what it Takes- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IC8SG2BaNzQ
Let's Talk About Love- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkJtY5O_2WI
Miracle (not for recent loss of child or mother- brings comfort if you are a mom yourself)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMWK7YqJ_Dk
Goodbye's the Saddest Word- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHH4nzP3ut8
Because You Loved Me- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nq8TasNsgKw
All By Myself- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o22i_gqAf_o
Where is The Love?- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0xAnboJmJs
The Prayer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu3o8W5JMuU
Don't Save It All For Christmas Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7t2jOlyxrVQ
Happy Xmas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHrVG06U5MA
The Power of Love- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8HOfcYWZoo
Baby Close your Eyes- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNwl0qnNITg
Another Year Has Gone By- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SR3A6I_f1Io
What A Wonderful World- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6XGEfKtmks
I Don't Know-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIizEXhdBpE
Lullaby- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7P2I804nw8
In Some Small Way- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Wh_EAvI0BA