Monday, June 22, 2015

To the Mom in the Dairy Aisle

When you and your daughter came up to Dominic and I that Monday afternoon in the dairy aisle at Meijer and started talking to us, I know you had no idea what I had been through the previous 48 hours. The past Saturday, I had to call 911 because Dominic had a seizure and was unresponsive. I bet you didn't know that he went by ambulance to the hospital and that he had to be wheeled in on a stretcher and unfortunately this was not his first ride in an ambulance.  I bet you didn't know that I had to promise Dominic a meal from McDonald's if he lay still while the technicians did the CT scan of his brain. I wasn't able to tell you that day that he was discharged after a couple of hours because all of this tests were normal. I know that you didn't know that Sunday afternoon we had a fellowship service for the disability ministry that I am the program director for and when I got home, I found out that a beloved priest, who did our very first special needs mass had passed away. When I was reaching for the milk that Monday and heard a voice say, "there's Dominic," and saw you and your daughter walking towards us I had no idea who you were. We had just been to a follow-up appointment with our regular doctor who told me that Dominic would need to go to a pediatric neurologist over an hour away. When your daughter told me that Dominic was mainstreamed into her classroom for second hour all of the past school year, I thought that in itself was pretty darn cool. But, when you looked at me and said, "I would love to get our children together and be in Dominic's life however much you will let us," I was literally looking for your wings, because I assumed you were an angel. I didn't get a chance to tell you that day that Dominic had never been invited by a classmate to play, EVER. Your kindness that you showed towards me that day in the dairy aisle even though you had never met me, is something I will never forget, but will be eternally grateful for. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Choosing to Talk About My Anxiety Disorder

Back when I was a child, my dad used to sing a song to me. He would sing, "oh, she worries, oh, how she worries." I would miss my first days of school, because I would "pre-worry" so much that it was debilitating. As I grew older, the "pre-worrying," followed me like a constant shadow. When I would host gatherings or other events for family and friends, the entire time beforehand I would constantly be worrying. Once the actual event or gathering would start, I would be fine. Once I got married and started having children, the "pre-worrying" continued.  About three years ago, I went and talked to a psychologist about everything that was going on in my life, because I was feeling a tad "overwhelmed." I distinctly remember looking right at the psychologist at one of my sessions and asking her, "so, do you think I have anxiety?" I expected her to tell me no. She was like, "oh, yeah, you do!" Wow, to finally have a "name," for all those feelings I had for so long was actually, well, life-changing. When I next went to my primary care doctor, she asked me if I wanted to be put on medication (Lexapro) for my anxiety. I was extremely hesitant. Well, let me just say this. I really, truly wish I would have been on the Lexapro since my teens. Up until now, just a few family members and close friends know that I have anxiety and take medication for it. I haven't really been keeping it a "secret," but rather felt that it was my private business. I have come to the conclusion that it is not something to be ashamed of and that's why I am choosing now to talk about my anxiety. It's a conversation that is long overdue. Demi Lovato, the singer, lives with bipolar disorder and has recently become the spokesperson for, Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health, which is, "an initiative encouraging people across America to use their voice in support of mental health. Be Vocal aims to empower adults living with mental health conditions to speak up when talking with their professional support team and to speak up as a community to advance mental health in America." Wow, she is a mature young woman, isn't she? I have a ton of respect and admiration for someone that does that.  It seems like just about everyday, we hear of a young person taking their own life. Heartbreaking, isn't it?  Robin Williams, the actor, seemed to have it all. He evidently struggled for a long time with depression. How many of us knew that? I know I didn't. I guess he kept it "hidden" pretty well. Sad and tragic at the same time, huh? When someone has depression, unfortunately you can't just tell them to be, "happy," it doesn't quite work that way. Sometimes you need medication and/or therapy. I can only speak from my own personal experience, but I take my medication faithfully, everyday for my anxiety and am glad that I do. My "pre-worrying" has almost come to a complete halt.  How about this for an idea?  Let's stop sweeping mental health issues under the "carpet" and start the conversation!!!! 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I Want To Talk to Grandpa Mike

Last Christmas, my family and I drove back to Maryland for the holidays. Since my mom had just entered a skilled nursing facility a few weeks before, we stayed with my dad because I didn't want him to be alone.  Lauren and my dad share a love of  history, so they always have something to chat about. My dad and my stepson have known each other for more than 24 years, so they can always talk "guy" stuff.  It's been a bit more challenging though for Dominic to have a close relationship with my dad. One of the times when my dad visited us here in Michigan, Dominic did something my dad didn't like and he tried to discipline Dominic. I let my dad know right away that it was up to my husband or I to take care of that. My dad later apologized to me. On another occasion while at my parents house, Dominic starting playing around with the cuckoo clock that is in their living room. No matter how many times I told Dominic to stay away from it, he wouldn't listen. My dad would follow Dominic around to make sure he didn't touch it. It got to be kind of uncomfortable. I wish it was as easy as handing my father a "manual" on how to have a relationship with a grandchild with Autism. Since Dominic was just a baby when his other grandfather passed away, I really want my dad and Dominic to "learn" from each other, even though there is 70 years between them.  During the summer of last year, when we visited, my dad raised his voice very loud when Dominic was around. Every time since then, when he has seen my dad, he will go over to my dad and say, "hi, Pop-Pop," but then cover his ears and hum at him. Dominic is extremely sensitive to loud noises and I think every time he saw my dad he thought my dad would raise his voice again.  I think my dad was beginning to get annoyed with Dominic, until I explained to him the reason why he would cover his ears. Since the beginning of the year, I started calling both my mom and my dad every evening to keep up with what is going on with the both of them.  It's been a difficult adjustment for both of my parents, given that they have been married for almost 53 years. I call my dad shortly after dinner, about 8 p.m., every night and I go into the living room where it is quieter. I know my dad looks forward to my calls and we always "compare" notes on what is going on with my mom, since I am not always able to get a ahold of her.  A few weeks ago, when Dominic heard me talking to my dad, he came over out of the blue and said, "I want to talk to Grandpa Mike!" Pretty darn cool. He now talks to "Grandpa Mike" pretty much every evening. They both have so much that they can "teach" each other and I can't wait to see how their relationship grows and develops!!

Welcome to "Holland"

Have you ever heard of the "Welcome to Holland" story? I had heard of it, but never read it until about a week ago. It is wr...