I know everyone has been anxiously awaiting an update on our sweet Emma! I am happy to report she is doing AMAZING!!!
Mark and I have had 2 visitations at the residential home. The first one was a little awkward, trying to navigate all the rules and regulations. But once we got past all of that, it was a great visit. She was so eager to tell us about everything. Her grades have drastically improved! She went from failing every single class to now making A’s & B’s! She has not gotten below an 80 on any of her quizzes/tests! It warmed my heart to see her so confident. Responsibility has never been her strong suit, as I have pretty much done everything for all 3 kids since the day they were born. But, she now gets up at 5am every morning, showers, sweeps & mops her floor in her room, and gets ready for school. Along with that, she does her own laundry twice a week & even deep cleans her room. One thing she told me was that I’d be so proud, because she cleans it the way I would. She also is responsible for doing other chores at the home and seems so proud of her hard work.
The second visit was a little different. We had to pick her up the morning of the visit as she had an orthodontist appointment. So we were able to spend most of the morning/early afternoon with her. It was a little tough dropping her back off, because she wanted to go back but also wanted to spend more time with us. Thankfully we had visitation that evening. When we saw her we already could tell she was not as happy as she was earlier. She was struggling being back. So we took that time to reassure her that we are so proud of her for working so hard to accomplish her goals and ‘phasing up’ (which they have to do to be able to come home at their 90 day time). She has already phased up to Level 3. This time she had to write and read an essay in front of the staff. She said she was terrified… BUT she did it!!! By the time the visit ended she was in better spirits.
Along with visitation every other Thursday, she is able to call home once a week for 20 minutes. We look forward to this call each week because we get to hear about all of the wonderful things she is accomplishing.
Today’s call was AWESOME!!! I have not heard her genuinely laughing, (you know that cackling, belly laugh that she does) in so long! It made my heart do cartwheels! Her schooling is improving even more, they had and ‘Ice Cream Social’ that she was so hyped about – she said she even danced, the other girls taught her a few dances, she gets along so well with the staff. I could hear her laughing and joking around with her counselor (who has to be present with every phone call). She has always had a way of bonding with the adults in her life and everyone LOVES her! The director at the home pulled us aside after the first visitation and told us that Emma is awesome and she is one of his favorites. The way she just creates happiness wherever she goes makes my mom-heart smile. I just hope and pray that she now sees what we see when we are all around her. One of the best things I have seen from this time away is, Emma is starting to LOVE EMMA!
Here is a synopsis of the phone call that changed our family FOREVER!
Hello, Mrs. Third. Can you come to the school? Emma was turned in for vaping in the courtyard so we had to search her belongings. We did not find a vape on her, however, we found something more disturbing. We found a ziploc bag of pills in her backpack.
At first, the school thought they were Emma’s pills. But eventually after speaking with me, got to the bottom of the fact that she got them from a ‘friend’. You see, the night before this phone call Emma refused to come home from school. Instead of forcing her to come home, we chose to allow her to stay with her friend for the night. While some may see this as a bad decision, I think this choice was a good one. Because it led to where we are right now. I always say “Everything happens for a reason”.
When we got to the school to pick her up she was disrespectful & non caring towards dad and I. She had this ‘I don’t care what you say or think’ attitude. At one point Mark asked for her phone, she then looked at him in disgust and said ‘Uhm, why?’ To this one of the counselors that walked to the office with her took the reigns of explaining to her that she didn’t deserve to have her phone at that point because of the choices she was making. She complied with his request, reluctantly. Once we got the go ahead we left the school with Emma.
During our family therapy session that Wednesday… We found out that she had been using Ibuprofen, my seizure meds, etc to snort to get a *high*. Madisyn told us that she actually witnessed this while she, Emma and Emma’s friend were hanging out in our neighborhood. Emma blew up at her during therapy and Madisyn broke down saying she just wanted her sister to live and not hurt herself.
When we arrived home from the school, she was not happy that we were upset with her. So much so, that she decided she was going to run away. We were informed by the School Resource Officer if she did this to call the non emergency line and have an officer come out and take a report. So we did exactly this. But by the time the police arrived she had came back home. They took a report and talked to Emma anyway.
Mark and I decided that we would start going through her room, this was the last straw for us. She had ‘drugs’ on her at school and was possibly facing expulsion and because she now has a history (what we thought was a 1 time thing) of actually using pills. As we were going through her room we came across a make up container & 2 other containers FULL of powder, but it wasn’t make up. It was crushed up pills! We also found a whole ‘cutting/snorting kit’, marijuana vape cartridges, & 3 vapes. Because I have allergies to different medications (even to the touch), we decided to call the non emergency number again to file a report and have the stuff destroyed.
This time when she spoke to the police they spoke outside, she told the officer that she didn’t want to ‘go out like her bio father’. She wanted to ‘go out’ like his mom, and that was an intentional overdose. She told them she intended to line up ALL of the powder and snort it at once. So they Baker Acted her. This was her 5th Baker Act.
She was at the facility for 5 days. They wanted to release her sooner, but we fought for her to stay there while we worked on getting a treatment plan in place for when she was released. Prior to her release the doctor had contacted us about getting her into a residential treatment facility. [If you know our family, you know that we have been looking for a residential facility for suicide attempts for her for about a year now. There had been no help with that. Financial or otherwise. The least expensive facility that we had found was $10,000 a MONTH out of pocket.] When the doctor recommended residential treatment, we were devastated, because we knew this but haven’t been able to get that help. However, because there is now drug use, and Emma informed us that it’s been going on for 5+ months, there is hope.
We were told to contact a facility we haven’t contacted. I made that phone call, halfway thinking I’d get the same news, about the cost. But when the lady told me that they work with payment plans and it’s a ‘pay what you can, when you can’ because they are there to help place. I broke down! I just cried, I apologized to the lady, but told her that she just didn’t know what it meant to us to hear that we were going to get the help our daughter needs! This is why I said ‘Everything happens for a reason’. The facility is 100% voluntary, so Emma had to agree to go.
When we spoke to Emma, she took that first step! She agreed to go. She admitted she needed help and couldn’t do it on her own or at home anymore. So we picked her up from the first facility (because we had to transport her to the rehab facility on the 8th). We spent the evening together and let her know how proud of her we are.
On the 8th, Mark and I took her to begin her treatment. We toured a little bit of the facility and are pleased with the set up. The staff members were very welcoming and helpful and reassuring. We spent a while doing all the necessary paperwork, etc. When it was time for Mark and I to leave, Emma was so strong. I kept telling her how proud of her that I am and she is going to come out of this so much stronger and healthier. She didn’t cry. I didn’t cry. I didn’t want to cause her any emotional stress.
This was the hardest and most sickening decision we have ever made as parents. Being away from my daughter is going to be debilitating! I know this is what is best for her in the long run, but without her being home for a minimum of 90 days is going to be the toughest thing I have ever had to go through as a mom. I love my daughter with my whole heart and I want to see her go to high school, graduate, go to college, live out her dreams.
In closing, don’t take one day with your kids for granted! Please be mindful & kind to others. You may think that you know what they are going through, but unless you have lived it, you have no idea. If you used to see a lot of a friend, and you don’t anymore, reach out to them… They could be dealing with more than you know but don’t want to burden you with their problems. Especially your mom friends, you know we all try to keep it together for fear of being judged! Well I am here to tell you, this MOM is falling apart! This mom is without one of her kids at home, there is no cure for this illness that my daughter is suffering from. She will always suffer from this, but with therapy and support she can be a survivor instead of a statistic!
*I did ask my daughter if I could share her story, and she is okay with it.
Do you ever feel like you are in a fog? Like an all day fog?
Do you ever feel like no matter what you do you can’t get ahead? Do you ever have days where every little thing makes you cringe or every small noise makes your skin crawl?
Anxiety is a REAL thing! It is something that I struggle with on a daily basis. It is also one of the things that society views as a weakness. There are so many bloggers and vloggers and social media influencers that are trying to break that view. But, still we look at moms and think… “It is her job to have it all together!”
“You have an amazing life, there is no way you suffer from anxiety!” YES! I have actually been told this! Yes, I do have an amazing life! However, anxiety does not discriminate. I have 3 kids, that means 3 different schedules, 3 different personalities, 3 kids needing my attention at the same time. I also have to make sure that I make time for my husband.
There are mornings I wake up ready to start the day… then there are mornings that I wake up and hope that it’s 2 am so I can go back to sleep. I use to be the person that has to set 15 alarms and even have my husband wake me up. Now most mornings I am the first person awake (before my alarm goes off). I attribute this to my anxiety. My brain’s need for control. My body has adjusted to this need and automatically wakes itself up fearful that I have overslept and then my entire day is off track!
Over the years my anxiety has gone from mild to where I suffer daily. There are many things that are considered triggers for me, as well as ways that my anxiety manifests itself. One of those ways, unfortunately is anger. I try my best to control it, but I am far from perfect. I wish I didn’t have to apologize for being angry and ask forgiveness from the people who mean the most to me. I wish I could control it 100% of the time. I am learning to cope with my anxiety but it is an ongoing journey.
One is of my triggers is my kids. I absolutely LOVE my kids! They are my greatest accomplishments. However, they each have their own ways of triggering my anxiety. There are things that a ‘normal’ mom wouldn’t be so concerned with but I fret over daily. It could be something as small as a wet towel in their bedroom floor. Growing up I had a rough childhood that left me feeling on edge and uneasy. I never want my kids to feel that way and it pains me when I let them down. When I see my kids looking at me, almost pleading for me not to fly off the handle when they make a little mistake, it’s incredibly heartbreaking.
I also have a hard time when others (especially my husband) are critical of our kids. I take it personally and it makes me feel like a failure as a mom. I love my husband and I wake up everyday with the intention of being a perfect wife. Like I said, I am far from perfect but when I don’t reach the level of expectation I put on myself, it triggers my anxiety. The one thing that I would like for my husband to understand (well actually anyone that is involved with someone who suffers from anxiety) is when we are in the middle of an anxiety/panic attack if feels impossible to control. One of the worst things that you can say to someone having an anxiety attack is ‘calm down’… They will not ‘calm down’ they will begin to feel even worse because you’ve now made it known that there is a ‘problem’. This will just be one more thing for us to be anxious about.
Another major trigger for me is clutter. I walk into a room and I say “Ugh the house is a disaster!” My husband’s response is “The house looks great babe!” In his defense my house is very clean. However, when I see dishes in the sink, clothes on the floor, pictures out of place, etc I feel very uneasy. In the 2 years that we have lived in our current house this trigger has gotten worse. I find it hard to get to sleep unless the house is almost immaculate. This goes back to my childhood, our house had to be pristine. Even the carpet had to have vacuum lines going a certain way. I was responsible for 90% of the chores/housework and the feeling of dread (now I know this as anxiety) when my parents came home from work and things were out of place it was all on me. As a mom and wife I have continued to be the one that takes care of 90% of the housework/chores and I still get that same anxious feeling when something is out of place. It is not because of what my husband and kids expect of me, it is what I expect of myself and I feel as though I am letting my family down.
I hope that my family knows how much I love them. I hope they know that when I’m acting like a complete lunatic, it’s not because I’m mad at them. In fact, most of the time what I need in those moments of anger; is compassion, a hug, some alone time or just some kind words.
I said all of that to say this, anxiety is a real thing and it is different for everyone! If you suffer from anxiety please know that you are not alone. It is nothing to be embarrassed about. If you have a loved one that suffers from anxiety, be a sounding board for them, hug them if they need a hug, take over household duties for the day, take the kids to the park or something and give your partner some alone time.
Lastly, we all need to go easier on each other. We never know exactly what someone has going on in their brain!
In a world where everyone has an opinion and judgement about everything, how do you survive as a special needs parent?
“Don’t Judge Me!”
I use this phrase A LOT! Most of the time I just quietly say it to myself… Other times I wait until I am alone and I scream these 3 little words! Why do we judge each other so harshly? I’ve been on the other side, I have caught myself saying ‘why can’t they make that child listen?’ or ‘if my child did that I would do this!’ Why can’t we as a society help each other? Even if it’s just a knowing nod, or a smile saying ‘I get it!’.
My daughter, Emma, has suffered severe trauma at the hands of another child and has encountered many bullies, both children and adults. She has been diagnosed with ADHD, Social Anxiety Disorder, she’s on the verge of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, among other things she has going on. She also has an IEP at school. It’s not as extensive as it used to be, but she will still need some help all throughout school.
(A little bit of a backstory as far as school goes)
At her previous school she did not get the help that she needed, and unfortunately that caused her to fall further behind. However, since she has been at Avalon Elementary she has flourished! Last year, her 4th grade year, she finished with 2 A’s & 2 B’s! This girl had NEVER gotten an A before attending AES! She has had phenomenal teachers and they make sure that she succeeds! This year she has learned so much and is starting to have confidence in herself with her schoolwork. I have cried many many positive tears in the last year & a half because she has grown so much as a student! I never thought that was possible, as we were told that it would be unlikely that she would ever be on grade level. As a mom, that judgement devastated me! I have had some of her teachers and administrators from AES tell me how upset that they have been because the other school(s) held her back from reaching her potential… All because they didn’t want to deal with or didn’t understand her disabilities. Emma has said to me ‘Why do people judge me? Why don’t they understand that everyone isn’t the same?’. I wish I had an answer for her, except ‘people are just mean and opinionated sometimes’
Emma has daily struggles with expressing her emotions. She has the biggest heart of anyone that I know. I love that about her! Even with a big heart she still gets angry, frustrated, flustered, etc. Unfortunately, her most substantial obstacle is, expressing those emotions in an appropriate way. It makes me so sad when I see other parents judging her when she gets upset. All they see is this perfectly ‘normal’ looking 12 year old that towers over others her age showing emotion that most adults have trouble expressing! She gets angry and reacts, this is when I have to remove her from the situation so that she can collect herself and once she has a ‘time out’ she realizes that she should react in an appropriate manner. With Emma’s problem solving skills she operates as a younger child. I will say, though, since we have been living in Avalon her anxiety has gotten so much better.
Is Social Anxiety Disorder real?
Absolutely!!! Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not real. Can you see a migraine? How about PMS? No, a person can tell you their symptoms but you can’t actually walk up to a woman and tell that she has PMS! So as a society we need to STOP judging others! We need to build a support system for each other and allow a safe place for other moms that are at their wits end or that just need to vent can do so! We hold everything in because we are afraid of the judgement! I’m tired of holding it in, sometimes being a mom is hard, sometimes it’s just downright unbearable! Most of the time it’s the most rewarding part of my life but there are times where I just sit in my room and cry.
(This is a time that I am afraid of judgement but I have to be completely transparent and honest with this topic) Sometimes I wish that her disabilities were more noticeable when you look at her. Maybe then other kids and especially adults wouldn’t judge her, or me! It is so hard to be out in public at an event or in a store and she has a ‘meltdown’. Not because I can’t handle the meltdown, because I have gotten better at figuring out what needs to happen, but because of the stares. I know what their thoughts are ‘That child is nothing but a problem”, “That mom has no clue what she’s doing”, “That child is just a brat”, I could keep going! I know these are their thoughts because people have actually said these things to me, or even worse, to Emma! I just look at them and say (the times that I don’t break down in tears) “You don’t know her story!!!” Even people that have known her for years judge me and judge her, those people are not involved in our everyday lives. I have learned to keep my circle small and only include those that I truly trust.
In closing, I want to say to those mommas that can’t see past this tantrum or this meltdown, or this days judgement from others… it gets BETTER! Emma has come so much further along than any of us ever thought possible! We have so many people to thank for her accomplishments and those people chose to help and guide her instead of judge her! The incredible administration at her school helps her find ways to deal with peer situations without judging her! She gets good grades at school, because her teachers believe in her and do not judge her! She has the most amazing Choir Director/Music Teacher that has taken her under her wing and has encouraged her to strive to do her best and does not judge her! Her ESE teacher saw such potential in her and introduced her to Magic Curtain which she loves and didn’t judge her! The director of each play she has done has helped her and been so patient with her and didn’t judge her! There are countless others that have continued to help my little girl see that she is extraordinary!
So see everyone, if we help others and not judge them we can help them reach their potential!