When The Dust Settles

Often times when we are so busy focusing on others, we neglect ourselves. Our own problems fall to the wayside as we put all of our thought and energy into helping someone else. After all, it is Mandy Hale who said, “There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”  But what about putting the plane’s oxygen mask on yourself before helping put it on the person(s) beside you? I don’t know about you, but I definitely struggle with taking care of myself. I prefer to be the care taker and help those around me, especially those whom I love. And that is exactly what I did.

Now, this will be a two-part post. I will briefly touch on what the second half will be about, but it is a sensitive topic and I am still working through how I will be handling the subject in a way that will not hurt others who are still unaware of my experience. However, I feel that both of these topics are vital in not only my own mental health, but hopefully in one of your’s as well.

With that being said, I have a childhood trauma that I never dealt with. I pushed it to the back of my mind and never thought of it again. I did my best to never think about it and I had done pretty well at succeeding in doing so. The few times it would present itself, I would focus on other people or events in my life. It didn’t start coming back to me until I had Killian. But then I had my HBC trauma and a newborn to put all of my focus on. So, yet again, I continued to ignore my childhood trauma.

When it started to come back again, I had just had Oliver and that happened to be the same time when Killian’s Autism began presenting in full force. Fighting with Dr. D-Bag and learning how to advocate for my son took lead. And that fight lasted a year and a half. I put my entire self, everything I had, into getting the answers I knew were there and pioneered to get the therapies, doctors, and tests needed to get to where we are today.

It wasn’t until March or April of this year (2019) when something happened to me that caused all of it to come flooding back. I couldn’t even pick up Killian from the bus stop without having a massive anxiety attack every time. One of the other bus stop moms was great at staying by my side after I had opened up to her about what had caused my trauma to come flooding back. It had gotten so bad that I could not sleep at night (more-so than normal), and I would often cry every night as images flashed through my mind as I lay in bed reliving my nightmare over and over again.

I wasn’t able to push it away anymore. Our medical life had begun to calm down. Results had come back, therapies were in place, medications were being figured out, and support surrounding Killian’s Autism diagnosis were established. Things were finally, “calm.” I didn’t have anything else to pull my attention away from myself. I was essentially being forced to put on my own oxygen mask. I was suffocating and I needed to do something about it.

I decided it was time to open up to one of my cousins and ask her if she had experienced the same thing I had. Thankfully, her answer was no. She encouraged me to seek help when I had mentioned that I was going to look for a therapist. I had talked to Killian’s behavioral therapist about it during one of my parent sessions and she recommended her office-neighbor, Pamela.

I was going to meet Pamela once every 2 weeks but after doing a wellness check with my primary doctor and, for the first time, opening up to her about what had happened to me, she told me she wanted me to see my therapist once a week instead. Pamela agreed and thought that once a week sessions would be more beneficial.

In each of our meetings we talked about how I had opened up to my mom after having Killian and told her about what had happened to me but that my dad did not know. I was too afraid of my dad finding out and hurting him. I didn’t want him to feel guilty that he was unable to protect me when I was little or cause him any anger over what had happened. But as my sessions continued, I felt that it was imperative for my healing process to open up and trust my dad with my pain.

I had only seen Pamela 6 times before I sat down with him and had a very emotional conversation about my experience. As you can imagine, it was very hard. I cried, but ultimately it brought us closer and allowed him to see why I behave the way I do in certain situations.

A friend of mine recently had her son tested and he came back positive for Autism Spectrum Disorder. This was not news to any of us as we knew he would be, but what did come as a surprise was the severity of his Autism. A couple weeks after receiving his diagnosis, the shock had worn off and she reached out to me asking if I had been hit with the grief of the “what could have been’s” and I answered her with my story. Because Killian has high functioning Autism like I had suspected, I didn’t have the grief but more of the “haha I told you so” feelings directed at Dr. D-Bag. But I did have the memories of my past rearing its ugly head at me that I could no longer ignore. She shared with me that she had a similar experience in the fact that her mother had been an alcoholic and even though she thought she had put those feelings of pain and hurt to rest, experiencing those same memories as a mother ripped open old wounds. She realized that she too was at a point in her life where she was needing to put on her oxygen mask and put herself first.

Caring for others is great, as long as we are caring for ourselves in turn. Finding the balance between the two can be difficult. I firmly believe in the fact that every person, young and old, should be in talk therapy. We all have issues that we need a neutral person to help us work through. Whether it be from our past or something that we are currently going through, intense trauma, or disputes among colleagues, family, or friends, we all need someone who can help us put things into perspective and help us heal.

So, when all is said and done, be cautious of the dust that settles. Once you no longer have someone or something else taking up your undivided attention, it may be the time that your mind decides to perk up and remind you that it is needing some attention. Call around and find a trained therapist who can help you work through it. (I personally like to reach out to my local moms groups on Facebook to get recommendations for doctors and therapists) And if you don’t have any past or present traumas? Good for you! Still call and find a therapist. If anything else, it will be a mandatory self care hour. Something that we are all in desperate need of.

-The Lazy Mama

Happy and Green

Every week my son has his behavioral therapy appointment. And I absolutely love her. Let me tell you why I love her so much. First, she helps give me ideas on how to help manage my sons aggression and teach him ways to learn impulse control. And second, she cares about how I am doing and allows me to talk about issues with myself and gives me the help I need to be a better parent to him.

I honestly believe that everyone should be seeing a therapist. Someone who you can talk to, vent to, and get help from with life’s difficult problems. And children have many problems in life. They may not seem very drastic to us as adults in comparison, but to them, they are just learning how to manage life and find out how to behave as a functional person in society. And sadly, a lot of kids struggle with this. Even as young as my 4.5 year old son.

Like I have mentioned before, Killian struggles with a lot of anger and aggression. Things started going much better after his schedule became more routine. Weekly OT, weekly BT (behavioral therapy), school every day for 2.5 hours, weekly chiropractic. Then around the beginning of December, he had to stop going to OT due to the therapist’s completely booked schedule. I don’t know how large of a role this played in his change but it was definitely on contributor. He had become more hostile and aggressive. He was angry and everything would set him off.

I had a meeting with his teacher where we discussed possible ways to prevent him from hitting other students because he was attacking at least 3 kids a day and other parents were beginning to call her about it.  Thankfully it hasn’t been anything that caused major harm but he is still hitting and that hurts.

We talked about revising his daily sticker chart to see if he would start responding better to that. The Green Room ( a sensory friendly room where certain kids who have these issues can go for 10 minutes to decompress and regulate while in a sensory friendly and calming environment with a trained professional) finally had become available for use to the preschoolers and he was able to have his first day in there last week. His sticker chart has 10 spots and 6 stickers is our minimum gaol to receive a treat of Special Milk, milk with a small amount of coffee creamer in it. Tuesday he had his first Green Room day and he got to choose 2 activities to do in there so he chose to have 4 minutes at the sand table and 4 minutes in the tent with the soft weighted blanket before his 2 minutes of quiet belly breathing in order to return back to class in the Green Zone (which I will explain in a minute).

Tuesday was a 4 sticker day. It was not a good day. When I asked him how the Green Room went he said that he really liked it and he felt good in there. However, his sticker chart was riddled with notes from Errin about how he was very angry, knocking student’s work on the ground, yelling at the teachers, hitting kids, and refusing to follow directions. When I asked him why he was so angry he said because he didn’t get to have his snack. It turned out that when he went back to the Green Room he missed snack time and was unable to have it when he returned. I then asked if he told his teacher that and he said no. We talked about how he needs to use his words and explain that to his teachers so they know why he is angry and can help him.

The next day he had a 6 sticker day, followed by a 9 sticker day! Just having that little bit of decompression time during school when he gets most overwhelmed and deregulated had allowed him to have a better couple of days at school. His therapist was amazed at how much happier he had seemed that morning compared to the previous 3 weeks. We talked about the new school wide curriculum about social-emotional well-being and self-regulating called Zones of Regulation and about how he is not allowed to enter the Green Room until he is in the Green Zone, so they will stand outside of the room and take calming belly breathes in order to get themselves into the Green Zone. I had even asked his teacher if she could print me 6 colored copies of the Zones of Regulation chart so that I could have them all over our house, in the car, and at my parent’s house.

zones of regulation

Gina, his behavioral therapist, at one of our very first sessions with her, explained something that was so important and yet so obvious. When we get upset with kids we tell them to go to their room and calm down or go out in the hall and calm down. But when they get there, they don’t know how to calm down. We haven’t given them to tools to do something that is not in their understanding. Calming down is something that needs to be taught. Its something that as adults we don’t need to think about how to do it, we just do it. Like breathing, that skill is just, THERE.

So she gave me some papers to cut out and laminate in order to help Killian chose from and give him ideas about how to get himself back in to the Green Zone. These included 10 belly breaths, kicking a ball outside, running, drawing his anger, 10 jumping jacks, listening to music, and a bunch of other suggestions. I put them on a ring and hung it next to one of the Zones charts making it easy to identify which zone he was in and then search for a method to get to the zone he needed to be in.

Remember in the beginning when I said that his therapist helps me in the same that she helps my son? Well, this was definitely one of the biggest ways she helped me. Pointing out that I needed to give Killian the tools that he lacked that would in turn allow for a better outcome for everyone involved.

I gave a copy of those to his teacher as well so that we could all be on the same page, doing the same thing, speaking the same language in order to make sure that things progress in a positive way for his development. Some days he is more cooperative and other days he just yells and runs away. It’s a work in progress. But because of the immense amount of support that we have, and the weekly check-ins and advice from Gina, we are able to better collaborate with everyone involved to ensure that not only is his future bright, but that we all survive!

Talk therapy isn’t just for adults and teens. Young kids can benefit from it as well. And even better, when you and your child go together, you both can get help and advice at the same time. If your child is having a hard time and is acting out, maybe going to behavioral therapy with them would be something to look into. Either way, talking through and finding the root cause and/or ways to adapt and overcome is the best way to make everyone happy.

-The Lazy Mama