Pick your scent for calming

I noticed something by accident yesterday that I think might help people during this stressful time. In my case, I bought a lotion bar some time ago that smells like roses – one of my favorite scents. I have seasonal allergies, so I’d laid a tissue on top of the lotion bar and when I went to use it I smelled roses. I was amazed at how the scent helped calm me and actually made me feel better.

Having two boys with ASD, I know that they have preferred scents, so yesterday afternoon I asked them what their calming scent was and got an instantaneous reply. For one it’s lavender and the other it’s orange. I keep a cabinet full of essential oils that I use on a regular basis, so I have them covered.

It made me wonder though if others might benefit from this informal “aromatherapy” as well. So here’s an idea. If you have something around whose scent you like, check it and see if it’s calming to you in this time of acute stress. Lavender is well known for being calming, though when I first started using essential oils I didn’t care much for the scent. Orange and lemon are uplifting and might be good options. The tree oils like pine, cedar and sandalwood are grounding, so they might be great choices as well.

I’m using my oils to make hand cream (since everyone is washing their hands so much) for each person with their scent in it. Use yours however you like, in a diffuser, room spray, adding to unscented soap or lotion, or what have you. Couldn’t hurt, right?

My cat is attracted to water

Just to get this out of the way, this is not my first cat. I’ve had three others myself and know many other people with cats, so I’m not uninformed about cat behavior. It’s pretty universal that cats prefer the faucet to any other water source (including the specially-designed cat fountain I shelled out for). I’ve even had a cat who’d sit on the edge of the tub while I was taking a bath and swat at the water I’d flick at him. There was one oddball, Lyle. He was by best friend’s cat and he’d join you in the shower, but I think he was brain damaged because he’d also sit so close to the fireplace he’d melt his whiskers off.

Cole though, is definitely not brain damaged. He’s a perfectly normal kitten (cat in two weeks) who’s attracted to water. Even poor Lyle would only poke his head in once in a while and sit at the far end of the tub. Cole is different. We have a shower-only setup in our master bath and he doesn’t just poke his head in. He comes all the way in and will even circuit the outside of the shower before leaving. I swear he’s just working up the courage to stand under the falling water because he’s getting bolder all the time.

As soon as I shut off the water and grab my towel, there he is. He likes to walk around the wet floor, take the odd lick and even sit down in the water pooled on the shower floor. I never thought I’d have to worry about my cat leaving wet footprints on my rug, but he does. And just when I got my teenager to stop doing it too. ;>)

I wish we had a drain cover that you could fasten down, but we don’t, and he’s always in there pawing the drain cover off so he can drink the water underneath. Gross, right? I shoo him away whenever I see him attempt it, but I know he does it when my back’s turned because I’ll come into the bathroom and the drain cover’s slid aside.

Cats are odd creatures, I’m well aware of this. But an otherwise normal cat attracted to water? Blows my mind.

My crumbling brain

It’s probably fibro-fog, that insidious clouder of minds associated with fibromyalgia. I don’t care where it’s from, it’s driving me nuts. I think I can identify with people with early-stage dementia. It’s like your brain no longer works. Things you’ve done routinely for years? Gone. Tasks that you’ve done over and over again? Forget half.

There are days when I struggle to get through, not necessarily because of physical ailments, but because I can’t think. There’s just nothing there. It’s like staring at a fog bank and seeing nothing. Have I panicked over this? Yes. But what am I supposed to do? The brain function comes back when it’s good and ready and not a moment sooner. I’ve come to a sort of acceptance because I know a) there’s nothing I can do about it and b) so far, at least, it always passes. Is there a part of my mind that worries I might never come back? Yes, but at least if I don’t snap out of it, I won’t care. I won’t be able to.

Aside from the obvious, what bothers me the most about it is the burden it puts on those around me. I’m not working anymore, so there are no co-workers to lean on. Now my family bears the brunt of it. The can tell me something and even repeat it twice and it doesn’t stick in my brain. I seem to be forgetting things constantly and even my speech is suffering (trouble stringing together a coherent sentence). I feel like I’ve gone back in time to after my concussion.

In 1996, I was hit by a semi-car carrier (unloaded, thank God) and suffered a moderate concussion. Back then I had the same trouble I’m having now. Difficulty finding words or stringing together sentences. Troubles with memory and the inability to finish tasks. What I’m suffering my not be actual brain damage, but it sure feels like it.

Sorry, this isn’t a longer post, but my brain just quit on me. Again.

Microaggressions on self-esteem?

I just read a couple of articles out of the NY Times about microaggressions. Those little things that people say or do that communicate something negative to you whether it’s because of your race, gender, religion etc.

That got me wondering about microaggressions and bullying. This isn’t something big like shaking someone down for their lunch money, I mean the thousands of slights and put-downs that eventually ruin a child’s self-esteem. My boys are always on me about how I don’t like myself much and they don’t understand it because they think I’m great. Well, let’s see.

I don’t think I had much problem with it before I went to school. I stayed home with my mom and the kids she babysat, so it was kind of my roost, my rules kind of thing. Then I started school. My mom recalls getting a call from my kindergarten teacher on the first day of school because I was sitting out on the back step crying. Why? Because the other kids were mean to me, that’s why.

It didn’t get any better. I think I was on the ASD spectrum at least a little bit back then because I had problems dealing with other kids. If I didn’t want to do what they did or didn’t want to do what they told me to, I’d just leave and go play by myself. I didn’t see the big deal, but by rejecting them, the other kids rejected me too. If I’d go over to play on a piece of equipment, they’d all leave, or at least leave my immediate vicinity like I had some infectious disease. I was always called “weird” and “stupid.”

I hated P.E. because it was a group activity. In the classroom I could use my brain and excel (and I did), but in the gym or out in the field by the playground, I had to be part of a group that never wanted me. I wasn’t physically inept or anything, but I was always the last person picked for teams. Always. I could go out and run around with the other kids, but I almost never got the ball or had a chance to make a difference. And even when I did, I was never congratulated or even treated any better. I got the feeling that they resented me.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that about the only thing recess was good for was extra reading time. I’d take my book out and sit by the door and read until it was time to come in. That seemed to work out okay, if I wasn’t in their line of sight, the other kids forgot I existed. That’s what I preferred too.

Group work in the classroom was torture. I was bright and I’d get the material easily, but whenever I expressed my opinion or spoke up (which came as naturally as breathing) I’d get one of two reactions. One was that they’d let me tell them what to put down so they didn’t have to figure it out for themselves. The other usually happened when I was in a group where someone else wanted to take the lead and they didn’t want my input. That led to a lot of “Who cares what you think?” or “Shut up. Who wants to listen to you?”

And this was just elementary school. Junior high was just as bad, though we didn’t have to go out to recess as often, which was nice. What got me through that was that I found someone else like I was – a social pariah that no one wanted to be around. We became best friends and kept to ourselves. In the lunch room we’d sit at the table with the special ed kids because they didn’t tell us we weren’t welcome to sit with them. They were about the only ones. Otherwise, either we were told outright to find somewhere else to sit, or we’d sit down and everyone around us would vacate.

So when I heard about microaggressions, this is where my mind went. The systematic destruction of my feeling of self-worth by being put down, ignored and resented for years. I still struggle with this. My only lifeline was that I was very intelligent, so I clung to that. And now that even that is self–destructing, it’s forcing me to confront some hard realities. Like what makes someone worthwhile? At what point to you give enough to the people around you to make up for what you take? Where’s the tipping point? There are a lot of times when I feel like I’m close.

And then for me there’s acceptance in the adult world. I’ve found it, though not to the degree of those around me. I’m still the outsider in the group because I’m different, though I can’t see what I’m doing differently, I feel it.

A lot of times I feel like I have people-repellent on. I don’t think people even notice it, but every time I go somewhere and people vacate the area, or work to ignore my presence, it re-opens one of the tiny cuts from those microaggressions suffered as a kid. And though it may not seem like a big thing, the pain is real. And the scars are still there.

The truth about pit bulls

I didn’t go looking for a pit bull puppy. In fact, when I saw that in the description of dogs available for adoption I moved on, thinking “I don’t need to invite that kind of trouble.” Me – the person whose first dog as a couple with my husband had been a rottweiler/German shepherd mix (and he was just a big protective baby too.) But pit bulls had gotten so much bad press, I just kept looking.

Then there was the day I went to Petsmart for cat food. It was a Saturday and the Denkai Animal Rescue was there with their dogs. I was doing real well until I got to the last cage. Then I fell in love. In that cage was the cutest puppy I’d ever seen. It was wearing a pink collar so I immediately assumed it was a female. By the time I’d figured out that, pink collar nonwithstanding, the puppy was male and a pit bull mix (heavy on the pit bull – we still don’t know what he’s mixed with), I didn’t care. Turns out that unless its ears are cut, a pit bull puppy doesn’t really look like a pit bull. And the ears make them damn cute too.

Next thing I knew, I was on the phone calling my husband saying “I know Siren (my kitty) is on his last legs and we’d talked about getting another dog when he goes, so could we please just get the second dog a little early?” Lucky for me, my husband recognizes that tone to mean “I’m coming home with another animal, I’m just giving you a chance to speak.”

I felt pretty good walking out of there, despite the fact that I’d just spent an extra $300 that we didn’t have paying for a puppy and supplies. It’d seemed like everyone wanted to adopt this little guy, but I was the one who’d taken him home. Score! To endear me a little more, he wasn’t all over the car like some dogs are. He curled up on the back seat and slept the whole way.

By the time I’d gotten home, I’d finally been able to peg the name that’d been just out of reach in the store – Ranger. It seemed to describe him perfectly.

He was a happy-go-lucky little guy and our five year old Carolina Dog didn’t know what to make of him. She’d always moped around because she didn’t have anyone to play with, but this rambunctious little snot with the sharp teeth wasn’t what she’d had in mind. My cat wasn’t too thrilled either, but since he mostly stayed off the floor it wasn’t so bad for him. At least he could get away.

One thing I figured out quickly was that Ranger wasn’t the little devil I’d half feared. He was just a puppy who loved spending time with his family. At the time I kept scratching my head trying to reconcile what I thought I knew about pit bulls with the one living in my house.

Then a chance encounter with someone who trains dogs helped it all make sense. She said that pit bulls are “nanny” dogs and I was so struck with the comparison that I laughed out loud. That explained his behavior perfectly. Why he followed us around from room to room and rarely wanted to be alone. The bad rep stems from their tendency to be over-protective. It takes a while to establish someone on the “okay” list and that still doesn’t prevent fierce barking on first arrival. And if he doesn’t know you, and the family don’t seem to be aware of your presence, then God help you.

I once had a migraine and was laying down when the doorbell rang. Of course, both dogs were on that, but Ranger kept it up and sounded really fierce. I figured whoever it was would go away. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. When Ranger didn’t let up, I decided I’d better see what was going on. He was at the deck door barking fit to kill when I walked over there and saw a man on my deck holding a long rod and sprayer. Once the adrenaline surge was over at seeing some strange guy on my deck, I went out on there, shutting Ranger inside. Turned out it was the pest control guy whose instructions were to do the job whether anyone was home or not. He told me working on the front porch really scared him because he thought Ranger was going to come through one of the glass side panels and attack him.

When I got back inside I looked down at my dog and decided that if he could’ve broken through the glass, he might’ve done just that. He doesn’t understand the concept of service personnel. All he knew was that I was home asleep and there was a strange man outside his house. God help anyone who really TRIES to break in.

The overprotectiveness is where people who want to abuse this instinct come in. If they’re looking for a dog both physically powerful and protective enough to guard against any intruder (or God forbid a dog to use for attack purposes), then the pit bull is the ideal breed. I also think the reason they cut their ears is to make it look like they have horns – you know, devil dog.

So while I acknowledge the potential for abuse of the breed, I also know firsthand what a wonderful pet they can be. Training is important, because they can be hard to control otherwise being so physically powerful, but I wouldn’t hesitate to bringing another one home.

I heard they were initially bred to guard small children playing outside from predatory animals. I can believe it.

What do you do when you feel “blech”?

I don’t know about everyone else, but I have days where I just feel blech. Like today for instance. There’s no one thing I can put my finger on. I’m a little headachy, a little nauseous, a bit achy all over – you know, blech. And it doesn’t help that I can’t just curl up in bed with a good book. We have parent-teacher conferences to go to tonight. I don’t know when I’ll have dinner, I don’t know when I’ll be back home and I feel blech.

I’ve spent a lot of time functioning when I feel blech, but the hardest thing is how to respond when someone says “how are you?” Do I lie and say “fine” because that’s what you’re supposed to say? Do I pick a specific reason I don’t feel well and complain about it? Or do I go to the trouble of explaining what I mean by feeling blech? Most people don’t want that much information. Then again, I’m always frustrated by the “how are you?” question anyway. I try not to lie and say “fine.” I figure if they want to ask me such a ridiculous question they deserve the answer they get.

The most common answer I give to this stupid question is “hanging in there” which isn’t a lie, I am managing to hang in there, but isn’t telling much of the truth either. I’m one of those people who’s almost never feeling “fine” if I were telling the truth. On an average day I have one thing that’s giving me specific trouble that I can identify, like “my hands hurt.” On a bad day, I try to pick one because most people don’t want to hear that I’m in pain all over the place and wish it were time to go to bed already. (Not that that’s necessarily a good thing either since I usually feel like I’ve been rolled down the side of a mountain when I wake up, but the asleep part is nice.)

But for now, it’s time to go to parent-teacher conferences despite feeling blech. Story of my life.

Blind man’s daughter

I do remember a time before my dad went blind, but being so young it’s cloudy and vague. I remember him showing me how to plant pumpkins in our backyard by using the end of the hoe to make the hole and than dropping the seeds in and covering them up. The rest are less specific.

Mostly though, my memories of my dad are from the time after he went blind (just after I turned 4). He taught me how to do a lot of things over the course of my life. I helped him tear off shingles and re-roof the house. He taught me to garden, how to put siding on a garage, how to change a tire and how to tune up my car. What I’ll always remember most fondly though, was him teaching me to read.

I can hear you say, “Huh? How does a blind man teach his daughter how to read?” Simple. I learned letter sounds and that from school, but I really learned reading from my dad. Every night I’d grab my books and go sit on his lap. I’d attempt to read and if I ran across a word I didn’t know he’d say “Sound it out, Heather.” I usually could figure it out from that, but if I was really stuck he’d have me spell it and he’d tell me what the word was.

I never stopped reading to him. I progressed from books like “In a People House” to the “Little House on the Prairie” series and I moved from his lap to the chair beside him, but that was about all. Once I got to the harder books then it was more a question of what an unfamiliar word meant, but he still helped me.

And I helped him, though I didn’t appreciate how much when I was a kid. I read him several of the “Little House” books while he was in the hospital recovering from amputations, first of his toe, then his foot and finally six inches below the knee. All I knew at the time was that I wasn’t supposed to be in his room (I wasn’t 12), but the nurses made an exception for me due to the length of his stay and the fact that I knew how to be quiet and conduct myself well. What I knew at the time was that it was a way I got to spend time with my dad (I was definitely a “daddy’s girl”) doing something I enjoyed. Looking back it must’ve been comforting to him as well and a way to break the monotony of life in the hospital.

When I was in high school, my dad went back to college and I read his textbooks to him and recorded them at the same time in case he wanted to go back over some material. The running question was who’d graduate first, me or my dad? Truth was, we graduated at the same time, the only difference being the actual graduation dates, so I considered it a draw.

After I went to college, I heard about a volunteer opportunity reading books and magazines onto tape for the blind at the Nebraska Library Commission. To be a volunteer narrator you had to audition by reading something onto tape and then they’d let you know if you were good enough to do the job. I was nervous at my audition, but only at first. The setting was unfamiliar, but the task wasn’t. I’d had a lot of experience reading to my dad, so that part was easy. I was selected and served as a volunteer narrator there for a few years until I graduated and moved to Colorado.

I enjoy reading things out loud now, so when the idea came to read my newly written book chapter by chapter as podcasts, I jumped at the idea. This hasn’t come to fruition yet, my book is still with the copy-editor, but once I have a finalized version ready, I intend to try the podcast idea and will post it on my website, so stay tuned.

All I can say is, thanks Dad for this gift of narration you’ve given me.

The minority group anyone can join

Lest we think the disabled minority is something that can be ignored, I submit to you that it’s a very important concern for everyone. Those who aren’t currently disabled are only one accident or illness away from joining those of us who are. Or one child away from it being our concern. This is something everyone should be paying attention to, but it rarely makes the press. Why?

Because people don’t like to think about it. They see someone in a wheelchair or a blind person and they look the other way – their minds carefully whitewashing their thoughts so that they don’t consider what that kind of life might be like. It’s human nature, rather than any conscious effort on the part of the individual. If we thought about all the bad things that could possibly happen we’d go insane. The problem is some people NEVER think about it. Until it touches their lives in some way. And with the growing senior population, the issue is bound to get bigger.

Everyone having a new baby has a greater than one percent chance of having a child with autism. And if that baby is a boy, you can about double the odds. It’s almost certain that someone you know is dealing with autism, whether it’s themselves or a family member, or even a friend your child brings home from school. And that’s just one disability.

I read that people fear blindness more than death. From my perspective that’s crazy. Despite his blindness, my dad led a full, rich life and touched many others in return. I’ve seen how blindness is no more difficult than being in a wheelchair. But because he was also a double amputee (both legs below the knee due to poor circulation from his diabetes), he spent plenty of time in a wheelchair as well. And I can tell you it’s no great shakes, even now.

Years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, you’ll still see places with only stair access, or checkout lanes too narrow for a wheelchair to fit through. When these things are changed and a ramp is added or a check-stand removed to provide more access for the rest, people roll their eyes. Like it’s ruining things for the rest of us. Being a history buff, I can sympathize with the sentiment, I hate seeing things changed. But if they don’t change, it’s not just the currently disabled who lose out. It could be you tomorrow.

It’s easy for the fully-abled community to see the disabled as a burden and seek to give them as little as possible to keep money for ourselves. Until you’re diagnosed with cancer or MS or you get hit by a semi car carrier. Then it becomes your problem and you’ll have the same difficulty being heard as the rest of the disabled.

What’s my point? It’s that you should think long and hard about shortchanging a minority you might someday join. Or one someone you love might join. The disabled depend on services, not because they’re somehow morally deficient, but because they legitimately need help. And they are forced to rely on those who are able-bodied to make sure they have what they need. Please don’t create a situation today that you’ll suffer from tomorrow.

Autism mom, anyone?

I know there have to be a bunch of moms who have kids on the spectrum out there and I wanted to reach out to you. Our older son, Parker, was diagnosed with ASD when he was three, but once I knew what to look for, the signs were there as early as 18 months. Or even earlier if you count the sensory stuff.

Parker was a tough baby, mainly because he seemed to have chronic gas and because he didn’t want to sleep anywhere but close to somebody. And those things that’re supposed to soothe babies? Please. We didn’t know about his auditory sensitivity at the time, but things like running the vacuum or putting his car seat on the dryer only made him scream louder. And he hated the car.

He wasn’t a sound sleeper either. I quickly learned where every squeaky floorboard was because that was enough to wake him from what seemed like a sound sleep. (Ironically, now that he’s a teenager, I have the opposite problem.) Finally, I resorted to what you’re not supposed to do. I brought him to bed with me. We had a waterbed at the time and that was the only way I ever got a full night’s sleep his first year. Transitioning him to his own bed was a piece of cake. We got him his own waterbed, and since he couldn’t roll out of it very easily, he made the transition to it at 12 months and never looked back.

Until his speech evaluation at the school district (can’t beat free!), I’d never heard the word autism. We’d taken him in because he wasn’t talking much (only about 50 words at 3 years old) and didn’t respond to his name. His hearing was just fine, but the evaluation suggested some “autistic-like tendencies.” What? So I zoomed over to the internet and the more I read, the more sense it made. What also made sense was that it was also the reason for my difficulties as a child. I saw myself in what I read as much as I saw my son.

I was desperate to help him. He’d started biting himself and banging his head on things and I wasn’t sure what to do. I was sure someone was going to call CPS on us because he gave himself a black eye.

That’s when we discovered how expensive an autism diagnosis can get. $5,000 out of pocket was the first quote we got. I swallowed the knot in my throat and kept looking. $3,000 and a six month wait. $6,000 and a year’s wait. I was at my wit’s end. I knew my son had autism, but how on earth would we ever be able to afford it? Not to mention getting it in a timely manner. It was nuts. So I prayed about it. Then I found the Mapleton Center at Boulder Community Hospital. Because it was a hospital our insurance would cover most of it and there was only a one month wait. The real kicker came the day of the evaluation when we had to pay our portion – a $15 co-pay for each therapist or $45 total. I about hit the floor.

We learned a lot from that evaluation. Parker wasn’t just on the spectrum, he also had auditory and touch sensitivities. He had fine and gross motor delays. He had a hearing issue that meant that he might not “get” everything you said the first time and needed it repeated. He also had speech apraxia which meant that his mind knew what it wanted to say, it just had a hard time forming the words. No wonder he was hurting himself – he was frustrated at not being able to communicate.

Then at the end of the evaluation, the avalanche hit. What kind of treatments were there for autism? Thousands, most with only anecdotal evidence to say it worked and virtually none of it covered by insurance. Applied Behavioral Analysis (or ABA for short) was the only proven treatment, but since insurance didn’t cover it, the $50,000 per year it would cost for treatment was all out of pocket.

I felt like a failure. My son needed help and I couldn’t think of a single way to afford it. I’d also had my youngest, Jeremy, by that time and I had a duty to him too not to bankrupt us or get kicked out of our home. In the end, we did what we could afford, which amounted to speech and occupational therapy, because those were mostly covered by insurance. We were lucky. During the next open season, I was checking out other health plans and there were several who wouldn’t cover “habilitative” therapy or teaching someone something new – only “rehabilitative” therapy or re-teaching someone how to do something. We’d inadvertently dodged a bullet.

The therapy was worth it, though. Within six months of speech therapy, he was up to age level on both the number of words and complexity of sentences. We did the Willbarger therapy recommended by the school district ourselves, which helped with some of the sensory sensitivity. And occupational therapy taught him things like how to dress himself, how to hold a pencil and the like.

Even with just these things, I saw Parker begin to flourish. In the fall he started therapy-based preschool where they worked on both speech and occupational therapy in an educational setting. He was talking and even occasionally taking part in group activities. The day one of his teachers told me he’d invited a little girl to ride a tricycle with him, I cried. Such little things. Parents of neuro-typical children don’t even notice stuff like that, but it was something I could treasure.

He’d also been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, but that seemed almost insignificant compared to the autism. That was something we could control and make sure it was done right. Mostly. Convincing him not to swing his insulin pump like a lasso wasn’t fun, but we managed.

We had a fairly good year the next year with him graduating to Headstart, but it wasn’t until he started Kindergarten at a public charter school of our choosing that I began to think things might actually work out. That he wouldn’t be just an oblivious kid who liked lining up toys and didn’t want to look at people. I finally felt able to connect with him on a somewhat normal level and express my love for him in a way he understood. I was proud of him.

I still am, though now we’re dealing with bigger issues like motivation and getting past that teenage blockheadedness about the way the world really works (i.e. not like he wants it to.) He may never live a life like everyone else, but that’s okay. He’s already touched so many lives for the better. I know he’ll continue even if his room is a mess and he’s constantly forgetting homework. He’ll always be special to me.

How disabilities shaped my life

By maternal lottery, I was born into a family with a disability. My dad, specifically. He had complications from Type 1 diabetes and went blind just after I turned 4. Since I didn’t know any differently, I didn’t know how to react when my school friends came home and asked in hushed whispers “What’s wrong with your dad?” My reaction? He’s blind – so what? So he’s missing part of his leg – so what?

People in general continued to be amazed at what my dad was able to accomplish. The local newspaper even came out and did a story on him when he re-roofed our house after the August 1st flood in Cheyenne. We built a garage on the back of our house and I helped him put siding on it. We built a greenhouse. But this was normal to me. I’d shrug my shoulders at people’s reactions and think “big deal.”

When I left home to get married the first time (huge mistake) and go to college, I kind of left that all behind. Until the morning my car got hit by a semi car-carrier (unloaded, or I wouldn’t be here.) By the grace of God and a guardian angel, I walked away with a sprained ankle and a concussion. Lying on a gurney waiting to get my ankle x-rayed to see if it was broken, I noticed the sign above the sink admonishing the workers to wash their hands. Panic overtook me when I couldn’t read the sign. My brain had been knocked against my skull in three different directions and I was in bad shape.

If the people at the hospital warned me that a bad concussion comes with nausea and vomiting, I didn’t remember it. My then mother in law drove my ex and I back to the trailer where we lived and I didn’t recognize it. But thank God I knew where the bathroom was, because I was puking my guts out the rest of the day. Recovery seemed terribly slow. The ability to read came back almost right away (!), but I had trouble speaking for a while and left-brained activities were so difficult that I had to drop math and chemistry that semester because I couldn’t comprehend the material. After about a year, I finally felt like I’d gotten back to my old self. which was great – for a while.

After my graduation and divorce (one day apart), I moved to Loveland, CO to live with my mom and stepdad and a couple of years later met the man to whom I’m still married today – Troy. He waited a couple of weeks before admitting to me that he was a diabetic. He’d heard my stories about my dad and was worried that I wouldn’t want to get serious with someone who might turn out like he had. The difference? My father grew up in the 60’s and 70’s when diabetes treatment was relatively poor, and thus suffered complications. Troy wasn’t diagnosed until after he’d left the Army in his mid-twenties and he took care of it. So, once again I shrugged. Big deal.

Then I became a gestational diabetic with our oldest son and found out just how much being a diabetic sucks. I didn’t have to take shots or anything and it resolved as soon as Parker was born, so once again – big deal.

Then Parker was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just before he turned three and with autism about six months later. Disability again ruled my life, but because of my background I was able to take it in stride. God gave me Parker because he knew I could handle it. Though at times I still felt like He had made a mistake.

Then my second son came along and was re-assuredly normal. I breathed a sigh of relief. At least there was only one child’s medical issues to deal with. Until he hit fifth grade. Nothing like your son walking into the dining room with a knife to his throat and threatening to kill himself to wake you up in the morning. After some more suicide threats and a stay in the psych ward, we discovered that Jeremy was also on the spectrum, just higher functioning than his brother. We’d had no way to gauge what was normal because of Parker and we’d missed it.

Okay, swallow that, get that under my belt and back to somewhat normal. Then I began to have issues. First came the fatigue and the aches I couldn’t explain. After a few years of searching for an answer, at 40, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It explained a lot, but that was about it. After about a year of misery, I found the Fibromyalgia Center in Lafayette who had a program to help people like me. It’s a 50 minute drive each way, but it’s worth it.

I thought I had it under control. They helped me with the worst of the pain and work was flexible about things like ad hoc telework, so I was getting on with things. Until last July.

I’d been having trouble concentrating for some time, but had always managed to keep all the balls in the air and nobody noticed. Until the end of July when it got worse. I’d leave tasks half-finished and re-discover them later. I’d start a task I’d been doing for years and forget to do half of it. I couldn’t prioritize and just did whatever it occurred to me to do in the moment. When I wasn’t having blank moments where I couldn’t think at all. My juggling failed. My work suffered and I had to come to terms with the bitter truth. I couldn’t do my job anymore. Since my supervisor recognized that my problems weren’t due to my not being willing to work, she suggested a disability retirement which happened last December.

So here I am. I can still write. I trust in God to provide. We’ll see what happens.