It Didn’t Happen

This last week was suppose to include Brother having a therapeutic meeting with the dad. It would have been the first time they had seen each other in over a year. It was Brother’s idea, and his therapist was supporting it.

The week leading up to the visit, Brother became extremely depressed- sleeping most of the days and nights away. The morning of the visit, he began to panic. He went to what we call “the upside down”, which includes a catatonic stare and shaking uncontrollably. He went into this state on and off throughout the day.

The visit didn’t happen.

We will keep working on building Brother up to a point where he can face unpleasant things and work through them. He is not there yet. He still needs a lot of support in social-emotional areas.

It took about 24 hours after the missed visit, for Brother to get back to his normal state.

Though we are removed from the daily turmoil of various abuses, the memories don’t go away. They are triggered back to the surface with experiences that are meant only to build tolerance and resilience. I am wondering if we don’t have our limits of tolerance and resilience….if the unpleasant or hurtful experiences go beyond our capacity of resilience….do we not break?

~AoA

Preparing to Visit

The AoA kids have not seen the dad in just over a year. Visits had been supervised for nine months, ending after cumulative subliminal threats had been made during visits, ending with a statement to Brother that “they would be living with dad all the time, very soon”. This statement, on top of other statements he had made to Brother, in which he said he would kill me if he had to… led Brother to a complete mental breakdown.

For the past year, I have had to manage the aftermath of destruction, while trying to help Brother rebuild. It has been a long and hard journey.

Brother is at the point now, where he thinks he wants to try to see his dad….in a therapeutic setting with his therapist by his side.

My role is to provide Brother with tons of support and relaxation strategies following the visit, to ward off a potential breakdown.

I am willing, but worried….here we are at holiday time trying to do this. Besides normal holiday stress, I am having surgery in another week, and anticipate being pretty fragile for a week or two afterward.

Historically, the dad uses holidays, particularly Christmas, to play upon people’s sympathies. The truth is, when we were married and raising the kids together, he would rant and complain about Christmas. He NEVER bought gifts for the kids, and was angered by anyone who did. He threatened to shoot the delivery driver if he delivered another package, and threatened to kill my parents if they brought any gifts to our house for the kids. It was on a Christmas Eve that he walked out on me and the kids six years ago, after pacing the floor in a panic. I thought he was going to kill himself, from behaviors he had been displaying leading up to that moment.

Despite this, he has played on sympathy, even sobbing in front of a judge, about missing the kids at Christmas. There was a time when this would have pulled on my heart greatly…

Now I just shake my head and enjoy the holiday time without worrying about the safety of delivery drivers in my driveway!

Happy December!

~AoA

Keep Moving and Doing!

Yesterday I spent the day at a Girl Scout camp, being trained and prepared to take girls camping. I haven’t been camping in about twenty years, so the refresher was appreciated! I really enjoyed being with other people who have a passion for working with kids, and teaching them skills they will have for life.

This is me and another leader from our troop, experiencing success in building a little fire in the freezing, windy weather of autumn.

Here are all three of our troop leaders…right now, we only have four girls who come to meetings regularly. Our troop is truly multi-age girls and women building relationships. We do community service projects, earn badges, and go on outings together.

How do we make friends? Little AoA is learning these life lessons now…

Here are a couple of quotes I found…please share your insights on making friends!

I find the best friends are those with whom I share meaningful projects and activities. Some stay around, and some move on, but they are forever friends who live in my heart❤️

~AoA

What a Difference

One month ago, I was picking Brother up from a two week stay at a mental health facility, after he fractured my elbow in a rage. This week, Brother is like a new person. He is cooperative and even…dare I say it…relaxed. On Halloween, without any coaxing, he chose to participate with the rest of us as we went trick-or-treating at a nursing home, and then bowling!

At the nursing home, he really got into making small talk with the patients. It really warmed my heart to see him enjoy “peopling”.

One of the effects that constant anxiety has on Brother, is that his heart rate stays extremely high- like 130. His doctor said today that it is like a person with a more average heart rate would feel after a brisk walk. That takes a toll on the body!

Little AoA is in full “Harry Potter” mode! She has dubbed herself in Hufflepuff, and has character names for all of our family members.

Life is much more relaxed these days. A month ago, I was feeling so hopeless regarding Brother’s prognosis. We have all put a lot of work into establishing new routines and boundaries to help our home be more harmonious and responsive to Brother’s mental health issues. It has not been easy, and a lot of tears have fallen. We are at least, all moving in the same direction.

I could have never imagined how intense Brother’s mental health needs would become by this young age of 12. Early intervention is so important! It may not fix things, but it helps to build a network of support!

When I first sought help, Brother was 7, and had already endured so much emotional and psychological abuse, that it very possibly masked underlying issues. He continued enduring abuse for another 3 years before a stop was put to it by a judge. We are picking up the pieces…

~AoA

Life as a Wild Ride!

I just love all of the activity and excitement that takes place from October through December! The cooler weather seems to give us more energy…

We are on so many journeys right now, that a day to rest is much needed. Brother is finally stabilizing on a medication, and adapting to a home school routine. He still deals with social anxiety to a degree that prevents him from enjoying so much of life, but baby steps are taking place. He is getting out of the house more with family support.

The kids don’t look too excited for BINGO and dinner at the local arts building and cafe.

The highlight of the whole month has been going to a 21 Pilots Concert! It was Brother’s first big concert! Sadly, the two friends he invited (and I bought tickets for), turned on him and didn’t go. We ended up taking granddaughter AoA, and his tutor’s 12 year old daughter (a HUGE 21 Pilots fan)!

It has come up recently, that Brother had been having more difficulty with being bullied and building relationships than we knew about.

Back to the activity….Brother finally had mountains of dental work done under general anesthesia at a hospital. He had freaked out on dentist after dentist until one finally called for this measure.

My big challenge is juggling work with homeschooling and weekly therapy for Brother. Somehow I am managing it right now by prioritizing….my paperwork lags, as I put my students and families as a top priority at work. It all gets done eventually…last minute or days late. It bothers me more than others, because I am…well…a perfectionist when it comes to expectations of myself.

~AoA

So Many Projects!

Finishing projects is a long-standing personal goal of mine….and one which I seldom meet. I think it started with learning new crafts at a young age. I remember when the world of “counted cross stitch” was introduced to me, and all of the magic that followed.

Today, my project ideas expand beyond arts and crafts. While my boxes of yarn wait to be crocheted into useful items, there also sits a basket full of items gathered for the local domestic violence center. Now that Brother is homeschooling, another layer is added- to find opportunities for him to engage in the community and his learning.

He seems to be gravitating towards suicide awareness and prevention right now. He has engaged in acts of self-harm, and experienced the darkness that comes on as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. He has observed and questioned as musical artists have taken their own lives. He has now been in groups with peers who have either attempted suicide, or expressed deep depression. I think Brother is taking little steps out of his own darkness now…through tons of therapy and support.

Brother recently experienced a conversation involving different points of view about suicide. He realized that some people have the belief that talking about suicide is glorifying it. Suicide actually ranks as the second or third leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds (depending on the study).

Do you have special passion projects? What inspired you?

~AoA

A Painful Paradigm Shift

We have been in the midst of some rather painful paradigm shifting in the AoA house. Adjusting to homeschooling mindset has been challenging, but I think we are starting to settle into something. The best move made so far, was hiring a tutor for six hours a week. It ends up costing nearly as much as private school, but he is in a class of 1-3 depending on scheduling. We are able to truly focus on Brother’s need for building trusting relationships and confidence. Last year, he was, by public school standards, BROKEN. He was in a fast moving downward spiral, with nothing to grab hold of!

Two weeks ago, Brother experienced a setback with medication. An increase of a medication led him to become more easily agitated and violent. In a rage after refusing to go to the doctor and tutoring; he hit me so hard that he fractured my elbow. I was in a splint and sling for about 10 days…unable to use my right hand and arm due to swelling.

Brother went to the hospital to get his medications sorted out in a safe environment. It wasn’t the greatest experience for any of us, but he was admittedly not in control of himself.

During this time, another needed paradigm shift made itself known. My mom is no longer able to do the traveling and involvement she once was. She wanted so badly to help drive the 3 hour trip to the hospital where I was needed to help with Brother. This was an 11 day rollercoaster that peaked when the dad showed up at the hospital, violating the agreed order that was just put into place this summer! Not only did we need to help Brother, but now we were on alert for the dad being out of control (he has threatened to kill both me and my mom via his concealed gun that he keeps with him).

We are all home now, and getting back on our feet. This week has been filled with follow up appointments and tutoring for Brother. Our public schools are on fall break, which couldn’t have come at a better time.

Maybe the paradigm shifting will be more settled by the time school starts back up again…

~AoA

We Took the Leap

Last weekend, I took a leap, and decided to give homeschooling a try with Brother. I knew it would take some help from a tutor, as my work doesn’t leave me time to fit everything in. The grandparents are home to help out a bit, but at 75 years old, they aren’t much into the rigor of today’s texts and lessons. As it happened, I came across a tutor on a job seeking site, and set up an interview. I was only slightly hopeful going into it.

We met at a local coffee shop, and it didn’t take long to realize that we were kindred spirits. The situation was perfect for her, as she has a child the same age as Brother, whom she is homeschooling. She has three other kids who have graduated and moved on. We arranged to have Brother meet with her and her child. When we got together again, the kids connected!

We started that week….not waiting around to give the window of enthusiasm time to shut. I won’t say that it is working out perfectly…there are some bumps. We are figuring out the timing for everything. The medications Brother is on make him fatigue easily during the day. He goes in spurts, then falls asleep. It is obvious that a great burden has been lifted from him. He is not isolating himself as much, and has a new spark in his eyes. It is like we are connecting in a way that should have been done years ago, during the time he was being psychologically tormented.

I don’t know how long this will last. I will reassess his progress at the end of the year, and make adjustments. His therapists are a big part of his healing, so their input is valuable to this effort.

Part of me is very sad and disappointed that our public school can’t follow a pretty simple behavior plan that means the difference between success and psychosis. I will continue to advocate for students who live with mental health issues! They all deserve to receive a public education without being bullied or discriminated against!

~AoA