Friday, June 5, 2009

I'm Meltinnnngg......

There are mini-miracles and there are mini-meltdowns. My preference for the former, does not exempt me from the latter. As much as I know and profess that "His mercies are new every morning," "He has a plan for good," and "works all things together for good," I don't always feel it. Yesterday, was one of those days.

Generally speaking, I am not a crier. Quite the opposite, many times I wish I could cry at retreats, memorials, or on cue when it seems appropriately feminine. One of the top #10 hurtful moments of my life was when someone accused me of being "stoic." What does that mean? I'm unfeeling, stubborn, too tough? Ouch.

Yesterday, I was raw and so, tried to hide. My heart felt like an eggshell that cracked at the slightest touch. My eyes warmed from within as tears flowed off and on each time I was alone in my car. My head ached from holding back the flow of pathetic, discouraging thoughts.

Life seemed so broken and sad, sad, sad. Recurrent loss drown me like a tidal wave.

Burgeoning under the surface was the fact that yesterday was the kids' birthday. Despite the fact that that is reason to celebrate, Reid and I ended up alone. Allie's 9th grade class trip to China left Monday night. She turned 15 surrounded by her peers. Her personal milestone was marked in a memorable way since their June 4th itinerary took them to Tiananmen Square on the 20th anniversary of the historic protest. I imagined her day as a swirling vortex of independence, fun, college-prep, global engagement, and new horizons.

Jim is in Australia on business with spotty Skype connection. A common occurrence for him to travel (and no picnic, really) but, part of the barometric pressure building in my tumultuous day. Reid's triennial IEP is next Tuesday which means I am receiving a barrage of assessments and recommendations from 5 different specialists which justify Reid's non-public placement and transition to a functional living track (as opposed to diploma bound). They also quantify his deficits in black and white detail.

These factors created a perfect storm of isolation, comparison, anxiety, and grief. I was untethered and before I knew it, thoughts were unraveling about this kid who only a mother could love (yet I wasn't). The gap between Allie's reality and Reid's existence was widening into a canyon. I was staring brokenness in the face and pining for what should be. She'll be driving and he won't. Three more years and she'll be off to college; he'll be...underfoot.

And then, guilt as I tried to not only keep Reid in his routine but also somehow create a meaningful birthday for him by my depleted self. I arrived at his school 30 minutes after lunch period with the blasted ice cream sandwiches feeling like a failure. (Are there no grocery stores in that neighborhood?)

Reid's case manager chased me down in the parking lot. Honestly, I was hoping for another hour of denial as I slipped out to the car to have my little break down (like Holly Hunter in Broadcast News.) He is awesome at his job and was preparing me for his written report of new goals. Nonetheless, he blew into the now spiraling funnel cloud of my emotions.

With his usual competence, professionalism even care, he recapped the current levels and probable goals for Reid with the summary phrase that he become "socially invisible." That hit hard; I had to evacuate fast.

That phrase irks me. I've heard his boss use it before and as much as I understand the importance and appreciate their hard working achieving it, it breaks my heart to hear it. What they mean to accomplish is have Reid blend in culturally, look like a typical teenager, and extinguish the red flags that give away his disability. I hate it as much as when Jim desperately begs him to "act normal."

Is that what we've come to? What kind of parent wants their children to be invisible? I want my children to distinguish themselves from the crowd; stand up for what they believe; and aspire to greatness! How have we stooped to such mediocrity?! Who made us compromise?

How can I hold these diametrically opposed goals --those of earth and those of heaven-- in some kind of simultaneous, healthy tension?

I used to believe, really believe that Reid would fit in somewhere and that he'd be whole somehow, healed, and that he'd achieve greatness. Am I the only one left with that hope? Can I sustain it alone? Does anyone else even care?

No one called to wish Reid a Happy Birthday until 7pm, when the two of us were already eating at Chevy's and couldn't talk anyway. Then both my credit cards were denied and I had to pay for our stupid dinner with a bad check.

Low, I'm telling you it was a low day. I am glad it's over. This is getting long enough.

Who's been there?

But you will cry out with a heavy heart, And you will wail with a broken spirit. Isaiah 65:13-15

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17-19

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 2 Corinthians 4:6-8

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  1. Sometimes I feel like an interloper in the parent community...but I decided to comment anyway today. Besides GodviaHisWord, other parents will likely give you better support for recovering from your (occasional) 'meltdown'.

    Two mothers I recommend to you - JoyMama and Mama Mara. JM has commented here before, and she can direct you to MM. MM has a teen boy with an autism diagnosis and she speaks from experience on what you are feeling. Also, I see you have 5m4sn on your blogroll. The author of the top post (right now) "Second Nature", LauraS, writes truly wonderful posts about her now adult son with autism.

    Remembering you in my prayers, Barbara

  2. I can sympathize with you. I can only speak for myself, but I have those days as well. I think the older a child gets the harder it is when "milestones", birthdays, and such come around.

    It can hit hard too when IEPs and stuff like that come around too. Then you have to read it in black & white and face it concretely.

    (((Hugs))) I thought grief and sadness would eventually fade and go away, but it's like a sore that never quite heals.

  3. I absolutely refuse to let my two autistic kids become "socially invisible." Pardon my French, but screw society! I realize it will cause them to be "singled out" or possibly ridiculed. Show me any high school without special kids and I defy you to show me "typical" teens who aren't singled out or ridiculed. I personally embrace my kids' differences, and seek placements and goals and plans that will include their differences and make the best of them. I had a District Resource Teacher working on my daughter's case corner me in the office of her school, not when we were scheduled to get together or anything, but he started asking me, "Do you REALLY plan for her to be diploma-bound? REALLY?...." Like it was equivalent to torturing her or planning to send her to prep school in the 1st grade. His incredulity at my intentions pissed me off more than I can say and still be considered a lady. In fact, I had to run out to my car--not only from hiding the tears, but because the bursting of profanity that was building up in my mouth was at dangerous levels and I no doubt would have been escorted off the premises by cops. How dare he? How dare they? How dare anyone look at our treasures, our jewels, our rare creatures and declare they must be "socially invisible?" I use words like "weird" and "off the wall" and "dippy" during my IEPs so they know--HEY, I'm in on this one. I KNOW what my kids are like, and I personally like it. It FORCES them to deal with the kids as they are, and it forces them to deal with ME liking them. Quit trying to force my kids into your molds. I can already see how well it's worked out for the typical kids... Hang in there, good luck, and I'm with you, sister!!

  4. Andrea - I was SO AT THE SAME PLACE Friday. I rarely rarely melt, but I also experienced a perfect storm of end of my school year, Asperger's from three directions at once, NT son deserving my attention too, and then my drivers license got suspended. Something in the stars? I sought escape in the haymow. The sun seems to be coming back out today. I hope the same for you.

  5. Andrea,
    I was having dinner at Chevy's on Thursday, I wish I had seen you and been able to wish Reid a happy birthday. Josh and I have always loved the fullness of his spirit. He is great.

    Since last weekend's sermon I have been meditating on Joel, and one of God's promises that after the locusts have come and eaten and left them in ruin, that He WILL repay them for the years the locusts have taken away. Then after He will pour his spirit out on all of us. This has encouraged me on some of my more depleting and isolated days as a mom!

    I love your writing, and think the world of both your children. Love, Amy

  6. Sorry I missed this post by a couple days. I wish I had known it was Reid and Allie's birthdays. So sorry you had such a hard day. I really don't know what to say except thank you for sharing it here so honestly. Ps. 34 is so true and I know you know that He has a perfect plan for you and Jim and Allie and Reid.

    Love ya.

  7. Oh, Andrea -- LPM Siesta -- I have nothing, nothing, nothing smart to say. I hate IEP meetings. I love Colin's team, but I hate the bureaucracy. Colin is going to a different school next year. His final report showed that he jumped from 3 conversational turns in March to 10 (Goal met!) in June. Really? His homeroom teacher told me he would always need help and would never hold down a job working with people. As I drove away God whispered to me, "Do they know your kid? Do you even know your kid? I -- I know that kid and I AM." Oh, Andrea, no matter what happens our children are "fearfully and wonderfully made," and they have a special purpose here on earth.

    You keep crying. It's okay. You won't cry forever. And know for sure that your little friend in Minnesota is praying for you!!