Behind starburst eyes

Corona’s Effect on Mental Health

It’s been months since Covid-19 became a worldwide epidemic, and while I am truly, deeply thankful that my family has not experienced this virus directly, sadly it still has had an impact on my children through their mental health.

He used to be gregarious, he used to be fearless, he used to be happy and confident…Used to be…

It makes my heart ache to see the changes in him, to see how scared he is to even leave the house because as he puts it “It’s invisible, I can’t see it, I can’t fight it” He used to be thrilled to pop over to the store for me, and he’d always ask if he could pick up something for dessert for everyone in addition to the bread or milk I was usually asking for. Now, his first response is “Or I could not go” with a pleading face as he says it. He used to love going for runs, now he says “there’s too many people”. He would rather forgo takeout or new toys if he has to go outside for them.

So instead I don’t ask him to go for me, but I do ask him to go with me. I’m willing to walk with him, because I’m determined to make him go out (while of course allowing precautions such as a mask and hand sanitizer) because he can’t stay locked inside for the next however long. It’s not healthy for him.

I know this might be a long road for him, but I remember when he was 2 and would have uncontrollable meltdowns when we’d walk different routes home from Airzone, he’d cry that it “wasn’t the right way home”. Back then I knew he had to learn there were many ways to get to somewhere, physically and metaphorically. I would hold him and tell him over and over he was loved and safe and I understood and he was my wonderful brave boy as he cried for hours even after we got home.

This is no different, I’ll be there each step of the way offering him love and support as I help him walk this hard path. I love him enough to do the hard things because he always has been and always will be worth the effort to help him thrive.

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There’s Always A Reason

During a pandemic isn’t the most obvious time to decide one is going to start working on a trailer and planning a trip across the Americas.

While yes a part of the reason is definitely because we couldn’t go on our grand adventure across Europe, another part was the lump I found on my sternum. I needed something to focus on while I waited for results.

While many people equate Autism with a certain amount of social oblivion, where my boys are concerned momma being upset sets off alarm bells real quick! Couple that with this pandemic already having them more anxious and the inability for me to go off from them for awhile while I process and you’ve got the potential for a whole lot of additional stress and meltdowns on their part (totally warranted mind you!)

So instead I focused on the trailer and creating a sanctuary for the kids and I to have. For a place to make memories for years to come as we adventure together, because the alternative wasn’t something I could afford to focus on in such close quarters with them.

With all the additional medical precautions in place for Covid, getting a diagnosis wasn’t as quick as I would like. It took over a week to be able to physically see my doctor, another 2 weeks for the ultrasound, and then a week and a half for inconclusive results. My actual sternum is inflamed and swollen, so I was prescribed an anti-inflammatory for rheumatoid arthritis to see if it helped to decrease the swelling and then an appt with radiology 3 months from now to look at it again. ūüė¶

The idea that I should just sit around and wait 3 more months to see what exactly it is because most medical procedures that aren’t for Covid or for immediately saving one’s life is so disheartening and makes me wonder how many people aren’t getting timely treatment because our government cut funding for hospitals too much for too long and so they can’t handle both right now.

The bright side is that the pain is less with the medication and I think the lump is smaller so fingers crossed it actually is shrinking, and isn’t potentially life-threatening.

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Taking a leap

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When my mom was in palliative care she spoke with me about all the things she regretted. Only one was some thing she had done, all the rest were things she hadn’t done, dreams she had never chased, moments she hadn’t fully lived, chances she was too afraid to take.

I told her I looked forward to telling her about all my zany adventures when I saw her on the other side. Then to borrow one of her favorite sayings “I put my money where my mouth is”.

I applied to University again and was accepted as a full-time student for my bachelor degree in Anthropology and Psychology. I’m now in my second year, and I’ve worked hard to stay on the honour roll both years.

It hasn’t always been easy, as we still homeschool the kids, and we’re always working on various tools they need to learn to live their best lives too. But, it IS worth it!

I don’t want to regret all of the things I didn’t do, and all of the chances I didn’t take. Nor do I want them to live that way either. Being Autistic, I’ve noticed that my boys are encouraged by society to conform to social norms even more heavily than if they weren’t. Some thing I’ve noticed allot of adult Autistics speaking about lately. So when I say we’re working on the tools they need, a key one of them is the courage to be true to themselves. They are amazing human beings that I’ve been privileged to be a parent to. I never want them to lose sight of their authentic selves, and chase their own dreams. Can you imagine what life could look like if we weren’t afraid to take a leap?

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Why I don’t often write about my sons anymore…

When I first started this blog, I would write quite frequently about my children. I thought that by giving others a glimpse into the world of Autistic children, and the parenting of, that it would help. That it could show the world what our lives were like; both the positive as well as the struggles.

There is a difference though between when a parent of a neurotypical child writes about parenting, and a parent of a special needs child writes about parenting. I didn’t realize that when I first started writing. I didn’t realize that far too often the media utilizes those same struggles to suggest that a parent of an Autistic child should be pitied. Mostly I didn’t realize it, because I don’t pity myself.

I see myself as having been gifted 3 beautiful souls to guide towards their fullest potential. I see myself as a kind of tour guide. I’m only here to help till they themselves feel less like tourists and more like locals. The thing is, I thought that was what all parents have to do.

I have never been a mother to a neurotypical child, so maybe it’s totally different? But from what I have heard, it’s still hard as hell to be a mom; regardless of a child’s neurobiology.

So why is it that having a rough moment or day or even a totally rotten week is viewed so differently when the child is classified as special needs? It’s different because we view having a child with a different neurobiology as something bad, as something to grieve and be depressed about. Only I’ve never felt that way about my kids.

So when I write, I have to consider what kind of impression am I adding to society of the reality of having an Autistic child. I don’t want to add to the gross misconception that they are less for having a different neurology; because,¬†they aren’t. The society that equates how much money a person can contribute to corporations (through working at, or purchasing from) as a human being’s¬†only worth is what should be pitied, and seen as less than;¬†not my beautiful children. ¬†¬†

 

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Learning about Emotional Equations

Some of our homeschooling doesn’t look like “regular” schooling. Okay, most of it doesn’t look like it lol. That does not mean they are not learning, nor does it mean they aren’t learning very important things.

Many people find it difficult to get to the base root of their emotional states. When one does not understand the root or cause of an emotion it becomes almost impossible to find a solution that effectively works long-term.

To that end, for some viewing their emotional states as equations can assist in further self-awareness. Further self-awareness can assist in higher levels of overall satisfaction with ones life as steps are then taken to ensure they get what they need out of various situations and interactions.

This is what some of our homeschooling looks like:

emotional-equations_chip-conley_honey-patel

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Dear Mental Health Professionals:

dsvm cover

I am aware that the DSVM (all editions since the 3rd) include Autism as a mental illness/disorder. However, just because they are included does not make the mental health field correct in their assessment of Autism as a disorder. It is included because Western society has a serious lack of acceptance of anything different. All things different should be treated and minimized to the greatest degree possible, is often the misguided thinking with Autism and many other neurodiversities.

The Ontario government has released a statement that they are pledging $333 million dollars towards treatment, but that the maximum age for treatments of IBI will decrease to 5 years old. This is said to be because the greatest chance for changing these children is until they are 5 years old. After that, it becomes harder to help change their behaviors to mirror neurotypical behaviors.

Autism is looked upon as something to correct, or at least to help intervene as much as possible and push towards encouraging the person to act as neurotypical as possible. I’d like to ask you why this is? I’d like to ask you why someone has to behave the way you do for you to see value within them? I’d like to ask you why biodiversity in the world is a plus, but neurodiveristy within humankind is not? I’d like to ask you why someone has to live in a predetermined manner for it to be the right way to live? I’d like to ask ¬†you what is so bad about allowing someone else to live their version of a happy life, even, especially if it’s not the same definition of happy as yours? I’d like to ask you what will it take for you to see that my sons do not have a disorder, they have a different neurological structure. What are the words you need to hear to understand that their value is not to be based upon how well they can become chameleons in society, but that their value is based upon the person they truly are when they stop trying to fit into your rigid, substandard predetermined cookie cutter shape of humanity…The Autistic Person they always have been and always will be does not need to be fixed, they just need to be loved, respected and appreciated for who they are, just like every other living creature on this biologically diverse¬†planet.

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We’re not in Kansas anymore…

“Of all the things that are different its the bees that make me homesick, they look like regular bees but they are blue and purple. Every time I catch a glimpse I think it is a real bee but then I am reminded that it is not home.”

The above passage from a book struck me deeply.

It made me think of many conversations I have had over the years with many persons and the struggles of trying so hard to “be a part of this world” when you feel like you really don’t belong. And isn’t that one of our most basic needs as human beings, the feeling of belonging? The feeling of being accepted? The feeling that yes, we too are a part of something larger than just ourselves. Some people find that feeling within their families. Some find it with a couple of close friends. Some find it at a place of worship.

But what about those that don’t find it? What about those that struggle each and every day to just BE a part of a group that loves and accepts them unconditionally?

98% of our DNA is the same as every single person’s on the planet, surely 2% out of 100% shouldn’t be enough reason for someone to feel different and excluded from the rest of the world…
How can we as their fellow human beings help? I don’t know. I don’t have the answer, but I’m hoping someone somewhere reading this just might. SO PLEASE, add your ideas at the bottom. Perhaps with many minds we can find a way to ensure ALL people feel the love and acceptance they deserve as fellow human beings.

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Hidden Messages Within

This past week-end I took Mr. C to a special viewing of “The Mask We Live In” It was a film being shown by¬†Violence Prevention Coordinating Council of Durham and Survivor Advocacy Committee of Durham.¬†It was a fantastic film that highlighted the gender role we force upon males in our determination to narrowly define masculinity and the effects it has on boys and men in how they act, how much they hide of their true selves and the overall influence it has on every aspect of their lives.

He went up to the organizer after the movie and talk was done and told her how happy he was to have seen the movie. How it made him realize he could be his true authentic self and that he didn’t have to act like anyone he saw on¬†T.V We had amazing conversations about¬†the movie, about the hidden messages society¬†sends about males and how they should act.¬†We talked about how he¬†had the right to¬†define who he was, freely and openly and that I would¬†love him unconditionally (as would the rest of our epic tribe, both those of blood and those of choice.)

I felt confident in my parenting of him, and of his siblings. I felt sure within myself that I was not pushing them to be anyone but themselves. That I was encouraging them to be true to their authentic self regardless of traditional gender roles or even current societal norms in regards to who they should be or how they should act or dress based on their genders.

THEN Minx found my knitting scissors (I had¬†hidden them, but apparently not well enough for my wee¬†super sleuth) and gave herself a mullet. An uneven one at that. So I took her to the bathroom and gave her a pixie¬†cut to even out what she’d already cut, and have the rest match it.

Then I got tempted to let her dad take her to get her ears pierced as her hair¬†this short makes her look less “girlish” and I automatically without any real consideration to the issue wanted to “fix” that. As if anything about her needs to be fixed!¬†And it made me feel embarrassed that I even thought for a second about something like that. As if I should change my mind that her body means she¬†has the right to choose if and when she wishes to have holes put in it for ornamentation. Espicially after writing long, short or none, still a woman.

Sometimes I forget just how much of the hidden messages society sends about how one should look or act based on their gender we really take into ourselves. But this was a potent reminder that I need to continue to look within about my own reactions to things, and what hidden messages I’ve accidently assimilated into myself as well.¬†And most importantly to discard the ones that say any of us need to look a certain way simply because of the chromosomes we were born with.

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Aviation and Flight

I am SO blessed to be able to homeschool my children freely as I know not all countries have the same view on homeschooling. This is one of the epic adventures Mr. C gets to attend at Centennial College.

Aviation and Flight

young girl in the red helicopter 01Date: April 9, 2015
Duration: 3 hours
Time: to be determined
Age: Grades 1-12
Location: Centennial College

Learning Outcomes: Aerodynamics, lift, drag, balance, patterns, centre of gravity, centre of pressure, 3-D modelling, problem solving.

Materials:¬† Model helicopter ‚Äď Stop watch, tape measure, scissors, sticky notes, paper to make class data table and record results.

Objective: Students will observe, test, record, and change the model helicopter to obtain the longest possible flight.

Description: The four forces of flight are explored as students build rubber band-powered model helicopters. After construction, the helicopters are fine-tuned for optimum flight. Students observe the flight characteristics of the models with adjustments for optimal flight.

Tour: A visit to the aviation centre will highlight the experience as students will learn first-hand from instructors about aviation and tour the facility.

Aviation and Flight.

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Depression, Suicide, and Pills

I had what I’ve read is one of the “hard” talks with Mr. C tonight. We talked about bullying, depression and suicide. We talked about how sometimes some people that are being bullied feel like they have no other option to escape their situation than to take their own life. I promised him that there is always a solution. That if we had to I would pack everything and everyone up and move 500 km away to get him out of that kind of situation. (I also explained there are other less drastic solutions we’d try first) But to never ever think he was trapped in that scenario, because if all else failed I’d hire a moving truck. I meant it. I wouldn’t want to move because of something like bullying, but I’d sure as shit do it if I knew it would make the difference between having Mr. C with me and not. See there are lots of studies that show a correlation between Autism and depression. But more importantly I know his family history, including his maternal medical history.

We then talked about depression. We talked about how sometimes for many different reasons (including but not only because of bullying) some people end up feeling like they’ve “lost their happy.No matter what they try to do, including activities they used to love, their happy seems just out of their reach. I explained that it could be because the brain isn’t making the right amount of certain chemicals. It could be because of a really hard time in a person’s life. I also explained it could happen with no obvious cause in sight. I told him it was important to talk to me or another grown-up he trusted if he felt like his happy was gone. We talked about the difference between being sad, having the blues, having the blahs, being upset and being depressed. I told him it didn’t matter which one he was feeling it was okay to talk about it and that his feelings would be respected. I promised him I would never slough off his emotions when they weren’t “happy/shiny”

I’ve read that these were hard conversations to have with your child, but for me personally that wasn’t the case. Instead I was grateful to have them with him. I was glad to hear him say that he knew suicide was never the answer. I was thrilled to hear him say he trusted me to help him find a solution should he be bullied or feel like he’d lost his happy. I’m glad because I’ve struggled for 11 months to find my happy. It’s been since we lost Joy that I can’t seem to find it. I try, and I have brief moments where it seems almost within reach, but then it slips through my fingers again. I end up staring off in the distance trying to remember how to smile like the woman I was in the hopes that if I go through the motions long enough I’ll finally BE her again. Only it hasn’t worked. I see her staring back at me through the mirror, so clear I could almost touch her, but really she’s like a faded photograph, because she’s just a reflection of who I used to be. So I went to my doctor finally and I am now taking something to help. Because I tried everything I knew, but I still couldn’t find the happy woman I used to be. Which is part of the maternal medical history I know of for my children. The part that makes me aware of how needed conversations like tonight’s was to ensure should he ever be facing a rough part on his path he’ll ask for help in walking it. Because that’s what I’m here for, to help each of them in whatever way they need. I acknowledge a part of that is also taking care of myself. In part so that I CAN be there for them, and also to show them it’s OK to ask for help when you truly need it.

Canada:

If you are contemplating suicide, please contact your doctor, or go to your local emergency room, or dial 911 from any telephone.

If you are being bullied, depressed or just need someone to listen and you are under 20 you can call Kids Help Phone 24/7 for free: 1-800-668-6868.

If you are an adult and find yourself in a mental health crisis: Canadian Crisis Centres is a list of crisis centres across Canada, with local free phone numbers.

You can also dial 211 from any phone and ask to be connected with your local crisis service.

In the USA:

Crisis Service: 24/7 for free help 1-800-273-8255

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