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. 😦

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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Coronavirus Pandemic and Our Emotional Health

We live in Ontario, Canada and our premier has officially declared a state of emergency this morning. This means in addition to primary, secondary and post-secondary schools being shut down for the next 3 weeks, now our daycare centers, restaurants (dine in portion), bars, cinemas, libraries, museums, major venues such as the science centre, and recreation centers are all shut down until at least April.

We homeschool our 3, but my two stepdaughters attend public school at their mother’s insistence. So this changes some things for us, but not all things. Obviously daycare facilities being closed doesn’t effect us. However, everything else being closed does.

One of the ways all of these closures effect us is through fear and anxiety. My youngest son has asthma and has had to be on oxygen and nebulizers in the past, so I am in a heightened state of anxiety. But I’m not the only one, my children feel it too. Not just through me, but also because news of the virus is everywhere and both kiddos understand the potential implications for their brother, and he understands the implications for himself. To that end we have been working a great deal with the concepts of fear, anxiety and powerlessness.

Acknowledgement of Emotions:

We’ve spoken about how scary it can be to feel like you’re powerless in a situation, and how to work with that feeling to acknowledge it but not let it overwhelm us (a thing I am struggling with myself as well).

Then, I attempt to teach them how to work through their scary thoughts. We talk about their feelings, how their real and valid first. But also that even though their valid, we don’t have to be ruled by them. We can focus on the things we HAVE done, the things we ARE doing, and the things we CAN do during this time.

Breathing Techniques:

Once I’ve validated their emotions we do breathing exercises. Five deep breathes in through the nose and out through the mouth. This helps to calm the nervous system down and allow the pre-frontal cortex to come back online (center of logic and reasoning).

Mindfulness Exercises:

Mindfulness exercises such as finding 5 things they can see, touch, and hear can also help to refocus on calming the mind enough to work through any scary thoughts.

Positive Actions:

Finally, we focus on something positive, such as on gratitude, love, giving to others, or constructive actions. We do this because in allot of ways our thoughts are like roads, the more frequently their used, the more deeply they become entrenched and at times like this we NEED the positive perhaps more than ever.

For one child, focusing then on how grateful they are for the healthcare professionals or our ability to have things delivered to lessen our chances of exposure is helpful.

For another it’s expressing love through acts of kindness such as offering to play another siblings favorite board game or reading a book to a younger sibling.

For another it’s writing a card to send to someone they can’t see in person right now, or walks in the conservation area to be in nature.

For me, it’s constructive physical acts that help, for example organizing cupboards and labelling jars with our supplies or sorting the kids clothes for donations (I’ll wait to donate, but I’m happy to pop bags of donations in a closet ready to go once this is all over). Each person is unique, so choosing the positive actions that work best for them should be specific to them.

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All Roads Lead To Home

I have found with my eldest that he finds great comfort in routines, in doing things in the same order each time, and in taking the same routes to and from places. In essence he finds comfort in things staying the same. Unfortunately life doesn’t stand still. Life and people won’t stay the same. Situations, events, seasons, time, everything changes.


He was 3 years old when I started to try and help him to understand this difficult concept. I had made him a picture chart/calendar that I would update each week. Most of it would stay the same to give him comfort and familiarity. The thing that I would change on a regular basis was the WAY that we would arrive or depart from his familiar activities.


For example, we would go to a place called Airzone 3-5 days a week as I did a great deal of his socialization and behavioral therapy with him there. Airzone was just over a kilometer from where we lived at the time. Which meant that there were several ways that we could walk to or from it on any given day. Additionally there was a bus we could take or we could take a taxi. 


I knew how hard it was for him to accept any type of change in his daily routines, but I also knew that while I loved him with all of my heart I had to help him as gently and lovingly as possible to learn how to deal with changes. Both expected ones and unexpected ones. For if he stayed he did not learn to cope with changes, what would happen if he was on his way to work and a road on his usual route was closed? Would he be able to handle it? Would he end up calling his boss to say he couldn’t come in? Or would he be able to handle finding a different route to work that day?

Approximately half of the times we would come home from Airzone I would take him one specific way. It was his favorite way, he liked the things we’d see along those roads, he knew each of the houses and businesses we’d pass. The other half of the time I would take a deep mental breathe and deviate from our regular route. For countless times our deviations from the route he had picked as his favorite or preferred route were met with a full meltdown. He would be distraught for up to two hours, even after we’d arrived home and he could see that we’d managed to get home just fine taking a different path mattered not to him. He was completely overloaded by the change. While my heart ached I knew I had to do it. 

I wouldn’t take him a different route to get there as I knew he couldn’t handle it, and our actual time at Airzone was far more than just playtime. But to come home, well he knew we were on our way home and he’d be completely okay about that until I turned down a different street or did not turn down one he was expecting me to. It was a good thing that I still had an umbrella stroller for him for after he was done playing as him being buckled in was a huge safety measure on my part. For I could not have carried him for just over a kilometer while he was he was in the midst of a full meltdown. And he had such difficulty with change at the time that he couldn’t have walked anywhere with me. He would cry and scream “This isn’t the right way, this isn’t the way” and while it hurt my heart greatly I knew it was important to help him learn to deal with changes. I would talk, and explain the entire way home that it was okay that he was upset, but that this was just a different way we could get to the same place.

Once we got home I would cuddle with him on the couch, tell him he was loved and safe and that it was okay he was upset, that we were home now just as he’d wanted, we’d just taken a different way to get there.

It took 7 months of doing this with him before he became okay with taking different ways home. Fast forward 5 years and I now have a son that is excited about random road trips, and looks forward to adventures where he’s not entirely certain where we’re even going. He still has some anxiety about it if it involves overnight, but if he knows he gets to come home for bed he’s all for day trips anywhere, and anyway to get there is totally fine with him.

Knowing that each of those heartbreaking trips taking all the different roads that lead to my home with him when he was younger have lead he and I to this level of comfort make them worth it, completely. I still do it randomly off and on to ensure there is no regression with his comfort in that type of change, and he’s fine each time. He’s got that much more freedom for soaring as an adult because I made sure he understood that all roads can lead to home.

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