My Biggest Dragon Yet

My Biggest Dragon Yet

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that choosing faith over fear is a recurrent theme. Many of my posts recount the moments I felt most hopeless as I tried to navigate fear and doubt, typically through the lens of a parent who has a child with ADHD. But this summer, I faced a different dragon. In fact, I faced my biggest dragon yet.

Disclaimer: If you’re one of those hopeless optimists who wholeheartedly believes your marriage will never get bad enough to be swallowed up by a lake-sized pothole in the road, this post isn’t for you.

And I’m not here to reach into a nitty gritty jar of dirt. I’m here to share with you my faith-building experience and how my trust in God’s plan for me led to a happier marriage, a stronger testimony, and ultimately a more confident sense of self.

Envision if you will a delicate string, miraculously suspending weights the size of bowling balls. Each ball represents an individual issue, each with an expiration date (that once is met, erupts into an explosive barrage of shrapnel and suffering).

Do I need to tell you that our time was up and the explosion was war-worthy? These issues ripped into my heart and shoved me to my knees. Never had I understood what it felt like for a heart to openly bleed out until this moment. A broken heart and a contrite spirit, yes, but a genuine bleeding heart (not the political kind) is more on point. I feared for my emotional health more than ever.

And what about my children? An Instagram post today declared, “Don’t worry, Mama. This is just a phase, a season. Odds are your kid will be the regular amount of messed up.” But I feared that my children would be a horrific, irreparable amount of f***** up (sorry, had to do it).

Every quiet moment alone (whether at work or at home) was spent in prayer, as I begged and pleaded for advice. Never did I think that the advice would be to move out. The way that this message entered my mind was monotonous and melodious, as to leave no question that I had to pack now and leave. “Move out. Move out. Move out.” That is how it sounded, but the pace was likened to the chugging of a train on rusty tracks. To leave my kids, my husband, my new house, my warm bed, to find solace in a sacred space 30 minutes from home…frightening. Terrifying.

But looking back, it had to be done. And there is no way I could’ve had the guts to follow through with this task had I not put every ounce of my faith in God, and his plan for me. How did I know it was the right decision?

Because I felt more peace than I ever had in my entire 16 years of marriage. How could someone feel such peace leaving their family behind? To everyone else but those closest to me, this probably looked all kinds of crazy. My marriage had the chance of ending in divorce, and if we hadn’t both put in the work required to save our marriage, that’s where we’d be right now, folks. But I was willing to risk it all to find a way out of my misery and ultimately to a path of happiness. In fact, that’s what I needed and what ultimately brought us back together. That’s what I prayed for. Put me on the path of greatest happiness, I pleaded, not knowing what that would look like.

After months of heartache, repentance, forgiveness, and faith, our marriage is stronger than it’s ever been. I moved back in and we decided to move to a new place for a fresh start.

Finally, I feel like I’m in control of my life again. And I owe it all to the grace of God for directing and guiding me through my hardest battle yet…helping me slay this two-headed dragon I call FEAR.

Back on the (Bike) Saddle Again

Back on the (Bike) Saddle Again

Over the years I’ve learned how to manage my depression without medication. It takes commitment and focus. It takes consistent exercise, healthy eating, regular sleep and avoiding caffeine at all costs!

Caffeine has been my weakness for as long as I can remember, because as a sleep-deprived mom of needy kids, it’s been the first thing I reach for “to get me through the day.” I never used to be dependent on it, but when I used it as a crutch during college years ago I became hooked. Ever since then it’s been an addiction I’ve been battling and somehow, it always wins.

I’ll go for months without it and then I find myself at rock bottom emotionally and start back up again.  I’ll be driving somewhere and suddenly my brain takes the wheel and the next thing I know I’m pulling into a gas station to fill up a 64-ounce plastic cup of Mountain Dew. It’s happened so many times, more than I can remember.

I visualize all the things on the label that are bad for me as I suck in that first cool shot of bubbly soda–yellow number five, brominated vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup and think–I’m slowly killing myself. These additives are going to create cancer in my body and I’m going to wonder why I was such a weakling and gave in to a stupid soda craving. I always feel guilty afterward, because I know I’ve let myself down.

I know that within days I’ll turn into a foggy-brained, irritable and mean mom whose sole thought is when I can get my next fix.Why do I do this to myself, I think? But in times of stress, which have been more often than not, all of that does not matter in the moments leading up to the purchase. I have a FEAR of relapsing every time I quit…which was two weeks ago.

But in the 14 days I’ve been “clean” I’ve noticed a change in my mood, and a change in my waistline. I got on my bike yesterday for the first time since last summer and pushed myself to go farther than I had intended to. The cool morning air, sunny skies and Pandora’s Chillwave station helped me go eight miles.

I need to have alone time to find clarity and I need to be good to my body. This is the only way I can surface the dark pool of depression. I’ve been the happiest today than I’ve been in a while. When I go to a social function and I actually have a good time without trying to or wanting to escape, that’s when I know I feel normal. That’s when I have the most confidence in myself.

I pray I can stay committed to my health and treat my body like a temple from here on out.

The Thirty-Something Math Moron

The Thirty-Something Math Moron

I never realized how daunting a classroom full of kids could be. Until I had to be the one with all the answers.

When we made the tough decision to transfer my son to a charter school, that meant he was no longer in a strictly sixth-grade classroom. The project-based model meant he’d be working with peers in a classroom of fourth through seventh graders. Which meant many levels of math I did not know how to help with, since I’m old school.

His teacher asked me one day if I’d be willing to volunteer in the classroom. I said yes, without hesitation. Then he asked me how good I was at math. Not wanting to sound like a complete idiot, because he knew I had a college degree, I agreed to coming in once a week to assist during the math hour. I’m not gonna lie. That day, a seed of panic was planted, and soon sprouted leaves. But I was determined to not let my FEAR of math stop me from helping out.

Fast forward to today. I showed up to help with with Common Core math and ended up feeling like…wait for it.. a dummy! It’s been a while since I’ve had to use fractions and I’ve always hated math story problems. I am definitely annoyed with the extra hoops Common Core has kids jumping through. Especially for kids like mine who have a hard enough time getting the basics down. But in my defense, his previous school did not encourage parent help with math homework, which pretty much left me out of the loop. Ever since this Common Core business started years ago, I’ve viewed its presence in a negative light.

So I get there and I slowly walk around the room looking for kids to help. I see two kids sitting there with blank stares and see this as my opportunity to jump in. They point to the problem in question and I get a sick feeling in my stomach.

So this is how my son feels every day during math!

Well…what do you do when you don’t understand the math problem either and you’re supposed to be the helpful adult? You sit down and have them explain what they think they are supposed to do while flipping to the back of the book for the answer. Aha! I found it! But now I have to explain how I got there, which is not so easy.

Luckily, there was math whiz mom there I could call upon for help. But that left me feeling dejected. What was I there for if not to help? I found a bit of solace in the fact that another mom volunteer asked me, not five minutes later, if I knew how to do seventh grade math. Not because I knew how, which obviously I didn’t, but because I was no longer the only mom stupified by Common Core math.

But, why?

But, why?

I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a blog about all of life’s moments that cause FEAR. But I haven’t until now. Any guesses why? There were many reasons why I dragged my feet, but the ugliest one was FEAR itself. I worried about what people might think or say if I revealed my inner thoughts about momlife. I didn’t want to be misunderstood. Because, being a parent isn’t always fun and games.

Because sometimes, I really miss being my selfish, single self.

The Truth

Most days I wake up dreading the day’s agenda because Number One: I hate mornings, and Number Two: I’m not the stereotypical, happy-go-lucky Mormon mom who is always smiling and gushing about her children and her life and how much she loves the gospel.

Let me make this very clear. Yes, I love my children. Yes, I love the gospel. But if you haven’t guessed already, I do not exhibit the bubbly, flowery personality that many women I admire do.

I’m a daughter of God fighting internal battles and mental health issues daily. I’m not perfect and I’m totally okay with that, because I’d rather be a truth teller than an imitator who’s always trying to be someone she’s not.

I have three beautiful children ranging in age from 11 to 3. They are God’s gift to me and they are the reason I continue to grow each and every day. Let me tell you about my oldest, because he has been the inspiration for this blog. He has struggled in school since DAY ONE.

The Struggle

The subject of school has been a major source of stress in our home (and our marriage) over the years. Since my husband has a job with an unpredictable schedule, I’ve always been the one to coerce my son into doing his homework each night, as he fought it every step of the way. I’ve been the one lectured by his teachers about his failing grades, forgotten homework, and daydreaming.  I’ve been the one spending countless hours talking to his teachers about how best to help him learn. I’ve been guilty of feeling disappointed in my son for not trying hard enough, for not caring, and for constantly being the source of stress in my life.

But most of all, I’ve been disappointed in myself for feeling like a failure. You could say I felt stuck and unsure of what to do next, because heaven help the public school system, they’re not equipped to handle kids with unique learning styles. All they wanted to do was discuss his below average test results.

The Choice

I’d been so busy pursuing my college degree, I had really put everything else on the backburner. Following graduation, I decided to face my FEAR of the unknown and started to heavily research his symptoms. I was determined to become his advocate, because if I didn’t, who would? He was in third grade now, and it had gotten to the point where something had to change–and fast. His test scores said so. His teachers said so.

After some heavy Googling, I became the annoying mom who kept pestering his teacher to have an evaluation done. What I’ve learned is all teachers are busy and most often they don’t take the initiative to suggest testing themselves (unless the kid is a major distraction to the rest of the class, which my son was not.) After she agreed to start testing, I was hopeful we would finally get some answers.

The Label

I must admit, I resisted Googling his symptoms at first because of the FEAR I had of labels. I didn’t want him to be labeled as the kid who…because he is just as unique as any other kid with a diagnosis of some kind. You hear all the time that a label does not define you. But sometimes, especially with kids, it can feel like it does. I also had a FEAR that he would develop a complex that something was wrong with him, as soon as the testing started. I kept rephrasing my explanations for the reasons why he needed testing. As much as our society teaches us to celebrate our differences, I didn’t want him to feel different from other kids in his class.

The Results

The test results were sent to his doctor, and after our emotional office visit, he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-Inattentive Type (though it’s important to note there is not “a test” for ADHD). I say emotional because I was on the verge of tears. I hated that my sweet son was sitting there, probably feeling bad about himself, like the world was against him. I actually wrote all of the reasons why I suspected he had ADHD on a piece of paper so I didn’t have to say them out loud and make him feel bad. But his doctor went in to them anyway. I’ve got to admit, I started getting ticked at the doctor after he suggested medication and I asked him if we could try something else, to which he responded “Get him a new brain?”

Yes he said that in front of him. I about died. The only reason I’ve stayed with this doctor over the past few years is because following that statement he explained his son also has ADHD and he knows what life is like with a child who has it. That his brain is physically different and that he will always have ADHD because it is something you can never outgrow.

But you can learn to manage the symptoms.

The Latest

Most recently, the diagnosis has expanded to include Executive Function Disorder after further testing following an unpleasant experience with his sixth grade teacher, in which I pulled him from the public school he was at. I won’t go into details about that, other than to say her military tactics backfired on her.

Getting this additional diagnosis has given me some relief, not only because it has confirmed his prior diagnosis, but also because I’ve been given further information on how to manage the symptoms. Imagine how hard it is for a child to have this and be expected to keep up with the the rest of the class.

Why is it hard?  Well, the main reason having EFD is such a struggle for a kid or even an adult, is no matter how hard you try to complete homework assignments and daily tasks, your brain is constantly tripping you up. You just can’t seem to catch a break and you are constantly being told so, which contributes to lower self esteem and confidence.

You get anxiety and you come up with illnesses and reasons why you can’t make it school. It is a constant battle you feel you can never win. Memorizing things like times tables, and scriptures and spelling words can be daunting because while you instinctively “know them,” your brain struggles to file, store and retrieve the answers you need, especially during a test or assignment. This makes learning new math concepts almost impossible without a cheat sheet of some kind, but even then the struggle is real.

This is my why

To say I’ve felt like a failure as a parent is an understatement. I tried so hard to “mold” him into someone he’s not (along with his teachers), and you bet I feel guilty for that.

But now I’ve realized it’s not my fault that he struggles. I’ve prayed and prayed for this realization. Also, I may have had a counseling session or two. This is a trial God has given him for the rest of his life, just like having depression is a trial I will never escape, until the second coming of Christ. This is the way his brain is wired and I pray that I can be the anchor he needs when the storms of change and doubt overpower him.

Even though I feel entirely unqualified to be his mom, I am determined not to let FEAR stop me from doing my part in helping him. Because aside from his struggles, he is a great kid. He is empathetic and loving towards others. He is a hands-on whiz and can take anything apart and put it back together. He is very loyal to his family and can always tell when someone needs a hug. That someone is usually me.

I’m tired of living in FEAR of will happen or what someone will say. I just want to live without FEAR and be a good example to my children. I want to forget my FEAR and focus on the Lord. Because I know if I put my faith in him, he will guide me and if necessary, carry me until I can start again on my own.