Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Changing Seasons

on the journey, the path.

PHOTO CREDIT: Heart & Soul Photography

Several days ago I found a box of frozen juice bars that I bought not long before my most recent post in this blog.  It was mid-summer and as usual, hot and humid.  I’d accidentally left them at my son’s apartment.  They’re in my freezer as I write, but they don’t look nearly as tempting as they did in July.

The summer was like one long day.  One filled with near constant telephone calls, online research and intense email communications.

Having reached out and asked for help in the medical community led to my son’s lengthy and rather unfortunate stay in a psychiatric hospital.

My son is doing okay and maybe even quite well.  He’s out of the hospital, which is very good!  He’s in recovery and I’m processing the fear that those psychiatrists instilled in my mind.

The inpatient psychiatrist and her personal team of professionals claimed that my son was there for symptoms of mental illness, but technically and truthfully, he became their patient because of, “a note left on the (local) hospital’s computer,” written six months before the evening he arrived in the emergency room for help.

The note shaped the next months of his life, and mine.  It almost shaped a few years.

I’ve learned that time is different for me than it is to the psychiatrists we had to deal with.  In their time, a few years of my son’s life can be discussed and measured in days, as in, “up to thirty days,” or, “for one-hundred and fifty days…”

In my time, one hundred-and fifty days equals five full moons, three important family birthdays, one Thanksgiving, one Christmas, days and weeks of walking in the fresh air, one Autumn, thousands of shimmering and glowing leaves to see, two dogs’ lives worth of days to enjoy, two semesters, one Winter, several snowmen and at least, three bowls of snow cream.

In their time, one hundred and fifty days is long enough for them to mythologize, diminish or selectively forget about the United States Constitution, including the Bill of Rights.

Something inside of me changed as the days turned into weeks, and finally months.  Faith is more present in my heart and I like that.  Both my son and I are on a different, yet comfortably familiar path of holistic healthcare.  We are working with a Taoist Alchemist and have better access to an open-minded, progressive thinking neuro-medical practitioner.

I’m more cautious than I was before about our modern-day Western approach in the treatment for mental illness.  It doesn’t work the same for everyone.  Personally, accepting what psychiatry offers, requires a separation of my heart and mind.  I’ve never been good at that.  As long as my heart is still there, I’ll be listening to what it has to say.

Dealing with the mental healthcare system has been a rather political process and, one which I don’t want to repeat.  I’m sure my son feels the same way.  I hope and pray that he doesn’t have to deal with those people again.

Mental illness is as physical as any other illness is.  There can be a hundred different reasons the brain malfunctions and a hundred different causes for each reason.  Treating a person’s brain is complicated medicine.  The field of psychiatry needs a revolution.

Thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s Blog!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Home

Good food, family, dogs, love, a little art and a digital camera…  Sounds like home to me.

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one of my son's several childhood-art-trees



The Daily Post, Weekly Photo Challenge theme — “Home.”

Thanks for visiting Dogkisses’s blog.

Breathe out…

Sometimes No Sometimes YesShe’s coming and it won’t take her long to get here.  I have about an hour left.  I didn’t have the courage to say no.

She’s my mother and I love her.  She surprised me when she called to say she was packing.  My gut screamed out at me to say no, but I couldn’t.  I tried.  I called her back three times.

“Are you sure you want to come?” I asked her.

“Yes.  Are you sure you want me to come?” she responded.

“Well, I’m sick,” I told her.  “I’m not in the best mood either you know.”

She says she understands and as much as a part of me wants to say no, obviously another part is saying yes.

I have a hard time saying no, which is why I love the icon my friend, Leslie, at IconDoIt, the blog, created for me.  The image was the top rated media image I used in my blog in 2010.

I love the “No” icon and saying no in 2009 saved my life.

I need to print this icon on a very large sheet of paper and hang it above my desk, which sits in the center of my small home.

“If truth be known,” a phrase my mother uses often, I need to be in a hospital or at least I need a good nurse.

I need a break from the many obligations in my life.  I need sleep.  I need an appetite.  I need more time for me.

I keep breathing out, then in and slowly out again, but I’m still anxious.  My home is cluttered.  I haven’t washed my dishes or vacuumed.  I don’t think my mother has ever seen my place in this condition.  I don’t think she’s ever seen me as wore out as I am now.  She may be shocked at my dishes in the sink and I’m not sure if she will see how very tired I really am.

I wish she could understand how I feel but at the same time I don’t want her to know how sick I am.

Breathe out…

2010 was a hard year and even though my spirit has felt lighter this year my body has not.  I’ve been sick.

About six weeks ago I got a terrible case of bronchitis.  It felt like the flu.  I thought it went away, but the fatigue has come back and hit hard.

I keep getting confused and sometimes the room spins.  I keep crying too, but I’m not sure what that’s about.  Out of the blue come upheavals of emotions and tears.

My pain is worse.  I’m sick on my stomach and food is the last thing I want.  I’m angry.  I’m angry that I feel so bad and have for so long.

I finally called my doctor.  I doubt if he can help me and as I write that thought, the tears want to come.  Maybe it’s because I’m so sick and I don’t know if anyone can help me.

I dread going to the doctor.  He’ll check my lungs to see if there are signs of pneumonia, which is what I’ve suspected.  I looked up the symptoms and have every one of them.

I don’t know why I’ve waited this long to ask for help.  I guess because when you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, it’s hard to know when you get a new illness or have a bug.  Depression can also keep you from seeking medical help when you need it.

I feel guilty for being sick.  I feel like a disappointment to my mother.  At least, I feel like it hurts her to see me sick and especially if I’m sad.  I don’t want to hurt her.

I also feel very much misunderstood, or rather that my illness(es) are misunderstood.

“If you want to sleep while I’m there,” my mother said the third time I called her back, “then just go lie down.”

I wish I could sleep.  I would.

Most people I know don’t understand that fibromyalgia is a sleep disorder.  They think if you are fatigued that you can lie down, go to sleep and all is good.  They are wrong.

Most people I know also don’t understand the reality of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome any better than they do fibromyalgia.  If only they would read blogs by people who are living with and writing about these insidious illnesses.

If we could sleep and sleep well for more than a few hours then we might feel better.  Maybe.

I’m so tired.  I hope my mother is calm in her mind and spirit.  That’s about the best gift she could give me.   I know she’ll start doing chores when she gets here but this is the thing, it will require my help.

I can barely sit here and write, but I thought I better because I don’t know how long she’ll be here and she gets a little jealous of my computer.  Sometimes our visits are emotionally draining on me.

I said yes because I love my mother.  I know she loves me.  I know too that I won’t always have her here.

I said yes.  I sure hope I did the right thing.

I also hope to meet my weekly challenge for PostAWeek, which for me is on Saturday.

OMG!  How did she make it that fast?  OMG!  She is here!

Breathe out…


One mom, one son, one day

Sea Otter Mother with Pup Beside Morro Bay CA ...

Image by mikebaird via Flickr

“Write out your boundaries while your son is here,” the hospital nurse suggested to me over the phone.  “Write it out –what you are and are not willing to do.”

I remembered the conversation I had with this nurse less than two months ago when he suggested that I hand over some of the care giving responsibilities I’ve taken on.

He didn’t say to whom I should hand any of them over to and so far nobody has volunteered nor do I know of anyone who can relieve me, so there.

I have boundaries.  I told him my son doesn’t care about his life and with genuine sincerity he said he completely agreed.

How is a mother supposed to handle this… knowledge?  Just this one part of a longstanding stressful and heart breaking situation is as hard as anything I’ve ever felt.  To think that it is the truth deeply disturbs me.  To think that my son doesn’t care about his life puts me into a hypnotic state of grief.

Everything I’ve ever learned or believed or know is not applicable to the way I feel.

Boundaries mean nothing.  Lists mean nothing.  Text book ideas and ideals mean nothing.

The only thing that matters to me now is my son and his life.

Statistics, treatment models, my son’s history, “the highest level of mental health care available,” which my son has in an ACT team and as the nurse added during our conversation today, “people are waiting three to six months to get services from an ACT team,” –none of this is applicable to the way I feel right now.

I’m unhappy with what many people are seeking and waiting for.

Part of the problem is that my being dissatisfied with the services the ACT team is in reality providing for my son rocks a boat that is barely staying afloat.

“The ACT teams are overloaded with too many people and not enough resources,” the nurse said right after he told me about how many people wants and needs this service.  I’m well aware of the state of affairs within the mental health system.  They are not good at all.  “They don’t have the resources to see all of their clients, (a.k.a. consumers).  Some of the people just don’t get seen.”

My son is one of those clients.

“Your son is difficult,” he said.  I’ve heard this several times.

His teachers said he was difficult throughout his school years because he talked too much.  The creative and interested teachers loved him.  The ones who found ways to make school work for him, which was hands-on-learning, discovered that my son was not only bright, but also quite capable of being a, “good student.”

“The ACT team is difficult!” I said with strong conviction.

I like the nurse.  He has taken very good care of my son many times now.   I respect him and now, I think I need to be taken as seriously as anyone else involved in my son’s health care.

“I need you to hear me,” I told him.  “You guys have to listen to me this time.  Hear what I am telling you.  The ACT team is not providing these services to my son.  They have many good and very valid reasons, but I cannot accept them as an excuse not to see him.”

He said he would definitely pass on my concerns to the doctors and I know he will.  I know they will call me just like they always do.  They really are good doctors, but something happens in route from our conversations about resources and ideas as to what might help my son live independently in a community –to the day my son is discharged.

Somehow what is said doesn’t make it to a written document and he comes out of the hospital with the same treatment plan that he went in with.

The nurse has told me before how much he likes my son.  “I find him fascinating when he can communicate,” he told me not long ago.  Today he said my son is cognitively slower than he has seen him before.  I realize that, which is why he’s in the hospital again.  I’m very worried about my son.

The nurse also reminded me that he thinks my son is a really good guy.  Everyone who knows my son says this about him.  Most people say he’s sweet.  That’s the word I hear most when people talk about him.  People have said that about him since he was a little boy.

He has this kindness, this sort of giving unconditional loving way about him, but when he is sick, well…  I’m lost for words.

My son is lost.  He is truly lost in this world and I guess, so am I.

They say he has schizophrenia and he does have the symptoms, but he’s never fit any mold within the diagnosis, even as precarious as that is.

I’ve always felt in my heart that the doctors should focus on addiction issues, at least once.  I know you can’t force recovery from a substance addiction on any person and when that substance is causing symptoms of schizophrenia… well, I’m lost for words again.

Addiction joined with schizophrenia, or more accurately, the symptoms of schizophrenia, — is very hard to treat.  “The addiction your son has and schizophrenia are each possibly the two worst diseases a person can have,” one medical doctor told me a few years ago when my son was struggling with substance abuse.  “Your son faces both of these,” he added.

I wish the hospital would take the approach that some of my son’s school teachers took and give him a new chance.  I wish they would just one time forget his past failures and look at the successes he’s had and say hey, you know, we think your life is worth a great deal.  We want to help save it.

I wish just one time that they could for a little while stop thinking of how things don’t work, stop thinking inside the box, stop telling me things I learned when I was five years old and give a good college try towards developing a new plan.

I know this would take some time, but it’s a hospital.  A teaching hospital.  A teaching hospital with renowned doctors and bright residents who are still young enough to be idealistic,  so why not teach them how to approach the most challenging patients?  Why not teach them that they might can make a real difference in one family’s life with a little extra time thinking, communicating and reaching out to find resources in the community?

“He’s older now,” the nurse also added.  I’m tired of hearing that too.  It’s clear to me that younger patients get a bit more attention and time, I guess, because the doctors are more hopeful that they can do something.  (Studies suggest that early intervention in schizophrenia leads to a better prognosis).

His age isn’t applicable to how I feel right now.  His life is.

What am I willing, or not willing to do?

It’s possible that I’m willing to die trying to save my son.

Today the nurse said he would worry for me.  That was a blessing.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

sweet memories

“Mother of the Year” is written on the front page of the little book my son made in elementary school.  I’m pretty sure all the moms of the students in his class were elected.  The year was 1993.

Today I was trying to find something on the bookshelf and came across the book, which is an entirely wonderful personal treasure.

The first page says he is happy that I was elected.  Then he goes on to say why.

“The best thing about my mom is that she’s fun to be with and nice.”

The next question asks him what the most important thing his mother has taught him.

He wrote that I taught him to, “Stop wars and boms.”  Boms, not bombs.

He drew a picture of me, holding my palm out with the word stop written beside my mouth in one of those little cartoon type clouds.  There was another person with a gun and he wrote the word “okay”  beside that person.

I guess in a child’s mind stopping war and bombs is that easy.

The next part was written in larger letters:  “Don’t use Drugs!”  He spelled that right.

The next page reminds me of how much energy I had.  “Mother on the Move” he titled it.  I scanned it but it’s almost twenty years old —

mother on the move, before fibromyalgia

I love my little book.

My son and I had a great time in his childhood.

I actually could clean a house in ten minutes.  I played with him all the time but I only played Lacrosse once.  He must have thought I was pretty good.

A part of me remains the same

watch cow.

Image by tobym via Flickr

A part of me will always be the same.

“That haircut makes you look more like your old self,” my mother remarked.  My oldest sister agreed in her rather pleasing and generally consistent neutral way.   “You know, back when…”  Mother smiled remembering the past.   She spoke briefly to how I used to look.

“Actually, that was the young me,” I said, “and this is the old me.”

We laughed.  I like it when my family and I laugh together.  Being able to have a sense of humor and fun was always a part of my family experience growing up, which I believe was our saving grace and most likely still is.

Mother and I had gone out to eat and shopped at a thrift store for nearly two hours before we got to my sister’s house.  I couldn’t believe I was able to walk around a store that long.  I did start to hurt but took my medication and felt fine.  My mother was hurting by that time too, only she didn’t have medication.  She endures chronic pain.

Sometimes I feel a little guilty for having better medical care and treatment than my family members have, but then I feel a little guilty over just about everything in life.

Mother bought me little things at the large thrift store, which she clearly enjoyed.  I found a stunning little wood carving of a bird, along with a couple of unique handmade Halloween crafts.  I spent most of my time browsing the coats.  I found my son a lined corduroy one in perfect condition and myself a truly classic thrift shop gem.

unintentional designs and natural flaws

“Well.” my mother remarked with a mild reservation.

She looked at the coat I’d found with her eyebrows raised but a smile on her face adding,  “It’ll sure fit in where you live,” which is true.

My favorite part is the soft furry lining, but I do like clothes with a little creative touch or character.  My family knows this about me.

It’s good to have people who know little things about you.

Arriving at my mother’s house earlier that morning had been pleasant.  The windows were open letting in a breeze too cool for my arms, but it was quite refreshing and in more ways than one.  Before she moved to the country she seemed afraid of the outdoors.  She’s always said she didn’t want her windows open because,  “somebody could just stick their arm inside, reach in and grab her.”

Her backyard is a cow and horse pasture.  The absence of city noise and lights, with a view of rolling hills evokes in me a fantasy of sitting outside, watching cows, (which is good for the soul) and writing a novel.  watching cows is good for the soul

Mother was playing soothing, albeit country, music when I arrived.  I love it when I hear my mom listen to music.

I absolutely love it.

It reminds me of, “back when.”

The day was perfect for a family visit.  The recent rains made way for a clear blue sky and interesting sounds.  The most surprising part of the day was that I didn’t get fatigued.  The best part was sitting on my sister’s deck and visiting.  No rush, no running around, just sitting and talking.  It was a time I hope to recall in the future.

“Did you hear that woodpecker?” my sister asked.

I did but I don’t think my mother heard it.  She worked in a cotton mill for many years and says the noise from those large weaving machines impaired her hearing.  “I didn’t like wearing those ear plugs,” she’ll say.  “They just didn’t feel good.”  I imagine they didn’t look good either and my mother did enjoy looking her best, even while weaving.

I wondered about my sister when she pointed out the sound of that woodpecker.  Not that she doesn’t appreciate her yard and those trees.  I know she does, but she’s usually busy either cleaning her house or getting ready to go some place.   Sadly, she’s in pain and has been for longer than I think I could tolerate without treatment.    She’s preparing for a hip-replacement in a few weeks.

I’ve talked to her over the phone but seeing her slowly limping around struck me differently. Her lameness broke my heart.

Was it pain, I wondered, that beckoned her to listen to the peace of nature in the first days of the falling leaves.

My sister has worked every working day since she was 15 and got her working permit.  She and my other sister, who are only eleven months apart, used to earn money cleaning people’s houses when they were adolescents.

“You’re too young,” I was told whenever I asked to help.  That never changed, which one of my sisters seemed to resent, but this was not something I could help.

One time after pleading with my mother I was allowed to go with my sisters to clean a house.  I was around ten years old.  I stood between them while they washed dishes.  I knew they were basically tolerating me.   I got to pass the dishes from one who was washing and the other who was rinsing.

I dropped a fork and it stabbed my right toe.  I remember them saying not to tell the owners of the house and talking about the blood stains.  I never got to help them again.

I didn’t learn the same things my sisters did.  One learned how to sew.  The other learned how to run a riding lawn mower and finally a tractor.   I learned to ride a ten-speed bicycle.

The day was perfect for a family visit.  The leaves are falling.  The season is changing.  Our differences and shadows from the past didn’t matter.

A part of me remains the same.

“Can you spare some change?” he asked a citizen!

The Vancouver Province's solution to troublema...

Image by sillygwailo via Flickr

How dare he ask for change in this great place we live!  A place where we are full of higher education and very busy living our green worthy lives.  How dare he bother us!

Our bags are filled with organic locally grown produce and righteously so.  Our achievements are certainly worth noting — so how dare he ask us for change!

They say he has schizophrenia so he might well, he might kill us!  You don’t know what he might do.  Did you hear in the news about that guy who…

Dial 911!  Tell them we are being harassed by a schizophrenic who is asking for change.  Put him in jail — that will teach him!

“Can you spare some change for a cup of coffee?”  he asked a citizen near the center of the lovely town considered one of the best places in America to live.

He needed fifty-cents more for a cup of coffee.

Most of the people asking for change are kept in one place and it isn’t near that part of town.

The praised area of the lovely town includes the organic market, which is the center of living green; a gathering place for locals, most of whom have a higher education.

Medical professionals, scientists, students and plenty of people with PhD’s in just about every field you can imagine patronize the market and the surrounding shops.

Students, natural healers, and many professed open-minded free-spirited folks are to be reckoned with in this great place, which is what I love about living here.

Since it isn’t illegal to ask for change then a person who asks can instead be charged with other crimes.  Harassment, trespassing and several others that will land him or her in the same jail that holds violent criminals waiting for a life sentence.  But then, I guess,  all county jails are created equal.

I had been sick and my son was not well during this time.  He was however enjoying tutoring sessions via the local literacy council.   The offices are located on the same property as the organic market.

He and his tutor were studying the Cherokee language, the learning of which is by no means an easy attempt.  The tutor didn’t know anything about the language and nobody there seemed to know about the working memory.

One thing was clear.  My son loved the class.  He absolutely loved it.  He talked about it.  He thought about it in between classes.  He was getting a lot out of the class.

He wasn’t even on the property of the market and was on a public sidewalk when he was seen asking for change, but the private security guard didn’t care.  He hadn’t cared a week earlier when I went there and asked him if we could talk.

I thought that the security guard might have some empathy for our situation if I explained to him that my son was not well and that I was trying to get him some help.  I went to see him.

He was nearly unapproachable and it was clear he wasn’t interested in talking to me.  When he did he was very rude.

“My son would like to talk to you,” I said to him.

With a look of contempt he turned towards my son who was standing by the smoking station.  Arrogantly the guard remarked,  “No he doesn’t.”

“Yes, he does,” I repeated.  “He’s waiting over there because he said you told him he could not smoke anywhere else.”

“Well.  Yes he’s right.  I did tell him that.  I’m surprised he listened.”  What a jerk.

My son walked up and held out his hand to shake the guards hand.  The man stood as still as a robot with his arms behind his back.  I wondered if he had been in the military and maybe he thought he still was!  I looked him in the eyes.  A few seconds later he held out his hand to shake my son’s, but when I held mine out he refused.

I have no idea what that man thought of me.  I dress in clean clothes.  I’m pretty clean cut overall.  I mean I don’t stand out or anything.  So why, I wonder, did that man treat me with fear of contagion,  looking at me with total contempt and only staring at my hand when I held it out as I introduced myself.

Who knows what he thought of me –the mother of a son who would ask a citizen for change?

My son apologized to the guard.  He told him he wouldn’t do it again.

I wanted the guard to care.  I wanted him to care that this young man has a mother.  I wanted him to know that I am trying to get help in this community.  I wanted him to care that we are a part of the community.  He did not care about any of that.

He said if he saw my son ask for change again that he would call the police and have my son arrested.

I was having a terrible episode of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  My son was not well.  His ACT team wouldn’t help so I was doing everything for my son.

A couple of days later, my son made a very poor choice and again, ask someone for change.  I had just talked to him that day and told him I was coming to town to give him some of his money but he didn’t wait.

He was banned for one year from the entire property, which not only includes the market but the grocery store, the drug store, our favorite restaurant where we’ve dined since he was a boy, along with the place where he was being tutored.

I was very angry at him but I also knew he needed professional help and he was not getting any.  None.  No doctor visits.  Nothing.

He was dismissed from the tutoring services a couple of weeks afterward.  The director said they stopped tutoring him because he has memory problems.  I pleaded.  I nearly begged them not too dismiss my son from all services.  I tried to get them to teach him something easier to remember than the Cherokee language.   I asked if it was because of any other reason –(I suspected it was related to him having asked for change) but they said no, that it was because of his memory problems.   I believe they lied.  A memory problem is part of my son’s disability.  The literacy council receives government funding so this doesn’t make sense how they could legally dismiss my son from all services because of his disability.

Why couldn’t his ACT team act?  Why couldn’t we come together and try to solve the issue and help my son?  I asked if we could meet and perhaps go talk to the guard.  Their response was they thought it best to simply leave it alone.  Do nothing.  Not even talk about it.

Why can’t we act like a community who cares not only for people in other countries but about our very own neighbors?

How can we feel so good about living green and doing right by the land and saving all the animals and doing all the zillions of good deeds, while we turn our heads to our own neighbors in need?

We believe, without knowing that someone is helping them.  We believe, without knowing, that our community is set up with services to help people, like my son, who does things we do not find acceptable, such as asking for some spare change.  We believe our tax dollars have secured such services.

I have since made sure that my son has money for coffee, but I do not want to go to that market and shop anymore.

I guess if it was an area where tolerance was not so widely professed then it would be easier to accept the kind of intolerance that seeps out of the pores of the people with power, such as that security guard.

He ought to be keeping his eye out for thieves.  But then, I guess, we often associate a person asking for some change with thieves.  I had told the guard and a friend of his had told him as well that my son is a good guy.  He didn’t care.

I have turned my head plenty times when asked if I could spare some change.  I have judged without knowing anything about the person asking.

I believe this year, in the spirit of Christmas, I will spare some change.