Friday, September 25, 2015
One of the sad outcomes with Madelle's illness this spring was her loss of Bible Study. Our dear youth group leaders host a Bible Study after school for the Middle School at a local coffee shop a couple of blocks from my daughter's school. When she started at the middle school, a dear young man invited her to attend. She loved the study. A group of them would walk over, order Italian sodas, and discuss the heroes and villains in the Bible. Great stuff!!! Unfortunately, her past came back to haunt her.
In second grade, Madelle was bullied by two little girls. I was too sick at the time to go to the school and check it out until the end of the school year. By then it was too late; the damage had been done. The teacher failed to do anything about the atmosphere and her demand of perfection didn't help Madelle's situation. I look back and this circumstance either started or increased Madelle's anxiety and panic. In third grade, the girls had moved away, but the residue stuck to Madelle. She saw criticism in all interactions with all the children and she saw failure in all she did. I was doing better this year and volunteered weekly in the classroom. The atmosphere was better, but Madelle was not thriving. I didn't see it, but I am sure the depression hit this year. We moved her to a new school for fourth grade.
Well, needless to say, the people from her original school are unsafe for Madelle. Near the end of last spring when she went to Bible Study, one of the kids showed up from her old school. She made it through the study, but came unglued when she got in the car. She had a melt down and didn't want to go to Bible Study again. We allowed her to quit, but she did have to talk with her youth minister. I wanted her to advocate for herself. She did a beautiful job explaining why she couldn't attend. The minister offered to have the person not come, but Madelle told her that she didn't want to stand between the person and their study. It was her hang up, not theirs.
Yesterday, she decided to try Bible Study again. I was so excited and nervous. I prayed and prayed. She knew a couple of kids would be there from her old school, but she missed the activity. She had a wonderful time. We chatted about how she felt being around those whom she perceived to be old rivals. She said she didn't trust them, but she could see they were good people. She is starting to realize that her perception of most of her past classmates was clouded by her illness. She isn't sure if she will ever "like" some of them or be friends. I reassured her it was okay. Some personalities just don't mesh. Our job as Christian's is to see God in everyone and be kind. She is starting to get that.
For my part, I am ecstatic. She is standing up for herself: learning and growing. Her bravery to face her demons is breathtaking. I wish I was as courageous. Since her days at the old school, I have struggled. This school is very small and I know and love all the parents. I know the time she remembers is all normal kid behavior, but she was sick. She saw only the perceived meanness, ridicule, and rejection she felt, not the reality of kid interaction. I have walked a thin line staying connected to the school in my relationships with the parents and one of the kids in particular while standing with Madelle. My heart has cried many times. Madelle has struggled when I hug one of her old classmates at church gatherings. She is uncomfortable when I talk about one of the parents. Seeing her growth yesterday let my heart sing.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Through our struggles with Madelle, I have been ever grateful to the public school system in our community. More specifically, I am eternally grateful to her school counselor. At times, I have been very worried about school. Homework was left undone and grades plummeted. Attendance at the end became spotty at best. Not once did I feel any negativity from the education system. I felt truck loads of support.
Many events have happened over the course of 2015. Madelle's school counselor contacted me in January to alert me to Madelle's visit. I was frightened, but I was assured that Madelle was a great student and would be fine after a few therapy sessions. A counselor was recommended. I was still scared, but the school counselor, Mrs. A, wasn't worried. As the problems became revealed throughout the months, Madelle's school counselor was as shocked as we were. Madelle had been functioning so well, no one suspected her difficulties.
Now, I know there are many caring educational professionals in our school district, but no one has walked the trenches with me like Mrs. A. She responded quickly to every e-mail and phone call. She gave me her cell number so that I could text or call after hours. I have no idea how many times she advocated for us to Madelle's teachers and the administration. Classes were switched or dropped. Many times, Mrs. A told me not to worry about school, just worry about home.
At the end of the school year, Madelle couldn't face going the last week. We fought. We cried. Finally we declared ourselves defeated and went to school for a meeting. We worried that Madelle might be held back or have to attend summer school. At the meeting, we were treated with compassion. Our instructions were to heal during the summer, get the meds stabilized, and we would strategize in August. What a relief to be able to let go.
As the school year approached, I worried. Madelle spent most days resting. She struggled going to church. Her and her best friend tried to interact, but they both were emotional. I worried that expecting her to go from no real social interaction to a six to seven hour day, five days a week would be too much.
As it turned out, the first couple of weeks were tough. At one point, I let Mrs. A know that getting Madelle to the bus stop was like convincing her to jump out of a plane with no parachute. I felt like I was sending Madelle to her death on the one hand. The military mom wanted to tell her to put her combat boots and suck it up. Mrs. A suggested we do both. One day a week I can let Madelle stay home if her homework is caught up. This took the pressure off a little, but she still struggled. Socializing during lunch bothered her.
I am not sure how we did it, but we came up with the idea of letting Madelle come out to the front of the school to sit in my car with me and her puppy during lunch. The puppy helps calm her down and feel secure. Mrs. A gave her permission. Thankfully enough, at the same time, Madelle and two other girls have connected. In the last seven school days, I have only gone twice. Madelle is starting to adjust. If she has a bad morning, she will call. This arrangement has helped her feel safe along with two solid friendships.
Of course, this is middle school. It is a tough time for the healthiest, most well adjusted kids. But I have complete faith that the school is behind us 100 percent. I thank God for the entire faculty, especially Mrs. A.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
The beginning of the school year has been keeping me extremely busy. As my posts have expressed, I have been struggling with my own depression due to the problems of Madelle's mental illness. We have had additional family problems that have also left me reeling. I look back at the last months and look out the window to my vegetable garden turned weed patch, wondering where my summer went. Drama!!! I hate drama. As much as I try to cut it from my life, the tendrils of negativity seep under the door. Thus, I have been trying to get outside to get rid of the messes of four to five foot weeds and other tasks. I still have all the appointments for Madelle, want to write, a huge church function to prepare for, fantasy football, and a family gathering. Life is not slowing down. But some healing has taken place.
This past weekend, I attended the family gathering. My father-in-law's health is declining so his amazing sisters threw a huge birthday party for him to celebrate his life and legacy. My in-laws are the best. The party itself with friends and family was set for three hours; however, the family spent the entire three day weekend together. We broke bread, played games, shopped at the farmer's market, joked around, attended a sheep run, and simply hung out. Beautiful memories were created.
Yes, I did struggle a bit. One, I am an introvert. Two, I have no capability to chit chat when my heart is weighted down. But that is what is so wonderful about all of the family. They understand that I am quiet. They understand that life throws curve balls that chatter the glass of our emotions. They continue to love and support. Not one judgment was made about how we are handling Madelle. I could rest in the laughter. I healed through the smiles and hugs.
I realize the depression still lurks in the background. We still have a lot of battles to fight. I am not able to get to my writing as much as I would like. But, my hope is restored. I see my blue sky of Montana in all its glory. So, I am off on my writing and blog schedules. The church function and gardening will continue to cause complications with my word counts. But soon the snow will fly and no more work will be done outside. In a couple of years, Madelle will be conquering the world and I will have tons of time to write. Life is still beautiful.
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Throughout this process of writing about mental illness, I have let me doubts and emotions hit the page. Last week was horrible and I wrote it all authentically. I really believe that the more we open up, the more we show the world it is perfectly natural to struggle. The reality is that mother's feel like the worst mother's in the world when dealing with all the stress. Some people reassured me that I am a good mother. I appreciate that and needed the encouragement. I know I am a good mom, but I also doubt that during the bad times.
The one thing I haven't been writing about is that for about six weeks my husband was out of town doing military duty. I don't like letting the internet know when he is gone. So, my emotions ran even higher as did Madelle's. She loves her dad and he makes the day shinier. He makes mine shinier as well. I was so relieved when he joined us Saturday night. However, my emotions didn't calm down until Monday. By Tuesday, my fibromyalgia flared-up with a vengeance. I am still hurting, but I see some hope in the future for life getting better. With Jerry by my side, the panic attacks are much easier to manage for our sweet girl.
Madelle has also calmed down. A couple of her friends, who I suspected were causing her stress, have split away. Two other friends are hanging out with her at school so this week is going much smoother so far. She is enjoying her new teachers and classes. She hasn't had a panic attack since Saturday. We are both relaxing and enjoying the reprieve. We are also looking forward to a weekend with tons of family and friends. I will talk more about that next week. Now, I need to get to work doing something. We, of course, continue to rely on all your thoughts and prayers.