Teenage Turmoil

Sometimes I can’t believe I wrote something. I went back to read the blog I wrote last week about Jason. I got a little teary and wanted to click “Like” on it, then realized that it’s kind of bad etiquette to like your own post.

Last time, I told you, “The primary medical treatment is through pharmaceuticals and anxiety control. I’ll try to discuss this soon when I talk about why the last year has been hard for Jason sometime this week.”

Jason has always had a little bit of a hard time making friends. Kids are harsh and tics are not the norm. It’s hard for children to look past a constant motion like that. On top of that, Jason’s always been extremely sweet. This didn’t work in his favor with young children. He was easily hurt and often went running back to the adults crying “Bully”. There were a few good apples that were very sweet as well. We had them over as much as possible.

This outcast persona in his life, Jason tried very very hard to make friends. He was pretty impressionable and fell to peer pressure regularly. As parents, none of us knew what to do. You’d think with 4 of us, we’d be able to come up with something. Alas, we kept playing defense on the latest scheme he and his friends came up with.

When a child is this easily swayed, they tend to fall in with friends that may not be the best choices. As children get older, these choices of friends start to create situations that may lead to bad choices in behavior. These bad choices in behavior can lead to addictions, whether it be drugs, sex, stealing, or fighting.

Jason fell into some rough crowds. As parents, we were happy he had friends, and unhappy with which ones they were. We tried to keep him safe by allowing less overnights and asking him to have them over to our house instead. We met the parents and discussed what the rules at our houses were. We pried into his life in ways that make all teens irritated and all parents more anxious.

No matter what we did, Jason out smarted us. You see, this sweet young man is also fairly smart. The IQ tests say he’s high average, but I know better. He’s good at playing dumb. It’s gotten him a lot of what he needed in his life. His mom felt needed because he couldn’t remember things. His dad felt like a protector because he “couldn’t take care of himself”. And he got out of doing wrong things by “forgetting” or “I didn’t mean to.” I’m not saying that every one of these times was a play; I just know that many of them were put on to keep us complacent.

Complacency is something all parents crave. We don’t want to nag, be anxious about your behavior, or check into the person’s alibi. We want you to be trustworthy in all you do so that we can just ride through parenthood without a hitch. And we all know that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes, especially when learning about life.

Learning about life is something Jason’s done his share of in the last 2 years. We’ve run into mental health issues, drug issues, stealing, and some questionable choices in how he handles school and other responsibilities. I don’t think these are uncommon. We’ve done the best we can to field the challenges as they come. Jason’s mom took most of the paperwork and agonizing because he’s lived with her most of the time for the last 3 years. We tried to help when we could, but there’s only so much we can do without undermining the other parent, which still happened from time to time because we’re not perfect either.

I want to go back to the sentence I brought forward from the last entry: The primary medical treatment is through pharmaceuticals and anxiety control. I’ll try to discuss this soon when I talk about why the last year has been hard for Jason sometime this week.

When a child starts extreme medical intervention at a young age, they generally start using different pharmaceutical drugs very young as well. Prescription drugs such as sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medicines are some of the most abused substances among teens. The availability of these drugs makes it that much easier to abuse. Plus, once you’ve realized that some substances affect you much stronger than other substances, you might start to try to find the “one” that “fixes” you.

Experimenting like this happens very commonly with children that have medical issues. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published an article in 2010 about Prescription Drug Abuse. Here’s what presenter, Nora D. Volkow M.D. had to say about teen drug abuse: “Nonmedical use among children and adolescents is particularly troublesome given that adolescence is the period of greatest risk not only for drug experimentation but also for developing addiction. At this stage the brain is still developing, and exposure to drugs could interfere with these carefully orchestrated changes. Research also shows adolescents abusing prescription drugs are twice as likely to have engaged in delinquent behavior and nearly three times as likely to have experienced an episode of major depression as teens who did not abuse prescription medications over the past year. Finally, several studies link the illicit use of prescription drugs with increased rates of cigarette smoking, heavy drinking, and marijuana and other illicit drug use in adolescents and young adults in the United States. Thus, prescription drug abuse may be part of a pattern of harmful behaviors engaged in by those at risk for substance use and other mental disorders.”

After some scrapes with the law over domestic violence, stealing, running away, and e-cig usage, Jason went into a residential treatment program last October. He was there until June. During that time, he was watched pretty much 24/7. It was grueling and transformative. I think all 4 of us parents started to feel like we had our caring, sweet Jason back.

Jason went from treatment back to his mom’s house. It went well for a time. He was part of an intensive day program for the summer, he got a job, he even had a girlfriend for a while. His mom dealt with all of this in stride for the most part. Once the day program was over, the county still hadn’t set up some of the services they had been going to get before the move home. Jason and his mom both struggled to keep it together. They did well for the most part.

Then, a few weeks ago, Jason started school. The added stress of school, work, and pleasing his parents seem to have become too much. Just over a week ago, Jason was found unresponsive by a friends’ parents. He had taken some prescription drugs from his friend’s prescription pills. Thankfully, he did not take enough to kill himself, but he was in the hospital for a night and his parents were terrified that he might not make it.

When they were done at the hospital, Jeremy and his ex wife decided it might be better for Jason to live with us. That is how we acquired our new resident. He is enrolled in a high school that is 45 miles from where we are parked right now. Getting him to school at a reasonable time before we have to go to work has been the biggest struggle. Picking him up after school has been just as hard.

With all of that, we are doing pretty well, though. There has been disagreements about rules, screen usage, and space. Those are bound to happen, no matter how much space you have or what your teen’s been through. I think those are natural discussions at all households have. But we love each other and all 3 of us are working really hard to gain trust and put the past behind us. We’re hoping to move The Girl Next Door closer to Jason’s school without taking us out of range of the jobs that we currently hold. It should be an adventure. With that adventure coming, we’ll see you on the road.

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We have a New Resident

I think middle school and high school teachers are saints. They work very very hard to come up with engaging, thoughtful lesson plans and are often met with eye rolls and inattention. When they try to talk to the parents about it, they’re often met with “Well, maybe you’re just not teaching it well.” Still, there will always be that one kid that gets something out of a lesson; that one kid who participates and loves that class. Every teacher has one kid who inspires them to keep going.

It’s no secret that I’ve never had any plan to have my own children. Something that many don’t know, though, is that I have always taken care of children that were birthed to others. I babysat from the time I was 11 years old. I taught Sunday School and I visited my mother’s kindergarten class regularly. As an adult, I even had a job doing personal care work for 14 years, in which I often ended up having children as clients. I knew I would probably raise kids, but I knew I wouldn’t have biological ones. I don’t even know if I could; I just never felt a leading to be a biological mother. I assumed that I’d probably adopt or be a foster parent. I never dreamed that I would be a stepmom.

I don’t know if ANYONE ever dreams of being a stepmom. Disney movies have made it very impossible for young girls to think of stepmoms in a good light. Between Cinderella, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Rapunzel, and Snow White, why would anyone want to be the villianess? Disney stepmonsters not-withstanding, this woman would have to take on the job of mom in a household without any of the recognition because the biological mother is given that recognition very naturally. Who really wants to clean, cook, and nurture the household of someone else?

Now that I’ve been in this household for 11 years, I’ve learned that it’s not someone else’s household. I have helped raise 2 young men. I met these guys when they were 5 & 10; we married a year later. Now, at 21 and 16 I have moments where I see the lessons I have tried to teach them come through and feel a small amount of parental pride. As they get holder, I have more moments like that and less at the same time because they are not around as much. The 21 year old rarely sees us anymore; he’s a man who’s too busy for his parents. The 16 year old is finding friends and moving toward driving and has a job. Plus, they both have been living elsewhere; the man where he wants, the teen with his biological mother.

That changed this last week. Jason, who’s the 16 year old, has moved into The Girl Next Door with us. Jason, Jeremy and his ex have decided it is in everyone’s best interest for him to be in our household.

You see, Jason’s had a hard year. I mean, all teenage years are rough. Teens brains are growing and changing. My sister says that it’s like road construction: While one part of the brain is developing, it may be closed down and take some detours for different thoughts to get through. This is where the moodiness, “laziness”, inattention, and indecision of teendom come in. “It’s a little like a traumatic brain injury, only the hormones make it happen,” is what my mother said. Her Masters degree is in early childhood development, but she definitely has a unique perspective on the development of teenage brains because of her 35 years in teaching.

Jason’s hard year came after a pretty hard childhood too. Development is something that really gets stung hard in children of divorce and Jason’s parents split when he was only 2. Along with the divorce, his father has a mental illness that greatly effects the ability for relationships and healthy coparenting.

To put some icing on the cake, Jason was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome when he was 9. Tourette’s is an anxiety related disorder that creates tics through shorts in the brain’s wiring. Much like OCD or ADHD, it is led by compulsions, so it can be hidden for a time. Jason hid his all day at school, then had to let it go at home or he would have exploded. At 9, he was diagnosed and began medical treatment. The primary medical treatment is through pharmaceuticals and anxiety control. I’ll try to discuss this soon when I talk about why the last year has been hard for Jason sometime this week.

For now, I’ve run out of time to type. I’ll pick up again sometime this week, but just know that 2 have become 3 and we’re loving having the boy we love sleeping so close. Have a great day and we’ll see you on the road.

Leaps of Faith

We got to take some leaps of faith this week. And I’m not talking about a profound leap of faith. I was mostly putting my faith in the harness that I was wearing.

You see, Jeremy and I went zip lining. Last week, he had the experience with a good friend of ours and decided to share it with me for our date this week. It was the best date in a LONG time.

A leap of faith in this context is not the leap we are usually referring to. Usually, people refer to a leap of faith as starting something or moving away from something that we are comfortable with. In these cases, there are many various things that people are putting their “faith” in. Some say it even because they’re scared and don’t know any other way to shore up their courage for the task.

When it comes to leaps of faith, Jeremy and I do them often. When we both went to working for ourselves full time, it was huge leap of faith. Moving into The Girl Next Door was a huge leap of faith. Going back to working for someone else was a leap of faith for me. Just staying married to someone with mental illness AND kids from another marriage is a leap of faith every day. Where is this faith I’m leaping into coming from?

If you don’t know yet, I’m not an average barbie doll. I’m blunt, unafraid, and not afraid to throw my extra weight around. Someone asked me a few weeks ago what makes me so different, because they could feel it. I wasn’t sure of the answer. I realized that I need to practice my answer.

Other than my physical leaps of faith this week, I also started listening to a new book on CD. I know, shocking that I would have more books. The book I picked up is “The Forgotten God” by Francis Chan. It’s a book that focuses on the part of God that many of us take for granted: the Holy Spirit. This is where the faith comes from and this is why I’m different.

I am not afraid of greeting the Jehovah’s Witness on my door step and having a little sit down chat; the Holy Spirit is there and my God is big enough to deal with whatever they may tell me. I might even learn more about God when I allow the Holy Spirit to take over this interaction. I’m not afraid to tell you the truth. I am putting my faith in the Holy Spirit that whoever hears His word will know the truth if God wills it.

There are a lot of things that Chan addresses in this book. Some things that have convicted me already are living our day-to-day life resting in the Spirit, taking leaps of faith when I feel the leading, and trusting more on the Holy Spirit living in me than on my own understanding. I want the fullness of God. When Jesus said in John 7:38-39 that it was to our advantage that He went away, he was giving us a heads up that having the Holy Spirit in our hearts and with us always would be more beneficial.

It’s hard to not have a flesh and blood Jesus. When on the zipline today, there was one young lady that did not want to jump at first. She had a hard time starting. I think there were some of Jesus’ disciples that had that problem. Just like the girl having a zip guide, the disciples had a flesh and blood Jesus to push them off the edge. He called out to them to come and follow him; he gave them a hand to hold and a shoulder to push. She had the guide to “gently direct” her off the platform.

The first jump was the worst. Your heart flutters. If you look over the edge, you start to question the cables and the trolley you’re leaning on. It’s easy to imagine yourself hurtling straight downward if you don’t trust the harness. It’s the same with doing what God is leading us to. It is easy to see how many times you could fail or look silly or look crazy. It is easy to think you might protect God’s honor by avoiding letting Him “fail you” or letting yourself “make Him look bad”. So, we get complacent. We say we’re doing God’s work by being safe. Until you actually take that first jump.

After the first platform, everything gets easier. We went to Trollhaugen in Dresser, Wisconsin for our zip experience. The good guides that they have make it easy to learn confidence as you go. By the end of the trip, you feel pretty good about your abilities. Think of your pastor as your guide now, if you still need a little push. Once you’ve gotten beyond the first, second, and third leaps of faith, you will start to recognize where God wants you. You may not know why, but you’ll recognize that the small, nervous, and exhilarated voice that’s talking you down from the leap might be lying to you. God’s plan may reside on the other end.

The last jump still gets hard for the guides sometimes at this park. It’s a VERY tall jump and you go down at a pretty steep angle. There are leaps in real life that you’re relying on the Holy Spirit to be there and you can’t see them when you look over the edge. It is scary to take these leaps. You feel like you’re free-falling for a time. You wonder if God is really there to catch you. Did you misread his signs? And then, the harness of the Holy Spirit pulls tight and you’re riding a mountain top experience down to the next comfortable platform.

My friends, I am not afraid because I have come to rely on the Holy Spirit. I am “different” because you can’t do anything to hurt me permanently. I am the daughter of the Most High God; no earthly being has the power to stop me if God’s hand is in what I am doing. I have done enough leaps of faith that I push off from the platform now, waiting for that weightless feeling to turn into the elation of the Lord’s unmistakable embrace. Then, you hit the brakes at the end of the line and you go back to life as usual until the next line is ready to ride.

I hope that this blog is clear enough to speak what I’m trying to get across. I hope you’re willing to move into the life of adrenaline that is following God every single day. I hope the Holy Spirit speaks to you to meet your neighbor, stop at this house to offer a helping hand, hug a stranger (with consent of course), paint an outlandish painting, take the job, or write a blog. I pray that God uses your leap of faith to so further His kingdom that you can’t wait to hook up to the next line. Become an adrenaline junky with me by following Him through the Holy Spirit. Jump far and we’ll see you on the road.

A Head Full of Pain

On the Wednesday after Labor Day, I got up and got ready for work. Jeremy had already left to workout, so I had a fairly silent preparation. I thought my foggy head was just from it being 5am and the remnants of a bad headache I had had the day before. As I walked out the door to get to the car, I was reminded that sometimes headaches don’t just go away; they erupt.

I sat down in a lawn chair we have just outside the doors and the world spun. My headache had morphed into a migraine. Now, I don’t get migraines extremely often, but when I do, they are not usually put at bay by a mere Excedrin Migraine, which I did take immediately hoping that it would put me back on my feet. I ended up having my hopes dashed an hour later and informing my employer that I would not be going to work that day. I then crawled back into bed and slept for most of the rest of the day.

Knowing what a migraine feels like often gives me a small bit of insight into how Jeremy and others with bipolar and borderline personality disorders must feel sometimes. I’m lucky; migraines and severe headaches are accepted illnesses and I can at least get some sympathy from people.

There’s always someone that doesn’t get it, though. Where they get “We all feel sad sometimes” or “I have a hard time relating to people sometimes too”, people with migraines hear “Yeah, I get headaches all the time.” Note: Bipolar Depression  and Borderline Personality Disorder are not the same as sadness, just as headaches are not the same as migraines.

Let me show you a physical example: You have been reading my blog. I assume that most of you are reading with a fair amount of ease, maybe with glasses, but for the most part, it’s comprehensible. Now, look at this: 785a97667c645119a46dc4911af7088f--migraines-quotes-chronic-migraine-quotes

Do you see the difference now? And this examples is if the migraine is a minor one. When mine are severe, the center of my vision is entirely fogged out.

Years ago, I found a video that helped me understand a little bit of what Jeremy goes through. When I showed him the video, he told me that it was the closest he’d seen to capturing how he feels and it’s still a tad off the mark. Check it out here: What it Feels like to Have Borderline Personality Disorder.

I didn’t really get it until I watched this. Then, I went on a YouTube binge to try to understand, to try to find treatments that might help, and to reach out to those that I finally felt that I might understand a little better. I got it now that his outbursts, mood swings, and self-deprecation were just an outward expression of his head full of pain. My outward expression was sleeping, dimming the lights, and putting on my fuzzy sweatshirt. On days when his illness was taking hold, he became sullen, lost control of his voice inflection, and was unable to sit for more than 5 minutes. When mine is bad, I can’t get out of bed, cry a lot, and ask him to put on headphones instead of sharing his videos.

Either way, invisible illnesses are harder than they look. Those of  us that have them often fill ourselves with pills to be able to make it through a day at work (as I am doing today, since the remnants of my reasons for staying home are sticking around today). We may take longer breaks than others. We may need more praise and motivation speeches. We don’t want pity and we might just want you to listen for a little bit when we’re tired of explaining that our bodies and brains are rebelling against our intentions. Thank you to those that try. Thank you for reading this post, whether you’re struggling with it or it comes easy to you. I know better than many how hard reading can be some days. Health and happiness to you all; we’ll see you on the road.

The Quest for Comfort

If you remember, Jeremy decided we needed to take the futon out. We now have no couch or bed in the living room area. This is only an issue because we have a 16 year old that lives with us every other weekend. He has no real bed.

Thankfully, he’s not hard to please. We have a decent cot that fits perfectly in the living room. He happily sleeps on this and doesn’t complain one bit. I do, though.

I want him to be able to be comfortable and I want our living room to be at least a little wee-bit stylish. Not helping is the fact that Jeremy has already flipped the bump that was part of the basement into a flat floor panel. To do that, he had to remove the carpet from the bump that was there. So, we have some bare wood showing off for anyone standing by the door to see. Thankful that we live in the country and don’t have many visitors.

To speed along the process of regaining a bed for our child and covering up the ugly hole in the floor, we decided to go searching for a sofa-sleeper or a futon. There are some challenges to this that I didn’t think about. First, we live in an RV. It needs to fit through the tiny door. Second, we live in an RV. It needs to fit the dimensions we have; there is no “moving the other furniture” to make room for an overstuffed sofa or a massive L-shaped couch. Third, we live in an RV. Losing storage or bed functionality is really not an option; it needs to be multi-purpose.

I watched a video posted by The Wandering Wyatts that showed a perfect description of what we’d like to try. They show their bed in the tour of their RV home and I loved the storage included in the bed. With a little research, we found one that I like. IKEA has the model that I thought would be great. We decided on a field trip.

This field trip would be a first for me. I’ve never been in the mountain that is IKEA. My wonderful husband has warned me that he’s gotten lost in there before. Apparently, other people have also, because they now have maps and arrows to follow to safety outside of the simulated houses encased in the big blue shell. We had no problem navigating to where we wanted to go.

We went straight to the sleeper-sofa part of the living room setups. We found not one, but 4 examples of the 2 types of couch we’d like. We lay on them and found them to be comfortable. We opened them and found them to have ample storage. We converted them to couches, beds, and back again. We even found a very helpful sales lady.

When we started measuring was the issue. It seems that our RV couch must have been 4 inches shorter than the couches we really want. At 78 inches long, all IKEA couches were just a tad too long for our 74″ space. All 3 of us were sore about it. We started making plans of how to buy one and modify it to fit our space. Our helpful sales lady even made a few suggestions on IKEA hacks we could use to fit these lovely sofa-sleepers; all “not in (her) yellow shirt, mind you”.

Then, the price tags hit us. Even these “reasonably priced” pieces of furniture were still a bit too expensive for our budget. If we had a 50% off coupon, we would have bought. As it was, we dreamed and discussed. We wandered the store some more and found a captains bed with interesting options that might work for us; same budget issue though. We left a bit dismayed and a bit frustrated that we couldn’t find exactly what we needed.

Next, we went to the Mall of America, which sits right across the road from IKEA. In the mall, we checked out the Love Sac store. Someone suggested that we might find something that would work for a convertible bed-sofa mix. While they do have a sectional sofa that transitions to both a king and 2 twin beds, we don’t have space for that piece either. Shopping is all we really got to do, other than trying some Rybicki cheese.

When we got home, Jeremy started the hunt for some gently used pieces. We would still love to find our IKEA loves. He sent me some great options from Facebook garage sale pages, one craigslist find, and a few Amazon beauties. None have worked out so far.

I also started using my tiny bit of art skills to do some interior decorating. It would be really cool to have the time and energy and money to build our perfect front end. So far, I’ve only drawn how I hope our couch and loveseat combo would fit into The Girl Next Door. I would like to draw individual pieces with measurements too. I want to really make this a reality. Having a king sized front sleeping area for guests and the youngest would be really cool. I know I have some handy people in my life that might be able to make it a reality. If not, I may be learning how to create furniture.

Some day, we will have a sofa-sleeper option in our front end. For now, our 16 year old sleeps on a cot (which he preferred to the uneven futon before) when he comes over and we don’t really have guests for now. We’ll continue looking for the perfect set up. For those of  you with an RV, what’s your setup look like? Have you found a good transitional couch/bed combo that works for you? Extra points if you have one that’s under 74″. I hope to hear your input when we see you on the road.