5 Rules for Mental Strength

It is not always easy to be mentally strong. I struggle with this a lot. I’m still working on this one. There are days that I feel fantastic and days that I can barely get out of bed because I feel so badly about myself. I’m sure that many others feel the same.

How does this “being mentally strong” thing work? It’s a little different for everyone, but here are a few ideas:

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Being yourself. This is number one for me. I have fought very hard to be accepted for who I am by my own husband and that’s something nobody should have to do.

People change, and sometimes people can’t accept that. When you are comfortable with yourself, it’s much easier to be strong, because you have more faith in yourself. You know you can get through things. You know that you can tackle what is in front of you.

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Trust yourself. Many of us tend to underestimate ourselves, including me. I’ve made many decisions and second guessed myself, even on picking clothes, shoes and maybe even mascara. This tends to occur when you have low self-confidence.

I’ve learned to trust myself a lot more through therapy-working more to shut down that voice in my mind that says “That’s a bad idea, Wrae. Don’t do it. You can’t pull this off”. When you trust yourself more, you will believe in yourself more. You will make decisions with a lot more confidence, even about the small things.

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Build confidence. As Demi Lovato once said, “What’s wrong with being confident?” First of all, I love Demi. She has an amazing voice, has great style and she’s one of my sobriety role models.

She had a point with that lyric. What is wrong with being confident? I’m not talking about crossing the line and being all-out cocky or anything like that, but knowing what you are capable of and what your limits are.

Everyone has them, physically and emotionally. Don’t feel bad about those limits. For sheer example, I hate spiders, extreme heights, and public speaking.

I had to take public speaking in college and almost had a panic attack once. I was also hugely pregnant with Cameron. My professor wasn’t in the mood to send me into early labor, so he allowed me to give my speech from my seat and things ended a lot better than I had anticipated.

Confidence is good. This also helps with looks and body image- I’m a size 14 now and weigh in at around 170. I do not care to disclose that. I weighed 125 in 2015 before my life imploded and I was a size 4. I have been confident both sizes and weights.

Like every other woman in existence, even the awesome Tess Holliday (my favorite model), I have days where I think I look like crap, but then I remember what my body has been through and will continue to do and move on.

This took a lot of work because, at some points, I didn’t take my 60 lb weight gain well. This confidence can be hard to attain, thanks to social media and Photoshopped images of models. It’s tough to look at, so I tend to look at body-positive models.

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Daily reminders. I remind myself daily to take care of myself- this is a must do. If I don’t take care of myself, who will? I have two chronic illnesses and self-care is a must for both. I also remind myself “One day at a time” because that is how I have set my life up.

I just can’t plan far in the future anymore. Whether it is a phrase, app, or something else that helps, once you set your mind on something daily, it becomes a daily habit to take care of yourself and that leads to and supports mental strength.

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Not caring so much what others think. My mother is 62 and does not care what anyone thinks of her. She has always been like this. She’s small, very feisty, and hilarious. Clearly, these genes have passed on to me.

It took me a very long time to get to the point that I really didn’t care what others think of me, but that’s where I am sitting. It’s not healthy at all to care so much what others think of you, because it will break you down in the end. It erodes your self-esteem when you don’t meet their standards.

Your individuality will fade as you try to be more like others and less like yourself. This isn’t good for anyone.
These tips may be what you need to move forward onto becoming stronger. Take them and consider what else you may need to form more strength within yourself.

Looking Into the Future- Autism in Adulthood

I think a lot. My kids give me plenty of topics to ponder: dating, clothes, impending puberty. One topic will remain on my mind for a very long time- how will having autism affect Julian as an adult? Will he need help with managing daily life, or will he be able to do everything on his own? He’s not great yet at self-advocacy, so how will this affect him when he needs his ADHD medications adjusted? Will he find someone that loves him?

Sometimes these thoughts keep me up at night. I have to remind myself that we can only move so fast in life and that right now, I am just trying to get Julian through the 7th grade. He’s currently fine on his meds and otherwise, has friends and is growing- he is finally over 5 feet tall. I think he will be as tall as me soon. (I am 5’2″, but to him, this is EVERYTHING)

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Letting Go of Your Baby Bird

Watching our kids grow up and move into their own lives is hard. My mom actually cried when I moved out. I often joke about being delighted when the kids are gone, but I will most likely be a sobbing mess when those days come. In Julian’s case, I have the feeling that I will be happy, but a new set of worries will begin. I won’t be able to help him as much as I can now. I am trying to teach him to speak up for himself in all aspects. He’s quiet and I worry that may hold him back or cause issues.

What about college? Julian has decided that he doesn’t want to go to college (see My Kids and College) and this is okay. For those whose kids want to go to college, remember that this is a time of growth and transition for everyone. Your child is about to be around a lot more people than they were around in high school, which equals more noise, smells, etc. This in itself can be an issue. The buildings are bigger, brighter, and further apart. This is something else to get used to.

College schedules are different. Making friends in college can be either difficult or easy, depending on your personality. In this case, it may be a bit more complicated. You, as a parent, may have to resist the urge to monitor their every step and wait for them to tell you everything they did in class, whether they are at a nearby community college or a thousand miles away.

However, some kids with autism struggle in college, mainly with organization. The extra free time can be an issue because they aren’t always sure how to maintain a routine. It can be hard just to get through the day- class, eating, homework and other essentials. It can be just as difficult to read social cues, as it was when they were children, and/or know what’s expected of them.

Most young adults age out of supports at age 22 (at the oldest), which means IEP, 504 plans, etc, are gone. There’s nothing to replace them. Transition planning usually starts around age 14 (depending on the state- Kentucky, for example, does start at 14- Julian will be a freshman). This is the time in which parents and teachers start planning for when the supports run out. The adjustment is still a big one.

The best idea for those who want to go to college with autism is to tap into organizational tools. This may consist of a planner, alarm clock, and most of all, be able to ask for support. Ask your college advisor for extra supports on campus- a group may be available, or other resources. Some of this information can be found on Child Mind

Autism Speaks provides a Transition Tool Kit for families. It can help you take the steps you need to ensure a smoother move into adulthood for you and your family.

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Decisions, Decisions

College isn’t an option for every child with autism. There are other options. Day programs for young adults are becoming more common and popular- they enable the young adult to get out and participate in the community and go home at night. Participants also learn life skills.

Payments are either covered through a waiver, insurance, a combination of both, self-pay, or other options. I highly recommend looking at different places and comparing before choosing one, and of course, taking a tour. These are usually an option no matter where your child is on the spectrum, but all programs are different.

Another option is hiring part or full-time caregivers. I have been a caregiver (more often called Direct Care Providers) and honestly, it was a lot of fun. I worked with a 13- year- old boy that lived about 5 minutes from me. He was a blast to work with and always kept me laughing.

The caregivers can come in your home, meet you and your child in the community, pretty much wherever you need them to. They can help your child learn skills like money management, social skills, life skills and a lot more. I used to take one client to lunch at least twice a week to work on both money and social skills.

A third option is a group home setting. Again, I recommend looking around and considering what you can afford and what you can get covered. This can create a sense of community for your child- everyone needs that in some form. In most of these settings, they are asked to complete chores, go on outings (fun times!) and have other things provided for them. This information is also from Child Mind

What is Love?

Everyone feels love- even those on the spectrum. I’ve never been able to grasp the idea that people who aren’t able to speak cannot feel love. Just because they can’t talk doesn’t mean they can’t express how they feel.

They still think and feel, they are just unable to vocalize it. One of my favorite kids was completely non-verbal but she would squeeze your arms to say “hello”, “goodbye” and to show she was happy.

Relationships can be a bit hard to manage while on the spectrum. Cues are hard to read and many hate small talk, the kind you would have on a first date. It can be hard to enjoy yourself in a loud, noisy place when you are overwhelmed.

It can be even harder to explain that you have autism because of the myths and stereotypes. Even touching, like holding hands, can be difficult. Some people think that those on the spectrum resemble robots because they don’t show how they feel when it can be the opposite.

Most want a romantic relationship, but it is difficult because they don’t know how. Relationships while on the spectrum can be successful with an understanding partner and a bit of work. You can find this information at The Atlantic

In Julian’s case, he hates hugs, so I am not sure how he will react to a girl hugging him. I’ve explained to him that if a girl hugs him and he gets angry, it’s going to hurt her feelings. I suggested that maybe he should step away and tell her that he doesn’t like hugs, that he would like a shoulder squeeze. He looked at me like I had six heads, so I’m not sure if it sunk in.

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Making Some Money

Working is an adventure and autism can sometimes throw a small speed bump into the process.

Finding a Job can help your child get on the path to finding a job that they can enjoy. There is a video on the page that is helpful.

There are issues that some run into while being employed. Two of the largest issues that workers on the spectrum face are the settings of the job itself (bright lights, noise, etc) and workplace bullying. Those can cause a lot of frustration, stress and even anxiety and depression. They can also cause the worker to leave their job unexpectedly.

Discrimination in the workplace is an issue and some have been fired as soon as they disclose that they have ASD. This is not only wrong, but it is also illegal. It’s usually tied in with complaints from co-workers and/or others, habits being seen the wrong way, or other workplace issues. This information can be read in more depth at The Art of Autism

The transition to adulthood is not an easy move for anyone involved- parents or kids. When ASD is involved, it doesn’t mean that the transition is impossible.

It means that we have to balance the need for letting go and still being nearby in case our child needs help. Maybe one night I will be able to shut these worries off and sleep. Maybe not? I’ll see in a few years.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

RA and Me

I wrote a post a while back about having chronic illnesses and being a mom. Chronic Conditions and Momming was written before my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.

1. My older sister has lupus and we had the same rheumatologist at one point. Once we discovered this, we thought it was hilarious. There’s a lot of rheumatologists in Louisville, and we ended up with the same one?

2. My grandfather had severe RA. He died in 2016 at the age of 83. His hands were curled up from the severe joint deformities. He took medications for it, but still had issues that weren’t able to be reversed.

3. I am currently taking a mild medication daily. I had to wait for my thyroid meds to be regulated before I could start RA meds. That sucked but things are good in this area. (Short version: I’m on Levothyroxine due to a partial thyroidectomy in 2017.) Joint pain is REAL.

4. My biggest issues? Joint pain in my hands, knees, and hips. Like many others, I’m super stiff in the mornings and it takes at least an hour to loosen up. Hot showers help. Moving around does help but also hurts. Eventually, the stiffness goes away. Usually. If it doesn’t, then it’s a bad pain day, which leads me to #5.

5. I don’t like taking pain meds. They make me tired and nobody has time for that mess. I usually won’t take them unless I can barely move. I’ll use a heating pad, massage, stretch, etc. The pain meds I do have, however, are non-narcotic.

My doctor is pretty smart- probably not a good idea to prescribe a recovering alcoholic hardcore narcotics. She probably enjoys having a license to practice.
Rheumatoid arthritis sucks. I hate missing out on things because I’m tired, hurting, or both.

Pic with Cameron

It’s possible to live life with chronic conditions. I have two. Some days are just worse than others. I can get through them with humor and my support system.

If you have a chronic condition, how do you get through it?

Is the Money Worth it?

As you may know, I went back to work full time in January. I was hired to hire, train and supervise caregivers for a company that serves (mainly) the elderly.

Reality Sets In..

This has not happened. What has happened? Barely any training and caregiving, which is part of my job, but not all of it. There have been few applicants for caregivers and/or my assistant. None have worked out.

Meanwhile, a case manager has gone on a mission to insult me and try to say I’m not doing my job after he took a week to send me paperwork. *sighs* This office is a new one and it’s not going well. I have a bad feeling that my bosses think I’m a slacker but here I am, a one-woman show.

Guys, my car’s transmission went out Tuesday (2/12) on my way to a client and my boss was mad that I did not get my info in the computer in time. I got home super late and I had a migraine- I didn’t care about the computer. Neither of them has gone to bat for me or supported me when I needed it.

One got my real thoughts on everything Wednesday morning, even though he didn’t really ask.

A Bit of A Set-Up

I think I’m being set up for failure. I’ve sat through meetings in which my direct boss admits he hadn’t gone over things with me yet that he should have. I basically got trained enough to pass a test and see individuals and that was it. I would never send someone out like that.

It’s extremely frustrating, so I’m looking at other options. I thought about the fact that I am getting paid very well, but is it worth it?

Nope. Not even a little.

I’ll take a different job, less pay and many different bosses and be a lot better off.

I learned this lesson about six years ago.

The Bigger Message

In 2013, I had a mini-stroke. At that point, I was extremely stressed at my job. I was considering leaving if I could not find a unit to go permanently. After the stroke, my neurologist strongly recommended that I do so.

It took a few months, but I was able to find a Mental Health Associate position in my favorite unit. I was so happy- I got to work with the kids that I enjoyed the most and of course, Jake was there. The days were long, but the co-workers were fun.

I took a $1.50/hr pay cut to do this but it was well worth it. My happiness and health were more important. That is more important to me than any amount of money that I could make.

What’s Next?

I’m not sure. I don’t see much changing after the conversation Wednesday morning. I will not stay with a company that is not supportive of their employees or train them decently. My standards might be high, but I am not ruining my career over this job.

Update- There’s More!

I decided to leave this position on 2/22/19. There was a communication-based issue that made me really rethink my work with the company. I went home and wrote a scathing email to my bosses. I returned all of my materials and am much less stressed out. I think this was the best option for everyone involved. Back to the blog full time!

Thoughts? Have you had a similar experience?

Two Years of Sobriety

I’m here, and I’m sober.

A Bit Of A Flashback

Two years ago, I woke up from drinking for the last time- I drank until Sara and her husband, Paul, were worried that I had alcohol poisoning.

I was a bit hungover.

Not at all surprising.

I was used to this- so were Matthew and the kids. I’d been drinking steadily since 2013 and after Jake died, it only got worse. I had to escape the pain. Even with therapy, I still had a hard time seeing the days ahead of me.

I cried constantly. I was still trying to move forward from the grief. Losing a man I loved so deeply was something I never saw coming. Drinking took that pain away, if only temporarily. I didn’t realize, however, the internal damage I was doing to myself.

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The Wake-Up Call (Literally)

It’s a well-known fact that I have RA and hypothyroidism. The journey to detect and solve both issues began with blood testing in late 2016. I have a great PCP- she later found the nodule that was removed from my thyroid in 2017, along with other issues. She knew I had been drinking but not the whole story.

I’ve met many alcoholics and addicts and not one has been super honest with their PCP if they have one.

Dr. Tobe called me herself- not her Medical Assistant, Stacey.

YIKES.

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I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, but let’s just say my labs looked pretty interesting, especially my liver enzymes.

You see, the liver is an interesting little piece of your body. It can grow back from being removed, injured or otherwise messed up.

In my case, as Dr. Tobe explained, if I stopped drinking right then, I could stop the damage and not end up with cirrhosis.

I saw that as a hard pass. Matthew’s best friend’s mom died from cirrhosis, and it is a terrible death.

I thanked Dr. Tobe and hung up.

Some Serious Thoughts

I’ve got kids, y’all. Nobody is grown yet and somebody’s gotta be here to get Julian to adulthood. This isn’t saying Matthew couldn’t but he knows he would be lost without me.

I don’t think I’m quite done living, so I decided to have one last night of drinking and be done. I did just that.

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Having a bit of sober fun

I also discussed this at great length in therapy. I won’t say sobriety is easy, because that would be a huge lie.

My liver gets tested every few months thanks to Plaquenil because it’s known to affect liver functioning. So far, it seems to be getting slightly better. This process can take years.

It’s A Hard Life

I read The Big Book cover to cover once and part of my plans for this year is to read it again. I’ll be tracking that reading in my bullet journal.

The 9th step talks about amends and making then except when it would hurt the person to hurt more. This one has been hard. I’ve apologized to my kids, Matthew, my friends and even my mom.

Jordan is that one person I hurt terribly. I wasn’t sober when I attempted to apologize and I am almost certain he wouldn’t hear it now. He’s Jake’s younger brother, the one whose now ex-girlfriend I seriously upset.

I never meant to hurt him- you couldn’t pay me to. I’m hoping one day he realizes that and maybe we’ll speak. I haven’t seen him since Sara’s mom’s funeral in May.

This is the kind of thing that happens in alcoholism and addiction. I know I’ve tried and that’s the best I can do. I also know he’s okay and that’s enough for me.

I struggled a lot with apologizing to my kids and not feeling like a good mom. I’m a lot more present these days. They’ve brought me all kinds of stress, but that’s how parenting works.

The Sober Life

Relapse is part of recovery. I’ve come close. I’ve had horrible days in which all I want to do is go to the closest store and grab a bottle of vodka, but I’m able to talk myself out if it.

I remind myself of the progress I have made. My kids haven’t really said it but I know they’re proud of me. I would lose that progress the minute I opened the bottle or took a shot. That would be heartbreaking.

I also know one wouldn’t be enough because I would become horribly depressed.

Also, I’m pretty sure that alcohol doesn’t agree with my meds.

I recently joined a 12 Step Yoga for Recovery class and I love it. I realized that I needed a bit more support, plus, yoga is great for me. It helps a lot and I look forward to each class.

Two years has gone by so quickly! I still take this one day at a time- it’s what works best for me.

Photos courtesy of Pinterest

Other pics are mine.