What I Want My Kids to Know About Friendship

I’ve posted a lot on my social media about the importance of friendship. In the last few years, I’ve had to learn a lot about its true meaning. I think I am a lot better off but I hope that my kids never have to go through losing friends the way I did, or at all. It’s not a good experience.

Bday dinner

Tyson, Ashley and I at Tyson’s bday dinner, 2019

The Things That Really Matter

  • Who is there when things get really bad. Ashley and Stephanie were at my house as soon as they could be after my calls about Jake. My mom recently fell and broke her shoulder in three places. She’s fine, but Tyson told her to get better because he needed someone to punch people for him. (My mom has a wild sense of humor and he knows this.) Scott almost dragged me out of my house for months. Everyone supported me through therapy. Friends are there for you, even when you’re sobbing your way through a bottle of Fireball, can’t talk after thyroid surgery or when you get diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I want them to find friends that are there through the good and bad times.
  • You can make friends in the weirdest places. Sara wins this award. Neither of us imagined making a new best friend in a funeral home, of all places. I just wanted to make sure Jordan was in decent shape (he wasn’t) and say goodbye to Jake, and POOF! there’s Sara. I imagine Jake is somewhere laughing about this. His brothers were absolutely correct in thinking we would make great friends. Our daughters are best friends. Lily is two years older than Bella, but neither of them cares. I want my kids to be open to meeting people wherever they go, because you never know what might happen.
  • What’s special needs? Thanks to Julian, Cameron, and Lily probably have a great insight into how to treat someone with special needs. They have been taught to care for those that are different and not leave them out. Ironically, Julian’s bestie also has ADHD. Kids with special needs need friends too, and they can teach our kids a lot.
  • Find good friends and hang onto them. I have known Ashley since middle school, Stephanie since junior year of high school, but I have known Tyson the longest. We met as first graders. We got separated due to his moving around afterward but after we met back up in high school, it’s been laughs. Stephanie and I have five kids between us. We were pregnant at the same time- Cameron is two months older than her younger daughter, Angelina. (Bonus- her middle name is Wrae, after me.)
  • Know when to let go. Sometimes friendships can be toxic. Some people can start out great for you but when you grow and change, they can’t handle that. It can be hard to let go, especially if it’s been a long time friend, but it’s better than hanging onto a toxic one. If a friend is spreading rumors, not standing up for you or doing worse things, they aren’t a real friend.
  • It’s okay if you don’t have everything in common. There are some things that I love that my friends don’t. I love true crime podcasts and most of my friends think I’m a bit weird. This is okay. It’s what makes everyone different. The main thread is what you do have in common- for example, Ashley and I love “South Park”, really bad 80s music and Mexican food, just for starters.
  • Real friends want to see you happy. No further explanation needed.
  • A small circle is good. This doesn’t mean you’re not popular or that something is wrong with you. I have a small circle of friends and I am okay with that. It’s easier to trust a few people. Julian is not a fan of people and this is okay. As long as he has a couple of people that he likes to hang out with, things are good.

Friendships are important in every part of life. What lessons about friendship do you want your kids to learn?

Don't allow your child to be left out of family activities

Helping Your Family Understand Your Child’s Special Needs

Family can be supportive in the best circumstances, but in the worst, can be standoffish and even cruel. When your child receives a special needs diagnosis, it’s hard on everyone. It’s life changing and you will need plenty of support.

Many people, myself included, turn to their family for this support. Some get extremely lucky and their families do everything they can to help out, but some families aren’t as lucky for a few different reasons- distance, lack of family closeness, or just not wanting to get involved because they don’t understand the diagnosis. This can be deliberate.

Storytime!

Julian was diagnosed at five years old and most of Matthew’s family, including his mother, would not listen to anything either of us had to say about ADHD or autism. They thought he was just “hyper” or we just needed to discipline him more.

Okay, then.

He’s been on medication since shortly after his diagnosis, and on sleepovers, my mother in law wouldn’t take those meds with her, even though we explained how to give them. It’s not that hard. One morning, she complained for about the 900th time that Julian barely slept.

Really? I wonder why. He didn’t get his meds.

Matthew had run out of patience at this point, and he’s a very patient man. He looked his mother in the eye and told her that he did not want to hear another word about this if she wasn’t going to give him his meds. She was well aware of how to give him his meds, she just didn’t want to deal with it. She didn’t see the issue- remember, ADHD and autism aren’t a thing.

Julian has not left for a sleepover without his meds since.

The message behind this story? When you decide not to learn about a child’s medication because you don’t see the need for them, it will backfire. Just because you don’t think it’s real, doesn’t mean it isn’t. *gets off soapbox.. storytime over*

Talking to your family about your child's disability

Educate, Educate and Educate Some More

This begins with you, the parent. As soon as your child has a diagnosis, it’s time to do a lot of reading. Depending on the diagnosis, there are books out there you can read, maybe even a podcast or two if you are a fan of those. Learn how to use equipment, read up on sensory bottles, whatever it takes. If you need to, ask for help from your child’s pediatrician, specialists, etc. They are there to be a resource for you.

The more you know, the more you can help your child. They can’t always speak up for themselves, especially around a family that doesn’t understand. Don’t be afraid to challenge these family members- I’m not and they know it. I’m not saying to be rude in this challenge, but definitely come prepared with answers and don’t let anyone walk all over you. Have someone with you as backup if you’re not big on confrontation.

Some people are simply afraid. If they don’t know how to care for a child that needs medical equipment, has a severe food allergy, or is non-verbal, they stay away. If they are interested, have them come to a medical or therapy appointment. This can help them adjust a bit easier to your child’s world and get some questions answered.

The hardest explanation, I believe, is when your child has an “invisible” diagnosis. Julian is one of these kids, and it can be somewhat draining to explain that just because you can’t “see” ADHD and autism, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it. I don’t think they really want to see him in the middle of a meltdown, because they would have no idea on how to deal.

They do not see the years of therapy, meds, money spent on both, my tears, the fights I had with Matthew to even get him diagnosed, the time I have spent in IEP meetings (or time I spent getting him one) and the sheer energy I have put into making sure he is the adorably funny kid he is.

Create Some Space

Some parents just aren’t able to make things work with their families even after trying to educate, and this may be the result of or part of other issues. This isn’t great, but it happens. It may be time to take a step back from these family members until things improve. This may be painful but the best option for you and your child. It may be stressful for everyone involved to continue to try to make things work when it’s obvious it won’t.

Don't allow your child to be left out of family activities

Build Your Own Circle of Support

Luckily, my mom and sisters are a great support. My mom and Julian are very close. I’ve also been able to create a circle of friends who get what I deal with on a daily basis- their kids are also on the spectrum. I know I can text or call them and they’re available. That is a wonderful feeling. I know that even on a crappy day, I’m not alone and one of them is probably having a day like mine. In fact, one has two kids on the spectrum, so his house is never dull.

Outside of that group, I’ve also joined a few Facebook groups, and they have been a good source of support for questions about ADHD. I’ve also joined some subreddits on the same topics. Internet groups can be a wonderful source of support, especially if you are in a rural area. This can give you a sense of community even if you’re not near an urban area.

If you are in a larger city, I recommend checking out parent groups that center around your child’s diagnosis. I participate in a walk every year with a local autism organization and love it. This year, Julian joined me- I was surprised because he hates being awake before 9 AM on a Saturday, but I was happy to get in the solo time with him. You can find these groups by Googling your city + diagnosis + organization, or a similar search.

I do have friends that either don’t have kids or have kids that aren’t on the spectrum or don’t have ADHD. This is also good. It’s refreshing and they keep me laughing. They cheer us on and cheer me up on the bad days. Everyone should have this. I highly advise finding friends like these.

It’s Fine if Not Everyone Gets It

Your family is meant to be there for you no matter what, but sadly, this doesn’t always work out. Do what you can to educate and include, but don’t stress about the rest. You have much bigger things to worry about- taking care of yourself and your child. Your family will be the ones missing out if they don’t want to come along for the ride.

Recommended Reading: Adjusting to a New World

Twin Mummy and Daddy

My Random Musings

If This is You

This Is Me

I started this blog in August 2017 and is now a year old. It became an idea after losing one of the most important people in my life. I thought it was important that I share my story of grief, loss and coming back to life after losing Jake. I wanted others to know they aren’t alone in this loss, in this life.

The mission behind this blog has been to educate others about mental health, suicide awareness, and prevention. This is so that hopefully someone out there thinks again before attempting to take their own life. Jake did not, and having to live without him has been one of the hardest things I have ever lived through. I’ve often said two years was not and never will be enough.

My other hope is to help others so that another family does not have to go through the extreme anguish Jake’s family has been through- twice. They are a family of faith (mostly), and I’m pretty sure that’s what has helped them move forward.

No family should lose a child to suicide and somehow, this family has moved forward after losing two. Josh and Sara have been two of my biggest cheerleaders.

I cannot begin to explain the sheer devastation, sadness, and anger that I felt after his death. Some days are still hard. I still cry. I still have a hard time with the “why”. There was no note. There was no goodbye. I had to say goodbye to my blue-eyed Superman at his casket.

People have said that suicide is a selfish, cowardly act. I have never been able to believe this. I have lost others to suicide besides Jake, including an uncle, and my own father attempted when I was a kid (I was the one that found him).

I have no attempts myself. It is far from cowardly and selfish. Most that attempt or complete suicide are looking for a way to somehow end the pain they are in physically, emotionally, or even both.

While working in the mental health field, I’ve heard some incredibly sad stories about attempts and/or losing loved ones to suicide. It is a heartbreaking epidemic. I also don’t believe that people always show signs. I used to- but in light of a few deaths by suicide, I no longer do.

Some show signs and some are out of nowhere. Jake’s was a very sudden suicide, and while many of us left behind have our own thoughts on why, we will never know what exactly happened in the last few moments before Jake made the worst decision of his life.

Three years have passed since Jake’s death. I finished therapy, put myself (and my marriage) back together and am pretty much living my best life since before he died. I hope every day that he would be happy with the life I have. I hope he would be proud of me.

When he died, I made two promises: to live the life that he made me strong enough to live and to finish the work he started. I have done both. The first is a lifetime promise because I will spend the rest of my life being the strong person he helped me become. The second was completed the day I finished therapy.

If This Is You (Suicide Loss Survivors)

  • My heart is so sad for you. This kind of loss is crushing. It will take time for you to heal, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It took a year for me to even begin living again. Take all the time you need to heal. If you need counseling, get it. If you need other changes, make them. Just don’t do anything you will regret. (I quit the job that I was working when Jake died, but that was a matter of my immediate mental health.) Take care of yourself.
  • Find support. Those that are closest to you can be a great support, but sometimes support comes from the weirdest places. I met Sara at Jake’s visitation and we have become best friends. We’ve walked each other through a lot. There are support groups for suicide loss survivors. See the resources at the end of this post or my resources page.
  • Find a healthy outlet. This can be a very good thing. My therapist suggested coloring, journaling and meditating. These helped my severe anxiety and depression. There are many ways to let out the emotions you are feeling- art, sports, music, etc. Talking can also be a great outlet if you have someone you can trust.
  • Take the grieving process one day at a time. Sometimes it’s one hour at a time. I spent whole days in bed for months after Jake’s death. I also drank heavily. (Thankfully, I am now 20 months sober.) Some days will be great, some days will be horrible. There will be memories that shatter your heart for a long time, but they will pop up again and make you smile. Songs, scents, and other things will do the same. I cried my way through most of Taylor Swift’s music for months, but now I smile and sing along.
  • If you want to get involved in something to make a difference, try the Out of the Darkness Community Walks. I’ve walked in Louisville since 2011 (off and on) and in 2015, threw a team together in Jake’s memory. I let Josh take over in 2016- he and his wife have done a great job with it. They changed it to Team Jake and Jared (for the brother they lost in 2002) and have raised a lot of money. There are other ways to get involved-this is just one.
  • There will be a day in which you can tell your story and not cry. This does not mean you don’t care, it means you are healing. This shows progress.
  • Healing does not mean forgetting. This can be a struggle.
  • Know that you are changed forever. This didn’t really sink in for me until Jake’s death, but losing someone you care deeply about suicide will change how you see the world and others around you forever. I’ve become a lot more selective on who I let in my life and I had no problems cutting people out, including people I’d worked with and cared about for years.
  • It’s okay to get counseling. Grief can get bigger than you think- I was in therapy within a month of Jake’s death. My therapist wasn’t a grief counselor but there are many. Grief can and will consume you.

I feel that those we lose remain with us in their own ways. Jake is with me all the time- cheering me on and making sure I don’t forget what he taught me.

At the AFSP Community walk in Louisville on 11/3/18. #ForMySuperman

World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10, 2018. (This is also my wedding anniversary. The irony.) If that is a rough day for you, as it will be for many, please know you are not alone.

Resources:

AFSP

NAMI

Book Review: “Valley Of the Dolls”

For this month’s book review, I chose a book that was a little different.

“Valley of The Dolls” is one of my favorite books, and I have loved it since the first time I read it. I don’t know how many times I have read it. The “dolls” that the book refers to is not the kind of doll your children may play with. These dolls are pills, and there is a variety of them mentioned. In this book, which is set in the 1940s-60s, they are mainly sleeping pills, with some diet pills mentioned. I don’t think any of the pills mentioned exist today, but I’m going to assume that some of them are the basis of some of the pills that are out there.

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The book is based on the lives of three young women living in New York City- Anne, Neely, and Jennifer. They meet while trying to make a life in the city coming from three very different backgrounds. Sometimes they clash, at other times they do very well together. They fall in love, experience heartbreak and one becomes a famous movie star and singer. One reaches her dreams of being a model and actress, and the other is happy as a secretary then falls into modeling for a makeup line.

Neely is the somewhat troubled one of the three. While chasing her dreams, she becomes addicted to pills and begins drinking heavily. She eventually ends up having to step back from the world to take care of herself, but not because she wants to. She also became very depressed and attempted suicide more than once. She had a hard time dealing with the pressures of stardom and her chaotic life.

Jennifer goes to Europe and back, but doesn’t find true happiness until it’s almost too late. She didn’t want to live for her body, but it is all she knows. She marries twice and almost a third to someone who truly loves her, which is all she wanted before the unforeseen occurs.

Anne finds the love of her life in Lyon Burke, the friend of her boss. She refuses to give up on him, no matter what. This love remains even after he leaves her not once, but twice. Everyone thinks she is mad for not letting go, even when she has a relationship with another man. Does Lyon ever come back for her? You’ll have to read to find out.

This book does have a sequel, set much later in everyone’s lives, and includes Anne and Neely’s children. This is called “Shadow of the Dolls”. I’ve read this, and it’s interesting. I didn’t include my thoughts on it for this review, but I definitely recommend reading it. Jacqueline Susann died in 1974 and Rae Lawrence wrote this sequel based on the outline she left behind. The storyline flows well from book to book, even though there is a very large time gap between them.

If you need a novel to keep you well entertained, this is definitely one to go for.

Picture courtesy of Pinterest

Song Lyric Saturday with Bush

This post is dedicated to my best friend of many years, Ashley. Today is her birthday and one of her favorite bands is Bush.

If you have followed along much with these posts, you have probably realized that I have a thing for British bands- Fleetwood Mac (preferably with Lindsey Buckingham) and Oasis being in my top three.

Bush is an amazing band. Ashley and I saw them in Louisville last summer. We almost baked because it was at least 90° in the middle of July but it was well worth it.

We squealed at the tour bus, screamed with the music and Ashley got to cop a feel of Gavin Rossdale as he passed by. Unfortunately I dropped my phone so I don’t have a pic of that.

Fun Times

Car Selfie before Bush Concert

Close up pic

Up close with Gavin Rossdale

The concert was a lot of fun. I pretty much had to drag Ashley away from the tour bus!

I chose “Baby Come Home” from a lot of songs because of this far too true lyric. I lost myself so deeply when my marriage was in trouble, and not in a good way. I wasn’t the best person to be around, and Matthew wasn’t either. We had become entirely different people. I didn’t see it that way for a long time. That lyric stuck with me for even longer and has become my favorite song from Bush.

It’s a scary thing to lose yourself. Sometimes it’s scarier to come back.