Pre-Holiday Check-In 2020

I’m back with another pre-holiday check-in. It has been a weird year. My mom has cancelled Thanksgiving at her house- she still doesn’t feel great and would be heartbroken if she got any of us sick. My niece’s kids are young, I have RA and one of my sisters has lupus. This is a good idea, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. We are going to do a video chat.

Plus, for the first time ever, I’m making Thanksgiving dinner. Matthew has wanted to deep fry a turkey, so it looks like he gets his chance. I’m working on sides and desserts. The kids will help cook, so this should be a blast.

I’m also doing video chats with Sara, Tyson and Ashley. It’s the best option we have right now.


I started Humira injections in September- one shot every 2 weeks. This isn’t a bad schedule. I can’t even see the needle and it barely hurts, so I can live with it. It’s too early to tell if I have responded well or not, but as of my 11/2 rheumatologist visit, things are good so far. I may even be able to discontinue Plaquenil early next year.

Meanwhile, I am about two hours from a hematologist visit. I’ve never been to one but thanks to my last set of labs, I’m getting some extensive blood work done. Yuck. I did get my flu and pneumonia shots and I’m still bruised, almost two weeks later. I was mildly anemic before my RA diagnosis, but apparently, it’s gotten worse. It’s that or RA has really damaged my red blood cells, which at this point, wouldn’t surprise me. It affects more than just joints- it also affects organs, eyes and just about anything else you can think of. I was diagnosed 3 years ago at the end of this month.

Working part-time is great and all, but it exhausts me. Today is Wednesday, the day of the week that I take it easy on myself after working 4 days in a row, two of them being late evenings. It’s a great job- I can wear pretty much whatever I want, I get paid well and it’s been fun so far. Plus my boss, Billy, is great. That always helps. My coworkers are a lot of fun. There aren’t many of us so we try to take care of each other.


I’m sitting at 3 years, 10 months and 10 days as of the date of this post. Staying sober during a global pandemic is rough and I have certainly had thoughts about drinking BUT I know what happens if I do. Things go badly very quickly.

My job helps a lot- I’m a behavioral health technician at a sober living facility. Helping my clients helps me keep things in perspective.


I’m still in therapy. I can be found at my therapist’s office on Fridays at 3 PM. It’s going well.

My psychiatric nurse practitioner was a bit worried about serotonin syndrome (you can read up on Google- it’s not pretty) so I am currently switching from Prozac and Effexor (migraine prevention) to Cymbalta. I felt like complete crap a few days ago, but I’m feeling better. My neurologist was okay with the change and Cymbalta works for both migraine prevention and mental health issues. I’ll let you know how this goes.

I do miss seeing my friends and family. I’m constantly stressed over my kids’ schoolwork- Cameron is way behind in some of his classes and I know he can do it. I’m worried that he will not graduate on time in 2023 if he doesn’t pass everything. Usually, I’m good with A/Bs, but at this point, I just want them to pass their classes. I’m also worried about getting COVID-19. If i do get it, I’m not sure what happens next because my immune system isn’t close to being able to handle it.

What’s Next?

I’m unsure. I’m good, work wise. It’s the first time since I left Peace that I think I may have found something I really like. This has done a lot for my outlook on life in general.

My 38th birthday is 12/29. I have to work that day so I don’t have plans at the moment.

These kids? I have no idea. Cameron will be turning 16 around the time I do the Post Holiday Update. Kentucky law requires that he pass all of his classes and hang on to the permit for a year. Matthew is handling driving classes because I’m definitely not the parent for this.

I’m hoping that things become less stressful and more fun. Like every parent out there, I am just doing the best I can.

Teens and Sleep: How Much Do They Need?

As adults, many of us love to sleep. I’m one of those adults. I need my sleep. I must get as much sleep as possible so that I don’t run into issues with migraines, an RA flare or both. One of my migraine triggers is lack of sleep- if I don’t sleep well for 2-3 days, I’ll likely have a migraine the next day.

I’ll pass.

Sleep is also important if I’m in a flare. It’s usually all I want to do and even if I am awake, it’s not like I feel as if I have fully awakened. While we are asleep, certain brain activity and bodily functions occur.

Teens are in a constant state of growth. They eat and sleep a lot. I refer to Cameron as a sloth quite often- he spent most of summer break sleeping and likes to take a nap every day after school.


How Much Sleep Do They Need?

Teens aren’t babies anymore, so they need a bit less than 16 or so hours, but yet need more than the 7-9 hours that adults require. They don’t like early bedtimes, so that’s always a debate. According to The Sleep Foundation, sleep patterns change during these years. It’s entirely possible for teens to not naturally be ready to go to sleep until 11 PM, sometimes later, depending on the teen.

Most teens need somewhere between 8-10 hours of sleep a night but aren’t getting it. Some are only getting about 8.5 hours of sleep a night. That’s 1.5 hours of lost sleep. Many teens sleep in on weekends, which can affect their internal clocks during the week. Others may suffer from unknown sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, insomnia, and even narcolepsy.

A note for parents of teens with special needs: It can be difficult for your child to sleep even 8 hours a night, as autism, ADHD and other diagnoses can cause sleep issues. It may help to discuss any sleeping issues with your child’s pediatrician and/or other specialists to find what may be helpful. What works for one teen may not work for another.

Medication may be needed to help your child sleep and this is an option that many parents use, myself included. Please follow all directions of the medications and the prescribing doctor.


What Happens if Your Teen Doesn’t Get Enough Sleep?

Much like younger children, teens can be a bit crabby if they don’t get enough sleep. They can have issues with concentrating in class, at work, or other activities. This can get really dangerous if they can drive. Driving while tired can lead to crashes and/or other behaviors.

Some teens can become more aggressive, and in teens with behavioral/emotional issues, this can be one of the first things looked at when behaviors become more intense. Has the teen been sleeping well? Less aggressive behaviors include impatience with and yelling at others. I’ve seen kids that didn’t sleep well act out because they didn’t have the energy to better regulate their issues.

Skin and eating issues are common in teens that don’t get enough sleep. Breakouts are more frequent and much like adults, teens may be more likely to eat more sweet and fried foods and drink more caffeinated drinks.

Solutions for Sleep

Sleep is important- if your teen needs a new routine to make sure they get enough sleep, you may be able to start with these tips.

  • Naps. Naps can be beneficial, but naps that are too close to bedtime or too long can create a negative effect. 15-30 minutes can be helpful.
  • Create a sleepy environment. Some people love eyeshades or dark curtains. Cool temperatures can help your teen sleep better.
  • Work towards a consistent bedtime. A consistent sleep schedule will help your teen feel less tired because their body will get in sync with natural patterns. On the weekends, try to stick to the times as close as possible.
  • Turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime. Most teens will not like this idea, but it will help their brains shut down.

Teens are going through a lot as it is- acne, dating, parents, school and so much more. Sleep is one thing we can definitely help them with.

Another note for special needs parents: Your teen may need a specific routine to help soothe them into sleep- calming music, lights, sensory items, etc. Knowing what your child needs is important in this aspect. Please consult your child’s pediatrician if you need more guidance.

Pictures courtesy of Unsplash

Support Groups: What’s in it for You?

We are not meant to go through certain events alone- serious illness, loss, kids with disabilities and other events that shape our lives. This is when the power of numbers comes in. Being around others in a similar situation can be comforting and sharing your thoughts can help with processing. It can also help someone else realize they are not alone.

Yoga Class and Hope

I haven’t been to an AA meeting since I have stopped drinking. I considered it but realized it isn’t for me. I have read the Big Book and went back for a re-reading. I did, however, randomly find a 12 Step Yoga for Recovery group on Facebook. I was a bit nervous when I went the first time. I’m a bit nervous around people that I don’t know, so it took me a few Sundays to say anything besides my name.

I’ve gone almost every Sunday since November and I really enjoy it. I don’t speak every week, but I do like reading one of the two reflections that are meditated upon. This meeting gives me a chance to think about subjects that I haven’t thought about in a while or, sometimes, not at all. I don’t mind this, because new thoughts can be good. From time to time, the topics may stick with me throughout the week- not in a bad way, but in a way that makes me think about making myself a better person.

I started attending the group for two reasons: I like yoga (and needed a beginner class) and I was struggling. It’s entirely possible I would have relapsed without going to this group. I needed extra support that only others battling the same thoughts and emotions could give me. In the months since I think I’ve lost a few pounds and I’ve become somewhat more flexible.

My airplane pose will probably always be awful on the right side, but I can do a terrific downward dog. I have to sit out the sideways plank because I appreciate being able to use my wrists, but my tree pose is slightly improving. I’m pretty sure my future hip replacement is going to be caused by too many Sundays in the half pigeon pose.

I still don’t say much, but I do like listening to other people’s stories. I got my two year (and first ever) chip at a meeting in January, and next up is July when I hit two and a half years of sobriety. The stories I hear give me hope on the Sundays that I come in struggling and I hope that when I actually do speak, I do the same for someone else.


Finding a Group for You

Support groups can be online or in person. Online can be a great option if you are in a rural area or otherwise unable to leave home to get to an in-person support group. Most groups are held at hospitals, community centers, churches, or other locations. They can also be led by group members or other facilitators like a nurse, social worker or other professional.

These groups are not the same as group therapy, as those groups are a specific type of treatment for people with similar diagnoses led by a licensed medical professional. Support groups are meant to be informative.

As with most things, going to a support group can have benefits and risks.


  • Feeling less lonely or judged
  • Talking openly and honestly about your feelings
  • Learning new skills to cope with challenges
  • Improving understanding of a disease/condition and your own experience
  • Learning about resources
  • Staying motivated and gaining hope


  • Disruptive group members
  • Lack of confidentiality in some groups
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Inappropriate medical advice
  • Comparisons of “who has it worse”

You can tell if a support group is risky if you are pressured to pay high fees to attend, are promised a cure and/or are pressured to buy products. Information found at Mayo Clinic

You got this

Making the Most of Your New Support

Once you find a support group, it’s time to make it work. Talking about your struggles in front of strangers is hard. You don’t have to say more than you want to, but even a little helps when you feel you can. It may help lift a weight off your shoulder that you may not know you had.

Most facilitators are used to new people in the group and can guide you through the rules and processes. If the group isn’t for you, you’ll find out in a few sessions. You don’t have to do everything that is suggested- absorb what works and let the rest go.

Enjoy the new perspectives in your life and thoughts they bring.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Have you been to a support group? Did it help?

Men and Mental Health

As kids, most boys were told not to cry. They were told to be tough, to be “real men”, and those men didn’t cry and show emotions. They hid their feelings, no matter the cost.

This piece of advice has had terrible consequences, leading to high substance abuse rates, violence against women and children (among others) and other issues. When you can’t let out your feelings in a healthy way, it tends to come out badly. It also leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety and lack of self-care.

Why Men Don’t Seek Help

Everyone needs to take care of themselves, physically and mentally. This is a well-known fact. Men have a harder time acknowledging this because of the stigma they face in doing so. This will be covered in a later post, so stay tuned, but here are a few examples of what many men fear when going for help:

  • Being labeled as “weak”, “sick”, or any number of labels.
  • Having to be vulnerable. I can say from personal experience that starting therapy is rough. You are opening up with some of your worst demons to someone you just met..many men (and women) are not having it.
  • Being judged by those who know that they are getting help.

This information is in The Stigma of Mental Illness

Untreated mental illness can also lead to suicide, which has a higher rate in men, and men usually use more lethal means.

This fact breaks my heart each time I read it. Suicide in itself is heartbreaking and has far-reaching consequences.

As a mom, I’m teaching my kids that it’s okay to cry. My sons know it’s okay to have emotions. In light of numerous teen suicides in the news and those that I have lost to suicide personally, I feel a huge responsibility to watch out for my kids’ mental health. It’s HARD to be a kid these days.

Cameron started taking daily naps when he started middle school, and at first, I thought it was a phase. Then I worried about his heart because his SVT is pretty severe and can tire him out easily.

He told me that he felt fine, that school was just tiring him out. My next question was if anything was bothering him, and thankfully, he said no. Cameron is a pretty chill kid, but you never know.

Julian is pretty quiet, but he knows where Mom is if he needs to talk. So does Lily, but she is NOT the quiet type. The point of this is, please talk to your kids, no matter how rough it may be. Just check in.

What can we do for the men in our lives?

  • Check in with them. Especially if something major has happened to them recently- a death in the family, job loss, etc.
  • Be gentle. Most men facing a mental health issue don’t want to be forced into talking. Matthew’s parents divorced a few years ago, and there was a lot of drama involved. He’s not a huge talker, so I had to let him talk about it at his own pace.
  • Encourage him through whatever he does, if anything. If he decides to seek help, he needs to know you’re behind him 100%.

Of course, if things are going downhill quickly, please seek immediate help. You can go to the nearest ER or call 911.


Psychology Today


If you are more comfortable seeking help online, this BetterHelp link will be helpful for Michigan residents, but the entire site is full of good information.

Kids: Is It All In the Timing?

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this topic. Fourteen years, in fact. Cameron turned fourteen recently and I had just turned 22 when he was born. Fast forward and here we are. He has two siblings and I have gray hair.

The Clock Goes “Tick Tock”

Timing can be interesting- eighteen months is all that separates my kids in age. That was not planned, as I’ve discussed in previous posts. Three kids in three years is not for the weak or people who like to sleep.

I like my sleep and I am so damn glad that my kids do. Once everyone slept all night, it’s been great around here unless someone is sick. Julian needed some help in this department- I’d love to shake the hand of whoever discovered that Clonidine helps with sleep. He sleeps great these days.

Figuring Out What Works

Matthew and I really didn’t have much of a plan- we just knew we wanted kids. He wanted two, I wanted four, and then Cameron showed up in 2005.

Matthew got two. I changed my mind. Forget four- Cameron was a difficult baby and I was not up for a repeat. Eighteen months later, I got “the Buddha Baby”, known as Julian. Eighteen months after that, Lily made her appearance and I shut down the baby factory.

I was done. You can read Rewind and Fast Forward to get the full story.

What worked for us doesn’t work for everyone. Some prefer to have kids early. Lily was born two months after my 25th birthday. I had hoped to be done having kids by 30, so I was done a whole 5 years early.

I was worried about the chances of birth defects, the extra wear and tear on my body (which happens no matter how old you are) and my energy levels. I also just wanted to get this part of my life over with. Pregnancy and the younger years of a child’s life are hard. Might as well be young and get it done, right?

The money part isn’t fun to figure out. I think that if you’re a bit older when you start having kids you may have a better shot at being financially stable. I’ve read that many older parents are more patient- in that case, I’d be ready for menopause before I had kids.

Two main worries for women that wait until later is the chances of birth defects or difficulties with getting pregnant in the first place. Luckily, there are maternal-fetal specialists and fertility specialists that can assist with these issues.

The Big Questions

Should you start early? Should you wait a few more years? I think it is up to each couple to decide what is best for them. Having kids is a huge, life-changing decision. Don’t go into it lightly.

Look at where you are in your life- financially and emotionally. How is your health? How will your life change if you do decide to have a child? These are just a few questions to ask yourself.

This post is not meant to talk anyone into or out of having kids at any point- just to bring a few thoughts to the surface.

Did you have kids at an early or late age? How do you think it impacted your life? Do you wish you had done it differently?

Pics courtesy of: Unsplash

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