Thirteen Years of Adventure

Three kids provide a lot of memories.

My middle child and youngest son, Julian, is thirteen today. That makes two teen boys..yikes.

He’s taller than me, his voice has changed and eighth grade is coming fast. But yet, he’s still funny, curious and so smart.

As a baby, Julian was so chill that we called him “the Buddha baby”. He grew and so did his heart. His hugs practically choked you if he hugged you around the neck and he gave the best kisses.

Little Guy, Big Changes

Thanks to the onset of autism and ADHD, I don’t remember the last time he hugged me. I won’t lie, I miss his hugs. He wouldn’t hug me or anyone else if you paid him…well, maybe. Depends on the amount. He knows that if he needs a hug, I will always have one for him.

Four wheel pic

Raising Julian has taught me so much about myself, as a special needs child will do. I’ve read books, sat through evaluations and agonized over medications. I’ve cried so hard my eyes swelled from fighting with Matthew over what to do.

We have had great victories, like Julian finally trying new foods, graduating fifth grade, and him making friends. That was a huge one. I literally felt relief all over my body the first time I dropped him off at a friend’s house. He’s tried things that he was scared of, which is big.

Julian is a third of my heart, one of the best things that will ever happen to me. The years have a way of flying by and I have no idea where they went.

Baseball pic

He’s into video games, his bike and watching YouTube. Prank videos are his jam. It fits his personality, because he loves to joke and pull pranks on people. His day is made if he scares someone. Halloween is one if his favorite days of the year, but he doesn’t care about a costume.

Here we go into thirteen…I hope we both come out in one piece!

How did you adjust to teens?

More posts about Julian:

Livng With an Energizer Bunny

My Fearless Leader

A Morning Walk for Autism

Humor Helps the Pain

Everyone has their own defense mechanisms- ways of dealing with things that they may not like or want to push to the side. These mechanisms keep us from having to deal with unpleasant feelings like sadness, anger, confusion, etc.

Trying to Shift the Hurt

Humor can be a defense mechanism for many of us. I am guilty of this. I use humor, mainly sarcasm, a lot, to cover up for when I am sad, hurt or feeling otherwise not so great. I may not want to face how I am feeling at the moment. I may not want to show the person that might have hurt my feelings that they did so. I’m not the best at doing this. I tend to feel guilty- it comes from my past with Matthew.

He would get angry when I would even show a hint of being upset at anything he said or did that would upset even the hardest of women. I learned to hide it all, at the expense of my mental health.

I didn’t laugh my way through being emotionally abused, because that’s impossible, but there are other facial expressions for it. It became a regular thing to hide my sadness, pain or being offended. This is still present for me. I don’t think it will ever fade. Even if I had left, this would linger.

Using humor allows me to remain the funny person that everyone knows me to be and not fall into the deep hole of depression that I desperately want to stay out of.

It doesn’t take a lot sometimes, and there are times that I don’t know what will bring me out of it. It lets me keep going when I might just stop otherwise. If I stop and start crying, when would I stop? This question does not have an easy answer.

In the Spotlight

Many comedians/comediennes began using humor to cope as kids due to tragedies and/or bad childhoods. Making other people laugh helped them feel better plus it was a great distraction for them from whatever they had going on in their lives.

Some comedians also have mental health issues and this helps them cope, for example, the late Robin Williams. I was sincerely crushed by his death. I still get sad watching “Aladdin” and “Mrs. Doubtfire”.

I didn’t have the best or worst childhood, but genetically, I hit the jackpot when it comes to humor. I have two older sisters, and I’m the funniest out of the three of us. My mother is hilarious and so was my grandfather. My dad lacks a sense of humor- he’s a bit like Eeyore from “Winnie the Pooh”.

I’m not sure when my sarcasm blossomed, but it’s been around as long as I remember. Cameron has picked up on it, and even though he was a little late, so has Julian. Dry humor is his thing. Their childhoods have been miles better than mine so they’re just funny because they can be.

There is a reason we like to watch funny movies or YouTube videos when we are sad- it takes our minds off whatever it is that’s bothering us. We need a distraction.

I have watched “Horrible Bosses” countless times because it’s funny and I know almost all of the lines. I also know that Charlie Day uses the Epi-Pen incorrectly but yet it’s still comedic. I still yell “OMG THAT’S NOT HOW YOU USE IT!” at the screen each time I see it. (I’m First Aid trained, and while I have never had to use an Epi-Pen, I hope I never have to.)

Laughing makes us feel better, even if it’s only for the length of a movie, song or 6-minute video. The phrase “Laughter is the best medicine” is true. It can truly lift your spirits.

How do you get a laugh when you are sad? Do you use defense mechanisms? How do you try to not use them?

Real Stories of a (Former) Mental Health Worker

Note: There is this gorgeous law (HIPAA) that prevents me from using real names in this post, and so I will use an asterisk when needed to indicate that names were changed. I will also not use the actual names of the facilities I worked at for similar reasons, because I’m not trying to get sued. I’m a blogger and stay at home mom, not a millionaire.

This month is Mental Health Awareness Month. This post is dedicated to my former co-workers (especially my Resource Team friends) and mental health professionals everywhere.

It’s a rough profession and deserves a lot more respect than it gets. It’s also very rewarding, which is one of the many reasons why I am glad that I chose psychology as my field of work.

A Few Definitions

I know not everyone understands these terms, so here are some definitions to help you out a bit:

Mental Health Technician/Mental Health Worker/Mental Health Associate: these are all pretty much the same, depending on where you work. I’ve been called all three.

1:1: a patient that requiring someone is with them at all times, whether they are asleep or not, sometimes both. This can get very tedious, and sometimes you have to stay within arms’ reach of the patient for safety reasons.

Code: this is not the code you see on TV. This code is for physical backup when things get out of hand, mainly when a patient is being aggressive, destructive or a combo. These are called for a variety of reasons, but these are the two most common ones.

Resource Team- an amazing team of people trained to work on every inpatient unit in a mental health facility. They are responsible for knowing everything about all the units, and they catch hell for messing up. It’s a great team to be a part of because they stick together and you never know what will happen next or where you will be. It’s also very stressful.

Checks/Rounds: ensuring patient safety by visualizing patients every 15 minutes.

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(I’ve seen C.Diff, and it’s ugly, especially in non-verbal kids. YIKES)

Let me set up the story for you…

In June 2007, Spalding University granted me a Bachelor of Arts in Clinical Psychology. Many don’t know this unless you ask, see it in my author bio or on my resume.

It took me five years, a change in major (my first major was in apparel design and merchandising- fancy wording for fashion design), school and two kids, but I finally graduated. I also completed a mandatory 100-hour practicum.

I was not prepared for my first job out of college. I had gotten a job as a Mental Health Technician at *Clear Lake Hospital and I was a bit nervous but ready to start my career.

I started the week after I finished classes. (I walked June 2, but still to finish my last class, which was sheer torture.) I did fine in orientation but was not happy when I found out that I was placed on the geriatric unit.

What? This facility didn’t let you pick what unit you went to, but I had hoped I wasn’t going to get put on a unit I didn’t like. I was not thrilled about being placed on this unit, known as the *Willow Tree Unit. I wanted to transfer immediately, but there was a policy preventing me from doing so for 6 months. I decided to wait it out.

Two months into that wait, I discovered that I was pregnant with Lily. My OB/GYN told me that I would be better off where I was because the pregnancy was not an easy one from the beginning.

A different unit would be a faster pace and could result in more issues with my pregnancy. I decided to stay put so that Lily would have a better chance of being okay. I ended up liking the *Willow Tree Unit.

The staff was nice- I was the youngest tech on first shift. Once word got around that I was pregnant, the nurses and other techs took care of me.

One afternoon, my shoes became untied and I couldn’t reach them because my belly was huge. I burst into tears and one of my fellow techs tied them for me. She understood the struggle- she’d been in my spot two years before.

I didn’t get to finish out the pregnancy on that unit- I went into preterm labor at 31 weeks (on Cameron’s 3rd birthday, of all days) and my OB/GYN told me that I would have to stop working or go on light duty, basically a desk job.

I chose the desk job because we needed the money. I went to medical records for all of five weeks or so. The ladies there were nice and began a betting pool on when Lily would show up. Lily shares a birthday with one of the ladies in the office, which everyone found hilarious.

Thanks to Kentucky state budget cuts, the *Willow Tree Unit was closed down while I was on light duty, and when I came back from maternity leave, I was sent to an acute care unit. I was better suited for that unit and stayed there until I left in June 2008 for a counseling position in Indiana.

The Real Fun Begins

In late 2010, I was ready for a new and closer to home position. I found another Mental Health Worker position at *MidRiver Regional Hospital. This time, I was able to pick where I wanted to go, because it was in the application. I would be on the Resource Team. It sounded very interesting and kind of fun.

I was absolutely right. Orientation was a bit boring- but that’s where I met Josh (Jake’s older brother) so I call that a win. I had to shadow for a couple of weeks on each unit- a couple of days with another worker, and then I was unleashed.

The very first day was a day that is forever etched in my mind- I was on *2West, a unit that was then used for kids from 12-18 with autism and other developmental disabilities. It was super loud, wild and some of the kids were way bigger than me.

What did I sign up for?

I took a huge deep breath, looked at my assignment sheet and kept going.

I spent two years on the Resource Team. It was a lot of fun- full of laughs, friends, and a few mishaps. I’ve run after people that eloped, including one that I chased across a busy street along with another worker. The kid ran off at a hospital and we did catch her. I’ve been punched in the head. I even caught a stereo cord to the face.

I was with a 1:1 and the patient was very upset about her Justin Beiber CD was repeatedly skipping. I told her that maybe it was time to try a different activity, and tried to unplug the stereo. She picked it up, then dropped it, and when I went to pick it up, she hit me in the face with the cord.

A code was immediately called and I was taken off the floor. I was taken to the main nursing office to get my face looked at.

I called Matthew to get me from work, and he took me to a nearby hospital- I ended up with three liquid stitches. You can barely see the scar today. I took the next day off because my eye was so swollen that I had a hard time seeing out of it, and let me tell you, tetanus shots are not fun.

As for the patient, she was so upset when she found out what happened to me, she became hysterical. I was one of her favorite staff members. She had to be medicated to calm down. She apologized the next time she saw me.

While I was working at this facility, things were not that great at home. Julian wasn’t diagnosed until late 2011. I was struggling a lot internally with both anxiety and depression. You can read about those events in A Letter to my Anxiety and Depression and Looking At the Bright Side

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I was able to lose myself in my work. I loved being able to help others and work with great people. We had a lot of fun on the good days and on the not so good days, pull together and make things work. That, to me, is the definition of teamwork.

In March 2013, I had a mini-stroke. My neurologist suggested afterward that I needed to start looking for ways to lessen or eliminate stress in my life. By this point, I was ready to leave the Resource Team- it was getting too stressful for me. Some people leave after months, some people stay the entire time they are at the facility.

I started thinking about which unit would be a good fit. I was pretty much done with adults- that was where the bulk of my work had been, and I needed something different. I had realized that I really enjoyed the kids on *2West and the staff was great.

I’d volunteer to go there when other people didn’t want to go- it was a rough unit. I didn’t really enjoy cleaning poop off walls (who does? I can’t make this up, it really happens) but it had become my favorite unit.

It took a few months of waiting, but a position opened up. By then, I had met Jake, and that was his home unit. I applied, interviewed and got the full-time Mental Health Associate position. My Resource Team friends were sad to see me go (my friend Scott begged me not to go), but they were not surprised to hear where I was going.

It turns out that going to *2West was the best career move I’ve ever made. I loved it. Those kids were not always the easiest to work with- I’ve been kicked in the eye, had my hair pulled out in clumps, broken my big left toe twice and in the same way. It still doesn’t bend correctly. I’ve seen all kinds of naked kids. I’ve left work scratched and bruised from multiple holds. I’ve gotten sick from these kids- strep throat can go through 20 kids fast.

I also learned a lot- how to sign (some), how to learn about a kid even when they are non-verbal. I learned that some families are worse than you can imagine and even the ones that look great are horrible.

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Autism is not seen as often in girls, but when it is, it tends to be severe. One of my favorite kids was a tall, thin girl named *Michelle. She was a runner and I got lots of exercise running after her in the halls. She was also non-verbal but showed her feelings by squeezing your hands.

She squeezed my hands every day to say “hello” and “goodbye” but if she was angry, she would pull on your arms while squeezing your hands. She was so much fun to work with. When she left, she bent down to hug me goodbye, and both *Claire (her behavior analyst) and I cried. That’s a very unusual thing.

Taylor Swift sing-a-longs were a regular thing and so were movie days on the weekends. We tried to make things as fun as we could for the kids. We took them outside and let them play as much as they were able to on the playground. We got the kids out of bed, fed them, got them through their days and back into bed- for some of them, we were more of a family to them than their own.

*Mason was a kid who saw us exactly like that. I met him while doing checks and he was in the shower singing “Baby Got Back”. He was hilarious, and once beatboxed to me about needing toothpaste.

However, he came from a family that didn’t treat him well, which contributed to some of the reasons he came to the facility. Once, I was planning an outing with another associate, and he asked us to take him and the other patients to a strip club. That did not happen, but we laughed hysterically after he left the room.

These kids were so funny, smart in their own way. I couldn’t have asked for better co-workers. Some days entirely sucked, but it was still a fun adventure. My last day there was September 2, 2015. I left after being told about Jake’s death, and I came back two days later to get my things and leave my nurse manager a note telling her I wouldn’t be back.

I couldn’t write this post without mentioning Jake, Austin, Scott (not the one mentioned earlier), Cisco or Colleen. I lost these co-workers while working with them or after and each loss was a bad one. They left behind families that loved them and patients that they touched. They worked hard (Cisco got electrocuted trying to keep a patient safe) and had a lot of love for their patients.

I’m retired from this line of work- thanks to my RA diagnosis. My rheumatologist would go ballistic. I am left with so many memories and friends. That’s what work and life are all about.

All pics are my personal pics except for one pin on my Pinterest board. Pinterest

The Impact of a Name

I’ve always struggled with my name- Wrae Meredith. My dad thought it would be cute to throw in a W of front of Rae.. and here we are, 36 years later. It’s been spelled wrong and I’ve even been called “Mr. Sanders” which is a bit infuriating.

Meredith is a bit better, but to me, still old-fashioned. I didn’t use it for anything before this blog. Shout out to my mom and dad for being true 1980s era parents and giving me a weird name when my older sisters got decent ones. Ugh.

My Turn to Name the Kids

When the kids showed up, I wasn’t going to let this issue happen. I wanted something not too common, but still cool.

All three kids have easy-to-spell and pronounce names. It turns out Lillian is a much more popular name than I thought! Their middle names- Matthew, Kenneth, and Evette, are family names.

Matthew let me pretty much take over in this area. He didn’t like my initial pick for Julian’s middle name- Blake, so Kenneth was chosen thanks to his grandmother.

Julian thinks his name is a bit weird because he hasn’t met anyone else with it, but I’m sure he will at some point. We have met other Camerons and many Lilys, and a couple of Lillian, both with different spellings.

The Impact of an Uncommon Name

It can be annoying to be the kid in class who gets “the look” when a substitute teacher can’t pronounce your name. It gets embarrassing when your name is misspelled repeatedly throughout your life. Your name might have a cool story behind it but that coolness fades when you have to constantly spell and/or pronounce it for others.

Your name can also impact how people see you before they even lay eyes on you. This entirely sucks, but it happens. People see a name and automatically assume things about you that aren’t true.

Identities don’t entirely revolve around your name, but it definitely plays a part. Today’s PSA: Please think out your child’s name before it hits the birth certificate.

But What About The Names Everyone Has?

Lily has two friends with the name Isabella- one goes by Bella and the other by Isabella. Apparently, that name has been wildly popular. Matthew has one of the most popular names of all time, so he does not get the frustration that I have felt about my name.

Sometimes it can feel like you blend in with everyone else and you have to stick out in other ways. Ashley, my best friend, has felt this way. I have a lot of friends named Ashley.

I also have a lot of friends named Sara or Sarah- in fact, when Sara and I became friends, I put her in my phone as “Sara S (Jake’s Cousin)” because it helped me keep her separate from others. She is still listed that way on my phone, almost four years later.

I’m sure this can get annoying- being one of three kids with the same name in your class or just not feeling unique. I guess it’s all about how you see it.

Do you have an uncommon name? How do you feel about it? Did you choose an uncommon name for your child?