Invisible Changes

I was looking for content ideas when I came across some information about Traumatic Brain Injury Month. It’s in September and Acquired Brain Injury Month is this month.

Either way, you get them, brain injuries are less than fun. I have one. I didn’t ask for it, but I have learned to deal with it in the best way possible.

A Migraine Gone Bad

My mom’s family has a history of migraines- my grandmother had them, my mom does, both of my sisters, a nephew and unfortunately, Cameron has them.

Luckily for him and my nephew Chris, they can ease as they get older due to testosterone. The rest of us aren’t that lucky. I was 30 before I ever had one, and once they showed up, they were awful.

For those of you who have been lucky enough to never have had a migraine, let me describe how it feels.

It’s like a thousand pounds of weight is sitting on your head, a vice is tightening on the sides, and the other symptoms aren’t fun either.

Many people differ on their symptoms, but mine include nausea (severe enough to require its own medication), blurred vision, and a few other not so great things. Sometimes I have signs before, called an aura, and sometimes I don’t. It’s a crapshoot.

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One day, a migraine went way too far and led to a mini-stroke. I was working and just not feeling well. My head was hurting and my right arm went numb.

I couldn’t even hold the crayon I was using to color with the patients I was working with. (At the time, I was a mental health associate at a mental health facility, and I was on a kid unit that day.) I kept dropping it. I was tired, nauseated, my speech was a bit off and I just wanted to go home. I left work early and went home.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND ANY OF THIS. If you even THINK you are having a stroke, please call 911 or have someone drive you to a hospital. The nurse I was working with felt terrible when she heard what happened.

She apologized to me and told me that if she would have known she would have called an ambulance herself. She and I are great friends, and I don’t blame her at all. I had no idea either, so it’s not her fault.

Once I got home, I just wanted to go to sleep. I also don’t recommend this, and I think almost every doctor and neurologist, including the one I still see, was not happy about this.

I could have died in my sleep, so this is another thing I don’t recommend. I was laying in bed and tried to turn over when my right arm wouldn’t move. I burst into tears because I was so scared, and my husband, Matthew, called my mother. Clearly, I needed to go to the hospital.

My mom signed me in and I was taken to get a CT scan almost immediately. At this point, I don’t really remember what happened the rest of the night.

I do remember hearing that my blood pressure was well above what it should have been, was unable to be controlled and there was evidence of a stroke so I would have to be moved to a different hospital.

My mom isn’t a crier, but she was crying at that point. She left when I was being transferred, and the last thing I remembered telling her was that if I didn’t make it, just let my babies know I loved them.

A stroke? I was only 30.

Today’s PSA: Strokes can happen to anyone. I worked with a kid that had one at 4, and he was left with an arm that was completely paralyzed, which he did not hesitate to use as a weapon. (For the record, he was one of my favorite kids EVER) Babies, teens, anyone can have them.

The Youngest Person on the Stroke Unit

I woke up a few hours later on the stroke unit at a larger hospital. It was Easter Sunday of 2013. I didn’t see my kids that day, but Matthew, my mom and a couple of other people showed up. I had a lot of tests run on me, and as it turned out, I was the youngest person on the stroke unit at the time. I asked.

I also asked what caused my stroke… like anyone would. The neurologists told me that in the course of my migraine, my blood pressure spiked, due to the severe pain, and things went bad with a blood vessel. I usually sum it up as a migraine gone bad. I was in the hospital for two more days and had a slight bit of physical therapy.

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It took some time for my changes to show up, as the neurologists warned, but they are there.

My short term memory has been affected. I have to write things down or I will forget them. I’m like Dory in “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory”. I have Evernote on my phone for this reason.

I still forget things and it’s frustrating but I have learned to adjust. My balance is off a bit, especially on my right side. The stroke occurred on the left side of my brain, so my right side, of course, is affected.

I have migraines, but they have been managed pretty well. It took a few years and a lot of pain, though. I have a great headache specialist. (If you’re reading this from the Louisville, KY area and need a headache specialist, let me know and I’ll give you his info)

I’m a huge talker, but unfortunately, my speech has been affected. I have aphasia, which is annoying but something I cannot control. I may pause in the middle of a sentence because I forgot what I was saying, or what word I wanted to use.

I do get frustrated when I can’t find my words, and I hated having to step back at work a bit for a couple of weeks, but it really was the best for me.

I was told to manage the stress in my life, and at that point, there was plenty. My marriage was going straight to hell, Julian was not doing well and the only thing keeping me in one piece was my job.

I had to let go of some of the perfectionism I carried inside and re-evaluate what was important to me. It took a lot but that’s what happened.

Every year on March 30, I have a fun day, no matter what is going on. It’s my reminder that I’m much stronger than I think and that I really can get through anything.

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Below are some helpful links for stroke warning signs, Traumatic Brain Injury information (I used to work with kids that have them) and Acquired Brain Injury information.

stroke warning signs

TBI information

ABI information

The Drinking Article

I love Buzzfeed. I have the app, read articles, and yes, take those weird quizzes every day.

I read an article about Chrissy Teigen a while ago and it stuck with me. If you don’t know who she is, she’s a model, has a hilarious Twitter (which I follow @chrissyteigen) and she’s married to John Legend.

I don’t watch “Lip Synch Battle” but I have heard it is pretty funny. She has also battled Post-Partum Depression (PPD) and anxiety. I am very familiar with this, because of my issues with this after Julian was born. It wasn’t my favorite time as a mom. I’ve also worked with women who were at risk for and/or who struggled with it.

Wait…Is That Me?

It turns out that Chrissy has issues with drinking, and it runs in her family. She said in the article (no spoilers) that she had come to realize that her drinking made her act differently than she would like to around others and it was hurting their reputation. She said that she realized that she needed to fix herself. The link to the article is at the bottom of this post.

I have felt the same way.

My sobriety date is 1/1/17. I was a very hard drinker for almost four years. I’ve been drinking since I was a teen, like many, but later on, the drinking got out of control.

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NAMI walk 2017

In late 2011, Julian was diagnosed with ADHD and autism. My husband and I had already been fighting a lot about how to handle his behaviors, but after his diagnosis, things just got worse. At times, we didn’t speak for days. Julian had become aggressive and difficult to handle.

Things were so bad that by 2013, I had begun going out for dinner and drinks with a group of co-workers every Tuesday. I needed the escape from my life at home. It hurt a lot that I couldn’t fix my marriage- I didn’t know how to stop the fighting or the mean things my husband was saying to me. I didn’t know what to do with Julian.

I knew that drinking was fun and it made me feel a lot better. Everything that was stressing me out went away and I didn’t have to do anything but be hilarious. I’ve always been funny, to begin with, but alcohol brought that out a lot more. This continued for about two years, until September 1, 2015. My entire life stopped and shattered that day.

I found out about Jake’s death the next day, September 2. I didn’t deal with it well at all, but then, when someone you love dies, you rarely do. I partially dealt with it by downing seven shots of Fireball. Most people would have passed out at some point, but I kept crying. I’m not really sure who put the Fireball away, but someone did.

I drank my way through the next year. I drank during the day while my kids were at school- some days I was barely able to get my kids off the bus. I drank on the weekends.

Looking back, it took a lot more than it did, in the beginning,ng, to get me anywhere near drunk. My hangovers got worse. I would spend the whole day either in bed or wishing I was. My stomach would hurt so badly that I could barely eat until the pain eased.

I didn’t pay attention to this. I drank so much that I scared my friends. One sent me home from her house with a trash bag in case I threw up in my husband’s truck. Don’t worry- he was driving.

The Fun Stops

The end came with lab results from my doctor’s office. I can’t remember the reason for the labs to begin with, but my doctor called.

She knew I had been drinking, but she didn’t know how much. She let me know that my liver enzymes were elevated and that I needed to cut back or stop drinking. My liver could still repair itself at this point, but if I didn’t stop drinking soon, it would not be able to.

I knew exactly what she meant. I’ve worked in the substance abuse field long enough to know where she was going with this conversation.

I thanked her and hung up.

The next night was New Years’ Eve, and I drank one last time with a friend, our husbands and another friend. That was the last time I have drank anything. The next day was January 1, 2017, and I started a sober life.

Last night of fun

My last night of drinking

Living a Sober Life

I can’t say I liked who I was while I was drinking. I may have been funnier than I already was, but I was also obnoxious. I was clumsy as a toddler- I’ve spilled drinks in my purse, almost fallen on sidewalks, and I even fell off a barstool at my own birthday celebration. That was awful, and that story can be found in my guest blog for savvyesposito.

I also affected my kids- Cameron swears he will never drink, and I’m not sure if his siblings will follow his example. They saw me hungover, tired and cranky. They had to see me the morning after I fell off the barstool and that’s not something a kid should see.

I’m a much better mom, wife, and person. I went into therapy in October 2015 and my therapist was thrilled to see me stop drinking.

It’s hard, I won’t lie. I have been stressed. I have had fights with my husband, even though we are working on things. I’ve had bad days with my kids. I’ve had to face life minus a coping skill.

I’ve replaced it with coloring books, meditating, reading The Big Book and a weekly yoga class. I’m doing a lot better with facing my feelings and dealing with them.

I do struggle. I have had issues staying sober. You can read my thoughts on that here

Staying sober is possible. It just requires taking life one day at a time.

Chrissy Teigen article

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?

Why it’s Okay to be the Not So Fun Parent

Where’s the Fun?

Parenting is not fun 100% all the time. Any parent that says this is lying. I love my kids dearly, but there are days in which this parenting thing entirely sucks. Either two or all three kids are fighting (their longtime favorite is the front seat of my car), someone is sick or injured, or if I’m really lucky, both. I even nicknamed the fighting between Julian and Lily “The Petty Olympics” because they constantly go for who can bring up the pettiest thing and get on my nerves the most.

Other days, my house is a magical place in which dinner is done on time and nobody fights. This is great.

Most of the time, I’m home with the three ring circus, as the kids are jokingly called. Even when I worked, much of the after-school childcare has been my arena. I’m permanently on call while the kids are at school if anything goes down (and it has- I’ve picked up each kid at least once). This leads me to be the enforcer. The not-so-fun parent.

Someone’s gotta do it, right?

This is not to say Matthew is not a good dad, because he is. He simply works a schedule that brings him home around 7 PM and it’s been this way for many years. Many dinners have been burnt in the process of the kids not tearing the house apart, having a meltdown, or fighting. Fighting is a common theme at my house.

Mom is a Meanie

If I had a dollar for everytime that Lily told me I am “the meanest mommy ever” I would never have to work again.

She’s 10. She has no idea what’s coming for her in the future.

It used to hurt my feelings that my kids thought I was mean and they didn’t like me…but no longer. I had a chat with my mom, the queen of mean moms. She reminded me that it’s not really my job for these kids to like me but for me to raise them to be decent people.

Good point, Mom.

Now quit buying my kids recorders.

One of our biggest challenges as parents is to do what my mom said- raise our kids to be decent people. They need to learn manners, to fight fairly, talk appropriately, and many other lessons. This may mean not being the fun parent all the time.

Sigh.

I’ve had to let the kids learn to squash their sibling fights on their own (unless things get super bad) because it got draining on all of us. Being the not so fun parent means having to enforce the rules, all the discipline stuff (big bummer), making sure your kids don’t hurt others and teaching them how the world works, especially when they mess up.

I do worry that I’m a bit too hard on the kids. When we’re out in public, I do tend to crack down a lot on their behavior before it even looks bad. One of the last times Julian had to get a haircut, he was so angry he walked out as soon as he was done. He got my evil mom glare as he walked out. I took a deep breath, apologized to the hairdresser and gave her a really nice tip. He was mad that he had to get two inches off the top, not just one.

Matthew tends to be a bit more laid back in general so someone’s got to be be a bit heavier with things. If I wasn’t, I’m pretty sure this house would be a crap show in an hour. This also fits my semi Type A personality. It’s okay to be the enforcer. Kids need structure, rules and guidance. My kids gets that from both Matthew and I. They know that I have basically zero tolerance for certain things but being kids, they will still attempt to push buttons. It’s what kids do.

The biggest payoff, not that I was looking for one, is hearing how well-mannered my kids are when they are with other people. My friend Madonna has five kids. She kept my boys overnight recently and when she brought them back, she told me “Your boys are so good! You should be proud of them. They were so nice and have good manners.”

I thanked her. I guess the not fun mom thing does pay off. She told me her kids are loud and wild no matter where they go, but she and her hubby are working on this. I figured that while my sons are less than mannered sometimes with me, I have taught them something while they have been rolling their eyes and sighing at me.

The lesson here is: your kid might be annoyed at you while you’re teaching them manners and other things but it does pay off.

If you’re the “not so fun” parent, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s okay to be a bit harder on your kids, especially in the age of super disrespectful kids. I’ve seen videos of kids that shocked me- my mom wouldn’t have tolerated any of that for a second. Kids aren’t robots, they do have thoughts and feelings- but it is good to instill things like respect and good behavior in your kids.

Parenting is a tough job- try to make the mental load a little lighter. Try to have a bit of fun in the midst of the seriousness. I certainly do.

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Not Just the 3 of Us

The Summer Vacation Recap

It’s been an interesting summer so far at the Sanders house. Sleep has become Cameron’s favorite activity and Lily can finally see her bedroom floor. Julian turned 12 on July 18. I don’t have any pics from the party because it was probably one of the worst ones we’ve ever had.

Staying Home for the First Time

I’ve never been home full time for a summer with the kids. I’ve always worked. This is a whole new adventure for me. Before school let out in May, I started a list of ideas to keep the kids busy. I knew this wouldn’t be an easy task with three kids who have various interests.

It’s a Big City Out There

Louisville is big, and there’s a bunch of suburbs, and that’s where we are. There’s a lot to do, but it can get expensive.

Enter the Cultural Pass. This is offered through our local library and it’s free, so I snatched three of them. Each kid requires one, and I get in free to each place because I’m Mom. Yay. We went to the Louisville Zoo (minus Cameron, because he had a migraine), the Louisville Water Company, and the Louisville Science Museum. We took a cousin and met Sara there with her husband and daughter, Bella. (She and Lily are besties.)

We also went to Henry’s Ark, a free petting zoo about a half hour from home. We love this place. It’s small so it’s not overwhelming. There’s even a few cats. Once we were here and I was horrified at hearing a peacock make noise. This time the peacock was quiet. There were baby ducks everywhere and everyone loved them.

Lily is the last kid in elementary school. The school has a sensory garden and every summer, families help take care of it. This is the last year that we get to help out and it makes my heart a little sad. There’s lots of water and some weeding involved. It rained a lot during our week, so we only got to the garden a couple of days.

We have also been seeing some free movies during the summer like:

  • “Angry Birds”
  • “The Star”
  • “The Emoji Movie”
  • “Boss Baby”
  • “Despicable Me 3”

We also saw “Uncle Drew” for Julian’s birthday.

What’s Next?

School starts in just over three weeks and that makes my mom heart very happy. In fact, we are going school supply shopping later this week. School starts August 15.

What’s next is our long awaited trip to Daytona Beach, Florida. We leave August 4 and will be there for a week. Is Daytona Beach ready for us?