Navigating life with a teenager….who happens to have bipolar disorder

Archive for May, 2014

One is the Loneliest Number (A Love Story)

Since I have been writing, I have chronicled the journey my son and I have taken for the past 14 years.  What I haven’t spoken much about was the fact that 5 years ago somebody showed interest in joining that journey….and 4 years ago, he officially did.

Following my divorce, I was very cautious about people who I brought into my son’s life. Not only for my son, but for the men involved as well.  When you have a special needs child, it can be overwhelming for people to handle. Dating is hard, dating as a single parent is harder and dating as a single parent with a special needs child is near impossible. I dated a handful of men over the course of the next 8 years, but my son only spent time with a couple that I thought had staying power.  

About 6 or 7 years ago, a co-worker of mine met a man on-line and they had a wonderful romance that resulted in marriage and a baby.  Following this, she and some other girlfriends tried to convince me to try on-line dating.  I was wary…….it took them months to get me to create a profile. So I tried this on-line thing.  I met a couple of nice people…..and some really horrible ones.  After about a year, I told myself it wasn’t worth it and it was time to shut down my profile.  The day I logged in to shut it down, a message had popped up, a message from Michael.

He was way outside the distance radius I had given myself, but he had family in the next town over and was willing to travel.  We got to know each other via email, facebook and phone calls for about a month before we met.  He drove the 3 hours between our homes in NY for our first date.  He tells me that he knew he loved me before we met….but I was still being cautious.  Towards the end of our first official date, we sat on a swinging bench at the park over looking the river.  He put his arm around me and my head rested on his shoulder. In that moment something just clicked inside and I knew this would be forever.

We still waited about another month and a half before we met each others boys.  He was calm and patient with CJ. He took the time to understand him and the challenges I had faced in raising him. Once they met, everything seemed to fall into place. We usually spent time together every other weekend. When we weren’t together we usually spent the evening, after our boys were in bed, on the phone.

I used to be an extreme romantic, but over the years that side of me had faded.  Michael brought the romance back to my life.  He wrote me poems, played me music, sang to me.  Leading up to Christmas that year, we were out exploring some shops and came across these really neat Santa Fairies.  I am a Christmas junkie (last year I had 3 trees) and I love fairies…..so it was like the best of both worlds.  Since we were there to shop for others, I didn’t buy something for myself….but I am sure that I talked about it the whole way home.  The next week, Michael started sending me pieces of a poem called ‘The Santa Fairy’.

Gently and gingerly the Santa Fairy goes
Over veils of wispy flurries abiding everywhere.
Daintily and delicately his sparkle he bestows 
With respect to worthy couples love wishes to declare.

Arrival of the Christmas Day heralds end to winter’s power.
The Lover endeared to his Beloved melts icy bonds away.
Spritely sparkles hand to hand embracing brightly shower
Kindling all the brilliant radiance her joy might betray.

Gently and gingerly the Santa Fairy goes
Over beds of blooming flowers abiding everywhere.
Daintily and delicately his sparkle he bestows 
With respect to worthy couples love wishes to declare.

 

On Christmas day, CJ and I traveled to Michael’s to celebrate the holiday with him, his boys and his mom.  While opening gifts, Michael handed me a box.  Inside was my Santa Fairy, holding an engagement ring and the rest of the poem.

The prince awaits before assembly to receive his bride.
This day stands high above all others hoped for through the years.
The princess strides boldly merrily: beauty personified.
Forever vows exchanged with glory and celebration tears.

Gently and gingerly the Santa Fairy goes
Over twinkling candle lights abiding everywhere.
Daintily and delicately his sparkle he bestows 
With respect to worthy couples love wishes to declare.

Since that day, my life has changed so drastically.  I am no longer a single parent raising my special needs child.  Over the years, I have had help and support from family and friends, but nothing compares to having a true partner to share in the laughter and the tears. He holds my hand and supports me through all of the tough decisions that I have had to make regarding CJ and his illness. He tells me all the time that I am amazing and that gives me strength when I think I have no more.

So today, on our anniversary, I wanted to take the time to thank the man who is taking this journey with me.  With him I am a better person and a better mother.

People Don’t Change

I haven’t written in a while.  It will probably be a while more before I really start writing regularly again.  We are in the midst of a challenge right now and until the outcome is upon us, it is not something I choose to write about.  Since my head is really elsewhere, you probably won’t get much of interest from me other than a few rants here or there.  I apologize for that in advance.

Here is today’s little rant.

I read something in a comment on another blog saying ‘people don’t change’.  Why do we say that? Other people will tell you they left a relationship because they ‘grew apart’ or ‘he/she wasn’t the person I married’.  Friendships begin or end because life changes or because circumstances change or, well….because we change.

We change due to age, we change due to education, we change due to life experiences.

Ask any parent of a special needs child and they will tell you that they have changed. Selfish people can become selfless, irresponsible people can become attentive, ignorant people can become aware, weak people can become strong.

I don’t think it’s about people’s lack of ability to change; it’s about being open to change and the willingness to accept the changes we make.

Get A Life

Over the past few years I have had many people tell me that I need to find something ‘for myself’.  Friends, family members, my doctors, my son’s doctors, so many people say ‘just do something YOU enjoy to do’.  My whole life revolves around my son, CJ, and his illness.  I am constantly telling him that he is not the center of the universe…..but truthfully, he is the center of mine.

Who Needs Therapy

Honestly……. I do.  I have attempted to see a therapist for myself, to deal with my stress.  I have found that therapists don’t quite understand that I actually have more stressors in my life than just my son’s mental health.  It seems that when I tried to talk out my feelings the doctor always brought it back to my son.  Yes, CJ is the center of my world, but seriously, if he is taken out of the equation I have so many other things I need help with.  Her advice to me, ‘Find something you enjoy to do….just for yourself.”.

Hit the Gym

In an effort to work out these stressors on my own, I got a membership to a local gym in February. My thought was that even if I don’t work out all the time, I have access to unlimited hydro-massage.  If I am having a bad day, I can just drive up the road and get a quick massage, right?  Wrong, I have been there once.  I went to schedule an appointment with a trainer, which I then had to cancel the next morning because CJ had a manic episode.  I have yet to go back. He has anxiety attacks when he is home alone and gives me a really difficult time about going with me.

Missed Opportunities

When I was in high school and into my early 20’s, I marched color guard and winter guard.  First I competed and then I taught at the high school level. Last fall, in an effort to find something ‘for myself’ I offered the local cadet level guard some of my time. I walked into it thinking that I could be an extra set of parent eyes at the competitions.  As it turned out, their instructor was leaving and they needed someone to take over.  I really did consider it seriously, but it just so happened that CJ had a really bad week and I realized that there was no way possible for me to be at practice 3 days a week and competitions most weekends.  It bothered me to know I couldn’t choose something that would make me very happy.

Seized Opportunities

When I realized I couldn’t be out of the house on a regular basis, I tried to find something I could do ‘for me’ while I was at home.  The answer came in an email from CJ’s chorus teacher.  She was looking for volunteers to help with the spring musical. I signed up for the costume committee.  I thought it would be perfect, I could go to some meetings, but do most of the work at home.  For the most part, I was right and it has been a good experience, so far.  This coming week is dress rehearsal and show week.  The costume committee also does hair and make-up.  We’ll see if I still think it was a good idea by the end of the week.

Another thing I enjoy doing is party planning.  A friend’s daughter was turning 16 and I offered up my house and services to help plan and cook for her party.  The morning of, CJ had a meltdown at the thought of other kids invading ‘his space’, even though we had discussed this at length in the months before.  I told him he could spend the party in his room if he would like.  He ended up participating and had a great time.  The party went well and the birthday girl seemed to enjoy herself.  By the end of the night I was a mess, exhausted and requiring a long hot bath.

What I did wrong was that I was so excited to do these things I love ‘for myself’ that I didn’t take the time to look at the calendar to realize that the party was happening on the same week that the 5 costumes I was making had to be ready for fittings……..and during testing week for my son.

These past 2 weeks, while everything seemed to be happening at once, I was spending more and more time in my office/craft room.  When I wasn’t working for my actual job, I was sewing costumes or working on something for the party.  During this time, CJ’s episodes got worse.  The more time I didn’t spend in the CJ universe, the darker his moods were, his temper got more violent and the more stressed he got…….which means the more stressed I got.

 

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If people are in romantic relationships with an all-consuming partner, we say they are abusive. We tell people it’s not healthy and you should remove yourself from the relationship.  We say that everyone should be able to have interests and a life of their own. What do you do when that relationship is with your special needs child?  You can’t walk away, you want nothing more than to care for them and make them better…..but they are not going to get better.  When do you get to have a life of your own?

Everyone tells me to find something ‘for myself’, but what if finding that something causes me more problems than it is worth? It doesn’t make my life easier or more fulfilled. It makes me not want to do things I love because I can’t truly enjoy doing them fully. Do I have to wait until my son is grown and out of the house before I can commit myself to things, to have interests of my own? What if he isn’t able to live on his own?  Where is the balance? How do you find it? How do you get a life when your life is so wrapped up in someone else?