Thursday, August 14, 2014

I have battled Depression.

I have battled Anxiety

I have battled Addiction.

I still do.

My demons are my own. I refuse to judge any others. But recently, a great hero of mine, took his own life, after many, many years of battling against a fierce foe. What was he thinking? How could he be so selfish, to take himself away from those who loved him, who needed him, who depended on him...

I don't know his thoughts... I refuse to judge him. But I know mine, and here they are

When you are at your lowest, you feel like a burdain upon those whom love you the most,you are afraid.that they will see that awful part of you that you try so hard to hide, to mask with alcohol, or drugs, or whatever your method of choice might be... You are terrified that they will think they are the cause of your pain. Often the answer is simply, to GO.

I have been there. I have never attempted my own life... Being brought up very religious, I was taught that suicide lands you in HELL. With the devil and the fire and brimstone and all that shit...

But what if you are ALREADY THERE?

Think, please, for a moment. Think about the person in pain. Maybe they Would reach out, but are ashamed... Maybe they want help, but not the stigma?

I was lucky. The night that I decided to take my own life, I came home from a gig, and my daughter was still awake... She took my face in her hands and said, " I'm sad, Mommy." I was at my lowest, but at that moment, she meant 100 times more, and I said, "Why baby girl?"

She said, "because you weren't here. I missed you so much."

I put her to bed. Cuddled with her. Then went to my back yard and cried. And changed my mind. And then decided to get help.

But for some, that is not enough. And how dare anyone judge? There is not a single level of pain worse than that Moment before attempting suicide. I promise you.

I got lucky.




Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dear Mama ahead of me in line...

Dear Mama ahead of me in line last night at the store: 

I get it. 

I saw you, slightly frazzled and exhausted, as you worked out your order at the checkout, keeping that ever watchful third eye on your little boy, with his curly mop of hair and innocent exuberance. I saw HIS energy, and lack of impulse control, flip flopping back and forth, lunging forward to poke me every couple of minutes. And yes, I got it then too.

I noted your exasperation and said nothing, simply smiling at your playful son. When you looked down at the cashier counter and with a sigh, said,"He's Autistic," my heart broke for you. Because I'VE BEEN THERE, and when I looked squarely at you and said, "My son has Autism. I get it," we locked eyes and you said, "Yeah, I thought there was a connection there." You got it, like we ALL do. 

You gave a deep sigh and said, "It's been a... LONG... two... years..." Perhaps I should not speculate ON YOUR THOUGHTS, but having SAID those words before, I'd like to THINK that I got this too... the feeling of guilt for having to admit that you are not always superhuman, that yes, the years have been long; for perhaps being frustrated, or worn down, or unsure, or scared, or uncertain, or - yes- even royally pissed off... if that was indeed YOU at that moment, YES. I get it. 

It's been two years since Ryan's diagnosis, and four years leading up to it. Ryan's first year of life was relatively uneventful. Slightly behind his older brother developmentally, we were unconcerned, until we began to notice more serious issues. Decreased speech to the point of being non-verbal... Constantly seeking out patterns; at two years old, Ryan could literally sit on a computer for FOUR HOURS. He had near photographic memory for numbers. His physical habits, such as the need to run headlong into the sofa as hard as he possibly could, and the constant need for physical contact, came in waves, directly contrasting the moments of utter "drop out," when he could literally walk in front of a speeding car if you didn't have him in a vice grip, because he just "wasn't there" at that time... it was terrifying. 

I remember the difficulty bringing him places, because of my own issues of inferiority as a mother... Concerns that were often reinforced by people's judgmental comments, cruel looks, and having no explanation for it... there was this beautiful, loving, amazing little boy here, that I was in total denial about. Eventually though, denial grew into suspicion, as our parental instincts finally won out. Finally came the guilt, as I realized that my husband and I were in WAY over our heads. The only way that we would do right by our child and get him the proper care and diagnosis he needed was to bring in the experts. And even then,on December 2nd, 2011, as I sat in the Dr.'s office, between my husband Joshua, and Laurel Collins, my son's Educational Advocate and an old dear friend of mine; and gripped each of their hands, I heard the words, "Autism Spectrum Disorder," and dissolved. 

And THAT was DAY ONE, two years and one month ago. 

I've mentioned the extent of coming to terms with things in previous posts, so I won't be redundant here, but the reason I explain my history to you, my unknown friend, right now, is that in the last two years, I have aged ten, easily. I KNOW FULL WELL, the preemptive strike that many moms take so that people won't not judge unfairly. And perhaps this was the millionth time you've had to say it, and you were sick to DEATH of having to say it... STILL, the manner in which he was behaving is his normal, and I had no problem taking a couple of good slugs to the arm. and when I knelt down to his level and said, "hi handsome boy!" and his face lit up, and he hit me again, this time as a high-five, I saw the relief on your face. I felt it, I know that relief, and I got it.

One disclaimer for ALL READING THIS, Special needs or otherwise. Being an "Autism Mom" for a few years now, has made me more tolerant, in public or otherwise, of every type of child, with the exception, oddly enough, of my own... I still have that underlying anxiety that my three kids are going to be beyond my control. So please, if I seem stressed out or frazzled, or impatient or exhausted, or snappy please try to "GET IT," and not judge me a bad parent... And understand, that this is NOT an apology for my kids, or an explanation. It's strictly an explanation of myself. And it's been a long... 5... years...

As for you, Dear Mama ahead of me in line, I recognized in you tonight, something I see in EVERY Autism Mom that I have ever met. While we all might offer the quick explanation that you did, you did it with a matter of fact resolve, and NO SHAME. And when you said "it's all worth it," I got that too. Applaud yourself for that! Our babies are unique, and will face many challenges, some so great it's devastating, but there is not a single Autism Mom that I have EVER met that doesn't not believe that their child is anything but a million beautiful colors of the spectrum. And though the puzzle might be a million pieces, and sometimes frustrate the living hell out of us, we will keep doing everything we can figure it out, to understand the world they see, a world that so many others will never know. We recognize this. Be proud. WE GET IT.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The first and last days...

I am following my friend Kelly's advice and treating every day as my first... but also treating it like my last. 

What would I do today if this were my last day and I knew it? I would not hide my emotions behind pride. I would hug and kiss my children every chance I could get, and memorize every nuance of their faces. I would laugh and smile and remind each of how incredibly blessed I'VE BEEN SINCE THE DAY I BROUGHT THEM INTO THE WORLD. 


I would work out because I would want to feel good. I would tell my husband what a wonderful partner and father, best friend and loveer he has been, and that, despite our ups and downs I would not trace a single day that we've had together. I would paint a picture. I would go outside and breathe in the air. I would tell my parents how lucky I have been to be raised by them. I would eat the goddamn piece of cake, drink the 2-3 glasses of wine, and regret no part of it. 


I would get a Pedicure, a massage, lay in a tanning bed for 10 minutes, and sit in sauna and hot tub. I would do my hair, and put on my make-up and and rent out the most classic hotel room I could find, overlooking the water. I would make love to my husband with a passion that he would never forget, then together, we'd bask in a luxurious bath, in each other's arms. 


I would sing the songs I've written, that I want my kids to have, into my ipad, because who gives a shit what the quality is, as long as they have the memory. I would make video diaries to my kids, family, friends and loved ones, telling them what an enormous impact the have had in my life. I'd sit down to a five star dinner, with a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad, french onion soup, prime rib and pan seared tuna, creme brûlée, champagne and strawberries. I would finally get to try lobster (I am deathly allergic,) and since I am actually NOT dying and don't want to... I won't tempt my CURRENT reality with that one... HA! 


Later I would quietly, alone, NAKED and completely comfortable in my own skin, lay down on the most plush blanket I can find, under a soft bed of grass, surrounded by white twinkle lights. Under the evening moon I would read my favorite two books, Ben Franklin's wit Wisdom and Practical advice, and finish with "to Kill a Mockingbird." I would then gaze up into the midnight sky, listen to the "music" created by the wind through the trees and the song in my heart, thank the creator for my life, and close my eyes.


Obviously, I am NOT dying, but I have decided to live each day as such. A newborn baby sees everything in it's purest form, unjaded and without regret. And infant doesn't care who said what about them and where. An infant knows only RGHT NOW. A person on their last day, I like to believe, forgives and releases all, and in many ways follows the same ideal as the infant child.


I just learned how to use my Ninja processor, and started making my health smoothies. I am starting to write again. I worked out for a half hour today. When my kids get home in 15 minutes, I will say, "fuck the laundry and play the WII system with them. I will rest my head for a spell and them get ready for my gig. I will do what I love, other than writing, which is to sing, and I will get to sing to my children for once, a surprise that they don't know is coming. I will smile. I will breath in, and breath out when my patience wears thin. I will forgive my husband for whatever irked me throughout the day, because in the end, resentment should not be what you take to meet God.


When you go to meet God, you do it alone. No excuses and no regrets. God doesn't want to hear it. He wants to know what you DID with the gift of life you were given.


So I ask you, what will YOU do today?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

365-2180

Looks like a phone number, right? Nope. It's a Mantra. MY NEW MANTRA.

Today is my 39th birthday. I have been waiting for this day anxiously, since deciding to KNOCK OFF the half-hearted attempts to improve myself, only to beat the hell out of myself when I "fail."

Here's the thing. I have a lot of learning to do, more mistakes to learn FROM, and growing to do... On my 40th birthday I WILL be able to look in the mirror, having reached my ultimate goal of a complete 180 degree turn around. The face reflecting back at me is often unhappy, unhealthy, and unappreciative of the amazing gifts that I DO have in life right NOW. I will spend the next 365 days working on the areas of myself that I want to correct, like unhealthy diet and lifestyle, and truly embrace the beauty and joy that already exists. By remembering this mantra as a phone number, I keep my goal in mind, 365-2180. 365 days, to a total 180.

It starts now.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Platform.

Growing more vivid in front of me has been this mental picture:

I envision myself, standing on a diving platform. Below me are the platforms which I have climbed past to reach this one. Way down sits a murky black pool, contaminated by bacteria and algae. I've climbed so many levels that it's hard to see the pool at this point.

Where I stand has grown windy. A storm is brewing and rain is starting to fall. The platform is slippery and I sense a real danger of slipping and falling off THIS platform, possibly landing in the pool that I have fought my entire life to climb out of.

This is Depression. This is what it feels like. You tread water in a dark pool. I DON'T want to go back. I was born with Depression and Anxiety disorders. Where I am, from where I've been is SO much better... But for some reason, I never seem to be able to climb to the NEXT level until I absolutely HAVE TO... That is where I am now.

My choices are to climb, to remain paralyzed where I stand, or worse still, to slip and fall.

I secure myself at the base of the ladder, take in the view around me, build up my physical and mental strength, gain perspective, and ready myself for the climb up the ladder to the NEXT platform... 


I catch glimpses of the platform above me through periodic breaks in the clouds. My favorite flowers spill over the sides, hanging down and swaying back and forth. I can smell the flowers. I  SEE the brightness and feel the warmth of the sun. Yet, halfway up, I freeze. 

Hanging out on the ladder, I start to ponder a few things... I still don't understand what holds me back sometimes. Is it fear that I won't succeed? That I won't be worthy of the next level? That it won't be what I expected? I can't stay HERE, that's for sure. I'm going to need a bathroom soon. ;-)

Recitations of apology, followed by replay of the mistake, is a lesson unlearned. It decreases the value of your sincerity, with with each *ahem* fuck up, and subsequent apology. Over time, faith decreases, and you become the boy who cried wolf, figuratively speaking. 

To be strong, bold and TRULY committed to my evolution, means that I MUST accept responsibility for my mis-steps, by surrendering to the fact that everything around me is completely beyond my control!  But, EVERYTHING within ME, IS COMPLETELY IN my control. Everything I see, touch, taste, smell, hear... IS MINE. NO ONE else has any say in that. MY world, MY reality, MY CONTROL. And it's time to climb this fucking ladder before I pee my pants.

For the last few years, a growing bitterness in myself... like I have no real direction or purpose... especially when someone tells me that I have as much right to love my life as anyone.

The best way to describe it is that I feel like a bit character in everyone else' play. And not the cool supportive "Ben Affleck or Robin Williams' Good Will Hunting" Characters - those guys that offer the out of nowhere profound insight, completely altering Matt Damon's personal outlook on life, so that he takes off for the West Coast in a shit-box, that, let's be honest, PROBABLY won't make it through the Berkshires, but dammit, HE'S GOING ANYWAY, come hell or high water... and hopefully non-shifty mechanics... because seriously, I would have given that freakin car to about Albany...

Seriously, who here thinks there should have been a "Good Will Hunting II," JUST so we could see that P.O.S. Nova rolling into Stanford U on bald tires, ready to tell Matty D to go pound some Pacific coast sand, backfiring the whole way there... Just to find out Skylar just transferred back to Harvard. Show of hands?!

;-)

Ok, still on the ladder...

I'm sorry, Really, I am TRYING to stay on topic. This is just how my mind works. Love me or leave me... that thought just made me hysterically laugh! But ok! Ummm, wait, where was I... BITTERNESS! Bitterness, resentment and cynicism. That's right...

God, I have issues...

But it's time to start climbing again. I'll worry about the expectations when I get there. I REALLY hope there's a bathroom...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Breaking the chain


It's taken me a great many years to accept that I have created and perpetuated a chain of negativity within myself, that has grown so long now that Jacob Marley would be jealous, but have started  breaking down that chain, link by link. It may well be the toughest thing I've ever done and will ever do, but as Lao Tsu said, (paraphrasing) "the journey of a thousand miles begins under one's own feet." REALIZING that so many of the hardships I experience are a direct result of my own negative, defeatist attitude is the first step of a LONG process, but it is an IMPORTANT step, and I am ready to take it.

In order to move forward, the best approach for me has actually been to take a look back, to see myself as I WAS, then visualize the person (the child, the friend, the lover, the MOTHER, the reflection) that I TRULY WANT TO BE. It ALL goes back to my very first post in this blog. I was nowhere near that "Septuagenarian Lady" that I imagined back then, even days ago. Quite contrarily, I had pulled so far away from that ideal, that I couldn't fathom what I could possibly do to get back on the right track. What do you do to heal wounds that you yourself keep opening? This mental mutilation is going to take a LOT more work to heal that simply recognizing my flaws and keeping myself in check...

I have caught myself in the act of self-sabotage, so many times. But rather than ceasing my actions mid stream, it's almost as if I think, "Well, screw it. I've gone THIS far... Might as well fuck it up RIGHT!" Catching yourself in the act, can only take you so far. You have to SEE EVERYTHING you are, the cancer, the negativity, the loathing and doubt, in order to completely reverse direction. But you also have to SEE the beauty in yourself and FIND your healing qualities, and regain your center. I HAVE TO recognize that I AM GOOD, and that it is OK TO BE GOOD, in order to recognize that BETTER is possible. I am trying to see what others see. ALL OF IT. GOOD AND BAD. 

What I gained from that part of the process is insight. I can see the GOAL LINE, and how to get there, which are to CORRECT imbalances, QUIET superego, HEAL wounds, LEARN SELF-recognizance, ALTER victimizing patterns and PROCEED on a new path. 

Hostility inflicts pain. Negativity infects. I do not intentionally inflict OR infect, but being very REAL here, a piss-poor attitude, born out of some warped sense of entitlement, and resent, manifested through ugly words and surly demeanor DOES just that, to everyone around you, and by extension everyone around them, and beyond! I have recently heard my OWN words, come from my own babies mouths. Words like, "I can't!" or "I give up!" have been said by both boys. In those moments I want to take them up in my arms and beg them, DON'T copy me!! 

Last week was THE breaking point -  I witnessed my 2 year old daughter, drop her sippy cup, roll her eyes to the heavens, stomp her foot, and yell out, "REALLY?!" 

Oh HELL no! 

And SO, long story short... ;-) I made a very conscious decision, that it was time to eradicate the OLD me, give myself a much needed bitch-slap, and realize, FIRST OFF, that THIS IS, ALL ABOUT ME. My actions and reactions affect MY outlook. Time to change my ATTITUDE to GRATITUDE (it's ok to groan at that last sentence... even my husband did! But if Muhammed Ali said it you KNOW it woulda sounded badass! But I digress...) Instead of focusing on the have nots, cant's and "why me" bullshit, I am simplifying, and simply saying "thank you, for what I HAVE and what I CAN DO." And answer my own question with, "why NOT me! If not ME, than who ELSE?!" No one can "fix" you, no matter how much medication you go on, or how many Therapists you see in your lifetime, until YOU are ready to INVEST in yourself.  I wasn't ready to make THAT investment, until now. my children deserve the best that I am, and NOTHING less

I want my loves to know I loved them, and I CAN BE HAPPY, and not the shell of a person the see so often.

That's the path that I am currently on.

Friday, December 21, 2012

WEIRDNESS and CONSENT

A few days ago, My six year old son came to me and told me that several kids in his class said that he was "bossy and weird," that they didn't like him, didn't want to be his friends and that he should not try to play with them anymore.

My first thought was, "WHAT THE ****?! He's SIX!!" The 2nd was, "Why? Aiden is a handsome, smart, vibrant little boy who only ever wants to make friends!" The third was, "What the HELL do I do about this to make him feel better? Do I call the school?! Do I get involved? Do I stay out of it? Do I trust HIM to handle it?! WHAT DO I DO?!"

I had no idea that this ridiculousness started so early in life. I should have, as I experienced bullying early in life myself, and knowing my son to be much like his Mom, he CAN be a bit bossy, hyper, and maybe a bit... eccentric. It's a magnet for bullies. I prayed the uncomfortable rite of passage would PASS him by... Sadly, that is not the case here.

I have already faced some intolerance with my younger son. Ryan has been targeted by children AND adults for his behavior related to Autism Spectrum Disorder. He's been bullied before, and until recently was blissfully unaware, or unfazed by it. People do not understand that "high-functioning" Autism, is STILL Autism. Often, people simply see a bratty, unruly, disrespectful kid, instead of what is truly going on, and as loving and gentle a soul as he is, his behavior CAN BE confusing at times. Sometimes, in playgroups, etc, the children will laugh at him; the PARENTS, will shoot me concerned looks, and steer their children away... and it HURTS him! He doesn't understand why they "Can't" play with him! And it KILLS ME. However, I've had some time to mentally prepare myself, to steel my resolve that he will NEVER be made to feel bad about who he is, by any person, INCLUDING the one looking back at him in the mirror. SO FAR, I've been able to say to him, "You've done NOTHING wrong. They just don't get how awesome you are. They are missing out on you. You're not missing out on ANYTHING," and until now that has worked for him.

Hearing that Aiden was being bullied left me completely FLOORED. I never saw it coming and was stumped as to how to handle it. Aiden is extremely sensitive, a huge people pleaser and wants to be EVERYBODY'S best friend. He got that from me. However, He got a wonderful gift from his father, the Pragmatist... the gift of common sense.

It became clear, suddenly, how to handle the situation. The conversation continued like this:

Mom: (looking my son square in in eye) "Well Bubba? Are they right?"
A: "What?"
M: "They said you're weird. Are you weird?"
A: "I don't know. No. No, I'm not weird. What's 'weird' mean?"
M: It means, different from everyone else. Special. INTERESTING, Funky and cool."
A: "So, it's GOOD?"
M: "I think so, but that's just me. You have to decide that for yourself Buddy."
A: "Why would they call me that, if they don't want to be my friend?"
M: "Because they don't get it. They don't get you. You're too cool for them."
A: "Ooooh..."
M: "So, let me ask you again, Are you weird?"
A: "Yup!"
M: "And what do you think you should say if someone calls you weird?"
A: "Thank you?"
M: "Exactly."

We went on to discuss the BIG difference between being a leader, and being "bossy." Barking orders and not playing by the rules is being "bossy," is NOT ok, and if WAS acting that way, "knock it off." By contrast, a true leader is compassionate and adaptable. Leaders do not NEED to be followed, but WILL lead, as required. We gave Aiden examples of his own leadership qualities, like doing chores without being asked, helping Ryan with his reading or playing with Kay busy so that Mommy can make dinner. It is a wonderful quality that we are proud to see in him, every day.

Then came the hard part of the discussion... BULLIES. All people need to feel important, but that shutting another person out of a group, belittling or intimidating others to make oneself feel in control, important or special is VERY WRONG. No one should EVER feel pressured to act out of character. We told our son that if someone tries to shut him out, just say, "Ok, great. Whatever makes you happy," and move on. As long as he understands that there is nothing wrong with him, and knows and likes himself, he stays in control of who himself and his own life. In a nutshell, My husband and I told him the "Abridged" philosophy of Eleanor Roosevelt:

The story goes that Madame Roosevelt was questioned during a White House press conference about the "snub" of the Secretary of Labor at a recent event. Her response, according to the 1935 (AP) article was in classic Eleanor Roosevelt fashion:

“A snub” defined the first lady, “is the effort of a person who feels superior to make someone else feel inferior. To do so, he has to find someone who can be made to feel inferior.” She made clear she didn’t think the labor secretary fell within the category of the “snubable.” (1)

In terms that he would understand, we told him to remember that, "only YOU can decide who you are in your life. NO ONE gets that right but you. If someone doesn't want to play with you, that's ok. If they say, "I don't like you," reply with, "Congratulations," and walk away. If they keep bothering you, tell the teacher. If they don't stop, tell US. But always remember, the problem is THEIRS - NOT YOURS." I guess it DOES go back to that basic philosophy, whether you are five years old, six, 20 or 38. No one can MAKE you feel inferior without YOUR consent.

My son went to school the next day with his head held high (albeit 15 minutes late... not unusual) but self-assured. As he entered the building I said, as I do every day, "I love you! I'm very proud of you!" He smiled and said, "I know. I love you, Mom."

That is the best I can hope for; that he truly DOES believe in himself. For the time being, it's what I have to believe, and hope I'm ready for the next time...

Danielle Burnett


(1) Source: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/04/30/no-one-inferior/ (1935 March 26, News And Courier, Heart Balm Suit Ban Given Support By Mrs. Roosevelt, Page 7, Charleston, South Carolina. Google News Archive)