Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Long Time Ago, When I Was Five

That's how my son started a conversation with me a few weeks ago.  "Mom, do you remember a long time ago when I was five, and we took that vacation to Mississippi?" You mean, last June?  Just a mere 13 months ago?  Yes, I remember it.

I guess when you're young, last summer does seem like a long time ago.

Today, this child who was five a long time ago turned seven.  Funny, but to this mommy, five doesn't seem so long ago.  Neither does four, or three, or two, or one.  It seems like not very long ago at all that I brought that chunky little baby boy into this world.

I've spent the last few days reminiscing about the early years with our Munchkin, and trying to understand how seven years have flown by so very fast.  It's got me misty eyed and shaking my head in amazement.  I think about all we've gone through with this child, and all the joy he has brought us, and I just can't believe seven years are gone already.  Maybe it's because he's my baby, because I know I'll never again live the infant and toddler and preschool years with my own child again.  Maybe it's looking at him and still seeing his baby face in that big boy staring back at me.  Maybe it's the knowing that my little man will continue to grow up and grow older, and will start to smell like a big boy instead of that sweet little baby.  He'll start to avoid kisses and hugs from his mom when his friends are around.  Maybe it's fear that my baby won't be my baby anymore.  But this birthday is hitting me hard.

Munchkin told me last week that I could give away his Thomas stuff.  He said, "Mom, I don't need those tracks anymore, or the buildings either. You can give them to some little kid.  I'm too big for them now."

So I sat in his room yesterday sorting through his toy boxes, putting all the wooden tracks in one pile and all the gray tracks in another.  Finding which pieces go with which building sets, and locating all the blocks for the Thomas Lego set.  In the midst of wondering if I could get a good price for these if I sell them, or if I knew anyone who would love them as much as Munchkin did, I found myself looking at the faces on these trains and crying.

And yes, I felt a little foolish.  I mean, they're just toys!  And yet, these Thomas toys mark the end of an era in his young life.  Thomas dominated his play, his decor, his clothing, and his thinking for many, many years.  I found myself lining up the trains as Munchkin used to do, all the faces looking out and lined up on an imaginary, perfectly straight line, remembering the hours he would spend doing this.  I remembered his evaluation, where they asked us if he had any obsessions, and my husband and I looked at each other and shrugged, "Not really."  The doctor expressed surprise at that, and I said, "Well, he really likes Thomas.  That's all he'll play with or watch on TV."  As she asked us more, she looked at us and said, "That's what we call an obsession."  It was our first clue that something bigger than we had let ourselves imagine might be wrong with our child.

And I continued to remember...Thomas was also the toy we used to teach Munchkin how to play with others.  It was the thing that allowed us to enter his world.  Thomas taught him so much language and vocabulary, and, even though his first conversations were scripted straight from his beloved videos, they were still conversations and paved the way for further language development, which in turn led to better eye contact, which developed relationships with others outside the family.  We all spent countless hours in Munchkin's room, entering his world through a maze of tracks and bridges and tunnels and catastrophes (there were always catastrophes in Thomas!).  As much as Munchkin learned through playing with these toys, we learned even more about his unique mind and creative spirit as we played with him.

So, yeah, his beloved Thomas is also treasured by me.  Is it any wonder the simple act of packing up these toys brought so much emotion to the surface?

Thomas has been replaced by other obsessions, mainly Angry Birds.  And Munchkin has learned how to carry on a conversation with another person.  He's learned to make eye contact, and he is getting better everyday at sharing toys and taking turns with others and following rules and allowing others to dictate the play on occasion.  His new obsessions definitely play a role in this learning, just like Thomas did for so long.  And, as with Thomas, we all take turns playing with his Angry Bird toys.  They now provide that glimpse into his developing brain that Thomas did for us before.  And they allow us to enter his more sophisticated, more "grown-up" world.

But Thomas will forever remind me of the little boy he was a long time ago, when he was five.  As I placed most of the trains aside to give away or sell, I stuck a box of wooden trains and tracks in the closet.  I find myself unable to part with them yet, even if he is ready to let them go.

Happy Birthday, Big Boy.  Your Momma loves you intensely--the precious memories of who you were not that long ago, the absolutely remarkable child you are as you turn seven, and the glimpses we get everyday of the amazing young man you are soon going to be.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Way Down In Crown Point, In Indiana...

You know how, before you had kids, you would think about what it would be like to be a mother?  You know, like how your children would look and act.  How you would play with them and do certain things with them.  How you would NEVER say "that" but ALWAYS do "this."  Perhaps you, like me, thought about those things you loved and hated from your childhood, and imagined how your children would do those things--or not!  You probably remembered those important lessons you learned, and how you learned them, and wished for the same opportunities for your yet-unborn children.

And then, your children came along.  And nothing went quite according to plan.  And then the diagnosis came, and plans went up in smoke.  Or maybe just changed.

I grew up going to church camp every summer.  I loved it!  Loved feeling grown-up staying away from home for a week.  Loved the friends I made every year there.  Loved the worship, the lessons, the campfires, the games, the swimming, the canoes.  Still value so many memories from those days at Camp LRCA.  Loved learning so much about God, and competing with other teams to memorize the most scripture during the week, and opening up to men and women of God who knew so much more than I did about the Bible.

Camp made "church" fun and exciting to a child.  And I always knew that I wanted my kids to go to camp someday too.

So when it turned out that those imaginary children who were born eventually had very real problems, I was sad about a lot of things they might miss out on.  Like camp.

How could I send Squirrel off to spend five nights away from home in a cabin filled with eight girls laughing and giggling through the nights?  She needs her full nine hours of sleep, and struggles so hard to get it even at home!  How could I expect her to deal with the many sensory issues that camp brings with it, like bug bites and sticky, sweaty days and food that isn't prepared like she would want it and overwhelming noise and activities?  Who would she turn to when she needed help dealing with all the stimulation?  Who would understand that she wasn't being defiant, but was overwhelmed?  Who would deal with the inevitable meltdown that would leave her in a puddle of embarrassed tears and shame?

And Munchkin--how could I ever send him away overnight with a bunch of typical kids?  He needs too much one-on-one to deal with the stimulation and the frustrations and the demands of a camp setting.  This may never be possible for him!

It was a hard pill to swallow, especially as other kids went off to camp each summer and I realized fresh every year that my kids might not ever do this.

But this spring, my friend from college contacted me.  She's now the manager of good old Camp LRCA, and wanted to know if I would come out for the week she was Dean.  I got pretty excited as I realized that my children actually fell into the age range for this week of camp, and that it was a short week (3 days), and that they could potentially come with me.  Surely they could handle camp with me right there to support them!  I told my friend I'd be happy to come, as long as a few accommodations could be made for us.  I worried this wouldn't be possible, but she gladly agreed to make whatever accommodations we needed!

So off we went to camp.  Squirrel stayed in a cabin with some of the other girls; Munchkin and I had a cabin of our own.  Squirrel had an amazing time!  She made several friends right away, and loved the whole experience.  She had trouble sleeping the first night, but dropped off from sheer exhaustion the second.  Because I was right there, she was able to come to me for hugs and support when she needed to, while still enjoying the freedom of being on her own for the most part.

And Munchkin did amazingly well.  He needed a lot of breaks from the constant activity.  He needed to sit out of a few activities when the heat or noise level got to him, or his anxieties started to build.  He wore his headphones in the main sessions, and sat off by himself for lesson times, and really bonded with one of the adult leaders who allowed him to use her phone to unwind with games when he needed space and time alone.  His smaller-than-average build and social delays may have worked to his advantage in helping the other children to accept him--they all assumed he was much younger than they were, and put up with some of his more "annoying" behaviors because of his "age."

Both of them felt so proud and grown-up being at camp, and can't wait to go next year.

And I am so proud of them.  Squirrel's Cabin Mom told me how mature and confident she is, and was so impressed with her ability to memorize scripture quickly.  I never really told anyone except the Dean that my kids have special needs, but on the last day of camp one of the other leaders asked me about Munchkin's headphones.  I told her he had Autism and explained how the headphones helped him, and she told me he was so well-behaved all week and such a smart, sweet boy!  Of course, I beamed at that.

I'm looking at some of the other dreams I once had for my imagined children now.  Maybe I've set my sights too low for my real-life blessings.  Are there other dreams I've given up on because of their needs?  There's obviously nothing my kids cannot do if they set their minds to it and are given the support they need!  And I will gladly go to camp with them every year if that's what it takes to help them succeed.  Or do anything else I need to do to help them realize their dreams, as well as those I've dreamed for them.

Oh, and also?  Thanks so very much to my dear friend for giving us this opportunity.  I'm sure you had no idea that simply asking me to help you out would in turn help us in such an amazing way.  Thanks for loving and supporting my kids the way you, and all your leaders that week, did!  We are so very grateful to you!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Oh, Torturous Heat!

My dear sensory boy.  I understand that your body does not respond well to temperature changes.  It's why the shower has to be lukewarm, or you feel like it's burning you.  Or why you stay in the pool until your lips are blue, rather than feel the breeze on your wet skin that torments you.  Or why you have to put dry gloves on the second yours get wet in the snow, because your fingers hurt so bad when they're cold that you cry. Or why you seek out the shade wherever we go in the summer and meltdown if you can't find any.

I understand, because I was a lot like you.  Still am in many ways.  When I was a kid, my family would take these hikes together.  I loved them on cool, breezy days.  My parents loved them on crisp, cold days.  I would follow along, grumbling and upsetting everyone around me, and hating every minute of what was supposed to be special family time.  My family also liked to tunnel into the huge snowdrifts and make forts where we could then have snowball wars.  Or make snowmen together.  And since these things were family-time activities, no one was allowed to opt out of them.  My dad was sure I hated being forced to participate in something with the family.  I really just hated the cold.  But I didn't know how to explain to them why I felt so bad.  I didn't understand why I had such a low tolerance to the cold, when I was bundled just as warmly as anyone else, and they didn't mind it at all!  So I suffered through these times, sometimes near tears because I was so miserable, and not understanding what was wrong with me.

No one understood that the temperature actually caused me pain.  And I didn't know how to tell them that the cold made my eyes burn so bad I wanted to keep them shut.  Or that it felt like my lungs were going to burst with every breath of cold air.  While their toes got cold gradually, mine actually started burning with pain within minutes of being outside.  And once I was cold, I never warmed up for the rest of the day.  I'd actually lay in bed after a day out in the snow and shiver under all my blankets, because my body wouldn't adjust back again.

So, baby, I get it.  I understand why you don't want to go outside and play.  For me it was the cold...for you, it's the heat.  You get overheated so quickly.  You hate feeling sweat on your body.  You hate the brightness of the sun, and don't like the way sunglasses feel.  The glare on the pavement and the sidewalk makes you feel disoriented.  You don't like your clothes to stick to you.  You want to enjoy riding your bike and playing at the park, but you just can't get past the discomfort that overwhelms your mind and blocks out all else.

I really do get it.  And I try to make it more bearable for you.  Lots of cold water to drink and play in.  Cold wraps for your neck.  We've tried hats and sunglasses.  Popsicles.  Sprinklers.  Nothing works...unless you're in a pool.  But baby, we can not spend the whole summer at the pool!

Sweet boy, it's summer.  You need to get out and play.
Your body craves the movement and exercise, and your mind is turning to mush with only electronics to amuse you.
You are restless and bored inside--there is so much to do outside!
You want to do something.
I am trying to clean and work from home, and sometimes I just need some time to myself.  I need you to entertain yourself once in awhile.
Your sister gets lonely.  She wants someone to run around and climb trees and ride bikes with her.
You really need to play outside a little bit!

Yeah, I get it.  But I don't like it.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Typical Versus, Well, Us

We are a very open family when it comes to sharing our experiences with special needs.  We don't hide the fact that our children have autism and sensory processing disorder and anxiety and depression and adhd.  We are very proud of our children, and these things are a part of who they are.  A large portion of my energy is poured into promoting acceptance and understanding of my children, especially when their unique needs cause them to behave in ways that are not acceptable to the world that doesn't know about about these disorders.

So, many a public excursion involves me explaining to someone that Munchkin can't help that he just (touched you/ bumped into you/ melted down in the middle of the aisle/ took your kid's toy/ issued an ear-piercing scream) because he has autism and is overwhelmed by what's going on around him right now.  And sometimes I receive a very understanding smile, or a verbal acknowledgement that it's ok.  But more often than not, the response is less than desirable.
"Are you sure?  He doesn't LOOK like anything's wrong with him!"
"Seems to me he just needs a little DISCIPLINE."
"Maybe you shouldn't bring him here if he can't handle it."
"My nephew has autism and he can't talk.  Your kid can talk fine--he doesn't have autism."
I will be the first to admit that our autism does not always look like anything remotely autistic-like.  Munchkin is a very normal six-year-old boy in many regards.  But he is also an autistic child in many respects too.  Check it out:

Typical Six-Year-Old Behaviors
Munchkin’s Take On These Behaviors
Licking an ice cream cone to see what it tastes like
Licking windows, cars, doors, people, the cat, and the table to see what they taste like.  Oh, and ice cream too.

Spinning until dizzy, then falling down giggling, just for the fun of it
Spinning for long periods of time without getting dizzy, not because he wants to, but because he feels like he has to.

Ignoring Mom’s request to clean up the first time she asks, then doing it when she gets the stern voice
Not hearing Mom’s request to clean up unless she first makes eye contact and gives you warning that you will be cleaning up soon, and then melting down if she doesn’t allow you to finish what you are doing.  And sometimes melting down even if she does.  And definitely melting down if she has to use a stern voice!

Whining about having to do homework before playing video games
Melting down every single night about having to do homework because it interrupts his desired video games, or even the thought of those desired games.

Occasionally putting shoes on the wrong feet
Purposely putting shoes on the wrong feet because they feel better that way

Learning the rules of the English language in order to read and spell
Struggling to read and spell because the rules of the English language don’t make sense to his literal mind that wants to sound everything out

Sleeping 10 hours at night
Sleeping anywhere from 5-9 hours at night, and only with the help of melatonin

Doesn’t know what stress feels like
Chewing his shirt constantly and obsessing over everything that bothers him in the least

Understanding that his friend is mad at him because he took her toy away from her
Not knowing why his friend yelled at him and tried to snatch her toy back after he took it away, because he only understands his own point of view, not that of another

Begrudgingly giving that toy back to his friend because he understands he was wrong
Having a meltdown over being asked to give the toy back to his friend, because it makes no sense to him that he can’t play with it when he wants to

Knowing that if mom says “In a second” when he asks for a drink, that she will get it for him in the near future
Counting “ONE!” after mom says “In a second” because one second has come and gone without her getting him the drink.

Hugging mom, dad, and sister because they’re family
Hugging strangers in the grocery store and the neighbor down the street because he likes to give hugs

Staying close to mom in a public place because he understands that he could get lost if he doesn’t
Wandering off in a public place because something caught his attention and he doesn’t realize mom won’t know where he is

Doing exercises in gym class
Doing exercises with mom every morning, and with an aide throughout the day, so he can focus at school

Following a daily routine because he’s been doing it that way for years
Following a picture schedule for daily routines that he’s been doing for years because he can’t stay on task without it

Tying his shoes
Wearing Velcro shoes still because we are years away from the motor control necessary to tie them

Occasionally using a word wrong, especially if it’s a new word he’s just learned
Using many words wrong, every day, because his brain jumbles them all together and he sometimes pulls a word that sounds close, but means something entirely different—even very common, everyday-use words

Enjoying going to the movies with the family
Avoiding the movies, because it’s too dark and too loud, and because he’ll talk and wiggle all the way through it and no one will be happy by the time it’s over

Petting the cat gently, or at least knowing to let go when it protests
Not realizing how tightly he is holding the cat, or that it can’t breathe, or that its hissing means “let me go!” and then not knowing why the cat scratched him when he was just showing it some love!

Showing love with hugs, kisses, and words
Showing love with super-tight hugs, a ritual of kisses, and, yes, words!

Yes, he's a typical child with some atypical ways about him.  But he's our Munchkin, and he's perfect in our eyes.  And I will never stop educating those around us about autism, because I want the world to see just how perfect he is!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Letter To My Friends

My dear blog-reading friends,

It's been a long time since I've sat down to write.  That's because I've been so busy living life, and frankly, this winter has been a tough one for me.  Between work and health issues, we've been dealing with some new issues with both kiddos as well.  So time to myself has all but disappeared.  But life is slowing down again now, and I have so much I want to say and do and write!

But first things first...April is here again.  It's my favorite month of the year.  It's the month my baby girl was born (joy!).  It's the end of winter (blah) and the start of spring (yay!).  And it's Autism Awareness Month.

In our real, day-to-day life, we don't always feel a lot of support.  That's not to downplay those who do support us--we love and appreciate our parents and siblings, who are amazing with Munchkin and love him and embrace him for the wonderful child he is.  And we have friends who listen and try to understand what's going on with us, and continue to hang out with us, and love our kids.  We love our friends!  And we have a lot of friends that we've never even met, except on Facebook and in online support pages, who completely understand and support us.  We value them immensely.  

But the people we encounter everyday?  The ones who we see at church and at work and in the community?  Even our doctors and Munchkin's team of therapists and teachers at school?  We don't feel support from them much of the time.  And that's been one of my biggest struggles this winter.  That feeling of fighting for your child to be understood and accepted just as he is.  And this winter, we've had a doctor tell us that he doesn't think Munchkin's on the spectrum, that perhaps he was misdiagnosed.  (This, after just one hour with him...really?)  We've had teachers tell us Munchkin's just "playing us," that his "annoying" behaviors are things he could control if we were a little more disciplined with him.  We've had our OT at his school discontinue his services, because he's "just fine" and doesn't need any more help.  (Which has placed us back on the private therapy waiting lists, because, believe me, he still needs help.)  We've struggled to help him find his place in our church, because he doesn't want to be there anymore.  We've struggled to go to restaurants and stores, which we had figured out, but now cause sensory overloads again.  We've had to find different ways of discipline, of motivation, of calming him, because what worked once does not work now.  Parenting is exhausting work for anyone...but parenting a child with special needs is so much more.  More painful, more exhausting, more trying, more failing, more battles, more goals, more steps to reach those goals, more lessons that need to be learned and relearned and relearned... 

So that's why I love Autism Awareness Month.  Yes, I am committed to raising awareness about the early signs of autism, because I believe that the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the child's chances are of overcoming many of their obstacles.  And yes, I am committed to raising money and participating in research about autism, because there is so much mystery surrounding these children and how their brains work.  And yes, absolutely, I am committed to showing the world that our children are so much more than a diagnosis.  They are so much more than their behaviors, and their quirks, and their silences, and their stares.  They are amazing, brilliant, creative, beautiful children who experience the world so very differently than the rest of us.

But mostly, I love it for very selfish reasons.  April makes me feel less alone.  It lets me know that people all over the world are fighting to help their children fit in; to teach their friends and their communities to accept these awesome kids for who they are, not who society says they should be.  It makes me feel valued and appreciated for my hard work every day.  It gives me a purpose, something besides my kids to pour my energy into.  It allows me to make a difference, to share my story, to show the world my amazing child and to celebrate him.  And it brings some of our struggles, some of our pains, and some of our joys into the homes and lives of people who really don't know what life is like for us.   

But most of all, Autism Awareness Month makes me proud to be a part of the autism community.  None of us ever wanted to be members of this group of people, but we are.  And we are warriors!  We are strong, we are brave, we are mighty.  We band together and support one another.  We share a common voice and common goals.  We love our children just as they are.  We support them in a world that wants to change them.  We speak for them when their own words can't express how they feel or think.  We teach them and give them the tools to succeed in this world.  We know that our children are incredible, that everyone of them is valuable.  And we are proud, so very proud, to be the parents of a child with autism.

So check back throughout the month.  I have so much I want to say about Munchkin, about autism. I have this huge desire to show you all just how amazing my little guy is!  I hope you don't mind if I brag on him just a little bit now and then.  Love to all of you,


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Things I Have Said Today

  1. It's not morning yet.  Go back to bed. 
  2. Did you change your underwear?  We change our underwear every morning.
  3. Hands out of your pants.
  4. We don't hurt the cat.
  5. Quiet voice.  No yelling.
  6. Don't lick the window.
  7. Get off the couch like that.
  8. He's making a hurt noise.  Let him go.
  9. Yelling hurts my ears.  Quiet voice.
  10. You're right.  I'm trying to ruin your life.
  11. Do you have to pee?  Then don't grab that.
  12. Stop licking the mirror.
  13. Keep your spit in your mouth.
  14. Did you remember to wipe?  Go fix that.
  15. Stop torturing the cat.
  16. Jump on the trampoline, not my couch.
  17. I know, I am the meanest mom ever.  Now do your homework.
  18. Let go of your sister.  You're choking her.
  19. Stop kicking your brother.
  20. I'm gonna lock you both in your rooms if you don't stop it now.
  21. Don't wipe your nose on me, use a kleenex!
  22. Plates aren't garbage.  Take it out of the garbage please.
  23. Eww!  Did you just lick me?
  24. Get off of her!
  25. Do your homework.  
  26. Clean your room.  No, it's not my room, I won't clean it for you.
  27. I don't care if you like it messy.
  28. Because I said so.
  29. I didn't ask you what you want to do.
  30. Is it bedtime yet?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Black Holes and Gravitational Pulls

The universe is trying to tell me something.  Or, at least the blogger universe is.  I follow a handful of blogs written by fellow autism/ special needs mommies.  Oh, and one written by a daddy.  In the past few days, most of them have had posts relating to one topic.  Call it coincidence.  I think it's bigger than that.  I think it's God telling me I'm not alone.  So I add my own blog post to this common thread circulating around the blogger community, in the hope that someone else, perhaps even you, will read it and know that you're not alone either.

I'm not a big fan of the whole "New Year's Resolution" idea.  I usually skip them--I mean, what's the point in proclaiming something that is only going to result in a guilt-induced overindulgence of that something when you mess up and do (or don't do) that thing you swore you would (or wouldn't) do this year?  Yeah, so I skip the guilt and just don't even resolve to do anything new or different or better in the new year.

But this year, I felt compelled to make a "resolution," if you will.  Not out loud, mind you.  Just in my head.  Well, and to my husband, who looked at me a little funny and reminded me that I don't do resolutions.  But I made one:

This is the year I place my own needs at least as high
 on the triage charts as the needs of the rest of my family.

What does this mean, you ask?  Well, obviously, I want to eat better and get more sleep and try to exercise.  I want to get haircuts when I need them, and buy new makeup and clothes that are actually stylish and fit me right.  I want to replace my threadbare undergarments, because we all know that moms stop buying themselves underwear when they start buying it for their kids.

But I took the biggest and most important step towards the higher-valued me today.  I went to my doctor.  I told her in stumbling, shaky words how everything just feels so big and stressful and out of control right now.  How this veil has been pulled over my days, making everything seem just a little blurry and out of focus, tripping me up as I stumble through the days and nights of autism, anxiety, unemployment, multiple jobs, health concerns, education concerns, IEPs, diets, seizures, and ADHD.  How I am annoyed and angry more often than I am sad, but when the sadness hits, I just want to give in to it and allow myself a total breakdown.  Which makes me more angry.  How I am taking it out on my kids--how I can't stay calm when Munchkin relies on my calmness to keep him from flying off the handle.  How I can't keep Squirrel organized because my own thoughts are a jumbled mess.  How I can't muster the energy to play with them or draw with them or listen to them talk, and how they know I'm not really all there even when I try.  How my husband doesn't know what to say or do, but knows enough to support me when I say I think I'm depressed again.  How I can't fall asleep at night, and when I finally do, I can't stay asleep.  And how I'm SO TIRED during the day.  How I'm not eating much, and what I do eat is not healthy.  How I don't want to leave the house, but the thought of just staying here all day surrounded by this cloud of heaviness makes me even more anxious.  How I think I'm just really stressed, but it's about to cross the line into a serious depression, and I think I need to go back on antidepressants before we get all the way across that line.

I poured all this out, then I took a deep breath and looked up at her hopefully.  And after asking some questions and clarifying a few things, she agreed that I have more than the average amount of "stuff" on my plate and I am certainly a little depressed and a carrying way too much stress.  So I left there with a prescription and a referral to a counselor to talk about how to deal with this stress, since none of it will go away anytime soon.

And tonight I feel a little bit hopeful.  And grateful to all those honest moms and dads out there who are willing to share their stories and expose themselves to help another.  Who aren't afraid to say when they need help, whether it comes in someone to talk to, or a little blue pill, or any other form.  Thank you for being brave enough to write what you're experiencing, and for pushing me to realize where I'm headed before it gets too bad.  

If you've never dealt with depression, you can't understand the way it grabs your mind and takes over.  It taints the way you experience things, the way you understand things, the way you feel things.  At first, it tells you that you're strong enough to deal with anything, that you don't need any help, that you can pull yourself up if you just try harder.  And all the while, it's slowly pulling you into its gravitational field.  And at the center of that field is a big black hole that will destroy you.  

I've dealt with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager.  This isn't new to me, but sometimes I try to be too independent.  Depression is too strong a beast to be fought alone.  You'll get caught in its gravitational pull and start spiraling towards the center of the black hole.  Do you know what happens to stars in outer space when they get too close to a black hole?  They explode.  They go out in a glorious display of color and light, but then they cease to exist.  I've been really close to that black hole before.  Close enough to think about hurting myself, hurting my children.  Close enough to break down sobbing on the side of the interstate, afraid of the demons in my head telling me how much easier it would be if I just made it all stop.  Because that's what Depression does--at first it tells you that you're fine, but after awhile it changes its tune, and starts to tell you how hopeless and futile life is.  Those were some really dark days, when I was staring right into the vortex of that black hole, waiting for it to suck me in and make me explode.  I never, ever want to go back there.  I want to grab all the help I can get until that veil covering my life right now starts to lift and I can cope with all the things life has handed me again.

And if you feel any of these things, please talk to someone.  Your doctor's a good person to start with.  Depression takes many forms.  For some people, it's crying jags and melancholy that won't lift.  For me, it's anger and annoyance with every little thing, interspersed with an utter indifference to life.  It's body aches and headaches (I actually wondered if I was fighting a flu bug for a few days!)  It's insomnia and fatigue.  And don't be ashamed because you aren't actually Supermomma.  No one else is either.  We deal with a lot just  trying to balance spouses and children, doctors and therapists, schools and daycares, concerns for this day and for the ones to come.  Even the super mommas need someone to keep them from spinning out of control sometimes!