Find Out What Jen Finds

My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …
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about Healing: When the Momma’s happy, everyone is happy

  • June 2, 2011 6:38 pm

It’s been over a year since my last post. I can choose to feel guilty or celebrate the closing of an era.

I’ve been spending the last year physically and mentally healing. I stripped my slate down to literally the bare necessities. I labeled it “The Year of Non-Commitment” and I followed through with it. It sounds boring but it has been one of the busiest and hardest and best years of my life. My plate stayed full despite my pruning. Migraines and backaches controlled my days. Relationships were strained. And “stuff” kept oozing from the tiniest of crevices. I can’t even imagine how insane I would been had I not already eliminated my duties towards my career, the ASDa board, volunteering, and of course, my blog.

My journey of healing included: weaning myself off prescriptions and over-the-counter meds, detoxing my body and overhauling my diet, participating in a small group study, putting a finishline on a 9-year grief cycle, and investing my new found energy into a self-study and an anger management course, which has in turn freed up a lot of energy for me to do other stuff…fun stuff…like a vacation…without kids…or husbands.

So far in my journey,  I’ve been “small group hopping” for 1.5 years. The length of time it has taken me to heal is probably indicative of my inconsistency of attending my groups. But the time I have spent in my groups has been invaluable. First, in teaching me a new appreciation of independently reading the Bible, I’ve been able to reconcile a lot of concepts and doubts and confusion I held in my mind regarding my personal spirituality. Second, in being among friendly people, the social butterfly in me was finally able to emerge from her cocoon. Third, perspective, perspective, perspective. Ever hear the one about If we all put our issues in a big pile and then got to choose an issue from that pile, we all would pick up our own issues? My issues aren’t necessarily better or worse than the next person’s but they are mine – all mine. And while I might covet another parent’s ability to sign their child up for a team sport, I certainly do not covet the responsibilities both time-wise and financially they incur because of that freedom. And fourth, in allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, I not only receive the prayerful support I desperately need from friends, but also can provide that same prayerful support to them as well.

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

Now then… I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the scope of my mourning. But I had grossly overlooked the most obvious situation that was overdue for bereavement. Through a family tragedy, I was able to discover I was stuck in the very early denial stage of grieving my miscarriage – The Eldest, I might call him. No one knew about the pregnancy. No one. Not even that we were even trying to start a family finally after 7 years of marital bliss. After the loss, no one still was aware of the existence. The Hub and I mourned in silence with a “Why bother?” attitude. We rescued The Skipper Dog to cheer us up (and boy did he!). Six months later I was pregnant with The Elder.  In my head, I thought that I had completed that grief cycle, accepting that God’s timing is impeccable and resolving that if the pregnancy had gone to term, The Elder would not have been born when he was, and his birthday has played a MAJOR role in many of the divine blessings we have received in early intervention.  But in actuality what I had done was deny the little being my love.  Alongside a dear loved one, I was able to feel her pain so strongly because I realized it was my pain, too. Her graceful and raw way she openly grieved was a window into my subconscious.  I’m so proud of her and grateful at how well she is handling her experience. She helped me give The Eldest an identity, ask for forgiveness, and to say good-bye. I can’t thank her enough.

Above all, I’m most proud of my physical healing. I think without it, my mental (nor spiritual) healing could have been resurrected (no pun intended). I contemplate everything I put in my mouth (except for the occasional foot). I’ve successfully weaned myself off all medications. I’ve been independent for 2.5 months! Not even an allergy pill! I use food for medicine or fast for a day when I need it, but mostly try to just stay healthy so I don’t need medicine to begin with. My dietary changes have not only improved my health, but also my budget. First because I conducted a short-term fast (7 days). Water is butt cheap. When I broke the fast, my body decided what I could or could not eat. (Sadly, I still must live a gluten-free lifestyle, which does offset budgetary gains of the new diet.) I have eliminated red meat and pork and only eat fowl in moderation (kids’ leftovers usually). Second, I eat mostly fruits and vegetables. Super cheap – even organic is cheap in comparison to my former diet. I don’t do well with processed corn, like in tortilla chips, but have no trouble with popcorn or kernel corn. There’s something else I can’t handle but I haven’t pinpointed what it is.  (I keep eating dairy (my indulgence) and I’m in denial that it affects me negatively in any way shape or form. How could something so yummy be harmful?) Third, I discovered I have an affinity for gardening. Unfortunately I’m a terrible gardener. My green thumb is the novice shade of green. I’m sure it has a lot to do with my attention span and tactile defensiveness rather than ability. But to compromise between love and talent, I’ve started sprouting. I’m pretty darn good at it. And I can eat alfalfa all the live long day. I also grow my own wheatgrass – chock full of antioxidants, my medicine. Much cheaper than the 90-day prescription deals. And fourth, I realized that I really do like to cook. Cooking is so much less expensive than eating out or pre-packaged foods. I can guarantee it will be gluten-free, and with the proper systems now in place, it hasn’t taken up all my time like I imagined it would. After all of these years of letting The Hub hang his flag in the kitchen, I claimed my ground and surprisingly have pleased all members of the family (even visiting relatives). I totally recognize that my attention span would not be in favor for a catering job, but something about cooking for my family makes me feel whole.

Now that the fog has lifted, I’m so much happier and so is my family (I hope so at least).  I lost a ghastly amount of weight during the 7-day fast, but have just about recovered completely to my original weight MINUS all the swelling and most of the cysts/fibroids that were forming in my body. That means less headaches, less trips to the chiropractor, better circulation, clearer thinking and more energy. Even when I looked my campiest, I was feeling dramatically better than I had in at least 3 years.

[lightbulb moment:] THIS is why I blog. In the process of summarizing the stuff in my head to avoid rambling on and on and boring the reader to death, a theme just emerges from the pages. (I wish I could brag of writer’s foresight and mad executive function skillz, but alas, I cannot.)  When I type on the fly about just the basic facts (plus a commentary or two as I always have parallel thoughts going on. Squirrel!), I’m able to see myself so much better.  Awareness is enlightening and frightening at the same time. So this is the lesson I’ve been taught today via this post: It’s been said that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. I’d like to add a twist to that - if you’re not loving, you’re dying.  Personal growth is the result of learning to love where I was not willing to love before.

“Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? … If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he’ll eat you last. (October 27, 1964)”

~ Ronald Reagan

I’ve still got a long row to hoe before I can harvest the title “Healed,” but it is so nice to take a big crop of perspective and be able to enjoy the journey – living and loving life today, weeds and all.

about Mourning: The Grief Cycle

  • January 22, 2010 1:10 pm

In the last 3 weeks, I’ve had 2 friends pass away tragically. In one case, my friend is actually the widow, and in the other, my friend and I were once in a small group together. Both are very dear to me. Not because we were best buddies and told each other our deepest secrets. Not even that we went out for brunches or coffee. No regular text messages or emails were ever sent between us. I love them because during the time we spent together, they both made an impression on me of love, positivity, humor, and beauty. Not just in general, but like it was for me.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou

That imprint on my heart they made is why I find myself mourning so much, especially for their families. Out of respect for their families, this article is not about them, but about the lesson I found about dealing with grief.

Grief stinks.

“Grief is a journey, often perilous and without clear direction. The experience of grieving cannot be ordered or categorized, hurried or controlled, pushed aside or ignored indefinitely. It is inevitable as breathing, as change, as love. It may be postponed, but it will not be denied.” Fumia, Molly. (2003) Safe Passages.

I’ve been fortunate to still have my immediate family here on Earth. Yes, I’ve had family members and like-family members pass away. I can remember the heartache at the time that it happened. But now my memories of them are of joy and happiness I shared with them while they were alive. I have completed my grieving process and enough time has passed that it no longer negatively affects the quality of my life.

Last night, immediately after the memorial service I became extremely overwhelmed.  Not only for the obvious reasons, but I had been “relocated” back in time to a place in my life where “normal” was nowhere close to what my new normal has become since then. I was in a building and surrounded by people and memories of that past life that, comparatively, was much simpler, more flexible, more prosperous, and made me more available to be of service to others. I was reminded of the personal struggle of being on the fence of deciding to leave a life I wanted to keep but couldn’t have my cake and eat it too.

It was at the end of the service when the “losses” that I have had to face since then all came rushing back to me. Right there. In the most inappropriate place to be thinking about yourself.

**It is important to note that this is NOT location-specific or person-specific, but refers to a specific time in my life when I was dealing with these emotions. No hate mail please. lol

I found myself feeling like a stranger, an outsider watching people mourn and comforting each other. I didn’t know what to do. It was like I didn’t belong. **
Like I didn’t deserve to be there, to be among the hurting, to be hurting.

I became dizzy with feelings I have already once mourned – the rejection, the isolation, the loss of friendships, the loss of trust, the judgment of being a bad parent despite the constant effort I put into it, the judgment that my child has special needs despite his high IQ, that my child is not accepted, that his sibling is not accepted, no birthday party invitations, no one coming to birthday parties, the loss of social engagements and adult interactions, the loss of freedom, the lack of support, the lack of help, the lack of time/money to hire enough help,  the ten-fold increase of responsibility, the finality that it really is all up to me and accepting that this is not going to go away, the loss of simplicity, the fact that “Catch 22″ is the way of life, that even the best of friends don’t know how to help so they don’t, that even the best of friends think they know how to help so they do- but they don’t, the loss of confidence, self-esteem, and ultimately mourning the feeling that I had to hide all of these emotions and fears because of the feeling that no one would understand, no one would care, no one should have to endure my drama, and I didn’t want to be pitied.

Why was this happening right now? I’ve been through this already. I’ve forgiven myself, I’ve forgiven people. And fortunately, I have a failing memory so I’m pretty good at the forgetting part too. I know it had to be evident on my face, but I also knew that I was the only one focused on me.

I felt horrible.

I felt insensitive.

I felt guilty.

So I left. I left, again.

The original model of the stages of grief have been expanded in this article I found.

I, like many others with children/spouse on the autism spectrum, know this process of mourning, especially the first 5 stages, oh-too-well. It often presents itself as a CYCLE. Not necessarily because of an avoidance of accepting the deck of cards I got or of developing realistic expectations (though sometimes it is!), but because sometimes new things present themselves – things I maybe didn’t know that I was unrealistic, or things where I wasn’t quite realistic enough – that can blindside me and send me all the way back to square Shock. Other times, it might be a former issue that I thought was long gone that rears it’s ugly head again, or a y response that I could go to the bank on getting every single time I presented an x stimulus goes haywire, leaving me looking and feeling like an idiot or liar or both. (Although admittedly, sometimes that unpredictable ‘if x, then y’ outcome is favorable and provokes a different kind of shock!) Because of the constant unpredictability of extreme behaviors and the lack of communication skills, this cycle gets set off daily, and often. A meltdown doesn’t even have to ensue. But the constant effort of preventing a meltdown, or the constant reminder to stop taking literal comments personally, fuels the roller coaster’s engine.  I feel like a mouse in its wheel running so hard, but getting nowhere. I dismount, just to remount on the same wheel in the same place and run again.

At the peak of “This Stinks” mode, I hear the voice of our family counselor repeating in my ear “this is the life you’re signed up for and you can’t get stuck here. You have 2 kids that are depending on you. It’s time to move forward.” Cheap shot for motivating me…but sometimes perspective is all I need and I’ve heard her say it enough that I don’t have to call her to hear it anymore (though sometimes I forget and I still call her and then she says it again and I’m like, shoot, I knew that already! Never mind, carry on, have a nice day). Over time, this grief cycle may not necessarily approach zero, but I can see the circle shrinking, stages being skipped, and soon I’ll learn to zip around the bend quicker with each new shock that comes along.  I’ve already mastered with the whole peeing on the floor thing…once I learn it has happened, I can go from Zero to Acceptance in less than 30 seconds! There’s no shock or denial, anger and bargaining is more from the owners or cleaners of the floor, depression looks more like embarrassment for whomever had to witness it.

As I sat in the parking lot after a good weep and a prayer, I took a moment to acknowledge and thank my friend in Heaven. Then I collected myself and made another list of what I’ve gained and have been able to overcome, parenting skills I’ve developed, learning to appreciate the smallest of milestones, massive spiritual growth, appreciating and loving people – all people – the way God loves me, the gift of amazing teachers and therapists leading to marked improvements in The Elder’s development, and all the many blessings I have received  on this side of the fence where who cares if the grass isn’t greener….I’ve got the whole spectrum!


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