Hi my name is …

March 18th marks my 31st year on this Earth. March 18th marks 31 years that I was lost and confused about myself and my life. There were so many unanswered questions, so many misrepresentations of who I was and am. 

Well, almost 31 years that is. March 18th now marks the First year that I have answers and understanding to why things are the way they are. 

What am I talking about you ask? It’s simple really, yet complicated. 

All through my life I felt I didn’t belong or fit in. I mean I could morph myself into a certain group or find ways to blend in and hide in the shadows. But really it was exhausting, and at some point I just gave up on it. When I was 17 years old I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, social anxiety, and a few other disorders. They gave me a bunch of medications and I basically walked around like a zombi for the next 8 years. I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like I was a shell of myself, who ever that was. 

I came off all the meds with the exception of my mood stabilizer for my bipolar disorder as it was the only one that seemed to help. I still couldn’t do social situations, I literally just shut down and couldn’t function. I hadn’t been able to hold a job, I had no friends, my relationships were unsuccessful and needy at best. 

In 2008 my lil man was born. In 2010 he was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, part of the autism spectrum. It was at that time things started making sense to me. After following the words of two other Autism Mamas, Erin (Mutha Lovin’ Autism) and Karen (More than just a diagnosis – our journey), I took my suspicions to my doctor. After that appointment I walked out of his office with a better understanding of myself.

Hi, my name is Erin and I’m an aspie. But I am also a mom, a friend, and a teacher. The diagnosis didn’t change me or really anything else other than explain why the medications didn’t work and why things have always been the way they are. The truth is I am just me and a diagnosis didn’t change that. 

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My reality

If you close your eyes are you at peace? 

When you close your eyes what do you hear?

I close my eyes and hear everything ten times louder, things are clear. 

I hear the hum of the filter on the fish tank. 

I hear the dripping sound of the water in the fish tank. 

There is a squeal coming from the bathroom as someone flushes the toilet. 

I open my eyes and see the blinding light from the ceiling fan in the room

I am lost to the images cast off by shadows of the blades rotating above my head. 

I am lost to the stinging sensation that the light brings to me. 

 

When you open your eyes what do you see? 

Does the light sting your eyes? 

Do the shadows distract you or hold your attention to the point that everything else is blocked out?

What is your visual and auditory reality? 

This is my world, would you like to come in? Would you like to join me here?

 

Changes

I am optimistic, I believe in the greater good and I truly believe that each of us can change the world one small voice at time.

Why are you trying to teach them social skills, you know you can’t change the world right?

Seriously though, it gets to be discouraging when those around you shoot you down. When those who are supposed to work with you don’t believe in the change you are trying to create. Yet still I strive to be that change. Our kids don’t always get the social requirements of society. They don’t always understand that you cannot laugh at another person’s lack of knowledge or mistakes. This skill must be taught. Whose job is it to teach it? Is it solely the parent’s? No this is part of an educator’s job, we must teach the hidden curriculum to our students with autism and similar disabilities.

It is useless at this point in their life to try and teach that skill. They will never get it.

If an educator truly believes this of a student, even if they are 18- 22, then why are you doing this? Why did you take that job and commit to helping these adults succeed in the world. Why are you here teaching them employability skills and training these individuals to become a functional part of society rather than committing them to a life in an institution?

They have gotten by this long just let it go. This is how they get along with each other. It is their normal interaction. They identify themselves as “ESE KIDS vs. Regular Kids” You cannot change that.

Your negativity pushes me to try harder. To prove you wrong. I may not be able to do it alone, I’m sure not going to do it in a mere 16 weeks, but if I plant the seed and you continue to water it and support that growth for the next 2 – 3 years that these students are with you I assure you there will be a change. I promise you that you can be part of the change that all of us are asking for.

You’re a great advocate, but you are too idealistic. You need to realize that this is what you get and you simply work with where they are.

Is there a reason that being idealistic is bad? Is there a reason that demanding a change, demanding that our students are given better is wrong? Is it because I am a new teacher, well technically still a student, that I am not jaded by the system?

You might answer yes to those questions but the truth is no I’m not all that new to all of the red tape of the special education world. I am giving my students, possibly your child or your niece, nephew, brother or sister, the same type of chance and education I want my own two children to receive. I do not want a teacher that does not believe that my children can do better. I want a group of professionals that see the untapped potential and will fight for them. I want a teacher that advocates for their students both in the classroom and out in public on outings.

I am not green enough around the ears to think that in my short 16 weeks with this group of students I will make huge monumental changes, but I am realistic enough to know that if the seed is planted and nurtured, these 10 students will be given the best education and chance at life after school they can have.

I am the voice of the change I want to see in the world. I am doing the things I want to be done for my kids for other students. I am idealistic, I am an advocate, and I will make a difference in the life of my students. 16 weeks is a pretty short time span, but it is long enough to show these students that I care.

What do you want? A teacher who doesn’t believe a change can be made, or one that will fight for your child and make sure their untapped potential is being accessed every day.

This is me

Imagine a world where nothing matters, you could do anything. You thought you were invincible. Money could be spent without a thought to how the bills would be paid. Imagine a world where you were the best at everything and you needed very little sleep to get things done.  This world sounds kind of nice doesn’t it?

 Well this is mania – it’s my mania to be exact. It also comes with some very dangerous side effects. That money that you spent, you needed it to pay your rent or buy formula for the baby.  The things I think I can do because I’m unstoppable, well they have consequences as well. Those things almost destroyed my marriage more than once.  This phase can last for a few hours to a month or more at a time for me. Then comes the next phase … I crash.

 I fall into a bottomless pit of depression. It’s dark, it’s scary and most of all it is real. I’m not talking about sit around and cry type of depression. Oh that would be a piece of cake compared to what I experience.  When I hit this depression personal care doesn’t matter. If someone didn’t tell me to take a shower or brush my teeth I probably wouldn’t. During this depression I am not a good mom, I do the bare minimum to make sure my children are taken care of. Not because I don’t want to take care of them, but because I can’t.

 The dark world of this depression hurts physically, mentally and emotionally. I’m not good enough for anyone. I can list all of my faults to an exact measurement, even if no one else can see them. It’s during these depressions that I truly believe that the world would be a better place without me. I know how much of a burden I am on my family, and honestly when I am depressed because of my bipolar lows I know in my heart of hearts that my family would be better off without having to constantly worry about me.  

 As scary as those low points sound, they really aren’t the worst of it. It’s when you cycle back up into mania that it becomes dangerous. All of those negative thoughts you have during depression you now have the motivation to do.

My bipolar disorder has had a major impact on my life. It has impacted my family and those around me. It has led my husband to watch me attempt suicide and have to call 911 to have me hospitalized.  My bipolar disorder has led to my mother to question what she did wrong. She has had to sit in a doctor’s office and be told that without medications I would continue this destructive path.

With medications, which need to be adjusted every so often, I can be somewhat stable. Even that isn’t perfect. I still slip into nasty depressions and scary manias. This is my bipolar disorder; this is part of our life for better or worse. 

Changes are hard

Sunday night the kids and I talked about the changes that were going to come our way on Monday.

Mommy starts school again on Monday, just like you do. We will wake up early. We will go to school everyday. Mommy will pick you up from school after snack. Mommy will be home every night.

We have been having this conversation and this social story since winter break started in December. The only thing that changed is the start day.  Monday came and we woke up early. Lil man and Lil girl both made it out of the house on time without meltdowns! (win for me)

As we get into the car and are driving to school lil man tells me “It’s sleep time, sun sleep.”  Lil girl puts her two cents in “sun sleep.” Yes kiddos it is dark out. I’m sorry that you are having to be to school at 6:30 in the morning before the sun has even come up in the morning.  As we finish our short drive to the preschool and get out the car lil girl is excited to be back. Lil man knows that it is his job to press the smiley face so I can sign him in.

But now comes the change … We don’t drop off in the cafeteria for breakfast, it’s still too early for that. We don’t go to lil man’s class because his teacher isn’t there yet. He and his sister both go to the two year old room where they will wait for their teachers to come in for the day.

Where was mommy’s head? I didn’t think to prep them for this. How will they handle this change?

Lil girl was great about it. It was her class and her teacher so it was normal. Lil man threw himself on the ground crying as I tried to leave. He stood up as I walked out the door and ran after me.  Change is hard! 

At the end of the day Daddy and I pick up the kids from school. They tell us that lil girl will be transitioned into the three year old classroom. That it will be done in a single day.

Mommy isn’t ready for this! She isn’t able to fully communicate. She isn’t developmentally where the other three year olds are. She is below where most two year olds are. 

She made it into the three year old room with no issues. I watched her today when I picked her up. She loves the room and the new toys. She loves to sit by the other children doing her own thing. But she is there. She was ready even though I wasn’t.

Change is hard. It’s hard for a mom to let go and watch her children go into a new situation when you aren’t sure how they will do. It’s hard to accept that children change and grow. But change also teaches you things. This change taught me that lil girl loves the babies in the classroom and all the kitchen stuff to play with. She loves that she can do her own thing and still not be worried about the others in the classroom.

Lil girl taught me that while I might not be ready for it, she was and she is happy there. Change is hard, but needed if a child will progress to the next step. Whatever that may be for that child.

Remembering who you are

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Ohio State Marching Band

Friday night football games were a way of life for me in high school. I was the ultimate band dork! I had dreams of attending Ohio State and being part of this prestigious band that dots the “I” in script Ohio. Ultimately I did not attend Ohio State, rather I stayed in Florida to build the life I have today.

Fast forward 12 years to present day.  I have three beautiful children, I am finishing my degree in Special Education in May of this year. I have an amazing husband that supports me. He helps me find myself when I lose myself in the family roles and the delicate balancing  act that these roles require.

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Before the game

This year my mom helped one more of dreams come true. I got to see Ohio State play live and in a bowl game no less. My amazing Hubby took over parenting duties for the day so I could be free to be me. For one night I was able to go out and know that my children were being taken care of by their daddy. As I got ready I realized I was doing things for me that I rarely do anymore.  I shaved my legs, I put on pants that were not sweats or yoga pants, I did my hair and I did my make up. I left for the game feeling like a woman and not just a tired mommy and wife.

With two children with special needs and one who is as typical as can be but still needs more attention to combat the amount of attention that the younger two need, it is easy to forget to take care of yourself. It’s easy to forget that before you were a mommy or a wife you were a woman. Not only did I get to feel like a woman. I got to spend a lot of time with my mom and my sister bonding in a way we have not done in a very long time. My mom has been a strong support to me throughout all of my life. She has stood there and pulled the strong hand when she had too, even though I know it nearly killed her to do it. She knew when to push me and when to let it slide. She did all of this so that I could become the best version of me. That is what a mom does, this is the type of mom I strive to be for all of my children

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In the midst of this great night and getting to be the part of me that is rarely seen these days because of all the other roles I have to fill in, I came to a realization. In order for me to be the kind of mom my mom is, I need to take care of me. I am not just a mom, wife, teacher, advocate, friend, sister or any of the other roles I take on. I am all of these and more. If I intend to keep going at the pace I do for any length of time without burring out I need to take time to take care of me in the process.

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I’ve got my sexy jeans on, my make up done, and getting my drink

Sometimes we just need to put our make up on, a pair of nice jeans, some heals and live it up like the beautiful women we are.

Here’s to remembering to put your sexy jeans on, do your hair and make up, get your drink and celebrate being the best version of you!

Taking Care of Me

So many times I lose myself in the roles of the various jobs I play.  Mom, wife, teacher, sister, daughter, advocate … these all blur and become one at some point. The biggest issue I run into is I somehow lose me in all of this.

Who do they want me to be? Can I be everything they need?

I find that I put so much energy into making sure everything is running smoothly for my children and husband that it normally turns into chaos. Yep that’s right! CHOAS, the exact opposite of what I intended or needed to happen.

Where did I go wrong? Why can’t I get it right?

I can’t get it right because I’m not taking time to step back and enjoy the little things in life. I’m not taking care of me so that I can be the best version of me for them.

This year I will take more time to take care of me. I will take more time to enjoy the small pleasures of my family and life in general. This year I will start to figure out how to do it for my family.