1 Week of Thankfulness

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It’s been a whole week of finding two things each day to write down that I am thankful for. Have you been participating? I am surprised that even when people are upset about something I automatically am turning it around. This week we saw Notre Dame burn down and a relative posted a picture of my nephew (not more than 4 years old in the picture) in front of the building, not more than four. So many people gave a crying emoji reaction – but I guess I thought how much I would have loved to bring the children to have seen it – and thought how lovely that my nephew had the experience and picture to prove he had seen the gorgeous building before it burnt down. I can never say that. Now normally I would have sat there feeling sorry for us that I never got a chance to take my children to France and see the beautiful building (how many people get to do that?), but instead just felt happy for all the pictures that my friends were posting of their experiences.

I know I would not have been in that place a week ago. A week ago I would have thought about how we cannot ever afford to go to France and focusing on all my friends who got to go there and we didn’t. I also would have focused on how the world is getting worse and how it may not even be worth going forward with crazy things like Notre Dame and such catching on fire. Even as I write this I think this type of thinking is absolutely extreme and yet I cannot stress enough that when you are depressed – the littlest of things like a building that you have never seen burning in another country can feel overwhelming. That’s the problem with depression. I am seeing though that when people have commented on the radio and articles I have read that if you think of two positive things a day (and write them down) that it has better results than anti-depressants because it can truly change the way your mind things. I have to say I am amazed myself. I have tried many things but nothing that gave me results such as cleaning out closets I haven’t done in 15 years and my husband has even been inspired by me by throwing out things he has never done and we have almost a completely different bedroom. I am able to think clearer and organise better. It seems like such a simple thing to do each day and yet has made such a difference so here we go – here are two things I’m thankful for.

  1. My knee. My left knee has been given me trouble for almost 2 years now since I was dragged by my car (many blogs ago I described this event). I did not get proper physio for it, I had surgery to get all the gravel out of it but still it causes me pain and I have been in considerable pain for about 36 hours. SO what am I thankful for? Today I got free treatment from my brother-in-law = part genius and part chiropractor. Physio hasn’t been able to help me but my brother-in-law is quite advanced in how skilled he is with chiropracting. After seeing him (on his day off) today I have some relief and have Kinesiology tape on my knee – which I am told does magic. I have had some relief in this.
  2. My son wrote me a note today – there are no words… only this: note
    How blessed am I? I mean really? A 9 year old still trying to do what he can to make me smile. (P.S. The answer is “Good Job, Now Reward” and the Reward was a lolly/candy on top of kisses and hugs). Now I’m hoping that if I don’t get an assignment in tomorrow (yes I went back to school), then maybe I can submit this picture as proof that I was busy? – one can hope.
    Hope you are having a blessed Wednesday…
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Faking it.

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I had a really rough night sleep with a lot of stress on my shoulders. I usually feel like I can fake it but as I was waiting to pick up my child from school I took a selfie – I couldn’t believe how much my face sagged and my eyes drooped. There was no way of faking it today. So I decided to use a filter and send this picture to my friends in the hopes it would make them laugh. It worked… and I made them laugh which gave me a small amount of joy today.

Sometimes we need filters in real life. We desire to spread love and joy but have nothing left in us to give to others. Wouldn’t it be lovely to just have a real life filter?… well – apparently with this filter I still look my worst, so maybe I just need to choose a better filter next time.
Hope your week has more energy than mine.

Jen

Stress isn’t actually bad for you…

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One of my favorite shows is Todd Sampson’s show Body Hack 2.0. Todd (in all of his shows) displays how amazing the body really is – and really showcases how much the brain has control over. I wasn’t a huge fan of the episode in India – but the most intense and amazing show I have seen to date is the episode where Todd Sampson spends time in the most dangerous part of the world with the Iraqi Army. He shows how the soldiers’ bodies have become used to stress and how his body responded differently to that stress. He sites a study supporting the level of stress the soldiers endure explaining that stress isn’t  bad for you unless you think it is.

This agreed with part of the philosophy I have had in life – which is telling myself “I can handle it”, and “stress will only bother my health if I let it”. When it registered to me I was going through a stressful situation (i.e. when doctors warned me I probably wouldn’t survive very long), I told myself “to bring it on” and that I would get through it because I believe I will. I changed my perception of the situation by telling myself that when I overcame the odds given to me and LIVED that it would be a great story to tell my friends at a pub with a beer…

I found this study published in Forbes, and the statistics linked to it with further examples of the power of the mind. I loved this because I really cannot change the stress that is in my life – I am not sure even if there is a way to cut a lot of stress out. There are just stresses that are so high that I just have to accept or I would be abandoning everyone – including myself. That isn’t an option. So for me to cope, I’ve had to accept that life is stressful – and I just have to think differently about it – and change my perception.

I find this study so encouraging because a lot of us cannot get away – we have to look after an ailing parent or a disabled child, or a death of a loved one. However if we BELIEVE that stress isn’t going to hurt us – that we welcome it and accept it and learn to live with the perception that stress is helpful (which it can be), then this changes the game for us.

I, for one, am so exhausted of hearing how stress can shorten one’s life, with their immune system or toxicity etc etc.  The understanding that my brain actually has control over whether stress hurts me or not gives me freedom – and I hope it does for you too.

You can find out more about your control of the perception of stress in the book The Upside of Stress by Dr Kelly McGonigal. I hope your week is not stressful, but if it is… I hope you have the chance to welcome it.

Have a great week.

Look for the silver lining…

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Yesterday I had a bad day, A very bad day.
I was not my best because I had an infection which led me to a last minute appointment with a dentist. I know when I am about to battle a flu or an infection because I get angry. I am not an angry person by nature. I think (if I asked my friends) that although I am open with my emotions –  that I reason things out with a lot of logic (hence my love for Mike Rowe), and think about consequences and put things into perspective. So for me to be unreasonably angry is a big red flag – which often indicates some sort of illness. When I realized I could barely chew food, I made my way to the dentist with children in tow. I had already given myself a horrible guilt trip because I had yelled at my children for stupid reasons – something I don’t do. I had yelled a lot. A lot. So once I realized it was because I was unwell I had been able to put it into perspective and as I was driving to the dentist I apologized. They were immediately forgiving… which was undeserved.
I didn’t realize how long it had been since I had been to the dentist. My kids went 6 months ago but I have not. I realized this when the dentist I had been to for almost 14 years made me fill out a new patient form.
I saw a dentist  I was not used to, and apologized. I knew it had been long and I felt embarrassed. I was anticipating being told how bad my teeth actually were. And so that happened. BUT- the dentist did not stop, it was lecture after lecture as if I had never brushed my teeth or been to a dentist and I grew up in a cave. I wanted to tell her what had really stopped me from going to the dentist – which is kind of hard when they have dental tools in your mouth. I tried to explain my health problems had taken priority and I had been in the hospital – so my teeth weren’t the first things on my mind. She then asked if I ate a lot of sugar – I explained I had suffered from major fatigue with these health problems and desperate for energy and knew I had eaten a bad amount of sugar to try to keep up with life. With all the guilt tripping I couldn’t tell her the truth. The real reason for keeping me back was financial. It was not safe to say

“Well, my husband has been unemployed twice for long periods of time and is now only making just enough the threshold where we don’t qualify for benefits. On top of my children suddenly having growth spurts and I was only finally able to buy them two outfits each (they are on rotation) and somehow paying crazy amounts of money for my teeth had not made priority.”

Also, as anyone knows that has struggled financially – there is a lot of guilt as to what you wish you could afford. I couldn’t explain how there are days where my knees go weak feeling overwhelmed with what little money we do have – and there are times I feel like I cannot take another step with this burden. I couldn’t tell her that. Yet she kept trying to explain how bad it was that I had neglected to come in. Do I need that guilt? No. Does anyone really need that guilt? nope.
I had incorrectly guessed how much it would cost. Turns out my whole week’s worth of groceries – food I try to keep on the table is gone… and when I was asked to pay. when they told the amount it took everything in me not to start crying. I only kept it together because my kids were with me. I am so glad I spent a week’s worth of groceries to be told what a horrible person I was because my teeth aren’t perfect.
I had a headache and felt quite ill after when I got home. My sensory child decided that that was the time to  have a meltdown. I tried to do everything I could to make him stop but in the end I couldn’t and his screaming caused my seizures to start – so I made my way to my bed (as I don’t like the children to witness them) and closed the door and tried to just relax. I left my sensory child with my daughter, which also made me feel like I had failed as a parent.
I could hear my daughter, and my sensory child stopped screaming almost as soon as I got to my room. He was even laughing.
It hit me there was a silver lining here, that even though I had felt like a failure, through health, and parenting, that I had a daughter who was able to settle the situation in seconds. Not only that but she attended to me. She gave me encouragement and told me how much she loves me. I never asked for this… I didn’t tell her to do this. She was absolutely amazing. Her ability to settle a stressful situation was beyond what a 10 year old has the ability to do. I told her how Proud I was of her that night and she explained how she had distracted my sensory child with all the things she could think of that he loved.
A woman that I know who has MS told me not to be scared when I first had health symptoms – and young children. She said

“If you saw what a better person my son has become since I got sick, you will see that there is no reason for guilt, that children learn amazing skills when their mother is sick.”

I didn’t believe her until yesterday. I now know that is true. My daughter has peacemaking skills that no school could teach her. Maybe the bad day was worth seeing the light in someone else.

Finding a way to make an obstacle your advantage? Check out The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. 

To Those Mothers

 

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We all have those days.. especially as a parent where we feel like we failed. Today was a particularly hard day for me being that I had both of my children have difficult days as well as a husband who struggled with some challenges at work. However there are the mothers that struggle ‘a tad’ more. Those are the mothers with children who require that extra work. I have a child that may be on the sensory scale when it comes to challenges (although some have mistaken him for being autistic) but he is not on the Autism spectrum. This week – memorial day week – reminds me of the mothers of Autistic children. Why?
I was 12 years old when my nephew was born into this world. I was closer to him in age than I was with some of my siblings. May 31st is my nephew’s birthday. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with happiness when he was born as he was my parents first grandchild and I was the youngest. I thought of him as that younger brother I always wanted. Then the confusion set in when I came home from school to be told that he was “different”. We later found out he suffered from a brain hemorrhage at birth. Despite passing all sorts of milestones – I remember him losing a ‘normal voice’ and his giggling personality to autism. I don’t talk about it because I feel guilty. I feel like I have no right to feel upset or angry or sad about what has happened to him as he is my sister’s child, not mine. She has to be the one that deals with the most on all of this. I may have lived with him when he was little but she has spent every day living with him and the unpredictablity, discouragement and appreciating the little things.

I am still surprised when I come across people who think “Autism doesn’t exist” or “the child wasn’t disciplined enough”. I know from first hand experience this is not the case.

There are bad statistics for mothers who deal with severe autistic children. They have to do with the success of their marriage and their health just to name a couple. This makes me concerned for my sister, but makes me think of the’ general Autistic community’ and the EXTRA stresses they carry each day.

I know as an aunt there are times I treasure. I know my nephew doesn’t like to be touched much but I have sat in silence with him and he has laid his head on my shoulder. That day makes me happy.
The day where I hadn’t seen him in years and wasn’t sure if he remembered me – and I walked into his room only to have him tell me to “come here sweetheart” in the most excited voice as he hugged me.
These moments I can think of and remember knowing they are not the norm – they are the exception. I remember when I was younger and my nephew lost it when I was in a van with him. He had to be warned the indicator was going to come on to turn and even when he was warned he still protested the sound of the clicking of the van.

It also makes me wonder about the people who lose it with road rage when someone doesn’t use their indicator – is there a possibility that a driver is weighing up whether to upset their autistic passenger with the noise of the indicator or someone outside the vehicle with road rage.

Mothers of autistic children know there are so many more things they have to pre-plan  and worry about with such unpredictability of knowing that no matter how much you plan there is still something small that may cause a national-sized meltdown.

So with this I just wanted to write something small – and not even close to measurable in honoring those that deal with this stress everyday. This is the weekend that I think of you, and consider the stresses that are on your shoulders, and hope and pray that there is someone near and dear to you that can help relieve some stress.

I hope you have a chance to take some time for yourself this week. Take care of yourself because there is so much on you. You aren’t alone.

Jen

The story isn’t over

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This is one of my favorite sayings to keep me going in a time of stress: “The Story isn’t over”. A lot of stress that we give ourselves or feel during difficult times is because we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. All we can see is the hard lemons that life is throwing at your face and there is not enough sugar in the world to make it sweet enough for lemonade.

There are times in our lives when stress piles on, or as the saying goes “when it rains, it pours”. There are too many things to process, too much pain to deal with or just a constant battle that we don’t remember being without.

One of my “raining and pouring” is that I was born with internal health issues that should have been fixed with one surgery here. Well, one surgery turns into more and then more and well… you get it. I have been advised that as much as I thought “okay, this is the last ‘big health’ thing I need to deal with my doctor explained that there will probably be more in the future. I am gearing up mentally for having procedures for the rest of my life in order to be here.

This is just one of many difficulties that affect my life. I know people who go through much more or just different challenges –  but sometimes it makes it difficult to see how you are ever going to get through the tunnel.

This is where it’s a good time to look back (not something that is usually recommended) and think about something difficult, and how it felt overwhelming at the time but you got through it. Had we known that there was light at the end of that tunnel maybe it wouldn’t have been so weighty at the time.

Sometimes the pain is so great in that moment and all you can say is “I survived that” but the point is: YOU SURVIVED.  Sometimes our burdens seem so overwhelming but the story doesn’t end there and it is good to remember that in a few weeks, months, years from now you can look back and say “I survived that”.

Whatever challenges, pain, grief, or difficulty you are going through – it’s survivable by you and/or others. The story isn’t over yet…

Keep going…

Jen.