Bud’s Black Days

Ever since he was a little guy Bud has had anger management issues.

He hated having his picture taken.

When he was 5, Bud tried to pick a fight with some teenagers at the local burger joint because they said he was cute.  At 6, a 9 year old stole  Bud’s water gun (Super Soaker) and started spraying him with it.  Bud ran up to the other boy, grabbed the water gun out of his hands and whacked him with it until the other boy ran away.

I’m not telling you these stories because I’m looking for  sympathy or so that you think Bud is a terrible child.  It’s simply that in looking back I can see all the signs we missed that Bud had a mental health issue.

WebMD has a laundry list of symptoms that can signal depression in children.  I have included the entire list in the hopes that it may help another family, but I’ll highlight the ones that applied to Bud:

  • Irritability or anger (as previously mentioned)
  • Continuous feelings of sadness, hopelessness.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection.
  • Changes in appetite — either increased or decreased (From the age of 5 or so on, Bud had a bit of a weight problem – he wore size 12 husky pants when he was 9. About age 10 he grew a few inches in height and since then he has had a hard time keeping weight on.  So we have seen both sides of the appetite problem.)
  • Changes in sleep — sleeplessness or excessive sleep. (I talk about Bud’s sleep problems in my blog post I Couldn’t Sleep at All Last Night.
  • Vocal outbursts or crying.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Fatigue and low energy.
  • Physical complaints (such as stomachaches, headaches) that do not respond to treatment (We homeschooled Bud through the sixth grade, so he didn’t miss school due to illness.  But by the time he was in the 9th grade, he was missing up to 15 days per semester due to headaches, stomachaches or whatever excuse he could come up with)
  • Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • Impaired thinking or concentration.
  • Thoughts of death orsuicide.
  • *this list (minus my comments)©2005-2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

I think on some level Art and I knew there was something wrong.  We thought he was just willful and when the problems first started, we cracked down on him when he raged at us (cold showers, loss of privileges).  It worked for awhile and as long as he was at home in a controlled environment, things went well.  But when he was away from home (at taekwondo or AWANA or grandma’s or camp) that was when all hell would break loose.

I wish very much we could go back and know then what we know now.  I wish we could have got Bud the help he needed from an early age so he wouldn’t have to have had so many years of feeling so lost and alone.  I am glad that we were able to get Bud help before it was too late and I hope that someone who reads this will be able to get their child the help he or she needs.

“I Couldn’t Sleep at All Last Night”

Looking back, I feel guilty for not believing him.  So many times over the years Bud would tell us that he hadn’t slept at all the night before.  “Of course you did,” we would reply.  “You just don’t remember.  You probably woke up a lot and that’s why you think you weren’t asleep at all.”

He was such an easy baby.  No fuss and always such a sweet smile on his face that I called him my angel baby.  But it seemed like the terrible twos lasted three years.  After that, things got easier, but Bud was always  a little crabby and anxious.

Then in 2009 his attitude took a turn for the worse.  Our business was failing,  and Art and I were gone from the house for 10 or more hours a day.  Bud was in his first year of high school and struggling to keep up in some of his classes.  In addition, he and his girlfriend were not getting along.  All I knew was that it was nearly impossible to get him up for school in the morning.  He had a headache, or he didn’t feel good.  Could he just miss a class or two and go in late?  I remember adding it up and he had missed over 15 days of school his freshman year!

Finally, in June of 2009, right after we closed the business, I tried to get Bud up one morning.  He refused.  It was the week before finals and I was worried he wouldn’t pass his classes and end up having to repeat his freshman year.  I told him there were no more excuses and gave him 5 minutes to get out of bed.  Then I personally drove him to school (the boys usually walked, but I wasn’t taking any chances on that day).  On my way back home I got a text.  Pulling to a stop in our driveway I read the message from Bud which read, “well if you’re not even going to listen to me then I might as well just kill myself.  You don’t even know what’s going on.”

Needless to say, I freaked out.  I woke up Art and read him the message.  He agreed we had to take the threat seriously and called the school.  By the time we got there, they had already pulled Bud out of class and he was in the vice principal’s office waiting for us.  It turned out that Bud and his girlfriend had broken up the night before and he just couldn’t deal with going to school.   It was obvious he was done for the day, so we brought him home.  He wouldn’t talk to us and we were scared.  We finally got him to agree to go to therapy through the local Community Mental Health.

It took a month for us to get an appointment for Bud.  In the meantime, he did manage to attend class every day for the next two weeks and to pass all his classes.  His first day with the therapist she managed to get out of him that he had not had a full night’s sleep in years (we think probably since the age of 5 – maybe even earlier).  She also suggested that Bud was suffering from generalized anxiety disorder and depression.  We wrangled a doctor’s appointment the very next day and after two weeks on heavy duty sleep meds we could already see the difference in Bud.

The past 2 1/2 years have been a two steps forward one step back world of medication changes and adjustments, psychiatric appointments and family discussions.  Bud is still not the best sleeper and one of the main reasons he is homeschooling is so that he can “do school” when he is most awake  – usually around 10 p.m.!  He is fun to have a conversation with and, if he’s really well rested, even volunteers to do some chores!!

I’m happy to say – I got my angel baby back!!

The Unexpected Corgle*

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in bed, playing a game on my Kindle, trying to relax enough to fall asleep when Art walked into the room.

“You’re never going to believe this,” he said.

Great, there goes any chance of falling asleep at a decent time.  I set down the Kindle and look at Art.  “What happened?” I asked as politely as  possible.

“You have to come out and see,” he said.  So I put on some sweats and followed him out into the dining room.  Lying on the table was a blue blanket wrapped around some kind of bundle.  I peeked inside and this is what I saw:

At fist, I thought it might be some kind of rabbit, but then I realized it was a puppy.  The puppy we had specifically told Bud he could NOT have for his birthday because we are losing our house and trying to find a place for one of our other dogs.

“How is it that we have a puppy?” I asked, as politely as possible (I swear I never even raised my voice).

“Don’t be mad, Mom,” Bud pleaded.  “Aspen’s mom bought him for me for my birthday.”

Seriously?  She bought him a dog without asking us?  What do we do, send it back?

Well, I took one look at the sweet little face, almost raccoon-like, and my mama instinct kicked in.  It turned out the puppy was a rescue.  His mama and her litter had been found on someone’s front lawn and fostered for six weeks by a very nice lady in Stockton.

“What kind of dog is he?” I asked.

“He’s part corgi, part beagle (*corgle),” Bud replied.

“And part raccoon,” inserted Art.

“Or part Mogwai,” I laughed (we have no idea what breed his father was).

It turned out that Aspen and her mom were more than willing to co-parent the puppy.  We took him overnight, since his other grandma (Aspen’s mom) works early mornings and Aspen goes to public school.  Then Bud would take him over to their house once Aspen got out of school.  Art and I wanted to name him Gizmo, after the movie Gremlins, but Bud named him Kiff (an alien in the TV show Futurama).

I went into this new venture assuming that I would be the main caregiver for Kiff, and I am the one who gets up with him in the morning and entertains him/snuggles him/feeds him/cleans up after him until everyone else wakes up.  But we have held Bud to his promises.  He takes Kiff with him when he goes out (as much as possible).  He and Aspen have paid for all of Kiff’s vet bills and most of his food, pee pads and toys.

In addition, after having to give up one of our other dogs due to the imminent move and some behavioral issues, Kiff has been such a blessing to our family.  Our older dog, Katie, is adjusting to the new puppy, and enjoying her new princess status (since Kiff is an indoor dog, Bud got Katie a nice bath and she is now indoors as much as possible – which she absolutely loves!) For the rest of us, focusing on this tiny one who NEEDS us so much, has definitely helped distract us from some of our other problems, and also to bring us closer together as a family as we negotiate responsibilities and decisions.  Bud is Kiff’s “dad” and he makes most of the decisions regarding the puppy’s care.  Art and I try to only step in where we are needed – I guess it is good practice for the (hopefully distant) future when we have grandchidren.

The Hard Way: Teachable Moments

So if you read my blog from Monday: The Hard Way, you know that last Sunday night my youngest son had a teachable moment.  Sometimes we, as parents, need to let our children take the path they choose, even though we have (strongly) recommended otherwise.  The consequences of these bad choices can often result in such teachable moments.
I like to think that now that I have been an adult for some 26 years, I don’t run into problems like these anymore.  But doesn’t God give us teachable moments as well?
Art and I don’t call them teachable moments.  We call them those times when God hits you over the head with a hammer and says “Wake up!” because you really weren’t listening to begin with.  I guess teachable moment is easier to say, LOL.
Moses had a teachable moment when he encountered the burning bush that didn’t burn up.  Now if I heard a voice talking to me out of a burning bush I would probably think I was going crazy, wouldn’t you? But Moses listened to what God had to say.
God told Moses, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)
This is about the time that Moses started doubting. “What if they ask me who sent me?” he inquired.
God said, “Tell them I AM WHO I AM sent you.”
“But what if they don’t believe me?” Moses asked.
So God gave Moses two signs to show the Israelites to prove his divine calling.
Then Moses said, “But I’m not a very good speaker.”
You can tell God is getting frustrated with Moses at this point. “Who gave you your mouth and the ability to speak?  Wasn’t it me?  Then don’t you think I will give you the words to say?”
Moses answered, “Look God, just send someone else.”
Exodus 4:14 says Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses.  Can you blame him?  Moses just wasn’t listening.  God agreed to let Moses’ brother Aaron be the speaker, but he told Moses he would still have to perform the signs and tell Aaron what to say.
Moses finally saw that God’s way was best and went on to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
One of my teachable moments happened about 7 years ago when Art decided to start his own business.  After months of research we decided to open a retail golf shop, found the franchise we liked, got approved as franchisees and even found a funding source, but try as we might we just could not find the right location.  Everything we looked at was too expensive or the wrong size.  Meanwhile, I was  not very enthusiastic about the idea.  I just wanted to continue to homeschool my kids and live the life we had.
In April 2004 we had one more location to look at and I  didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I told Art I was done. He was going to have to start his business without me.  He begged me to come along with him just to look at the place.  “If this site doesn’t work out, we’ll call it quits.  I’ll even take you out to lunch.”  That did the trick.
Well, we got to the location and it was way too big and way too expensive and was going to require way too much work to fix up.  I tried not to get that gloaty look on my place as we drove away to look for a lunch spot.  I could tell Art was really upset.  We ate our lunch mostly in silence.  Then Art suggested we drive the back way out to the freeway.  It was a road we had never taken before.
As we were going around a bend, I saw a building with a For Rent banner on it.  “What would it hurt?” I thought, so I encouraged Art to pull over.We looked at the floor plans taped to the front door.  The building was the right size and the right price.  Still, I was skeptical. Hadn’t we already decided we were done?  I peeked in the window to try to get a better view.  And there I saw it.  A tile entry.  Almost the exact tile entry we had seen in a friend’s golf shop and decided would be perfect for our own.  I just couldn’t argue with God anymore.  That teachable moment had come.
What are some of your teachable moments?

Image credit: Copyright © 1980 – 2011 All Rights Reserved Deborah A. Reeder

The Hard Way, Part 1

Sunday was rough for our family.  Bud had been sick with a sinus infection for about a month; on antibiotics since the previous Tuesday.  He hadn’t been sleeping well and had gone to bed early (for him) Saturday night after getting in trouble for coming home an hour past his curfew.  Sunday morning I woke up having some difficulty breathing (we call them Mom’s “bad breathing days”). Around 2 p.m. I was worn out from the effort, so I laid down (propped  up) to take a nap.

I woke up about an hour later, took some meds and laid back down to rest and watch TV.  Bud knocked on the bedroom door and stated he needed a ride.  I told him to ask Art, who was out putting up Christmas lights.  Bud said, “He can’t. He’s busy.”  So I drug myself out of bed, put on some clothes and got ready to go.

I got the feeling Bud was trying to get out of the house without talking, so I asked him what had happened the night before and why he was so late home.  He said, “All I’m going to say is that as soon as I get a job and save up enough money I’m getting emancipated and I’m out of here.”

I said, “You’re getting emancipated because you got a punishment for breaking a rule?”

He said, “No, because you guys have too many expectations of me but you don’t treat me with the respect I deserve.” Now due to Bud’s health problems, we are actually easier on him than we were on his brother at the same age, so this was out of left field for me.  I countered some of his issues, but he was not in the mood for a discussion.

Finally I said, “At least you can say please when you ask me to give you a ride since I had to get out of bed to do it.”

Bud replied, “Well I have a bad headache.  If you can’t take it I can just walk.”

“Fine, then, ” I said.  “Go ahead and walk.  I’m going back to bed.”

A few hours later, Bud called and told Art he needed a ride to the ER since his headache was much worse and he wasn’t able to eat.  I stayed home while all this was happening as I didn’t think it was a good idea to expose myself on a bad breathing day to all the possible germs in an ER.  I was very nervous.  The doctors were trying to rule out meningitis.  I was beating myself up for being a bad mother and texted a good friend so I could vent.

After a few hours and some tests it turned out that Bud was dehydrated, which combined with not eating had exacerbated the pain of his sinus infection.  He stayed in the ER on an IV drip for another hour and also had two shots of painkillers.  By Monday he was back to his old self.

Here’s what my friend told me when she heard the good news: “When he’s feeling better, you use this moment as a teachable moment, that as wonderful as it seems to have all the advantages of being an adult, it’s not always as fab as you might think.”  In other words, sometimes parents really do know best.

Tune in on Friday, December 2nd to read The Hard Way Part 2: Teachable Moments.