While I am sure you would like an update on my health and the horrendous pain I was experiencing....for now, I am just going to say – I am getting better. I will fill you in on the details at the end of this post.
I encourage you to read this entire post...even if you think it doesn't relate to you, and even if you think you don't need to know about these books and even if you think nothing could change the way you live your life right now. I still encourage you to open your mind and your heart to the possibility that you MIGHT actually benefit from reading the two books I am going to talk about.
First, I want to talk about the author, my most favorite blogger in the entire webosphere....Rachel Macy Stafford at HandsFreeMama.com. She also has written two books...one of which comes out on SEPTEMBER 8th! If you pre-order her new book by Sept 7th...you will get her first book, Hands Free Mama FREE as an eBook. Click the link below if you would like to pre-order her book. I will also include the details at the end of this post.
I have mentioned and linked to Rachel's blog and book before, many times, actually. Her writing creates a sweet, calming voice that whispers in my ear when I need it most....
Enjoy this moment....
Only love today....
Take your time...
Be kind to yourself....
Hang on....just keep hanging on...
It's never too late.....
and my favorite :
Today I will choose LOVE. Tomorrow I will choose LOVE. And the day after that, I will choose LOVE. If I mistakenly choose distraction, perfection or negativity over LOVE, I will not wallow in REGRET. I will choose LOVE until it becomes who I am.
If there is anyone who has kept me afloat 24 hours a day during this last year, including me surviving the last 21 days of being immobile, that angel would be Rachel Macy Stafford.
Last November, just as Jill was heading into the massive anxiety and sleep issues (EMETOPHOBIA) that would cloud over the next 9 months of our lives, I borrowed Rachel's first book – Hands Free Mama – from a dear friend. I was already a fan of Rachel, but I never bought her book because I figured – I am never on my phone when the girls are around, I am not highly distracted, we don't have a TV, I homeschool, I don't have any outside commitments, my girls get PLENTY of Hands Free Mama time – there was no reason I needed to read this book!
BOY WAS I WRONG.
I read the entire book in 3 days during our Thanksgiving trip to the Sierras, and then I immediately started it again, for a second time through. I read it for a 3rd time on our Christmas trip to Death Valley. It was the ONE THING that stayed in my backpack the entire trip.
Once we were home, I decided I didn't need to read it for a 4th time. Instead, when I was feeling overwhelmed I would pick up the book and open it to just any random page and just read. No matter what was happening in my life at that moment, or what I needed help or guidance on, the pages I read always spoke straight to my heart.
Eventually, another dear friend of mine bought me my own copy for my birthday. It is well, well, WELL worn. It is still the first book I reach for when I start to feel overwhelmed with my responsibilities as a mom. However....her first book now has some competition...
That would be Rachel's second book...Hands Free Life...
Earlier this summer Rachel emailed a group of bloggers (me being one of them!!) to ask if we would accept an early copy of her new book in exchange for a review or shout out or giveaway on our blogs. After I said YES...in one half a heartbeat...I told her that I have a VERY small audience of readers and that I wondered if she would be better off including someone with a more popular blog. Her response was simple...even one small voice can make a difference. So here is my small voice shouting out to anyone who will listen.....
YOU NEED TO READ HANDS FREE LIFE!!!
It doesn't matter if you are a mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent, single or divorced or widowed. It doesn't matter if your kids moved out 15 years ago or if you don't plan on having children. Hands Free Life will change the way you want to you spend your time and how you give your love to people in your life.
Her book is 9 chapters focused on LOVE, love for our family, love for our friends, love for our community and our world and love for OURSELVES!! Who out there doesn't need more LOVE in their life???
Each chapter focuses on a new HABIT to help you Overcoming Distraction, Living Better and Loving More. But, like I said before, it doesn't matter if you aren't overwhelmed and you already love your life and the people in it. This book will open your eyes up to an even BETTER life than you already have. Guaranteed!
As I flipped through my already well worn copy of Hands Free Life, I wanted to share with you some of Rachel's writing that really spoke to me. I am always looking for words of wisdom to help me be the best mom, wife, friend and community member that I can be, and always looking for ways to treat myself with more respect. (All emphasis is mine and some adjustment was necessary for some ideas to flow smoothly)
– Stop thinking about a million other things and allow myself to simply BE ALL THERE!
– Hands Free Life doesn't require large amounts of time, elaborate gestures, extensive planning...it DOES require you to show up – HEART, MIND and BODY – when in the company of those you love.
– Although we've been led to believe that our fondest memories are made up of grand occasions of life, in reality, they happen when we pause in the ordinary, mundane moments of a busy day.
– When we resist the urge to fill every minute with noise, excess, and activity, we open the doors of our heart, mind and soul to let the joy come in.
– Today I will resist the urge to get “one more thing” accomplished, instead I will engage in one activity that brings me peace and renewal.
– You're going to think that the pressure to be all things to all people is coming at you from all directions, but in most cases it is coming from one place: YOU!
And finally....one more quote from page 60 that spoke directly to me in my worn out, broken down condition I have found myself in for the last month...From her poem –
Surrender Control by Opening Clenched Fists
But as I struggled to catch my breath day after day, I realized I was not living life, I was managing life. Because living life with a death grip is not living at all.
As I look back on this past year of my life...Jill and her anxieties, homeschooling Alli and Jill, not having even a moment for myself because Jill would not leave my side, Alli and her struggles to catch up in school, always looking for the “cure” that would help Jill feel safe in her world and help Alli feel successful in school.....I was barely living life....instead, I had a death grip on my life. Hands Free Life has helped me open those clenched fists and start living life.
I recommend you pre-order HANDS FREE LIFE by Sept 7th because then you will also get HANDS FREE MAMA for FREE as an eBook. Follow the link below. And THANK YOU, for taking time to read about something that is very important to me and could be just the book you need to bring you even more joy with your children, spouse, friends and family and more love for yourself.
Rachel Macy Stafford
New York Times Best-selling Book: http://www.amazon.com/Hands-Free-Mama-Putting-Perfection/dp/0310338131
Brand NEW Book: HANDS FREE LIFE: http://amzn.to/1xy8rGU
As for me.....My MRI showed a 10mm bulge protruding from my L5-S1 joint. The bulge is pushing straight into the S1 nerve which was inflamed and compressed. This was causing the intense nerve pain down my leg. The neurosurgeon I was referred to called on August 26th to let me know that I would have a consultation on OCTOBER 13TH!!! I took the appointment, but I told everyone who would listen that I had no intention of needing that appointment or any type of back surgery. Now, let's just hope I am right.
I survived 21 days of being pretty much bed-ridden (I've been able to walk a bit for the last 3 days). I couldn't sit, stand, walk or drive. I wasn't able to sleep more than an hour or two a night.
Every night Jill would tell me, “Mommy, now I am sleeping good and you can't sleep. I hope you sleep good tonight!” I went 6 nights before the pain and the sleep deprevation became unbearable. That was when I broke down and took the Lyrica. I slept that night for 13 hours.
Although I did not want to take the Lyrica, it saved me from the pain that made me scream and cry in agony. Apparently, it stops my brain from receiving the signals from the nerve pain that was traveling from my right hip all the way down my leg and into my foot. I still had the severe leg muscle pains, but there was no nerve pain so I could at least lay in bed without screaming in pain, and I could start eating again. Unfortunately, that was the only night I slept good. The muscle pain continued to keep me from sleeping well for another week.
I continued going to physical therapy, and seeing my chiropractor and acupuncturist weekly or sometimes even twice a week. Their care is slowly helping to repair my disc and get me back to my normal self again .
I also talked with my EFT coach who helped me release some serious emotional baggage that was dragging me down. I felt 10 pounds lighter after our conversations. (We just work over the phone. You can contact her here.... Jennifer Gaynor-Yaker)
Last Friday, August 28th, I had an orthopedic massage from a man a close friend recommended. Of course, he doesn't take insurance and was INSANELY expensive...but these are often the therapies that work the best. He spent an hour and a half doing crazy things to my body and muscles. However, I crawled into his office and was able to WALK out and, I have slept at least 6 hours every night since seeing him, so it was worth every penny and bit of pain I had to endure. I will be going back to see him again, soon.
Lastly, I went to see a local energy healer who does Chakra balancing/clearing and again, HUGE progress made after one visit. I went from barely being able to walk 20 feet without crumpling on the ground, to being able to load the dishwasher, sweep our schoolroom and do some school with the girls. After visiting this woman, I was able to stand/walk/crouch for nearly 4 hours before I had to lay down. AMAZING! I still cannot sit or drive but I am sure that will come soon.
(Local friends I can give you any of these local therapists contact info if you are looking for someone, just email or text me)
And by the way, I MUST thank my parents for the insane amount of time they have been putting in to helping our family through this rough time. My dad has driven me to nearly every appointment and helped me get in safely. Some days I had 3 appointments a day. My mom has watched the girls for hours upon hours while I was at these appointments. My sister has taken the girls over to her house to play so that they could get a change of scenery and have some fun time with their cousins.
I am so grateful to have such loving family so close by. I cant thank you all enough!! I love you so much!
And another big step, my friend Holly took the girls to the creek for 5 hours one day last week. YES!!!! Jill went with someone who is not family for 5 whole hours, and she had a great time. Thank you Holly, what a gift that was for the girls!!
Thank you to all my family and friends who texted, called and emailed SO OFTEN to find out how I was doing. You guys helped to fill my heart ALL THE WAY UP!! And my friend Julie also brought my family dinner when this first began. How wonderful that was, thank you. Katie, you picked up my CSA box when I was not able to move one inch off my bed. Amy, you baked bread for me so I would have something simple to eat since I can't stand in the kitchen and make myself anything!! Thank you, all.
I am so lucky to have such wonderful, generous and kind friends. I love all of you!! It takes a village, right. I appreciate the village I have so much!
And Shane...he has been a solid rockstar through this last month of insanity. He has gone to work all day, come home to clean, cook dinner and play with the girls. Then there is the grocery shopping and errand running and medicine/epsom salt/back brace trips to the stores multiple times a day. He has given me a massage every night to help me sleep and then wakes up every day without a complaint to do it again. He was my champion when I was so low that I thought I would never get back to normal. He would lift me up, saying, “You are getting a little better every day...I see it...you will get through this. WE will get through this.”
And I am....and we are....slowly returning to normal. I am no where NEAR normal yet, but I have 100% faith I will get there. My body is healing more and more every day. I will continue to see all my therapists, plus any one else I think may be able to help me...Bowen technique....Rolfing technique....are next on my list...I will keep on, keeping on until I can run with Chaco, bike with the girls and hike with Shane. I know that day will come.
Thank you for reading this all. I hope you order Rachel's book. Life is meant to be lived...and be lived well....I am so happy to be back in the realm of living well...I love to implement Rachel's ideas into every part of my life.
So...I am getting off the computer so I can do a puzzle with the girls. And then we MIGHT go on a bike ride, I'll see how it feels.
Lots of LOVE,
She was writhing in pain, screaming on the couch. The pain was so bad she was out of her mind, sobbing uncontrollably. I knew what I needed to do. I ran to her side. I snuggled up next to her and let her put her head in my lap. I smoothed her out of control hair and I talked soothingly to her, “Just breathe. Take some deep breaths with me.” It took a long time for her to stop the sobbing, but I just kept rubbing her back and breathing calmly until she joined me. This had been going on for over 48 hours, so I knew to stay by her side until she calmed down. Every once in a while I would remind her, “You’re not breathing deeply. Listen to me breathe and breathe how I breathe.” This was the 4th day of Mommy not feeling well. I am beginning to wonder if she is ever going to get better.
It had been days since she ate a regular meal. When Alli got up, we cut up some apple for her and tried feeding it to her one small piece at a time. We gave her water through a small syringe we found. We held her tight and sang her songs and tried to get her to smile, but it was impossible. She says the pain is constant now, nothing is working to make the pain go away. She is always moving and changing positions, but she can never get find a position without the pain. She cries out in and starts sobbing a lot. She says, “I am sorry if I am scaring you girls.” But – we aren’t scared…. She is in pain and we are here to help her. Even after Poppy came to get us, we still wanted to stay with Mommy and soothe her, but we listened and went with Poppy, saying, “Mommy, you rest. Daddy will be home soon to take care of you. You will be ok. We love you.”
- Written from the perspective of 7 year old Jill, taking care of her Mommy.
Yes, the above words describe how Jill handled herself during some of the most painful moments of my life. Jill – sweet Jillbug – who, just 7 months ago, became terrified to eat anything and worried about anything and everything under the sun, is nearly all better. She still says she needs me to sit at her CORE classes when they start up again, but almost every other aspect we have been dealing with has been resolved. Though we might have a few kinks to still work out, the important thing is that she is back, she has blossomed out of her chrysalis and is soaring everywhere she wants to go.
SIDENOTE: I wanted to send out one final update on Jill, and also ask for some prayers for my recovery. As I type this I have been bed ridden for 11 days, with no end in sight. I finally broke down and took a Lyrica yesterday because I was screaming in pain so much that the girls were terrified and I had not slept for 5 nights because of the pain. I’ve had an MRI but no diagnosis yet. I haven’t walked more than 1 minute at a time in 11 days. The pain is excruciating. I talk a little more about this at the end of my post.
|On the Sky tram at Sea World - one of the places we went on our San Diego "girls" trip in June|
UPDATE ON JILLBUG:
This has been the most challenging 9 months of my life. Watching my daughter change from a bright eyed, adventurous and happy kid, to an angry, terrified, worried, and anxious version of herself was incredibly difficult. It was like watching her fall backwards through all the stages of her life that she missed the first time around.
She never had tantrums when she was 2 and 3, no separation anxiety at 4 or 5, no anger, crazy emotions or power struggles at 6, no sleep issues – EVER. She was the most mellow kid for SO long and I knew at some point she would have to go through those stages. I hoped it would be before she was a teenager. I got my wish. She had an implosion of these all at the same time right around her 7th birthday!
(If you missed Jill’s fears/phobia/anxiety posts, you can read them starting here – PART 1…PART 2…PART 3, I will also reference them in the text below.)
Seemingly out of nowhere, Jill started telling me her tummy hurt all the time. This was in December. In February, it progressed into a fear of every morsel of food she put in her mouth. She could not take a bite of food without it causing her to worry about her tummy or that she would throw up immediately. She would not leave my sight. She was terrified to eat, she was terrified to sleep, she was terrified to poo, she was terrified to leave my side. She was terrified she would throw up ALL THE TIME. (read it here…Part 1)
She wouldn’t play with Alli anymore, she wouldn’t go to Mimi and Poppy’s, she wouldn’t go play with her cousins, she wouldn’t even go play by herself in her room anymore. Her entire life was now based on a fear of throwing up and as a result, my life now revolved around Jill and her fears. It was like having a newborn again: no sleep, constant crying, no sleep, incessant talk about bodily functions, no sleep, a child clinging to me all day long, no sleep…..
February and March were BRUTAL for our family and even though I felt like this would be my new way of life, we did the hard work that needed done and she started to get better.
The emetophobia website I found (ANNA CHRISTIE) said you MUST stop reassuring the child and stop paying attention to their fear. I felt like a terrible mom when I started to ignore her, but once I started ignoring her worries about her tummy and throwing up – she stopped bringing it up.
It took 3 days, can you believe it? THREE DAYS and she stopped being consumed by her fear.
And she wasn’t suppressing her fear either, which I was
concerned about….she was having fun again, playing again, she could leave my
side, she was laughing again, being her silly old self again, FINALLY. (read it here…PART 2)
|Lake Moraine near Banff, CANADA|
Her separation anxiety we worked on slowly. It took her 2 months after her first panic attack (February 12th, when I left for my daily bike ride) to go to the store with Shane alone…but then in the next week she asked every day if she could go on an “adventure” with someone. She asked to go places with Daddy and Poppy and Auntie.
On Mother’s day (3 months after that panic attack) she went fishing and hiking with Shane for 6 hours and she had a blast. She had never had a trip alone with Daddy and she was so happy to finally be able to experience that. She said, "Next time, let's go overnight!"
Then she was asking to stay the night at Mimi and Poppy’s (and yes, she slept fine over there - all night -even though at home she refused to go to bed calmly or stay in bed without screaming for me multiple times a night!)
But, even though she was getting better with the separation anxiety, every time she left to go with anyone, I was a nervous wreck the whole time. Her leaving me ended up being way easier (for her AND ME) to handle than me leaving her.
In the beginning, she screamed when I left for my 15 minute bike rides, but soon she was pushing me out the door to go on my ride (as long as it was only 15 minutes). But if I left to go to a store, she would cry, ask where I was going and when I was coming back, ask if she was going to be ok. Something about me leaving in a car, maybe?
|The girls at the left playing a game of tug on Canada Day - July 1. We were in BANFF and I was actually off by myself going to some stores and coffee shops...Jill was fine staying with her Daddy!|
We really had to work on this aspect, but were not sure how to go about it. What happened was that she decided on her own she was ready for me to leave her.
The day after our 16th wedding anniversary in May (23 years together!) Jill told us she wanted to spend all day with Mimi and Poppy and we could do whatever we wanted. Shane wanted to go hiking in Lassen. I had a massive breakdown instead.
I couldn’t stop crying. It had been nearly 4 months since her separation anxiety began and I am pretty sure I took it on for her. What if she falls apart, what if she freaks out, what if she only wants me and decides she is NEVER going somewhere without me again…..what if???? I could not calm down.
We ended up at a local coffeehouse because I couldn’t leave town. We sat at an outside table with 20 other patrons surrounding us, trying to enjoy their Saturday morning coffee and breakfast and I was crying like an out of control 2 year old. I couldn’t stop.
I called my parents in a panic, worried that this was not going to work. They had to talk me down…”Jen, she is going to be fine. You need to go somewhere. We can handle her. No matter what happens, she will be ok. We will have them until after dinner…just go enjoy…please!”
|Johnston Canyon - outside of BANFF. I love that the girls hold hands while they hike!|
And we did. I was finally able to calm down and we drove to Grass Valley. We talked the whole drive…we went out to lunch…I did some shopping – ALONE!!!....we got more coffee…we went out for dinner…we talked the whole drive home. It was SO
A M A Z I N G!!!
Shane and I have always enjoyed (and NEEDED) our time alone together and that ability had been taken away from us for the last 4 months. It was so wonderful to be together again, ALONE!!
Those previous months had been a long, hard struggle, and we had put in the work necessary to help Jill heal her worries and fears (read about all the things we did here…..PART 3). We had made progress in every area of Jill’s life except one….SLEEP!
That is a huge problem to have. She moved her fears into the nighttime, and because I did not have the heart to ignore my child at night, in the dark, when she was frightened….she continued to manifest her fear into a nighttime struggle.
|Can you believe this sweet kid would throw|
things at me??? This is a kid's tree climbing
course the girls did together in Canada.
Most nights involved 1.5 hours of trying to get Jill to stay in bed and go to sleep. Then there was always some middle of the night drama (some nights more than once) involving me having to stand in her doorway and wait for her to calm herself down and get into bed – this could take 1 – 2 hours. Many times it ended up with me getting my arm and hand slammed in her door as she tried to escape. I also had things thrown at me.
There was the night she threatened to jumped out her window and then she did, 7 feet to the ground. Other nights involved more of Jill screaming than sleeping, and a few nights when she ran to our backyard and threatened to go wake Mimi and Poppy up (they live behind us) at 2am. I am quite surprised that no one ever called CPS. Her screaming had to have been audible outside.
We were at a complete loss for what to do. Soothing her didn’t help, cuddling her didn’t help, the meditations no longer helped, and sleeping in bed with us was not going to happen. We were doing homeopathy, acupuncture, reward charts, sticker charts, bribery, Chinese herbs, essential oils, and nothing was helping. The last time she slept ok was when I took the girls camping in Fort Bragg, in March. It was approaching June.
|Alli and I did the adult tree climbing course.|
She did fantastic. All the way to
double black diamond!
Shane always goes on a trip with the guys from work when school gets out. He was going to be gone for a week and I did not want to be at home alone, trying to deal with the chaos that bedtime and nighttime had become. I decided to take the girls to San Diego and go camping for 8 days. And guess what!!!!! I got 8 nights of sleep, ALL NIGHT LONG, sleep.
Then we got home and she went right back to her “normal” sleeping habits. I keep asking myself…..How is this possible? and When will this end????
We were only home for a week before we were leaving for our 4 week summer trip. Those 7 days at home ended up being really bad the first 3 nights, but the last 4 nights she slept decent…not perfect, but decent and after what we have been going through I will take decent ANYTIME!!!
We left for our trip and camped in Mt. Shasta, then headed to White City to pick out our 3.5 week old puppy. There were 21 German Shorthair Pointers….it was impossible. I was crying cuz I still missed Hazel so Shane just kind of picked one and latched on….that’s our Chaco (named after the Chaco Culture – National Historical Site in New Mexico. The 20 mile long dirt road in there destroyed our Subaru’s suspension but was an amazing place and of course the Chaco Sandals!!) We have 3.5 weeks of vacation before we get to come back and take him home.
|Chaco at 3.5 weeks old|
We had a great trip. (I have dispersed some pictures throughout this post. ) And again, Jill slept all night, every night. Maybe we SHOULD just sleep in a tent in our backyard??.…because the minute we got back to a house (Shane’s parents in Olympia) she reverted right back to her old sleeping ways. Screaming at bedtime, scared to go to sleep, wanting reassured she didn’t eat too much watermelon….It all came back full force.
|Chaco at 7 weeks|
We only stayed 3 days and then we drove back to White City to pick up Chaco and thought (naively) that maybe once we were home bedtime would be normal. I had asked my parents to do a complete makeover on Jill’s room while we were gone. I thought maybe if it looked different, just like a cute little girl’s room, then maybe she would forget all about her previous habits and would sleep perfect!
My parents did an amazing job. Her room was ADORABLE!!! Jill was so excited and happy. I was almost convinced it would be fine.
I was very, VERY wrong. Bedtime went fine. Book, blessing, and song, but the minute I walked toward the door to leave she said, “But, what if I throw up?” and we were right back to square one. She hadn't actually asked that question at bedtime since April. Yes, she screamed but mostly about wanting another tuck in, or a hug, or a kiss or to use the bathroom. She never said she was scared of throw up anymore. But, she had no memory of the 4 decent nights of sleep she had before we left. All she remembered was the months and months that came before and she went right back to the beginning.
|They hiked to Bumpass Hell while camping|
in Lassen for 5 days.
I am not even going to get into the turmoil that broke out for the next 3 weeks …there are moments I am trying to erase from my long term memory.
However, there was some good…Shane took the girls camping for 5 days without me. I was VERY concerned they were going to end up home in the middle of that first night because Jill needs ME at night. That is what she says….just MOMMY!
She had never been camping without me, EVER, and now she was going camping without me in the middle of her worst sleeping we ever experienced. But, guess what? She loved it. The girls asked to stay an extra day.
SIDENOTE: Guess when my sciatica started……yep, the FIRST night they were gone. The first night I could have slept all night without worrying about a screaming child waking me up. I still had to get up with Chaco…but still….this is not a coincidence to me! I have not slept ONE night since Jill has been sleeping through the night. (Well, I should say – unmedicated. I’ve had 3 nights I was so drugged up from pain meds that I slept – I don’t think that counts!)
When they returned (August 1st), she had two bad nights of sleep and then….POOF! She just slept, like that. She goes to bed no problem, she sleeps all night. It has been about 3 weeks that she has slept without an issue. I am optimistically going to say that I am closing the chapter to this part of our lives. Good-bye, farewell. I learned a lot.
So, moving forward, let's pray she continues to improve in all areas. That her sleep remains peaceful and calm, and that she realizes she can be left at her classes for 2 hours without needing me there.
And finally, let's pray for some relief for me so that I can get back to being a mother and a wife and a homeschooler and a friend and a daughter and a sister and a hiker and a bike rider and a yogi and all the things I love to do, cuz right now I am nothing but a bump on my bed. I can barely walk the 5 feet to my bathroom, I am dizzy an loopy from drugs. I've lost 7 pounds in 10 days cuz I don't want to eat and I have one position that doesnt cause intense pain (I am never pain free). AND, I have no idea when this is going to end. Your positive thoughts and prayers are appreciated.
CONTINUED.....THE STORY WITHOUT AN ENDING
CONTINUED.....THE STORY WITHOUT AN ENDING
|Jill's first selfie|
If you have not read the two previous posts regarding the anxiety and fear that Jill has been experiencing, you might want to start at Part 1. - EMETOPHOBIA
I have been working on an update of our life off and on for the last 5 weeks. Every time I start, it just seems too overwhelming to try and write about and I just want to move on without finishing the story (especially since I still do not know the ending to this story). The last 6 weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions for us. Jill was having REALLY, REALLY great days, but then her nights were terrible. Then she would have some good nights, but her daytime behavior would take a dive. Then she started having a TERRIBLE time falling asleep at night but was sleeping all night long which was fantastic, but that was followed by a hard time falling asleep and her waking up terrified in the middle of the night. I barely know which way is up anymore. Luckily, her daytime behavior has really leveled out so now we are mostly just struggling with night....but it is a HUGE struggle.
Then, as if we are not struggling enough, Hazel died. Ourawesome, amazing, wonderful, healthy, energetic 12 year old dog woke up on May 2nd and was struggling to breathe, eat, walk, she wouldn’t even wag her tail when we came over to pet her. We found out later that she had a ruptured tumor on her spleen and was experiencing fatal internal bleeding. Luckily, she only suffered for a few short hours, but the pain we have felt has been enormous. Just today I walked in the door expecting to see her greeting us.
I stopped eating for an entire week. I missed her so badly that when I would feel hungry I would tell myself, “I want to be in pain...I just want to be in pain.”
She was my constant companion all day long. She was my solace when life got to be too much (especially during the last few months). I could always take a few minutes in the midst of the chaos my life had become and get some Hazel love. I finally went to see our homeopath and she helped me to move on in a more healthy and productive way. I will never get over losing her, but I can think of her and talk about her without crying now, and I am eating normal again.
If you could believe it, our plumbing backed up the day Hazel died so that our kitchen and laundry would not drain at all. And then, literally like 3 days later, our house became infested with mice or rats...we aren’t sure. It has taken about 2 weeks and we just now think we got them all.
What might be thrown at us next I do not know....but we are going through some serious life lessons. I believe that we are presented with the things we need in life to make us better people. I know that I have grown into a better parent through these last few months. I always try to find the lesson in everything that is put into my path. Sometimes it is hard, but the lesson is always there as long as we are willing to quiet our minds and look for it.
When I have spent time sitting in meditation, or writing in my journal, or just spend a few quiet moments thinking about why we are going through this current situation, I have come up with a few different ideas.
First, I realized that Jill was too compliant of a child. She dealt with getting the short end of the stick all the time, without complaint. Alli required so much more attention in the last 4 years with her vision problems and being behind in school, etc. Jill was always more than happy to entertain herself while I focused solely on Alli. This needed to STOP!
Second, I realized that I had become lazy in my parenting style. When the girls were young I prided myself on the fact that I NEVER, EVER yelled at them. I could be stern and I could show them that I was angry, but I would never yell or talk in a rude way to them. But, that takes a lot of effort and energy on my part and I had gotten lazy.
|On the PCT near our home. The last hike with Hazel, two weeks before she passed on...|
Since they were not tiny children anymore I didn’t think it was so bad to yell at them if I needed to (wanted to is more like it), or get frustrated and say nasty things to them. Now, keep in mind that a nasty comment from me is probably nowhere near as bad as some parents talk to their children, but to me my comments were leaving me feeling guilty and unkind.
I had thought to myself more than once, “Jen, you better stop this soon or you are going to cause long term damage these sweet girls.” Even though I knew I wanted to go back to my old ways, I wasn’t putting in the effort to make it happen. It was easier to just REACT to situations, instead of taking time to RESPOND to my childrens' needs.
My go to resource for the type of parent I want to be is HANDS FREE MAMA – her blog and her book bring me peace and calm when I need it most. I bought a bracelet from her website that says “I CHOOSE LOVE” to remind me at all times that LOVE should be my guiding light. Please, if you do not already read her blog, check it out now and sign up for her email updates. Her posts are like calm, loving support and guidance so desperately needed by worn out parents. HANDS FREE MAMA
Third, I have learned how to help friends and family through a crisis. I have had a hard time staying in touch with friends because of how overwhelmed I have felt. Plus, I didnt feel like anyone really wanted to hear from me anyway since I was so depressed.
I am lucky to have a few blessed souls (and you know who you are....) who have stuck with me through this, good and bad. Regularly sending me emails and texts or calling and asking how things are going with Jill and if there is anything I need. Offering to give Alli some much needed time and attention. I had two friends who came to see me after Hazel died. I am not always good at asking for help, and I appreciate SO MUCH that these friends didn’t wait for me to ask for help or company…they just came. I want to be like that.
Fourth, after Hazel died, I spent a lot of time wondering if I gave her enough love and attention. Especially in the last few months when my life was so out of control. Luckily, I really think I did. We all gave her lots of love and attention. But, losing her so suddenly and with no warning at all, made me realize that the old cliché is just so true:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT
I am now super aware of how busy lives can get and how a lot of people spend a lot of time doing really unimportant things. I don’t want to be one of those people. I want my children to know they are wanted and loved. I want Shane to know he is valued and appreciated. I want my friends to know how important they are to me. At the end of each day, I just want to know that I have lived that day to its FULLEST.
And lastly, I feel that as crazy as this may sound, I am grateful for what we have experienced (well, not losing Hazel). What we have been living through (and continue to live through right now) is making our family stronger. All 4 of us are learning how to deal with emotions, fears, and anxieties in a healthy way. My children are 7.5 and 10 and do meditation and deep breathing every night. We repeat positive affirmations and we build each other up regarding things that are challenging in our lives. We talk about emotions and feelings and how to deal with situations that make us nervous or scared.
And most important, we are learning to trust and believe in ourselves, knowing that everything we need can be found inside ourselves, if we just quiet our minds and listen.
I told Jill that I was AT LEAST 28 years old before I could handle stress, anger, anxiety or really any type of strong emotion, in a healthy way. She is doing better at 7 years old than a lot of adults I know.
But, I digress.
The reason I wanted to update the blog is because I wanted to share some of the great improvements Jill has made, share some of the real struggles we are still having and also share some tips about what has helped during this challenging time. Believe it or not, I had 4 of my FRIENDS (seriously, people I know and am in touch with) contact me saying that their child was doing either this exact thing (terrified of throwing up) or something similar. This leads me to imagine that there are many others out there dealing with similar issues, but they just don’t want to talk about it. I would like to share the things that have worked for us, so that others in need of this information might be able to find it, without having to share their painful struggles with others if they are not ready or willing.
I titled this post “Don’t let a fear turn into a phobia” because I think that is my biggest take away from what we have experienced. I do not believe – ANYMORE - that Jill has this phobia, HOWEVER, I do have full faith that had she continued on the path she was on and we continued on the path we were on (reassuring her, avoiding the topic, etc...) or given into some of her fears (not eating out, avoiding unhealthy food, etc...) that this could have EASILY turned into a phobia.
Here is the long LONG LONG story of how we brought Jill back from the brink of a near disaster.
There is one thing I want to mention first. This story is very different from what happened with Alli and her vision problems. In that situation, although I was scared, I did allow time for the Vision Therapy to be the only thing we changed. I did not hire a reading tutor or have her in special classes or change anything else I was doing with her. At the end of the 6 months when Alli had jumped 3 reading levels, I knew whole heartily that it was the Vision therapy that worked. No doubt about it.
With what has been going on with Jill, I was much more afraid. I did not allow time for one method to sink in to see if it was going to work. We tried everything under the sun at pretty much the same time so I really don’t have a clear idea of what might be THE answer to what has helped her the most. Literally, if you don’t believe me, this is the list of what we have done so far, that I can remember (and many of them, continue to be used today):
· Nurtured Heart Parenting Methods
· 5 Love Languages of Children
· Reading The Gisell Series Books – Your 7 yearold and Your 8 year old – these books are so amazing at putting a parent’s mind at ease regarding what is “normal” behavior for the different age ranges. The first 4 pages calmed me down back in February when her tummy issues were getting out of control.
o We’ve tried 3 different remedies…still searching for the right one
o Cell salts
· Play Therapy
o Understanding how the brain works
o Learning how to respond to worry
o Creating a plan of attack when FEAR takes a grip
o Figuring out how to establish a reward system and work through fears
o B12 supplementing
o Chinese Tinctures
o Chinese Herbs
o Deep Breathing
o Progressive Relaxation
o Positive Affirmations
o Calm and Peaceful Thinking
o Law of Attraction
o What you focus on you get more of. Focus on the good.
o Proper body alignment to assist in proper body functioning
o Muscle testing for emotional support
o Raising Baby chicks for 5 weeks (Jill and Alli loved this one)
· Energy/Angel Healer
o Crystals and Healing Rocks
o Karma Cleansing
o Past Life Healing
· Emotional Freedom Technique (For me, I was unable to imagine this situation ever being resolved, Jen Gaynor-Yaker did wonders at helping me break this negative thinking)
As you can see…it is nearly impossible to know what the most helpful pieces of this puzzle have been. I think everything has been helpful in different ways. Homeopathy has opened my eyes to an entirely new way to treat MANY, MANY health ailments naturally. Play therapy has given Jill (and all of us) many skills
that she will use for the REST OF HER LIFE so that she will be able
to deal with fears and anxieties in a healthy way and not have to live with
irrational fears or worries that threaten to take over her life. Acupuncture (and Chiropractic care) and all
the vitamins, tinctures and herbs will continue to be a main source of
alternative health care for all of us.
|Jill getting acupunctured!!|
If I had to pick only ONE thing that I feel have helped the most, I would say – FIRST and WITHOUT A DOUBT – it would be the Nurtured Heart Approach.
Deep in my heart, I feel pretty strongly that I need to give MYSELF and SHANE kudos for how we have handled the last 3 months. We could have resorted to yelling and screaming at Jill. We could have told her that we didn’t care if she wanted me to stay with her, I was leaving anyway. I could have just spent a few nights at my parent’s house so that I could get a full night sleep…
We did none of these things. We have been patient and calm and loving and I have stayed with her everywhere and anywhere she needed me (except for my 15 minute bike rides…she had to practice being away from me a little!) When I had to be tough, I gave her the words I wanted her to have in her heart to get her through. I would say things like,
“Jill, I know you are going to want me to answer your questions, and even though I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, I am not going to answer you because you must learn to trust and believe in yourself.”
The hardest part of the last three months was actually talked about in the last post – PART 2 – if you want to read it. When I stopped answering all her questions, stopped reassuring her that she was ok and would not throw up 35 times a day, and stopped avoiding talk about throw up, things changed very quickly.
Prior to this, I have always believed that ignoring behavior that you do not want is always the right thing. But, actually following through on this one was incredibly difficult because she was SO afraid and her tummy hurt SO much. I had a really difficult time finally getting strong enough to where I could actually ignore her without feeling like the worst mom on the planet.
Then, after only 3 days we started seeing the HUGE changes taking place, that made it easier to continue to ignore any behavior that she was using to try to get me to engage with her. I would say that these steps alone accounted for at least 70% of the improvement that we saw in Jill during the first two weeks after implementing them.
I dont know if a lot of you knew this, but I started this “ignoring” tactic on March 25th and then March 28th Shane and Alli left for 10 days to spend Spring Break in Olympia with his family.
We were all supposed to go, but I just couldn’t fathom taking Jill up there with these hour long tantrums and her terrible sleep, etc. It would have been an absolute nightmare for me (and every else involved!) So instead, I decided to take advantage of having nearly 10 days of Jill all to myself to work through as many of her fears and anxieties as I possibly could.
Mornings were hard for us because that was when Jill would experience lots of anxieties about how her tummy felt when she woke up, so she would eat and then worry because of whatever she ate or worry that she ate too much or worry that she would hold her poo and that would make her throw up, etc...you remember all this, right?
Now, there was no Alli there to at least give Jill a little distraction so I did the next best thing (and those of you who know me well will probably NOT BELIEVE THIS!!!) She could get up at whatever time – usually 5:15 or 5:30 – and I would let her watch Netflix for an hour. Then she would eat and IMMEDIATELY go watch more netflix......I was trying to distract her from the reflex she was having to just automatically snap into worry mode. It worked!! Most mornings she was happily distracted until close to 10am!!
SKATE PARK THERAPY
Now, even I couldn’t stomach (pun intended) letting her watch more than 2 hours of Netflix every morning, so pretty soon I also started what I called “Skate Park Therapy”. We had taken the girls a few times on vacation to skate parks and they loved to ride their scooters up and down the hills and in the bowls, etc...but we had never gone to the one in Chico. It opens up at 8am and there is hardly ever anyone there at that time so Jill and I both had our scooters and our helmets and spent over an hour playing at the skate park together.
Now I will tell you why this is significant. Jill loved riding down this one really steep hill, but I was TERRIFIED to go down it. I could just picture myself breaking my arm or leg. I also noticed that my stomach hurt when I was standing at the top and THINKINGabout going down the hill. I had a total A-HA moment. This is what it feels like for Jill when I am leaving on my bike ride. She doesn't know why it is happening, but she knows her tummy hurts and she thinks it means she is going to throw up.
I called her over and told her, “I am really afraid of going down this hill. When I think about it my tummy hurts a lot. But, I know that I am nervous and scared. It doesn’t mean I am going to throw up, it just means my body is feeling afraid. But, you know what I am going to do.....I'm gonna go down this hill and face my fear.”
And that is exactly what I did. I didn’t fall, thank goodness, but it wasn't graceful either. And when I got to the bottom I said to Jill, “I still feel afraid so I'm gonna do it again.” and that is what I did, probably 10 more times. After each time Jill would ask, “Did your tummy still hurt” and I would answer “Yep, I better do it again, until I am not afraid anymore.”
Finally, I got to where I could go straight to the hill and down it without feeling nervous at all. And we had a new saying for whenever Jill felt nervous or scared about something, “I'm gonna face my fear until it isn’t a fear anymore”
Now, you can take this for whatever you want, but I will tell you what it did for me. I was actually able to step into Jill's shoes and experience what it felt like for her to be afraid of me going away. For me, prior to the skate park incident, it was hard to empathize with her about how afraid she was of me leaving.
I mean, seriously, this kid had NEVER had a problem going away from me and now all the sudden I could barely go to the bathroom without her needing to be with me. I had been patient and was allowing her to work slowly toward her feeling more safe away from me, but I didn't ever think about how she really FELT when I was leaving. Now I knew.
As adults, I think we tend to forget how hard some things are for children, or to just empathize with what they must learn as they get older. Stopping for a moment and realizing that what Jill was experiencing was real and very difficult helped me to have even more patience for her working through this difficult time in her life.
After this experience, when I would leave for my 15 minute bike ride, I would say, “I know how you feel. Your tummy feels all knotted up and you are scared. But it is important to face our fears and to do that we need to practice. I know you can do it.” Then I would leave. She would still be distraught, but not nearly as long or as dramatic as she had been before.
MEDITATION/DEEP BREATHING/ POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS
|Hangs on her wall where she can shine her flashlight on it at night if she needs to calm herself down.|
Another thing I started with Jill while Shane and Alli were gone, was to practice deep belly breathing, progressive relaxation techniques (tensing and releasing different muscle groups) and reading her a meditation/visualization every night before bed. I signed up for 5 free at this website.
She (and I) really loved this. It was a great way to end the day with a positive, uplifting, encouraging meditation. When Alli got back after Easter, I started reading them to her every night also. They were about having courage, believing in yourself, staying strong during tough times...exactly the things that we were working on with Jill in life.
I loved the written meditations so much that I went ahead and purchased all 30 of her audio meditations. The girls and I listen to one every night before bed. They are truly amazing.
I think I had started to get frustrated with Jill and her still asking if things would make her throw up. Even though I was ignoring her, she would still try to engage me in talking about it. One day, early on during this initial “ignoring” tactic, I made the connection that “Throw up” was a big bully. I told Jill – “We are going to role play what a bully does to its victim.”
She looked at me like I was crazy, but I told her I would be the bully and she would be the innocent kid. I started berating her and saying mean things that kids say and she naturally started curling into a ball and whimpering. I just got meaner and louder and she got more and more scared.
Afterward, we talked about how she felt powerless and scared when I was bullying her. Then I told her we were going to do it again, but this time she was going to stick up for herself. She had to stand up to the mean bully. So when I taunted her she said, “Go AWAY! I dont need to listen to you. I'm not afraid of you!” and other such things.
What I then explained to her was that her fear of throwing up was a bully who lived in her head and she needed to stand up to it. I told her that the way she reacted towards me the FIRST time was what she has been doing when she feels afraid and the way she reacted the SECOND time was exactly what she needed to tell herself when she started to be afraid. YOU DONT SCARE ME!! I DONT HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU! After this, whenever she would tell me she had a worry I would say, “Be stronger than the bully. I know you can do it.”
PLAY THERAPY – F.E.A.R PLAN
At this time, she was also learning a TON during her play therapy sessions. I would have to say that her play therapy sessions, became more of a REAL therapy session. There was not much play happening. Jill and I would sit with Anne and she would teach Jill about all sorts of interesting ideas to help her to understand what anxiety and worry is all about and how it works in our body and in our brain. Anne and I had talked together about how therapy for Jill seemed like it needed to happen backwards....she needed to learn some tools FIRST to help her cope better in her day to day life....THEN the play could be put back in as a way for her to work through her fears.
F = FEAR
One great thing she learned was how the amygdala works. Our amygdala is our “worry brain”. It makes us think irrationally, it is our fight and flight response. Our frontal lobe is the rational, calming part of our brain, our “thinking cap”. Anne showed Jill how to hold her hand with her thumb pulled in and fingers up as a way to show the worry brain being in charge. Saying things like, “I ate too much fruit and now I will throw up!” or “Mommy's going on a bike ride and I might throw up!”our worry brain. We can “close our lid” and have more rational thoughts with that part of our brain. “Fruit is safe and will not make me throw up.” “I can have fun with Daddy while mommy rides her bike”
Then she showed her how to pull her fingers over the thumb as a way to calm
Then she showed her how to pull her fingers over the thumb as a way to calm
E = EXPECTATIONS
This involved talking about what she expected to happen when she threw up. Was she going to die? Was she going to be embarrassed? What exactly was the problem? So during this week we had to talk about the answer to this question that she had been asking for months?
AM I GOING TO THROW UP??
This is exactly what I said – every day for a week.
“If you felt like you would throw up, we would go into the bathroom, or get a bucket or go outside, whatever you wanted. Then I would hold your hair back and comfort you. You might feel very afraid or unsure of what would happen, but I would just keep telling you that it was ok and you were safe. Throw up is gross and can feel scary, but it is not dangerous. After you threw up, you would probably feel better, although you might feel tired that day. We would brush your teeth and wash your face, or you could take a bath if you wanted. Then maybe I would read to you or you could watch a movie. Then the next day you would probably feel all better.”
The first day was absolutely terrible. She literally felt that if we talked about throw up, it would make her throw up. So when I said we had to talk about what would happen if she threw up she literally ran away crying, “I don’t want to throw up, I don’t want to throw up!!!” I had to call her back in and do some deep breathing to calm her down but we got through it, barely. She cried and kept saying she didn’t want to talk about it. She kept asking if she really was going to throw up cuz she felt like she would. She kept asking why her tummy hurt.
Well, we did this every single day for two weeks I think and by the third day she would be calm through the entire thing. By the fifth day she would repeat the entire thing herself and by the last day she was saying, “Mommy, we haven’t talked about throw up today, can we do it now?”
A = ACTION
Next, Jill learned about what ACTION she could take to calm her fears. We already had this one down pretty good because we had been doing the deep breathing and meditations at home consistently so Jill knew that anytime she got nervous she could take a deep belly breath and make sure to relax all the muscles in her tummy. I also like to remind her of one of the ideas from a meditaion. Our thougths are like seeds in a garden, we can water the flowers or we can water the weeds. If Jill was stuck in a cycle of negative thinking I could say, “Jill, let’s find some flowers to water.” And try to come up with some pleasant thoughts she could focus on.
R = REWARDS
This is part of the program that gives the person a reward for doing the right thing and not letting a fear stop them from doing something they want to do. For an adult, a reward could be just realizing that life is so much nicer when you aren’t afraid of so many things. For Jill, we were already doing the sticker chart system where she could earn lego sets by filling her chart with stickers earned by doing things she was afraid of (me going on my bike ride, her going somewhere without me, having a calm bedtime, etc…)
PREVENTING AVOIDANCE BEHAVIORS
Another important factor in helping to stop the development of a phobia, is to not allow avoidance. So, that is pretty easy if you are afraid of dogs....you need some exposure to dogs. Being afraid of throwing up is much more difficult because it just doesnt happen much (at least in this family). However, there are other things that are avoided and for Jill that was stuff that she ASSUMES will cause her to throw up: unhealthy food, eating out, fruit, eating with her fingers, eating food that falls on the counter, etc....So, I just started to notice what it was that she was avoiding and then “forced” her to do them.
Eating out was easy. The week that Shane and Alli were gone, we ate out all three meals on the first day. She tried to not order atUpper Crust (cuz you know, pastries will make you throw up) and actually tried to make me leave, but I just ignored her and ordered something for myself. She finally ordered but refused to eat it. I told her we would leave after she ate it. It took her about 3 minutes, but she ate almost the entire thing. We went out to lunch and dinner that day. Over the next 10 days we went out probably 7 more times (and no, we cannot afford this, but it is a necessary expense – I call it Restaurant Therapy) and she was fine every single time.
The unhealthy food was a lot harder because – we are pretty healthy people. I literally had to clean out the cupboards of our healthy food and replace ALL of it with stuff she wouldn’t eat. Crackers and chips and juice boxes and energy bars, etc....she had no choice but to eat it.
This was also harder because she would eat stuff and then tell me her tummy hurt so of course I am thinking “Yep, well it’s a bunch of garbage you are eating!!!” but I would have to ignore her. After a few days, she would eat any and all of it without a comment so I started to phase out that food and introduce back the healthier options we were used to.
She still is struggling to eat cookies, ice cream, etc…and for now I have let this one go because in all honestly, I think she is better off not having an addiction to sugar and I am CERTAINLY not going to push her to eat desserts she does not want to eat!!
I will say that a few days ago she went out to lunch with Poppy and Alli and afterward they went to the cookie shop and she actually ate some cookie and never told me about it or talked about it making her nervous or her tummy hurt so I think this one may just go away on its own.
Because she was afraid of fruit, that was my next goal. I filled the fridge with almost nothing but fruit. This was a lot harder because fruit (from our fruit trees) WAS the last thing she had eaten when she did throw up 2 years ago. My method worked the same though. Within a few days she was eating fruit without having to talk about how worried she was. Today she was pulling down apricots, pluots and apriums off the trees and eating them all….seems like a good sign to me.
EATING “DIRTY” FOOD
For a while Jill started avoiding eating any type of food with her fingers. She wanted a fork all the time (and our kids have NO table manners. Eating spaghetti with their fingers would be normal (sigh!) So when I noticed this behavior I started unwrapping her bars and handing them to her (she would eat it by holding the wrapper and eat it out of that), or if she asked for a piece of my apple and she wanted me to put it in her mouth I would refuse and tell her she had to take it with her fingers.
Luckily, this was short lived and she is back to eating with her hands covered in dirt. YAY! I am so glad I never pushed hand washing on these kids. She would probably be obsessive about washing them if that was true.
Another day I had made chicken nuggets and one had fallen onto the stove top. She saw that I picked it up and put it with the rest of them and wanted to know which one it was. I told her I had no idea and she refused to eat the lunch. She was crying and saying she wanted something else for lunch. I told her she was not eating anything else until she ate the lunch I made for her. (Prior to this I noticed that a few times she had thrown away food that touched the counter or the table. I decided this was a battle I was ready to fight with her.)
She took about 5 minutes, but eventually sat down and ate them all and later told me… “That was silly of me. I’m sorry I acted that way.” Today, she won’t eat things that fall in the dirt, but she is not concerned about the counter, table or stove tops anymore.
WHAT ALL THIS HARD WORK HAS ACHIEVED
Consequences of all this hard work was that Jill slowly started to get some confidence in herself back. She stayed at my parents’ house for 4 hours one day while I talked with my EFT coach on the phone and took a nap. She was starting to be able to EAT FOOD away from me.
A big part of why she needed to be with me at all times was because IF she threw up, she wanted to be with me. She believed that you are more likely to throw up right after you eat, so she would never eat a meal and then go anywhere (and I could NEVER go on my bike ride right after she had eaten.)
All of this started to shift as she learned that SHE needed to be in control and not let her “worry brain” take charge. I taught my parents all the techniques that Jill was learning so they could tell her to breath deep or to be stronger than her worry brain, etc….That made it easier for me to relax a bit when she was at their house.
Another positive change was that she was going further in the day without bringing up her tummy or worries or anything. Sometimes, the entire morning could pass by, with eating breakfast and lunch even, and she wouldn’t mention anything. It also became easier for her to go to her classes and theater practice.
After just 3 weeks of our new method of interacting with her she ran off to class with just a wave. No hug, no Good-bye, no clinging to me and asking if she would be ok. She jumped out of the car and ran off. Granted…I was staying on campus, but still, that is a huge improvement from her crying into my lap that she is too nervous to go to class.
|In Sheldon, on our trip in February where she would not go 25 feet away from me at any given time.|
About this time the therapist from the OCD Center in Los Angeles finally called me back (it was a 3 week waiting list) and I happily returned her call saying that I did not think we would need her services. I hung up the phone and thought about how far she had come in 3 weeks. Our life had taken a 180 degree turn, back towards where we began. Thank goodness.
SEPARATION ANXIETY LOOSENS ITS GRIP
The severity of her separation anxiety slowly began to lose its grip on her as she began to feel safe and comfortable in controlling her own emotions. February 12th had been the day when she first had a panic attack when I left on my bike and for the next two months I could not go anywhere without her and she would go nowhere without me.
Actually, that is not fully true. We did start the practice of me going on a 15 minute bike ride where she would scream and kick and yell at Shane as he held her back while I rode away. We had to set a timer for her so that she knew when I was coming back. She would ask and fret about my bike ride every single day.
“Are you going on your bike ride when Daddy gets home from work? What time will he be home? How long will you be gone? Can you go before dinner? Will you be back on time? When is Daddy getting home?”
It was exhausting. But we stayed consistent and persevered, calmly handling her meltdowns. We started a sticker chart where she could earn stickers by staying calm for the time I was gone. Every 3 minutes that she stayed calm she earned a sticker – up to 5 stickers a day. When the whole sheet was filled (35 stickers) she could go buy a $25 lego set. This really, really helped her to have some motivation to remain calm. But, what really helped her calm down was learning all the things Anne taught her in play therapy and we practiced each and every day.
Ok, back to her decreasing separation anxiety.
We had promised Jill that if she went to Kmart with Shane that he would buy her a big ($50) lego set. We figured that if we could just get her to GO, then she would realize she is ok being away from me and then other separations would begin to get easier….and we were right.
She had an issue with going in the car, so she would not get in the car to go with Shane, but she had tried to ride her scooter up with him on March 28th. She made it half way and had to come home. She was so disappointed in herself – saying “This is the hardest day of my life. Why is this so hard for me? I just cant do it.”
We were all trying to boost her confidence – saying “Jill, you tried!! That is great. You can try again next time you feel ready!” She didnt want to hear it, but we just loved her, instead of pushing her.
On April 11th, we had gone to IKEA and she wanted to play with Alli in the elevator and on the escalator. I told her I had to shop, but if she wanted to stay with Daddy and Alli, she could play. She was very hesitant and nervous but she said YES, she would stay. I think I was more nervous than her.
I wandered off totally sick to my stomach, not knowing if she was going to have a panic attack and not be able to find me in this huge, and CRAZY CROWDED store. It didn’t help that neither of our phones has signal inside IKEA so Shane couldn’t contact me even if he wanted to.
About 15 minutes later, when I finally found them bouncing on the beds, she didn’t want to come with me to finish shopping. We met 45 minutes later at the check outs. This was the door opening up to her feeling safe away from me.
She was SO PROUD of herself that she was away from me for an hour! She kept talking about it and saying that she was ready to go to Kmart with Shane the next day. All the next day, while Shane was at work, she would say, “I am so excited to go to Kmart with Daddy when he gets home from work!”
And true to her word, he got home and they scootered up to Kmart and got her a lego set – a $40 lego set, by the way. I think we have spent over $300 using legos as bribery during the last 3 months!! This was April 12th – EXACTLY 2 months after her first initial panic attack.
From then on, every single day she was looking for a new adventure. The next day she went with Shane to the dollar store and Trader Joe’s and they were gone for over an hour. The day after that she went with Poppy IN THE CAR to Kmart and he bought her a lego set!! She started “letting me” go on my bike ride while she stayed with Mimi and Poppy (and this is a huge step because prior to this I couldn’t trust her to not run after me if she was with my parents).
Two days later she went to our neighbor’s house with Alli and swam for nearly an hour and a half – then she came home and went to the store with Poppy and Alli – and then she came home and was SHOVING me out the door to make me go on my bike ride!
Then, the most exciting day of my life – Saturday April 18th Shane was taking Alli and Hazel over to his friend’s house to go swimming. Jill was nervous and not sure if she was going to go, but she did. We told her that after they got there I could come and pick her up if she was ready to leave before Alli was done.
TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER, they came home. She was simply GLOWING in her proudness! She ran over to my parents to swim some more and I said, “Jill, I’m gonna run to Costco…do you want to come?” She thought for about 5 seconds and then said, “I’m gonna stay here!”
Then, for the first time in NINE WEEKS I got in my car and drove off ALONE!!!!! I was only gone for 25 minutes, but it was 25 minutes of pure BLISS for me. I had a teeny tiny little bit of freedom back.
This was all in just the first week of her newfound comfort.
On Mother's Day, she went fishing with Shane ALONE. They were gone for 6 hours and she had a fantastic time. She said shewants to go kayaking with him next, ALONE! Isnt that just incredible!!
We are still working on me being able to leave her. It is FAR easier for her to leave me then it is for me to go away from her. But, we practice and I don’t stay away too long and it is getting better.
I just know that moving slowly, at a pace she is comfortable with, is going to be the key to moving forward in her feeling safe with me leaving her.
School and theater classes have ended so we will not be able to work on those until the fall. She never did feel comfortable enough for me to leave her at those places. She said, “Mommy, I barely know these people” and she is right. I’m not going to push her.
I am hoping that by the time school starts again, she will be over this, but if she is not…I will patiently work with her until she feels safe being left during those types of activities. If there is nothing else I have learned through this, I have FOR SURE learned that being loving, kind and moving at a gentle pace is what has helped Jill improve by leaps and bounds in just the last 2 months.
STILL WORKING ON…..
Unfortunately, we are not in the clear in all respects.
There are some serious issues we are still dealing with. Even though lots of behaviors have improved, some of the not so good behaviors in Jill include her going back to throwing crazy tantrums about all sorts of silly things. It is amazing, however, how much I LOVE and can tolerate these tantrums.
If she wants to throw a fit because I said she can’t play with her ball in the house that is FINE with me. Any tantrum beyond one involving throw up or her tummy or what she ate I will enjoy whole heartedly! Plus, it is maybe once a week now, not multiple times a day.
Bedtime has gone from bad, to worse, to better, to terrible to HORRIFIC to absolutely TERRIFYING!! I’m gonna save this for another post, but just know that I never thought I would have to worry about Jill climbing out her window in the middle of the night before she turned, I don’t know, maybe 15…. but she did it at 7. Just as daytime started to improve, her night times became nearly unbearable…I’m hoping in a few weeks to have a post about how we saved bedtime. Wish me luck on that one.
Those of us who spend time with Jill daily are amazed at how much she has improved in such a short period of time. Her resilience, determination and ability to control her emotions are stronger than many of the adults that I know! I make sure to tell her often how impressed I am with all the hard work she is doing to take control of her life back. As she experiences different fears and anxieties in the future – she will be far better equipped to handle it now that she has so many tools to control her emotions.
UPDATED PART 4 - THE FINAL CHAPTER
UPDATED PART 4 - THE FINAL CHAPTER