Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Comeback

After a really, really bad day, Coco got a win. He went back to school. He attended first period Latin. Sure, it is just one class. But it is a giant step forward. Demi & I are very proud of him.  We hope he is proud of himself.  He should be.
     I drove the boys to school.  Coco was even happy to be early, so that he could hangout in the lounge & see his buddies.  I waited in the parking lot.  I got his OK to get a quick coffee, but I was there just in case.  Then I met him in the office to sign him out.  Mission accomplished. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

#RoseParade #Inspire - K-Train Rolling Through Anxiety

My Family is my inspiration.  Every single one of them.  Right now that holds true more than ever.  We have had a very rough time.  Rougher than others?  That, I don't know.  It's all relative.  That is why I have been having a hard time deciding not only how to approach this post for the Rose Bowl, but if I should approach this post.
     My youngest son has been struggling with intestinal issues for years now.  We have been through dozens of tests.  We have seen multiple doctors.  Finally, this past September, we were fortunate enough to get into a specialist at Boston's Childrens' Hospital.  He was able to successfully diagnose my son with IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  At the time, we were relieved.  We finally could put a name to what ails our son.  What we didn't realize was the problem on our horizon that would come from the IBS rider.
     Like a lot of diseases, IBS doesn't come alone.  It is paired with another disorder.
     The doctor causally asked my son if he was generally anxious.  My son shook his head.  Behind my son, I nodded affirmatively.  The doctor took notice and pressed my son.  After some discussion, there was enough evidence to suggest that the IBS afflicting my son came with a side dose of anxiety.  This magnified the issue.  Just how much, we had no idea.  At least we had no idea until about a month later.
     This is where I debated myself about whether or not to post this.  Anxiety is not the disease you usually see in these inspirational stories.  It's not a rare condition.  It does not have eye catching statistics.  If you mention it in conversation, you receive a lot of head nodding and feigned understanding from listeners.  To the causal bystander, IBS doesn't overwhelm, as it is not immediately life threatening.  Anxiety gets even less of a reaction.  Mental health does not get a lot of high level attention in the media unless it's attached to a tragic circumstance.  Mental health still has a lot of negative stigma associated with it.  So how could my son's current circumstances compare to a more highly publicized physical ailment?  I think you have to live it to understand it.
     What my son has been and is enduring, I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.  My son is very smart.  He loves school.  He has a great set of friends.  He enjoys playing and watching sports.  He loves to draw.  He can debate intelligently.  But all of that has come to a screeching halt in the last 4-5 months.
     My son hasn't been to school going on 3 months now.  He missed most of his last season of youth football.  Lately, he can't bring himself to leave the house.  Early on, he spent hours in the bathroom.  He constantly felt the urge that he had to have a bowel movement.  That anxiety led him to start missing school. The doctor explained that his brain doesn't shut off pain like most people.  So he really hasn't experienced a pain free day.  Imagine that.  Never knowing what it is like to feel good.  The anxiety magnifies the pain.
     The pain would wake him up at night.  Lack of sleep would sap his energy.  It was a vicious cycle.  The sleep deprivation would make him not want to get to up.  The anxiety would keep him house bound.  He would hole up in the bathroom for long stretches.  My wife and I would alternate working from home as much as we could to look after him.
     I don't know what anxiety is like for adults.  Mental health issues in general have to been vastly different for adults than for children. My son is 13, soon to be 14.  He is an adolescent.  His hormones are raging.  Puberty is tough enough on it's own to endure.  He misses school (yes, school).  He misses his friends.  He has missed sleepovers, Halloween parties, and pick up games.  He can't even go across the street to play XBOX with best friend.  He has missed his favorite new movies.
     He goes through uncontrollable outbursts.  For no reason he gets so angry he shakes and screams.  He becomes irrational.  He makes the same argument over and over.  He won't listen to reason.  You can't debate him.  Even with my wife and I controlling our instincts to react with anger, stifling yelling and talking calmly, we can't reason with him.  We can't even console him, particularly me.  He is focused on my wife as his comfort zone.  I tend to embody everything that is going wrong.  He wants no part of me.  Sure that is tough for me. But I don't have time to worry about that.  I need to be there for him, for my wife and for our other son (both of whom have been amazing through the entire ordeal).
     No.  Maybe he is not in immediate danger.  But this has immensely impacted his life.  During his latest outburst he kept shouting out things like:  "Why can't I just be normal?!" or "I can't do any of the things I like to do."  He doesn't completely understand what is happening to him.  But throughout all of this, even at his lowest, he continues on.  He continues to battle.  He continues to work to get better.  We all take it one day at a time.  Win the each small battle.  Or to paraphrase Curt Schilling and the 2004 Red Sox:  win each step, win each at bat, then win the inning, then the next...and so on.  He did not want to go to therapy.  But he did.  He didn't want more medication.  But he tried it.  He even tried again after the first one had the opposite reaction.  The first seemed to create the uncontrollable outbursts and fits of rage.  He was terrified to go to group therapy.  But he's done it.  And.  He's starting to win.
     The other thing for this Rose Bowl Parade campaign is this:  My son and I have a special bond that involves football. He was become a student of the game.  He studies the history and traditions.  He is not just a statistics guy, or a who's hot now person.  He really values those that played before he was even born.  He honors traditions like Texas A&M's 12 man, the Sooner Schooner, the Army/Navy game, or Harvard/Yale.  We spend every New Year's Day watching bowl games.  About 5 years ago I explain Bowl season to him.  I talked about the big Bowls and traditions.  The Rose Bowl parade happened to be on (which is a tradition for us, as we are usually taking down ornaments from the tree & watching the parade).  He got really interested in how the floats were made and how long this has been going on.  Since then, he watches all the Bowls, but he always asks "Who's in the Rose Bowl?"  That is his must see Bowl.  This year, our favorite team, FSU is in it.  He knows FSU has never played in the Rose Bowl, based on the old conference tie-ins.  If anyone deserves to win a trip to see the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl, it is my son.  I guarantee no one would appreciate the meaning more.  The irony is that if he were to win, I am not sure he could go.  He is working on getting better.  He seems to be getting better.  But by January 1st?  Who knows?  One day at a time.