Parenting While Depressed

I haven’t been okay for a while now. I won’t get too into it, but I continue to be depressed and I continue to parent a really HARD kid.

I’m not enjoying parenting. I’m not enjoying living either.

It may get better. She may evolve into being less of a hard kid. Maybe all these things I do will help. Maybe therapy will help. Maybe we’ll move off the wait list at Integra, or Sick Kids, or CAMH and actually get some services.

And maybe I’ll get better. Maybe there’s some sort of secret medication combination my new doctor can try. Maybe something will click and my brain will find some sort of joy that’s eluded me up until this point.

Or maybe this is it. Maybe we can’t all expect to live happy lives with good things.

So nervous

If I get this job that I’m interviewing for this afternoon, my salary will increase by $12,000. With those funds I’ll be able to buy bras and get haircuts without saving up for them first. I’ll be able to take The Mook to a therapist based on what is a good fit for her, instead of being limited by my health plan.

And I’ll be able to get a goddamn divorce.

Fire(d)

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I get a little pissed off when people send me invites to pledge their charity marathon or some-such thing. I don’t have a lot of spare cash (well, any) and so I delete them and move on.

But getting an e-mail to FUND someone re-build their home? Their home covered by insurance? When I don’t have a home and spend over 50% of my pay on rent? When she and I have had conversations about financial stress and privilege?

When I heard about the fire and immediately gathered up clothes for their daughter and showed up where they had been evacuated to, with a purse full of meds in case she had been evacuated without hers, and stayed around to get them to the place they were going to stay that night and then showed up the next day with 10 books from their daughter’s favorite series?

Are you fucking serious?

Want to fund someone? How about this mom who has a daughter that needs genetic testing?

 

Grade Two

Since Michelle asked, here’s how Grade Two is rolling out for The Mook:

A month into the school year, the school got funding/permission (?) to re-jig the classes since one class was over the capacity by one child. This mean that The Mook’s grade 1/2 class went from having 9 grade 2 students to have just 5 (why yes, this does feel like my kid – along with the other kids – all with identified ‘issues’ have been held back) , along with 15 grade 1 students. Within the week, her teacher decided to switch to teach another class. So, a month into the school year, The Mook no longer had the friends and the teacher she had been told to expect since the end of the previous school year.

Luckily there was a teacher who applied for the position  – and was ultimately hiring – who already had a year’s experience at The Mook’s bizarro alternative school. I got in touch via e-mail right away, forwarding onto her the letter I had written to the previous teacher. And I heard nothing. And then I e-mailed her again two weeks later to ask a question. And I heard nothing. The teacher finally e-mailed all the parents with some information, referencing documents that had been sent home with our kids. I e-mailed back and mentioned I hadn’t received any of the paperwork and reminded her that our family needs two copies of documents, one copy of each home. I also asked whether she’d received my previous e-mails. She assured me that she had received them and that two copies of documents would be sent home “when and if possible”.

Hahaha…hilarious, right? When and if possible. Communication with home ‘when and if possible’. I immediately e-mailed the school VP (an awesome woman with kids with issues similar to The Mook who is well aware of our family make-up) and asked her to intervene. I immediately started getting my own copies of documents sent home. Win.

Since then, issues with the teacher have included:

  • not mentioning that she was pregnant and due in March (The Mook’s class will have their 3rd teacher take over in March)
  • not allowing separate parent-teacher interviews
  • not responding to the voicemails and e-mails from The Mook’s social worker (I, again, had to go to the VP about this and she got the teacher to get on top of it)

But there are two incidents that happened in the last few weeks – with the teacher AND the school – that have resulted in me scheduling an in-person meeting with the VP.

Back in late October, I finally scheduled The Mook for a private psycho-educational assessment. This meant two afternoons of testing with a psychologist to get an actual diagnosis for The Mook. An ACTUAL DIAGNOSIS instead of just guessing at what I can do to make LIFE better for her. I was told that I would get the results/report in 4-6 weeks and when I didn’t hear from her after 7 weeks, I made a call to find out the status. It turns out that the report isn’t complete because they are still waiting on the teacher to send back the forms that she was asked to complete. When I had the chance to pick The Mook up from school (something I can only do maybe once every six weeks) and saw the teacher I asked her about the forms. She told me that she has completed them but hasn’t put them in the mail.

There was also the phone call I got from the school a few weeks ago. It was some of the admin staff, asking if The Mook was with me, as she had been marked late that morning, but marked ABSENT on the afternoon attendance. After a frantic call to The Former Mister to see if she was with him (the answer was NO), I started to grab my keys and jacket so I could drive to the school, a good 40 minutes away from work. I called the school back with no answer and was almost out the door when The Former Mr called me to let me know that they had made a mistake, that The Mook was at school and nothing was wrong. Apparently there was a substitute teacher taking afternoon attendance and she missed marking The Mook present on the attendance, because The Mook had stepped out to refill her water bottle.

I’m a little torn. I had such faith in this school with its emphasis on social justice and community, but I’m wondering whether it really is the best place for her. I’ll have a better idea of how I can get the VP to help once I meet with her next week, and I’ll have a better idea of what the school can do to support The Mook once I get the results of the assessment, but I’m not so tied to the school that I would want to keep her there if these issues continue.

I should note that this isn’t the first time that The Mook has gone missing at school. It happened first last fall when she was in the far end of the playground (a space where only the senior students can play) when the rest of the kids went into the school at recess. She didn’t make it to the doors in time and was locked out. However, she was smart enough to go around to the main doors of the school, hit the doorbell, get buzzed in and made it up to her 3rd floor classroom just as her teacher that day (again, a substitute) realized she was missing. Following that, I was reassured by the VP that they would keep an extra eye out for The Mook at recess, making sure she was where she was allowed to be, making sure she made it to the door and inside the school at the end of recess.

I plan on talking to the VP about the issues I’m having with the teacher’s poor communication with both myself and The Mook’s support team (social worker, psychologist). I also want to talk to her about what to do if The Mook goes ‘missing’ again, whether there’s some sort of procedure that can be done – asking the teacher to double-check, having the VP do a visual check of the classroom – before calling me at work, where I am hopeless to do anything about the situation except panic and freak out.

In other news, The Mook finally has an appointment with a psychiatrist (who is an absolute expert on ADHD) at CAMH in mid-January. I think I managed to get her moved up the waiting list once I e-mailed the CYW that did her initial assessment about The Mook’s descent into a deep, dark depression one night, when she told me that she hated her life and her ‘ugly face’ and wanted to put her brain in another kid’s head. I can’t even put into words how hard it is to watch your seven year old descend into ‘that’ place.

The Mook and School

A few weeks ago, The Mook received a letter from her grade 2 teacher, which included a letter to parent(s)/caregiver(s) asking for some information. Besides family stuff and after-school programs, V wanted to know about each child’s strengths/struggles/skills and my hopes/expectations/worries.

It took a lot of thinking and writing and rewriting, but here are some excerpts:

About her experience starting school:

In [The Mook]’s first month at [The School], she was described to me as being ‘needy’. I explained that [The Mook] was coming from a very different environment and that she was used to more attention than she was able to receive at [Daycare}. In hindsight, I wish I had addressed this comment and asked for it to be re-framed in a positive manner, as I think this set the stage for what was a difficult relationship between [The Mook] and [K] (her grade 1 teacher).

Her experience at school thus far has not been positive. [The Mook] had a lot of power struggles with K, would often use a ‘baby voice’ and whine, and was aggressive and unkind with peers and K. She received a one-day informal suspension for hitting K. There was a tool developed by K to help [The Mook] work towards goals, but this stopped being an accepted tool once it was used to record negative information. It also become a tool in the ongoing power struggle between the two of them.

About her skills and strengths:

She really likes to talk and ask questions. She will gladly sit and listen to long explanations about how things work and ask more questions related to the topic to get a complete understanding.

[The Mook] is very strong-willed. She is very certain in her beliefs and ideas. She does not change her mind easily. If she does not want to talk about something, she will not budge. This can be hard when I want to learn more about her day or a situation, because she simply says ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ and clams up.

Her imagination is limitless. She can make a game out of anything, assigning characters and voices to things like pencils. She will also role play with these items using a different ‘language’.

[The Mook] likes being able to role-play, especially if it relates to playing out a situation that she wanted to work out differently. Role playing also helps her anticipate new situations and helps her in resolving conflict.

About her struggles:

[The Mook] does best when she is allowed to do things on her own terms. When this isn’t possible, she will push back and challenge the objective. It would be great if this could be honored in the school environment whenever possible.

She can also be very self-conscious and trepidatious. She likes to make people laugh, but only when she’s invited them to do so. She likes to perform, but not for a formal audience. She can shy away from compliments because it means that someone is looking at her. She does not like to try new things, as she expects to be able to do something the first time she tries and when this doesn’t happen, is very angry about her perceived lack of abilities.

She has a hard time with loud noises. She found the playground very overwhelming last year because of the noise level. She also struggles with listening to and following through with directions in a noisy environment, like a classroom. If she continues to struggle with this, I will consider having her tested for an auditory processing disorder.

She also struggles with emotional regulation, something that has improved only slightly with age. Her resiliency has improved somewhat over the last few months. It is hard for her to take responsibility for her actions; she prefers to blame others for her negative reaction to a situation.

About my hopes/worries/expectations:

Hope: I really hope that this year goes well for [The Mook]. Last year was really hard for her and for me as well, as I wasn’t sure how to best help her and navigate the school system. I wasn’t sure what supports were available and what role I could play in making her experience better. I would like to get a better idea of my role this year. I’m also hoping that I have enough leeway with my work schedule to be at the school as needed.

Expectations: I’d really like for attention to be paid to [The Mook]’s strengths and skills, instead of her struggles and behavioural issues. The attention to her negative behaviour last year had her believing that she is a bad kid. I’ve tried to reframe this for her, highlighting that she is a wonderful kid, who sometimes needs to make better decisions. She does mean well, but sometimes situations get away from her.

Worries: I know her reputation proceeds her. I don’t want this to cloud how grade two rolls out for her.

 

School started on Tuesday and I sent this letter to the teacher on Thursday evening, after The Mook talked to me about getting a time-out on Thursday. A classmate had said to her ‘I can draw better than that’ and The Mook responded with an insult. The Mook was pretty pissed that she was the only one who got a time-out and I e-mailed the teacher with a heads-up when I e-mailed the letter.

On Friday, I got to pick up The Mook from school and the teacher was on the playground. She let me know that she had thought about Thursday’s incident and realized that she hadn’t handled it right, that all 3 kids should have had a consequence. She also really appreciated what I had written in my letter and has gone out of her way to highlight to the other teachers that The Mook needs to hear random praise, that she needs their support to bounce back from last year.

I have to admit I got a little teary but managed not to start sobbing. I’m saving that for Monday’s therapy session.

Lessons Learned

or How I Tend to Always Learn Things the Hard Way:

  • Start as you mean to follow. That means, do not invite a man to your home for a second date and end up drinking too much wine and having sex. It will set up a pattern that you’ve been trying to avoid. That is, I’ve not actually been seen in public with this man since the first time we met and had lunch together.
  • It’s never a good idea to go into work while you’re not feeling well. No matter how dedicated you feel to finishing a project before you leave for vacation. Really? You don’t owe them anything other than what you need to earn your (measly, poverty-inducing) paycheque.

 

 

Memories

Or, Two Examples of How I Never Felt Supported As a Child:

When I was about The Mook’s age, I declared my desire to grow up and live on a farm. My parents laughed at me. Laughed.

As a teenager, I told them I wanted to spend a year or a semester abroad. Well, at least they didn’t laugh this time. I’m not even sure that I had spoken up and said something registered.

So, it’s very hard to live with having so many friends who support me and encourage me because it’s something I’ve never experienced before. Even from the people who should have modelled for me just what support looks like

epiphany

It’s been a few days with a much lowered dosage of Effexor. I had a kick-ass therapy session with Lisa on Tuesday morning. She’s on vacation for a while, so I won’t see her again until September 10th. I talked a lot about how The Mook has been blowing my mind this summer, being more cooperative and friendly and happy and loving. I’ve put it down to our summer schedule; for the first 5 weeks of summer we spent two weeks together on vacation (camping and resorting and hanging out) and she spent one week with my parents attending art camp in the morning and adventuring with them in the afternoons. She was with her dad for two of those weeks and I signed her up for some kick-ass summer camps for those weeks; one week she was at our local park, crafting a papier mache puppet/scuplture. The other week she was at a LGBT community centre with some kids from her hippie alternative school attending a nature-focused summer camp. I don’t know whether it was the more relaxed atmosphere or just the fact that is WAS NOT school but there were no behavioural issues. At all. My best experience was picking up the kids (The Mook, plus 2 7-year old classmates and a 10-year old) from the nature summer camp and talking about anything and everything on the ride home: pregnancy, which led to placentas, which led to childbirth, which led to blood loss, which led to blood donation, which led to discrimination against men who have sex with men, which led to the proper usage of the word gay vs the word lesbian (one of the kids in the car has two moms, a stepmom and a biological dad).

And a mind-blowing thought got stuck in my head this morning (thinking is much more fun to do when you’re not addled by medication). that is: It’s not what you have. It’s what you do with it.

I don’t have an education, but I have a shitload of brain and people smarts plus even more practical skills that could not have been learned in a school environment. I feel really confident that I will grow and get smarter and acquire more skills and will one day get paid what I’m worth.

And I make shit money, but I do a lot with that money (with a hat-tip to my parents for financial help in the therapy department, as well as funding my new computer [one that works!] and some dental work). The Mook doesn’t really want for anything PLUS I’ve managed to set aside money each month so that I can do things like take her camping or resorting. We’re clothed and fed and there’s a (pretty nice) roof over our heads.

So, I suppose I should start thinking that way when it come to body image. It’s not what I’ve got but what I do with it. What else can I apply this philosophy to?

Meds

While I’m at it – putting this on record – I think it’s time to ease off the meds. I’m on 225 mg of Effexor these days, but I’m also seeing my therapist every two weeks. I’ve got an appointment with said therapist tomorrow and I’ve been talking to her a lot about how things…are just how they are. My circumstances? That’s just what I got dealt. On the plus side, I’ve got a hell of a lot more support and people who listen and care these days. More than I’ve even had in my life, even not counting my therapist. I’ve got people who understand what it’s like to live as I do: broke but not broken, with emotional PTSD, while raising a kid who tests me every single damn day (tho less these days…more on that later). People who lift me up and make me laugh and smile and appreciate me.

So I can’t help but wonder whether now is a good time to lessen the meds and see how I survive each lowered dosage. As a matter of fact, I’ve not taken any meds for a few days now (which explains the nerve ending buzzing feeling that is withdrawal from Effexor) and it’s not been a disaster. I’m completely aware that what has made it easier to cope these few days sans meds is that I’ve been on vacation (so no work stress) and The Mook is with her dad. But yesterday? I was in a mall and I didn’t want to throttle anyone and I even bought clothes and looked at myself in the mirror and kinda/sorta liked what I saw.

So when I wake in the morning I might take just a 150 mg capsule. Or just a 75 mg even. Just to see.

(Ignore the fact that I’m writing this at 4 in the morning. I’m still right in my mind. It’s just that w/o meds, I actually realize I have a libido and we’ve been reacquainting ourselves.)

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