Main Pic

Main Pic

March 10, 2018


I know I have written about this before, on my social media and on this blog (read herehere and here) as  I think it is an important topic to talk about, but I don’t talk about it often because, well, for a lot of reasons. Mainly, because I often feel alone during these times and it’s hard to put the feelings into words.  I bet the majority of people around me don’t know that I struggle with depression from time to time, or when I’m struggling with a period of depression because on the outside it is easier to smile and push through it.  But sometimes I feel like a shell of the person I am and although I am me, the best parts of myself become locked away, inaccessible.

We don’t even call it depression in my house, we call it gloominess. We started calling it gloominess when my 9-year old son most recently began to express periods of sadness, feeling alone and unworthiness. He said he feels like a cloud of gloominess has washed over him.  He once articulately summarized depression as, “It’s like watching all my friends play tag football together. They are running around, laughing and having fun and I am just sitting and watching. Even if they yell at me to come and join them, I can’t. I am just stuck watching them laugh while I feel sad on the sidelines.”
This broke my heart to know he was struggling with the very same feelings I have struggled with since childhood, but it did not surprise me. You see, depression runs in my family and it most often affects those, including myself, with similar personalities; the empaths, the sensitive souls that feel deeply and care greatly. On one hand, I am thankful that I am someone who can intricately understand what he is going through, that I can help him be a voice to his pain. On the other, I am sad that he may continue to have these ups and downs because they are not easy and they are not fun. I have learned a lot from them though, most importantly how to sit with the uncomfortable sadness.

Today as I was walking next to my oldest son, I asked him with an arm draped around his shoulder,
 “Do you ever feel sad and gloomy, like a dark cloud comes and rests over your head for awhile?”

Ya, sometimes,” he said.
 And what do you do to shake it off of you, to get over it?”

What do you mean?” I asked him.

I don’t do anything to get rid of the feelings. I just let them pass. They always do.”
That was my 11-year providing mature emotional insight to his 36-year old Mama who keeps trying to shake off the gloominess because I am tired of just sitting with it. Reminding me that sometimes we have to hang on to the knowledge that waves come in and then they go back out. Learning to float may be the best thing we can do.

The other day my husband, in the most loving way, began to offer advice on what I can do to feel better.  "Do you want to watch a show on TV? Maybe movement will help you! Do you want to rejoin the Y? Take yoga classes? Getting out and walking when the sun is out will help you.”

I know.  I know that movement will help. I know the sunshine will help. I know music will help. Drawing will help. Gratitude will help. Stretching will help. And my response as tears streamed down my face was, “I hear you talking words at me and I cannot make those things resonate with my body right now. I am just going to have to sit and wait for awhile because I don’t have an ounce of energy to do any of that. I just need to lay down with my heated blanket for awhile and let the thickest of the gloomy clouds roll out because that is the best I can do right now."

And today I did something. I got up,  made myself coffee, went to my kiddo’s basketball game and witnessed him make a basket for the first time in a game, came home and began to clean the house as I try to do every Saturday. For a little while I forgot about the sadness and the sun was shining. But as I moved from room to room, becoming overwhelmed with the tasks on my to-do list, I began to feel the clouds roll back in. I walked into my boys’ room to make their beds and I discovered the drawing my 9-year old had been working on at bedtime last night.

There is so much guilt to contend with when you are a mother struggling with depression. You feel like you cannot be enough for your family, you beat yourself up that some nights you go to bed before them because all the noise is overwhelming. Some nights you cannot cuddle them because you are exhausted emotionally and mentally.  It’s just the worst part about all of this. But finding little reminders like this is a balm to the weary soul. It makes me realize that although we each have struggled with something hard, we have each other.

The best way out is always through. Isn’t that what Robert Frost said? I don’t really think there is any other way. But even walking through it, or sitting with it, we don’t have to do it alone.  Depression can make you *feel* utterly alone. I know this.  And I have learned to listen to my feelings, to acknowledge them, to thank them, even,  but to also trust in the knowing that remains somewhere in my brain. “It will get better. I am not alone.”  

February 19, 2018

I Need Help...

From the time he came earth side, my son has been my greatest teacher. Beginning as an infant suffering with 50 food and environmental allergies, moving into toddlerhood with speech delays, and later onto early elementary with mounting frustration in the traditional public school setting, he has needed his mom to think outside the box, to brainstorm, and most importantly, to advocate for him. This has been challenging, heart-stretching work.

I have approached each of these pivotal times, as the perfectionist I am. I turned over every stone, spent hours upon hours online performing detective-style research and finally, when in spite of all that, I just could not figure it all out myself and I felt like time was running out, I secretly whispered a plea into the 4:00 am sky, “I need some help.” And every time, help would come. We found a wonderful naturopath to clear his allergies. The Help Me Grow program provided speech therapy. And then, at the beginning of 2nd grade when my bright and creative child was ready to give up on school and I found myself laying wide awake in bed with tears streaming down my face, we found Red Oak Community School, or maybe ROCS found us.

When asked to sit at a desk or in front of a computer, tactile learners such as my son can start to look like kids who cannot focus, who misbehave, and who have trouble settling their bodies down. Traditional public schools often limit children's space or ability to move, a detriment to kinesthetic learners.

I knew my son was capable, he just needed space to move while he was doing academic work. At home we would bounce balls while doing math facts; he would roll around on the couch while studying sight words; and while reading out loud to him, he would draw the story in his art pad. He did not like sitting down to do homework sheets, as he would much rather be outside climbing trees. In first grade, he learned to play guitar and taught himself chords. By second grade we knew he had a musical gift when he could listen to music and play it on his guitar the first time. When I reached out to his teacher to see if he could bring his guitar in and play a song for the class, she saiid, “I am sorry. We don’t do show and tell at school.” 

There were multiple conferences with multiple teachers ringing alarm bells that he was very smart, but they were worried he could not channel his intelligence into success in the classroom and that he would not pass the 3rd grade English Language Arts (ELA) test due to his inability to sit for long periods of time. There was mention of medication. They attempted some tactile tools like fidgets, bands on the chairs, letting him take a walk around the library in the morning, and sitting at the back of the rug in case he needed to wiggle. Still he came home in tears day after day when he had to move his clip down on the discipline chart and his new mantra became, “I’m just a bad kid.”

As a mom, there came a point when I could no longer listen to my son say he was a bad kid anymore! I was ready to quit my job and homeschool him even though in my heart I knew that was not a feasible option for our family. I reached out to my Facebook community and that’s when I learned about ROCS, a “homeschool school.” My interest was piqued.  I spent hours on the website learning about this fascinating school where kids can play in the woods, use sensory tools for all the lessons, where they do not assign homework nor tests, and where they listen and learn from children’s need to move while learning (read more about this in Movement Matters).

I knew this was the place for my son. I wrote a check to Red Oak Community School with the application form and carried it in my purse. When my husband and I toured the school and Cheryl, the school manager, said, “Think about it and let me know,” I handed her the check and said, “I already know.” He was added to the wait list for 5-Day students and 1 month later, we got a call: “We have an opening for your son. We cannot wait to have him.” Even though he started a few months after the first school year began, he was welcomed with open arms.

Today he is thriving! He loves school, his creative spirit has an outlet, he is successful, and he can move! He has brought his guitar in and played many times, including during the filming of the school song. His eyes light up on Monday when he eagerly checks the weather and gets his gear ready for the day. He has never uttered “I am a bad kid” again. 
Testimonial post was originally written for The Red Oak Community School blog: