And This Is Me Now

berkshires

Over the past few weeks the foliage has been at its peak here in New England.  A week ago, it dawned on me that this was the first time in a few years I’d actually appreciated that beautiful season between summer and winter.  In fact, last year I didn’t notice it at all.  Autumn happened in New England and I happened to be in a very dark place.

Mental illness is the reason I’ve posted only once over the past year.  One year ago on October 24, 2014, I attempted suicide.  Spoiler Alert: I survived.  At that time, realizing I had survived was devastating.  I had made it abundantly clear in the goodbye letters I had written that I wasn’t taking such drastic measures as a way of getting attention.  This was not a cry for help.  This was to be a permanent goodbye.  Thankfully, that’s not what happened.  I lived to see the next day and I’m so incredibly grateful to have a second chance at life.

Surviving is the hardest part.  For the first few weeks, everyone–friends and family–is just glad that you’re alive.  Then, once the shock of the situation wears off for them, it’s assumed that you’re all better.  After all, you’d just spent a couple of weeks in a lock-down psychiatric ward and doctors had signed your release forms, so, good to go, right?  Just because you’re no longer a danger to yourself and others does not mean you’re even close to being all better.  It just means that you’re mentally stable.  Let’s use that term loosely, shall we?

Remember that TV show, The Swan?

theswanbeforeandafter2

Basically, they took a bunch of homely women who came from abusive backgrounds, gave them an unimaginable amount of plastic surgery to make them all beautiful and then somehow all of their dreams were supposed to come true.  Thankfully, part of their transformation involved seeing a therapist several times a week during the show to help them with their transition into beautiful women, but it was unsurprising that a lot of them went back to their abusive husbands or boyfriends once the show was over.  And I think the “why?” is pretty obvious.  It didn’t matter that they now had gorgeous, glossy hair, beautiful button noses, and a mile of cleavage.  They still felt worthless on the inside.  They couldn’t imagine themselves deserving anything better than what they already had.

Yeah, welcome to my world.  Sure, I had survived. But even after nearly 2 weeks of around-the-clock psychiatric care and monitoring I still felt completely worthless.  I didn’t have an ounce of self-esteem and yet I had no choice but to start over from scratch.  Move to a different house in a different state, find a job, and buy a car, all while trying to sort through a suffocating amount of guilt, remorse, regret, and anxiety.

My plan on that rainy, dismal day last October included alcohol and a lot of it.  Given how disgusting alcohol has always tasted to me, I needed a ton of soda to wash it down.  But drinking that much liquid raises a question: Where is the nearest bathroom?  I was parked in the mall parking lot so I walked into Sears, not really understanding how un-sober I was, went to the bathroom, and took this selfie.  I posted it on Facebook and Instagram as my way of saying goodbye to everyone without them knowing what I was about to do.

10501897_332274720285276_6968663642011865267_n

I had just gotten my hair done a few weeks earlier.  I had lost 60 of the 75 lbs I had gained due to alcoholism (I’ll blog about my alcoholism at another time).  Outwardly, I looked like I was okay.  Okay enough to fool the good people of Sears.  But I already felt dead inside.  As I’ve written before, by that time my “chronic fatigue” was so bad that I was bedridden.  I could barely care for my son.  My health was continuing to deteriorate, but Jack’s needs were continuing to grow.  I couldn’t do it anymore.  I couldn’t be his mom.  It was selfish of me to think I could.  If I was out of the picture, he’d have the chance at a better life.  There were a million reasons why suicide seemed like my best option, my only option.

And that’s one thing the majority of people don’t understand.  Suicide isn’t always done for selfish reasons. In fact, I’d say it’s rarely done for selfish reasons.  Once you view your existence as a burden to others, taking yourself out of the picture feels like the logical choice.  It doesn’t matter if you have incredible people in your life telling you how wonderful you are and how much they love you.  Without the intervention of mental health professionals, it’s extremely difficult to overcome those feelings.

It’s important to remember that those who are suicidal are making these decisions while in the depths of despair.  They are not in their right mind and probably haven’t been for quite some time.  A lot of people who have suicidal thoughts may experience psychosis as well–hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there.  These voices or visions may be encouraging or commanding them to end their life.  Imagine how difficult it would be to make a logical decision while hearing voices all day long!  No amount of love, kindness, prayers, or casseroles is going to fix a broken brain.  Immediate intervention from mental health professionals is critical.  Go to the nearest ER.   Or call an ambulance, if necessary.  Chances are, this isn’t something that can wait.

Keep in mind that extreme anxiety can mimic the behaviors of mental illnesses such as Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  That was my experience.  In fact, when I was admitted to the inpatient psychiatric facility they immediately began treating me for Bipolar disorder.  My reaction to the medication they put me on for Bipolar disorder was clear proof that I did not have Bipolar disorder, but in hindsight I understand why they rushed to that conclusion, based on some of the behaviors I had been exhibiting at that time.  As Ecclesiastes 7:7 says “Mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy.”  Put your average person in an unbearable situation for a prolonged period of time and see what happens.  Oh wait, I can tell you what happens because that was my life.  Eventually, my brain just broke because it could no longer stand the oppression.  When your brain breaks, you think crazy things and you do crazy things.  Simple as that.

“When you’re in that place” . . .  That’s how I begin my sentence when I attempt to differentiate to others how I feel in my everyday life versus how I felt when I was “in that place” last year, experiencing suicidal thoughts.  Do you remember that 90’s movie “Powder”?  I’ve never seen it, but I remember this scene from the previews on TV:

Powder 6

It was a scene involving the lead character named Powder and a couple of hunters who had just shot a deer.  While the deer was dying, Powder placed one hand on the deer and one hand on the hunter who shot it.  By doing so, Powder was able to transfer the excruciating pain that the deer was experiencing to the hunter.  Seriously, I wish I could just touch someone on the shoulder and for a brief moment allow them feel the despair I felt last year.  Then let them compare that to what I experience now.  The two feelings are completely different.  I could have a truly horrible day tomorrow and not feel suicidal because now I’m coping with a much more stable brain.  I’m not in “that place” anymore.

WHERE I AM TODAY:

video_still

My everyday anxiety feels like acid reflux, but instead it’s your emotions that are rising in your throat.  It feels warmer as it rises and before you know it you’re also feeling a little out of breath.  This photo illustrates it perfectly.  So basically, it’s like being on the verge of a panic attack all.day.long.

panic-attack

Why, yes.  Every single day.

panic_attacks

And don’t forget that feeling of wanting to jump out of your skin!

Thankfully, my anti-anxiety medication keeps those bouts in check, but I still experience those feelings to varying degrees every day.  This is my life now.  And I’m totally cool with that because it feels worlds away from what I was experiencing last October 2014.

HOW I FELT LAST YEAR, 2014

2014 Bournewood 12

I related to Fantine.  For me, there was never going to be a way out, just like there was none for her.  I would listen to songs from Les Miserables every day.  I preferred to listen to some of the songs in French because they felt even more emotionally devastating.

getty_rf_photo_of_tired_teenager_jpg

This is how the “chronic fatigue” made me feel.  Useless, burdensome.  I didn’t have the energy to help with Jack.  I didn’t have the energy to do anything.

Woman kneeling in corner with head in hands

This is how small my world felt.  This is how isolated I felt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lonely-missing-you-black-and-white-photography-2-lindos-black-and-white-black-white-sadness-sad-czarno-biac581e-sad-beauty-nikki-images-wave-pic

I felt trapped, without the hope that anything would ever get better.  I lived on the other side of the glass, watching life pass me by.

the-bottom-of-the-pit

I was at the bottom of a pit.  I could see the light above, but the light couldn’t see me.

alone-art-beautiful-black-and-white-calm-figure-Favim_com-40265

This . . . was  . . . me

And this is me now

IMG_5081

So yeah, it’s a really cheesy photo (looks like I’m trying to reenact the movie poster for The 40-Year Old Virgin), but I refuse to take 100 selfies so I took 3 and this one hid the zit on my chin the best.  And seriously, I look like I’ve aged about 10 years since that Sears selfie, but I’m alive so who cares?

I’m glad that I have the courage to say I’m mentally ill.  I’m proud of myself for admitting I’m an alcoholic.  I am not ashamed to say that I attempted suicide.  Because at the end of the day I’m still here, and I did the work to get here.  I completed an inpatient psychiatric program.  I completed an outpatient psychiatric program.  I take medications for depression and anxiety daily.  I see my therapist on a weekly basis.  I attend Group Therapy once a week.  I attend AA to keep my sobriety in check.  I’ll be getting my One Year chip this evening!  I take care of my mental health to ensure I never get to that horrible place again.

For a very long time, life was about nothing but survival.  There was no joy.  There was no happiness.  But now, not only am I grateful that I survived; I’m grateful to be alive, to be living life no matter how difficult it may be.  How amazing is that?

Sincerely,

Pink Sweatpants

 

 

 

“High Anxiety . . . You Win!”

This is my first post in over a year.  A lot of what I’ve written in this post is a repeat of things I’ve written in the past, so bear with me.  I’m a little rusty.

Back in the day, for what I’m sure was some really dorky reason, my friend Denise and I decided to watch the movie High Anxiety, starring Mel Brooks.

I don’t remember the plot.  I don’t remember the jokes.  I think I remember the nurse being really funny?  Or scary?  Or something?  I’m not sure?

But I do remember Mel Brooks singing the lyrics contained within the title of my post.  For real, sometimes you just gotta let anxiety win.

On this website, Daisy the Squirrel claims to be an expert in so many diagnoses (and she is), but one diagnosis that I, Pink Sweatpants, have mastered all by myself is anxiety–Severe Clinical Anxiety, to be exact.  Now, I know what you’re thinking–who on this planet isn’t suffering from anxiety?  It’s called Being an Adult.  No arguing that fact!

But in the same way sadness is different from a clinical diagnosis of depression, being anxious is different from a diagnosis of severe clinical anxiety.  Clinical anxiety requires treatment.

The curious thing I’ve discovered about clinical anxiety is that it’s quite the chameleon.  It can fool you into believing it’s something else entirely.  It’s tricky like that.  For instance, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Chronic Fatigue is a very real thing, but I’ve never doubted there was a psychological element to the diagnosis.  People who are experiencing chronic fatigue or who have received a diagnosis of CFS are not kidding around.  It’s a horrible, debilitating condition for which I, myself, was treated.  It’s not just about being tired; it involves pain.  Real, actual pain.  When my fatigue was keeping me in bed for hours on end, I called it Chronic Fatigue, the doctor called it Chronic Fatigue, but to me it really felt like a cop-out.  It felt as if I was nothing more than a lazy, good-for-nothing mother who just wasn’t trying hard enough.  Chronic Fatigue likes to eat away at both your energy and your self-esteem, simultaneously.  What’s left is YOU, only an unrecognizable, broken version of YOU.  Then, after years of strictly experiencing fatigue, the pain set in.  Walking up just a few stairs would leave me breathless and wincing in pain.  My legs and lungs would feel as if I’d just finished a marathon.  It was the pain that convinced me Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was a real thing.  I may have been a lazy piece of garbage, but I wasn’t imagining the pain.  Another thing that convinced me that Chronic Fatigue was the real deal was the fact that my body responded to medication designed to treat Chronic Fatigue.  Go figure.  My pain completely disappeared.  Unfortunately, it did nothing for the fatigue.  In fact, my condition continued to worsen.

At my worst, I was in bed for 14-16 hours a day.  I would classify that as “bedridden”.  I didn’t have the energy to cook, I didn’t have the energy to clean, I could barely care for our son.  Dave would bring home takeout for dinner every night.  Otherwise, there would be no dinner.  In addition to working full-time, Dave would do the grocery shopping, Dave would pick up the prescriptions, Dave would give Jack his medications and put him to bed at night.  Near the end, Dave was doing everything while I lied in bed, hating myself.

Then, last October 24th, everything changed . . .

. . . I have now lived apart from my son and husband for 10 months.  Within a few weeks of living away from home my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome magically disappeared.  I no longer needed medication to treat it because there was nothing to treat.  My fatigue was gone, my pain was gone.  However, I began to experience another symptom–constant panic.  You know that burning wave of panic you get in your stomach when you think someone has overheard you talking about them behind their back?  And then that calming wave of relief you experience when you find out they didn’t hear you?  Okay, jack up the former and take away the latter.  That’s right, turn that burning wave up to an eleven and take away the relief.  Voila!  Clinical anxiety.

th5YTHY0NL

At long last, I had the energy to function properly, but no longer had the ability to function properly.  My doctor started me out on a low dose of a non-Benzodiazepine anti-anxiety medication and continued to increase the dosage until that constant burning feeling went away.  There’s a difference between anxiety that will alleviate itself by “taking a breather” and anxiety that feels so intense and uncontrollable that it causes changes in your personality and behavior.  The purpose of the medication wasn’t to eliminate all of my anxiety; it was meant to decrease the anxiety to a level where I could control it on my own by “taking a breather”.  Over time, it became apparent that in order for me to get out of bed every day and successfully hold down a job I required the maximum dosage of the medication.  This particular medication is meant to be taken 3 times throughout the day, but my anxiety is so severe that if I don’t take a dose in the middle of the night there are extreme consequences the next morning.  I cannot get out of bed and stand up without feeling dizzy and out of breath.  I have nearly blacked out in the shower more times than I can count.  Basically, the medication needs to be in my bloodstream at all times in order for me to function in any capacity.

In time, I came to appreciate the fact that I had those horrible experiences because I began to realize how eerily similar those symptoms felt to my Chronic Fatigue.  In fact, they felt eerily similar because they had been the very same condition right from the start–Severe Clinical Anxiety.  I was dumbfounded to discover that my fatigue was actually anxiety in disguise.  Not even a year ago, anxiety had me bedridden and convinced my life wasn’t worth living.  Now I could see it for what it was and I could treat it.

Of course, even though the medication has been nothing short of miraculous for me, I’m far from “all better”.  I see a therapist.  Weekly.  I attend group therapy.  Weekly.  I’ve learned to set limits and respect those limits.  There have been times that I’ve pushed myself beyond those limits and the outcome was never good.  That’s basically setting myself up for failure.  There have been times when I’ve been so incredibly ashamed by how little I could do or how little I could give, but as I continue to get stronger I see things differently.  Now, I look back and I’m proud of myself for the small amount that I could accomplish or the little help that I could offer, because I know it truly was the best I could give at that time.

Anxiety continues to be a problem for me.  A lot of times–including right now–anxiety has me feeling like a balloon, floating in the air, and I can’t pull myself back down to earth.  It’s like a Katy Perry song, but worse.

thV4U9PFIN

I can feel myself losing control over my emotions and I get that sensation of wanting to jump out of my own skin.  I guess I’d describe it as a silent, prolonged panic attack.  All I can do is recognize it for what it is and wait for the feeling to pass, knowing that every feeling is temporary.  But wow, does it feel awful when you’re in it.

I need to get to the gym.  The medication is doing its part; now I’ve got to do mine.  I know exercise would eliminate a lot of the anxiety that I’m continuing to experience, but it’s just a matter of getting to the gym.

Rebel-Wilson-Gym

And I don’t mean that in the “I know, I know.  I’ve gotta make myself a priority!” sort of way.  I mean it in the “Last week, we looked at residential facilities for our son that are 5 hours away from me, and tomorrow he’s having surgery at Children’s Hospital” sort of way.  As in, “Can I just have a second to breathe before another major life event occurs?  Please?”

For now, anxiety is winning.  That’s okay.  I’m going to let it win for a little bit while I try to catch my breath.  I’ll just continue to float along until my feet hit solid ground.  Which, they eventually will.  Because they always have.

Sincerely,

Pink Sweatpants

Like Peanut Butter and Tuna Fish

Chronic Fatigue and autism go together like peanut butter and tuna fish.  A timeless sandwich combination that has been a staple of childrens’ lunches for years.  (I recommend tossing a few potato chips in the middle.  Mind . . . blown.)  Trying to parent with Chronic Fatigue is difficult (sometimes simply not even possible) under the “best” of circumstances. Trying to parent with Chronic Fatigue when you have a child with autism?  There are no words.  Just tears.  The guilt and frustration is just completely overwhelming.  I was discussing the issue with one of Jack’s home ABA specialists and I told her I would gladly trade CF for any visible illness.  Because people simply don’t take CF seriously.  They just write you off as a lazy, primadonna parent who needs to think more about her kids and less about herself.  Nobody thinks that about someone who is visibly ill.  And do I really mean that I would trade CF for breast cancer or some other horribly painful disease, just so people would take me seriously?  No, of course not.  There are far worse things to have than Chronic Fatigue.  But I wish people would understand that it’s no walk in the park.

I think a lot of people assume that since I battle depression my fatigue must be a physical manifestation of my depression, but it’s not.  I’m sure the two are related, but my depression is actually well-managed with my current dose of Wellbutrin.  So I’m not clinically sad while I’m lying there in bed all day.  So far from being clinically sad, in fact, that I begin to doubt I even have Chronic Fatigue.  I second guess myself and how I’m feeling every single day.  That’s when the guilt becomes cannibalizing (Speak & Spell would be sternly reprimanding me for my incorrect use of the word “cannibalizing”, but Ima go with it anyway.).  And so you get out of bed and toss in a load of laundry just so you don’t feel like a completely useless, horrible excuse for a human being.  Then you discover that those six stairs separating you from the washing machine might as well be Everest.  Yes, that’s a colorful exaggeration, but when you find yourself wincing in pain because your muscles are screaming over the amount of effort it took to climb those stairs and your lungs are desperately gasping for air, you are reminded that your Chronic Fatigue is a very, very real thing.  It’s easy to doubt yourself when you’ve spent most of the day lying on an incredibly awesome TempurPedic mattress.  Something that requires no physical exertion.  But the second you try to pretend that you’re a functioning member of society you are abruptly reminded that you do not have the energy to be a functioning member of society.  The guilt then becomes compounded by heartbreak.

I don’t know why my Chronic Fatigue kicks into overdrive every summer.  It wasn’t a pattern I recognized until this year.  And because in the past I never paid attention to when the extreme fatigue kicked in, I also never paid attention to when it lifted.  But I know it does lift at some point.  Then I just have “normal” everyday extreme fatigue.  This summer has been my first gluten-free, casein-free (aka pizza and Frappuccino-free) summer; the first year I couldn’t just chalk up the fatigue to bad eating habits.  Also the first year I didn’t self-medicate with caffeine and Treat Receipts.  So I’ve had the chance to experience it in all its glory.  And it is a delight!  Thanks to Chronic Fatigue, I now have the perfect excuse to not parent, not cook, not clean, not do the laundry, not go grocery shopping.  Neglecting my personal hygeine has also been a fun, unexpected side effect of my fatigue (“So you’re saying that I should drag my lifeless body out of bed/off the couch and STAND in the shower for 20 minutes just so my hair doesn’t look like the feathers of an Exxon-Valdez duckling, pre-Dawn?  Sounds like a lot of work for someone who’s just going to end up back in sweatpants 21 minutes from now.”).  I haven’t had my hair colored in months because when I had to choose between sleeping and looking good, sleeping won every time.  Which is why I do not currently look good!

image

There I am on the left with my sister.  Lookin’ pretty rooty!  Plus, I’ve still got 30 lbs left to lose so it’s just a terrible photo overall.  But I’m actually awake, which is a rare phenomenon that I experience rather infrequently.

Sleeping trumps EVERYTHING.  So it was time to discuss it with my psychiatrist (Did I, or did I not, just sound like a Levitra commercial?).  My old psychiatrist knew about my fatigue and had prescribed me Ritalin, but I never took it because I was wary of taking a drug that I consider to be the Stepford Wife/Perfect Mommy drug.  Moms pop a few of their kids’ Ritalin and suddenly they’re serving gourmet meals at 6:00 pm and cleaning the shower grout with a toothbrush at 3:00 am.  I was fearful of getting hooked on the stuff.  But this year I had lost the luxury of being indecisive.  I needed to take something, end of story.  My sister-in-law told me about a prescription called Provigil, which is used to treat Chronic Fatigue.  I went to my new psychiatrist (Not a huge fan of this guy.  I feel like less of a patient and more of a deli ticket to him, but my former psychiatrist has retired.  Which totally reminds me of the episode of 30 Rock when Liz tells Jack that her gynecologist just died.  Because that’s how my brain works.) and described the fatigue.  He literally started lecturing me on adding more protein to my diet and of the many benefits of Greek yogurt.  I tried to be respectful and not burst out laughing at him, but I told him ‘Okay, we are waaaaaay past eating more protein.  I am bedridden!’  So he mentioned Provigil and told me it wasn’t a stimulant like Ritalin.  I picked up the prescription the next day.  (FYI–I know I sound like I’m schlepping for Provigil, but I assure you I am not.  If you saw my house you’d know we’re not playing with Big Pharma money.)  Within a few days, the fatigue was simply GONE.  As if it had just finally gotten bored with me and left to bother someone else.  I imagined the prescription would make me feel like I’d just downed a Trenta Americano, but that’s not what happened.  I wasn’t jittery, I didn’t feel caffeinated.  I just simply no longer felt tired and achy.  It was definitely one of those “too good to be true” experiences.  Reality hit after about a week when I started getting dull, all-day headaches.  The kind that make you feel like you’ve got a brick lodged over your eyes.  So I saw the doctor again and he had me step down on the dosage, which left me unable to get out of bed the next day.  I talked to him a few days ago and he wanted me to try splitting up the dosage so I was taking half in the morning and half in the early afternoon, but I quickly realized that wouldn’t work either because I’d be out of commission until the early afternoon dose kicked in.  So I put myself back on the full dose and we’ll see if the headaches go away in a few weeks.  The good news is, my blood pressure is fine (In fact, the nurse said it was the best blood pressure reading she’d taken that day.  Jealous much?) and the medication hasn’t given me heart palpitations.  So I’m going to go toe-to-toe with these headaches for a bit and we’ll see what happens.  This dosage of Provigil only keeps the CF away for about 12 hours so I’m still in bed for the night at 7:30 pm, but I’m fine with that.  I’d rather still be sleeping too much than be up at 2:00 am watching reruns of Law & Order, no matter how much I love Jerry Orbach and wish he was my grampa.

image

Huge upgrade from having Train Man as a grandfather!

I’d prefer not to even attempt a dosage increase right now.  Don’t want to taunt the headache monster.

So there you have it.  As usual, I began writing this post with an entirely different objective in mind, but this is what came out.  And wordpress isn’t letting me insert pictures for some reason, which is frustrating because I like my posts to be more visual.  Helps keep them more interesting since I am soooooooo wordy!

Sincerely,

Pink Sweatpants

 

UPDATED WITH NEW INSTRUCTIONS: Massachusetts Parents, Act SUPER FAST!

My previous post contained information about obtaining insurance coverage for autism services in the state of Massachusetts.  The deadline for doing so is MARCH 31, 2014.  As in, TEN DAYS FROM NOW.  I followed the enrollment instructions in the emails that I included in the post and got NOWHERE.  Not surprising, if you’ve ever dealt with MassHealth before.  However, I recently received a revised email with new, clarified instructions which should hopefully be more effective than banging your head repeatedly against a concrete wall.  Of course, this remains to be seen.  I hope y’all have had better success than me when it comes to obtaining this insurance coverage!  But if not, here are the updated instructions:

2014.03.21 Updated BC Instructions 01

2014.03.21 Updated BC Instructions 022014.03.21 Updated BC Instructions 032014.03.21 Updated BC Instructions 042014.03.21 Updated BC Instructions 05I really hope this helps all of you who are looking to get insurance for your child(ren) with autism that covers ABA.  Just remember, you only have 10 more days to enroll.

Sincerely,

Pink Sweatpants

Massachusetts Parents: ACT FAST!!!

Last year, Massachusetts residents who:

  • Had a child (or children) with autism, and
  • Had MassHealth as their ONLY form of insurance

were given a small window of time in which they could sign up for their child with autism to receive Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, an insurance which IS subject to ARICA laws (Yep, MassHealth is somehow immune to ARICA laws.  Explain the logic behind that one–a law that was WRITTEN in Massachusetts, forcing Massachusetts’ insurance companies to provide autism coverage, is not honored by Massachusetts’ Medicaid?  Hmmm . . . ).

This was so far beyond irritating for my family because we happened to fall into a GIGANTIC crack in the system.  Despite the fact that we:

  • Have a child with autism, and
  • Have MassHealth as his SECONDARY insurance

we did not meet the criteria for this program.  Oh, but it gets better.  Our PRIMARY health insurance is Blue Cross Blue Shield . . . of OHIO–a state that does not have autism insurance coverage and does not need to abide by the insurance laws of another state.  So despite the fact that both of my son’s primary and secondary insurance companies don’t cover autism services, we were not eligible to sign up for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.  And to be on the safe side I emailed one of the women who helped create the ARICA law, just to make sure there was no loophole around this completely unfair criteria that the state of Massachusetts had written.  There wasn’t.

However, she said that perhaps next year the criteria would be changed to include families like mine.  That seemed hopeful, but I had completely forgotten about it until I got this email from Children’s Hospital Boston:

Autism Insurance 05

Autism Insurance 06

Autism Insurance 07

So what is “this document” mentioned in the email?  Here it is!

Autism Insurance 01

Autism Insurance 02

Autism Insurance 03

Autism Insurance 04

SO YOU’VE GOT UNTIL MARCH 31, 2014 TO ENROLL.  If you meet the criteria and decide not to enroll, I will be forced to conclude that YOU ARE INSANE.  Seriously, why wouldn’t you take advantage of this program?!

Love,

Pink Sweatpants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bournewood Ultimatum–Mindfulness

*For HIPPA reasons, I have changed the names in this blog post to names that I felt each person more closely resembled (’cause I’m a weirdo and I’m obsessed with names).

Little did I know that I’d be in the mood to write my follow-up post so soon.  I shouldn’t be all that surprised since there are several reasons for me to be in a slump today.  First, Jack has no school.  Second, Jack has a doctor’s appointment at 4:30 this afternoon.  Both things are enough to land me in the fetal position, rocking back and forth.  Why?

Jack has no school.  Jack also has off-the-charts ADHD.  We are about to try medication #6 for his hyperactivity, but as of this moment he’s unmedicated.  And he’s aaaaaaall mine for the entire day.

Jack has a doctor’s appointment.  Normally, his appointments are in Boston, but today’s appointment is in Lexington.  Not nearly as bad.  But it’s in Lexington at 4:30.  I used to work in Lexington.  Route 2 is where all the car accidents happen.  We’re going to be driving home in rush-hour traffic.  How long are we going to be waiting in the waiting room?  How much energy is it going to take to keep him from destroying everything in sight?  How sweat-soaked will my shirt be by the time we leave?

And this, my friends, is one of the reasons why I needed a program like Bournewood so badly.  The answer to all of my questions is Mindfulness.  Stay with me here because I’m not into earthy-crunchy things either.  Unless they work.  I wouldn’t say Mindfulness is totally completely 100% working for me, but it helps to put things in perspective and lessen my anxiety.  So here’s how it works:

Mindfulness is a combination of deep breathing to help you calm down and trying to stay in the moment.  At Bournewood, Sylvia would have everyone at the table close their eyes with their feet on the floor and backs straight in the chair.  We could use whatever breathing technique worked best for us–breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 4 seconds, and breathing out for 4 more seconds.  Or breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and breathing out for 8 seconds.  Personally, the latter type of breathing makes me very anxious so I stick with the 4-4-4 breathing.  Then, with our eyes closed, Sylvia would do a “body scan”, naming each limb while we concentrate on releasing stress from that particular part of the body.  At the end, she would ask each of us how we did.

Okay, I spent 5 weeks in that class and I didn’t really feel like I got the hang of it until Week 5.  I felt so self-conscious.  All I could think was ‘I must look SO stupid right now.’  But then I thought about it a little more:  If Sylvia had asked all of us to close our eyes and pick our nose . . . if I had opened my eyes I would’ve seen a bunch of people also picking their noses.  A bunch of people also looking just as stupid as me.  But the neat thing about Mindfulness is that you’re not trying to clear your mind of all thought or reach some Zen-like state; you’re just trying to stay in the present.  So if you’re feeling anxious, then accept feeling anxious.  Imagine that feeling as a statement on a TV screen.  “I feel anxious.”  Try to disconnect yourself from that feeling and watch it float by.  If your feeling is “I hate this” or “I’m bored” or “Why won’t that clock stop ticking so loudly?!”, then accept those feelings as facts and move on.  This will help you to recognize how you feel at that very moment, instead of worrying about the past or the future.  All the while you’re breathing deeply and focusing on that breath.  It really does work and you don’t have to be in a dimly-lit room with candles and incense.  You can do it while your son is painting the walls with poop.  Or while he’s vomitting all over the living room couch.  In fact, sometimes it’s helpful for me to just stomp my feet a few times to shift my mind and focus on my feet for a few seconds.  That works to cut the anxiety just enough so I can remain calm while cleaning the poop or the vomit.

Everybody knows that taking a few deep breaths helps calm you down.  With Mindfulness, it’s helpful to breathe in and out through your nose.  To imagine breathing in cooler air and pushing out warmer air.  Being the dork that I am, I always imagine the concluding scene of Sleeping Beauty while doing my breathing.  While I breathe in, Sleeping Beauty’s dress is blue . . .

2014 Bournewood 14

. . . and when I breathe out, Sleeping Beauty’s dress turns pink.

2014 Bournewood 15

Once again, I’ve already made it clear that I am a dork.  But this makes me happy so hey, whatever works!  You know what else makes me happy?  Frappuccinos.  So I will be doing my breathing exercises on my way to Starbucks in a few minutes!

I thought this was going to be my concluding post, but I’m realizing just how much I learned at Bournewood and with Jack home it’s better for me to keep my posts shorter.  The longer I type, the more destructive he gets.  Frappuccino photo to follow! 😉

Love,

Pink Sweatpants

The Bournewood Ultimatum–Introduction

*For HIPPA reasons, I have changed the names in this blog post to names that I felt each person more closely resembled (’cause I’m a weirdo and I’m obsessed with names).

In late November 2013, my husband gave me an ultimatum–our marriage would be at stake if I didn’t enter a psychiatric program for my depression.

I knew Dave had been miserable for a year while I attempted to come to terms with Jack’s autism diagnosis on my own.  I mean, I was still seeing my psychologist and was being bumped around from psychiatrist to psychiatrist (thanks, Lahey).  I was taking my prescribed medications.  But it was far from enough.  Every day I was getting fatter and more depressed.

My psychologist had been recommending that I enroll in a Partial Psychiatric Program for about 10 months and I was adamant that I didn’t need it.  Now, I had no choice.

What is a Partial Psychiatric Program?  It’s a step up from your basic ‘see your therapist’ regimen and a step down from ‘being admitted, against your will or not, to the psychiatric unit of a hospital’.  It’s basically like Psychiatric Day Care for Adults.

The Partial Program to which I was admitted is called Bournewood-Caulfield in Woburn, Massachusetts.

2014 Bournewood 04

I truly thought that I was being enrolled in some sort of ‘Mommy & Me’ program where a bunch of other moms and I would vent about how difficult it was to raise kids.  Wow, WAS I WAY OFF!!!

Day 1 at Bournewood-Caulfield was a rude awakening.  The class ran every day from 9:00 am – 2:00 pm, 5 days a week, with multiple breaks throughout the session.  Class was held in a room with multiple long tables surrounded by chairs, pushed together in the center of the room.  So what ‘mommy problems’ did we discuss?  Ummmm, heroin addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, addiction to pills, sex, and self-harming.  WHERE WAS I???!!!

At the end of the first day, I went home and cried my eyes out.  Skipped class the next day.  Now I’m quite familiar with ALL of the above issues, but I didn’t belong there, . . . right?  Then I remembered how arrogant I had been 15 years ago when I first entered Shawsheen Tech as a Freshman.  My math class was Algebra?  Seriously?  Because I’d been doing that since 5th grade.  And you’re telling me that there’s not a more advanced math class for me to take?!  Yeah, I don’t belong here.  But I swallowed my pride and stuck it out, and it turned out to be 4 of the best years of my life.  Could Bournewood be the same?  If I just swallowed my pride and gave it some time, could it be one of the best experiences of my life?  Only one way to find out!

I returned to class after skipping a day, determined to give it another chance.  Once again, I am SO glad I did!  My time at Bournewood truly was life-changing.  I met so many people who were struggling just like me.  Maybe we weren’t struggling with the same issues, but we all needed time to concentrate on our mental health.  To learn coping skills.  To learn how to leave the past in the past and the future in the future.  To a certain degree, it was like being in high school all over again and I loved it.  Meeting new people, a few that I HATED, but the majority that I really liked.  Very colorful people with different beliefs, opinions, and ways of looking at the world.  I learned a lot from them.

What were the instructors at Bournewood like?  First, there was the manager of Bournewood-Caulfield, Paula.  The frequent flyers to the program absolutely loved her.  She only conducted a few sessions while I was there so I didn’t really get to know her, but she seemed wonderful.  Next there was my intake coordinator, Sylvia, who tells it like it is.  You can’t get anything past her!  In fact, for all of my fellow students who are reading this, y’all remember the memorable conversation that we had with her during one of our sessions!  And that’s all I’ll say about that matter!  Then there was another therapist named Gary.  Did he look like a ‘Gary’?  No, the farthest thing from it!  My first impression of him was WAY off.  He speaks in a very quiet, monotone voice with very little inflection (think Ben Stein in the Clear Eyes commercials), but he’s dead-on every time with his advice.  You just have to pay attention to what he’s saying.

The most memorable person at Bournewood is Dr. Belzer.  If I was to sum him up in one word I’d say ‘dynamic.’  He’s hilarious, he tells it like it is, and you can tell by the way he listens to you that you are totally transparent to him.  So telling him anything short of the truth is completely futile.  He also happens to be a brilliant psychiatrist who’s written a book on addiction and mental health.

511xZwwX5oL__SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_

Of course, now that I’ve posted the cover of the book he’s written (you can buy it on Amazon.com) you can see his real name.  I honestly don’t think he’ll mind one bit, but I figure if I’m going to change everyone else’s names, I might as well change his too!

And lastly, we have Aziz Ansari.

untitled

I swear, if you put 20 lbs on the actor Aziz Ansari, you’d have our guy!  Very nice, but I only met him a few times.  Our sessions were almost always with either Sylvia or Gary.

Another thing that came as a surprise to me is that there was a constant rotation of students in and out of the program.  I thought the people in the room with me on my first day were going to be the people with whom I graduated.  When I realized otherwise, I was seriously bummed.  I guess I kinda imagined all of us as The Breakfast Club, graduating together, and fist-bumping the air as we left.

imagesCA3LAZLZ imagesCAKQ0XBC

But I grew to like the constant rotation of people.  Some who successfully graduated out of the program.  Some who dropped out because they weren’t ready to stay clean.  And some whose insurance companies wouldn’t authorize additional time in the program, whether they were ready to leave or not.  That was one of the saddest things.  Seeing somebody leaving because their insurance company felt that they were somehow well enough‘Hey, we’ll cover your hospitalization if you attempt suicide again, but we can’t pay for you to spend another week or two in a Partial Program.’  Makes perfect sense!

I don’t even know where to begin with all of the things I learned at Bournewood.  I’m actually going to save that for the next post.  Right now, I’m fighting a head cold so my brain is fried.  But let me tell you, if you’re someone who’s struggling with addiction or depression and regular therapy isn’t cutting it, please please please consider a program like Bournewood.  It truly has changed my life for the better and I’m starting to see glimpses of my former self.  I’m not better, but I now have the tools to get better.  It’s going to take time and effort, along with therapy and medication, but I no longer feel like this when I wake up in the morning:

2014 Bournewood 12

Now I feel more like this:

2013.10.31 Disney (22)

The Bread & Butter Pudding at Raglan Road, Disney

or this . . .

2011.12.01 Egg to Die For

Murder, She Wrote.  Best show ever!

Not quite like this (yet):

2013-11-01 18.15.02

but more like this . . .

2011.09.26 My Love

Grande Mocha Frappuccino from Starbucks

or this:

2011.09.26 Disney Shorts

Disney Sweatshorts with teal Rite Aid faux-Crocs

Stay tuned for the post “The Bournewood Ultimatum–Conclusion” to find out what I learned in my Partial Psychiatric Program.

Love,

Pink Sweatpants