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Archive for March, 2012

Dumb” ~ “Slow” ~ “Gay” ~ “Unpopular” ~ “Broken Paw”

These were the labels which my son had been branded by his classmates at school.

Having cerebral palsy affected him physically, but not cognitively, making him well aware that these classmate’s comments were taunting and unkind. His right-sided weakness, did make his movements slower than others, and the tightness in his muscles caused him to hold his arm in a contracted position (earning him the name, “Broken Paw“)

I knew my son was having a hard time at school socially. It was heart-breaking for me to see this once happy and outgoing child turn into a lonely and withdrawn adolescent. I recruited all who I thought could help – his teachers, school principal, guidance counselor, and pediatrician. I was accustom to being his advocate, but in this situation, no one seemed to be able to intervene.

No matter how hard I pushed, the attempt to placate me was made with comments like, “unless we catch someone in the act of bullying, there’s nothing we can do” (teachers and principal) and “maybe you should try spending more one on one time with him he is probably feeling lost amongst all those siblings (guidance counselor) and “he’s doing just fine, I see no signs of depression“. (pediatrician)

It was up to me. I began a campaign of prayer for and conversations with my son.

My theme“Just because someone sees you as being a certain way, doesn’t make it true – and even if it is true at the time, doesn’t mean it will always be true. Sometimes we fail to see changes in ourselves and in our lives and continue to believe what is no longer accurate. We believe lies.”

Every time I had the opportunity, I found a way to reinforce this concept. When he came home from school with an “A” on his math test, he was excited and completely surprised at himself. My response – “Of course you got an “A”. You studied hard and understood the material. Just because you used to have a hard time with math doesn’t mean that you are dumb or that you will always have a hard time with math.”

His physical limitations were a common source of frustration for him but once we vocalized this to his physical and occupational therapists, they were amazing at implementing exercises that would loosen the muscles in his arm to diminish the “broken paw” effect. It took work and a conscious effort on his part, but the progress was motivating.

I have the protective nature of a lion when it comes to my children and it still makes me angry to remember the difficulties surrounding my son’s CP that we have had to endure because of the ignorance of others. But at some point, I knew I had to acknowledge that my son’s own behavior could be contributing to his social issues at school. I knew he wanted to fit in, be well liked and “popular”, but I also could see how life had required him to develop emotional self-protection and his way of coping had made him prickly.

Changing the opinion of his classmates would be no easy task, but in the meantime, I encouraged him to focus on the friendships he had at church. It was there that I saw glimpses of the boy I once knew. Witty, smiling, confident . . . Accepted.

It was in the car one day, just me and him, that I brought up the subject of the letter he wrote to me many months ago. The letter where he confessed, “I am gay.” (https://mygossamerlife.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/a-letter-from-my-son/) I wanted to check in with him, as I did occasionally, to see what his feelings / thoughts were. His reply was short but thoughtful: “That’s not how I see myself anymore. I’m not even sure why I ever did . . .”

I’m told that the challenges of being a parent never end, and as my kids get older, I am a witness to the fact that the challenges definitely DO NOT get easier. I know that I have and will continue to make mistakes along the way, but I pray God will give me the grace and wisdom required to always point them to Him.

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Spending time with an adult ADD “expert” gave me more insight to my husband’s behavior than weeks spent reading books on marriage & ADD, months on the couch of my therapist, and years of unproductive conversations with my husband. Here is the advice she gave me over lunch:

ANGER

“Even though you may feel justified in being angry at your husband for the suffering he has caused you, the inevitable result is that both of you are hurt deeply and your indignation does nothing to help you deal with your anger.”

“You can address the root causes of anger in your relationship by giving back the responsibility for fixing ADD to the partner who has it. While at the same time, taking charge of your own happiness again.”

FORGIVENESS

“The cure for anger? – Forgiveness”

“Blame diminishes each partners ability to be empathetic – it impairs the ability to forgive – it sets up two people as adversaries rather than partners – it provides an excuse to not keep trying.”

“Forgiveness can only occur after anger and sadness have been exposed, expressed and validated.”

MOVING FORWARD

“You should allow yourself to experience sadness, because grieving for what you have not had in your marriage, up to this point, is one of the first steps toward building a new life together.”

“Both partners should grieve over what could have been, but wasn’t because of the unrecognized effects of ADD on your lives. You can’t resolve someone’s grief. Just acknowledge and empathize; don’t dismiss. Over time, grief that is acknowledged and validated will heal.”

“Seek help! A good counselor will help you focus on today’s issues rather than the past.”

HOPE

“When couples learn about ADD and work together to address problematic symptoms, life can improve dramatically.”

TREATMENT

“Deciding whether to treat ADD is the sole responsibility of the person who has it. How to respond to your husband’s decision about treatment is up to you.”

“If the your husband decides against treatment, you will be left with only unpleasant choices:”

1) force treatment
2) force change without treatment
3) give up on change but stay in the relationship                                                (which often results in depression and anger)
4) leave the relationship

MOVING ON

“Your husband might refuse treatment for ADD symptoms, essentially forcing you to “take it or leave it”

“At some point, the situation may become untenable for you and if your husband remains uninterested in treatment, expressing your own needs very clearly in the form of an ultimatum is all that will be left.”

. . . There may be an ultimatum in my future.

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Every second Tuesday of the month,” I read. “OK, I can do this”, I thought . . . “I need to do this.”

I have been receiving prayer and amazing support from my Christian friends for two months now, but in dealing with the ADD behaviors of my husband, their empathy came with no personal experience of how difficult it can be. Even my therapist had not encountered patients with adult ADD. It was time for me to attend a support group.

I walked into the meeting on the second Tuesday of the month and listened as the handful of people went around the table introducing themselves and talking about the challenges they faced, living with a loved one who has adult ADD.

The moderator, a well-known author on the subject, interjected a comment occasionally and answered questions. When it was my turn, after introducing myself and giving a brief history of my situation, I asked her this question, “How much of a person’s behavior is rooted in their character, how much can be attributed to their ADD . . . and how do I separate the two?”

Her answer: It is difficult to separate the two because they are tightly intertwined. When a person has been living with ADD all their life, at some point, their ADD-driven tendencies become part of their character. There is hope, however, for the person who acknowledges their ADD and pursues effective treatment. Only then will you be able to know what behaviors are the result of ADD . . . and which are not.”

Since my husband was far from even considering adult ADD to be contributing to the problems in our relationship, was there any hope for a better future? I needed more time with this “expert” (G.P) than the evening’s forum provided. She spoke from her own personal experience as well as from years of researching adult ADD and counseling those affected by it.

When we met for lunch the following week, this is what I shared and learned:

Me: “I am suffering from a chronic, toxic case of anger.”

G.P: “Most of the anger and problems in the non-ADD spouse are really and truly a reflection of dealing with ADD symptoms.”

“It’s easy to be angry that life has been so much harder than you had expected it to be because ADD is present. “

“Anger is a warning sign that things are not going as they should. The anger itself is not the issue, it’s how you act on your anger that’s important.”

Me: “My anger is what he blames as one of the real roots of our problems.”

G.P: “It’s not uncommon for an ADD spouse to convince himself that his wife’s anger is the real cause of their problems. (instead of his behavior) Yes, it is a factor that needs to be addressed, but it’s also a response to specific ADD symptoms.”

Me: “There are definitely times when the last thing I want to do is spend time with my husband, but for the sake of the marriage, I make an effort anyways. When he does not respond, I inevitably feel hurt and disappointment.”

G.P: “It can be much easier to blame or withdraw rather than take the difficult step of trying to connect when anger is present. But when the response of an ADD spouse is unpredictable, the non-ADD spouse will likely experience disappointment or lose faith in a positive or consistent outcome.

Me: “I often feel my reactions and expectations are considered unreasonable. It takes time for me to put words to my feelings and to identify the actions that caused them. When I do, my husband does not acknowledge his behavior, comprehend the effects of it, or even remember the event long enough to not do again.”

G.P: “A person with ADD may have trouble remembering what you recently talked about. It may seem like you have the same arguments over and over, because you do.”

“People with ADD lack a hierarchy filter in relation to ideas, memories . . . there is difficulty prioritizing . . . Because they don’t receive and process information in a hierarchical way, your suffering enters his mind at about the same level as everything else he perceives.”

Me: “I take his behavior personally and think, if he loved me, respected me, valued me & our relationship, these things wouldn’t happen. But he says none of what I consider ‘bad behavior’ is done with the intent to hurt me.”

G.P: “A non-ADD spouse doesn’t understand why her ADD spouse is so unwilling to consistently be responsible or responsive. She personalizes his behavior, figuring it is rooted in a basic lack of respect for her, her needs, and their relationship. (rather than from fear, shame, or hopelessness)”

“It’s important that the ADD spouse consider impulsiveness as a symptom that needs treatment. ‘Not meaning’ to hurt someone is not enough.”

“An ADD spouse should not equate good intentions with good outcomes. Actions are important and if one spouse says the other’s actions are inadequate, they likely are, regardless of the intent.”

“A non-ADD spouse must understand that it is not spitefulness, laziness, meanness, or lack of desire that keeps her husband from doing what she requested . . . but at the same time, ADD is not an excuse for continued incompetence.”

Her advice? In my next post . . .

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I’ve been taught there are two ways through life – the way of nature and the way of grace.
You have to choose which one you’ll follow.
Grace doesn’t try to please itself.
Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked.
Accepts insults and injuries.
Nature only wants to please itself.
Get others to please it too.
Likes to lord it over them.
To have its own way.
It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it.
Even when love is smiling through all things.
I’ve been taught that no one who loves the way of Grace ever comes to a bad end.
I will be true to You.
Whatever comes.
(taken from the movie, Tree of Life)

My husband has stopped speaking to me. He is angry. Feels disrespected that I would question him. Believes he is completely justified in ignoring me and giving me the “cold shoulder”. But who should really be indignant, here? . . . Me or him? . . . I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

***

Tax time. I wasn’t completely clueless. I knew our refund was usually a big one, but that was about all I knew. In the past, I would usually drop by the local H&R Block office just to sign our tax forms after my husband had spent the hour with our tax preparer pouring over W-2’s, bank statements, and 1099’s. We usually filed early, so the refund could be used to pay the property taxes . . . and the remainder of the refund went directly into my husband’s bank account. My requests for a portion of the refund to be spent on helping pay school tuition or to lower credit card balances were either ignored or not deemed “do-able”.

This year, I decided to join my husband at the appointment. As the tax preparer began filling in the form with numbers from our W-2’s, a sick feeling swept over me.

The total amount of our income was more than I imagined.

Much more.

I was aware that we received a large refund check every spring, but never realized how much we earned throughout the year.

“How could this be,” I wondered. “Where was the money going?”

Our lifestyle, in no way, reflected an income of that amount. Working part time, my salary paid the monthly bills and the kid’s expenses. My husband paid the mortgage and the groceries.

It didn’t add up.

Our combined salaries minus our expenses left sooooo much money unaccounted for . . . so much of my husband’s money.

I questioned him. Was there a secret savings account? An addictive or spending compulsion? Did he even know where the money was going? He had no reasonable answer, became defensive . . . evasive, and has not spoken to me since.

He has added this incident to his list of the ways I have “wronged” him, and yet seems incapable of acknowledging any of the ways he has done wrong to others.

Whether due to his personality, ADD, or childhood scars, life for him is viewed as a victim. He needs someone to blame in order to justify his behavior; because to accept responsibility would also mean admitting he is wrong and unreasonable for reasons having to do with his own character.

He has a fragile ego . . . I get that, but demanding authority without taking responsibility is a warped way of fulfilling Christ’s command for his role as head of our family.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

5:22-24 Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

5:25-28 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. (the Message)

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After the rain
Lord,
You leave me
Dewed
Damp
Softened
My soul soil tilled
With refreshment
Of Your promised
Consistent
Insistent
Downpour of love
I sit drenched
Quenched
Drinking in and
Smiling heavenward

(mindspace by T.C.)

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