Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

Or so they say.

My last post was on the 6th, and Gee, a few things have happened since then. Feeling the need to catch you up, here's what's been going on. (Long assed post--short version is that things are mostly good but that my son's issues are affecting me more than I'd like.)

My Brother:

My Mother finally drew a line in the sand and refused to pay his mortgage or legal bills. Which (predictably) caused him to throw a major tantrum. Emails, phone calls to other family members (but not me, thank goodness), etc. At the end of a few weeks, she remained pretty firm in her commitment, which is a new and amazing step for her. My brother has had to put his house on the market to avoid foreclosure (because, HEY, he couldn't afford it anyway). But to do that, he has to get his wife to sign off on the papers, but since his lawyer won't respond to her lawyer about their upcoming court date regarding the pending divorce, she's not going to sign off. (He already told Mom it's listed. Ha. But again, kudos to Mom: she knows he's lying.) Slight slip is that she's letting my brother store his stuff in her garage because now he has to clear out his house.

Bad thing about all this is that my Father has sunk into a depression. He's the one who's most vocal about getting my brother to take responsibility for his own actions. (Dad was raised in a Military Boarding School in Tennessee--he's got some deeply ingrained views of male responsibility.) But watching his son fight and thrash and cry out is deeply disturbing; my brother is also very good at pushing his buttons, i.e., you need to help and support me because I'm your only son. (Dad's major button: Don't abandon me. Dad was raised in a Military Boarding School in Tennessee because his his parents took him for a vacation at the age of ten, had him dress in a brown uniform one morning in the hotel, and then dropped him off at a school where he was too young to even have a room. He lived in the infirmary for the first two years. They never told him that he was staying until the end of the day. His parents lived in Brazil and he didn't see them again for three years. His father was a shit. My father stayed at that school until he was eighteen years old. His last year, his little brother came to school--parents visited the little brother every vacation and finally brought the two of them home for Christmas break for the first time in *eight* years. My Dad won't talk about what this did to him, other than to say, "It helped me become self-sufficient at a young age.")

Dad may be kind of sort of getting help, but it doesn't sound as if he's acknowledging that he's depressed. Mom is taking him to her psychiatrist together with her, but I'm still worried about him.

My Daughter:

My Eldest Daughter has been accepted to the Junior National Young Leaders' Conference this summer in Washington, DC. For six days she'll visit museums and memorials and discuss various topics relating to leadership, politics, etc. (For example, after visiting Harper's Ferry, there's a half-day conference on "Would you have followed John Brown?" Very intriguing stuff.)

Interesting difference in family cultures here. I'm so used to boarding schools and "sleep away" camps, that I think six days away from family in a structured program is Da Bomb. We're setting it up so that she'll go to my parents for a week in Boston, and then they'll deliver her to the program. At the end of the program, Dear Butcher's parents will go to DC, pick her up from the program and take her to Manhattan for a week. Upon hearing about the trip, Dear Butcher's Mom asks, "Does she need me to go along with her to the program? I can act as a chaperone."

Uh. No. Actually, this never occurred to me. Dear Butcher starts asking me about visiting Eldest Daughter while she's enrolled. You guys, I'd be mortified if my grandmother showed up while I was doing a six day thingie over the summer. (I looked through the paperwork--family chaperones are strictly forbidden. However, contact between children and parents is encouraged during the conference--if she gets into an icky situation, I'll yank her out, no problem.) But I thought it was an interesting difference in our two families.

My Son:


I'm losing my mind.

No, really. I had a panic attack at a Board Meeting this week.

I'm trying to hold it together, but I'm not doing a great job.

The District hired on a Full Inclusion Specialist, who's doing a terrific job with him. But he's spiralling further and further out of control. At this point he basically has a full blown school phobia going on. The Full Inclusion Specialist (Mrs. E.) took control of his curriculum and FINALLY put into place all the accommodations other people have been talking about since the beginning of the year. Getting his math on the computer, reworking his spelling as scrambled letters or word searches, taking the date off of worksheets so that he can focus on whatever he needs to on a particular day without feeling as if he has to do Tuesday's work on a Tuesday. THAT only took six months.

However, in the time that his curriculum was not adjusted, he's continued to have bad experiences in the classroom and in the hallway. When asked to "do work" he essentially panics. Either he tosses chairs or he leaves the building. As he gets stronger and bigger, the "interactions with furniture" are being discouraged, so he's been leaving school more and more. When Mrs. E. showed up, she saw a few of these episodes and said, "We have to completely back off of everything until he feels safe."

Which I agree with.

So he's going to school one hour a day. Mrs. E works with him in a separate room away from the other kids, focusing only on the positive. He gets rewards for coming, rewards for sitting, rewards for starting work, rewards for finishing work. Once he's happy with one hour, then we'll slowly bring him up to an hour and a half. Then we'll start bringing in two or three friends to participate in an activity he leads. Slowly and carefully we'll get him back to the idea that school is an interesting and intriguing place to be. (I think this means that he won't make it back to the classroom before the end of the year.) He's going to be enrolled in a year around program too so that he won't have the transition anxiety to deal with every August and May.

I agree with all of this, and I like her approach.

In the meantime though, I've got my son with me all the time except for an hour during my youngest's lunch period. He rages, he stomps, he cries, he's bored, he's lonely, and he's very much out of control. I've got a psychiatric consult appointment for him next week--this is to start anti-anxiety meds--he was already diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder, but that diagnosis was outside of our insurance, so we have to reconsult before we can get a prescription.

Which leads me to my panic attack.

Last Thursday, I'm sitting at a Board Meeting, essentially bored out of my mind. Budget, New Bleachers for the High School, New Textbooks for the Elementary School, Enrollment Predictions. Snore. Partway through the Textbook adoption report, who comes to the podium, but my son's first teacher from this year. The one who tormented him to the point that we had to pull him from school. The one who started this spiral. The one I fantasize about tying up to a tree in the wilderness.

And she's prattling on about how wonderful this textbook is. Ugh. In her little high pitched puppet voice. How it affords children many ways to learn the material. Why, they can use the computer! (Bitch. When did you EVER let a kid use the computer in your class?) They can engage the text using these laminated cards! (Bitch. Only when you tell them as a class to get out their laminated cards and place them squarely in the center of their desk.) She spoke for twenty minutes. Twenty. More than ten.

I was OK while she was talking, but after the presentation was over, we moved on to other topics, and I let my mind wander. Soon I found myself shaking, heart racing, sweating, and on the verge of tears. I passed a note to another Board member and left.

I made it to the parking lot before the tears started, but Kee-RISTE, that wasn't fun. I can't believe how much my son's been through this year. And me along with him.

So now I'm a member of the panic attack club. Goodie.

Once again, I'm pulling myself together and organizing more trips to doctors for my son. Get him on the right meds, take him to more therapy appointments, talk to the girls about his behavior and how it's important NOT to fight with him when he's being irrational, get through another day.

Of course, in all of this, I've also lost my main babysitter. The one who kicked her husband out when he went to jail for threatening her life? Yeah. They're in marriage counseling. The Kindergartner spent the weekend with him and "Everything went really great!" I so want to wring her neck. Ugh.

OK. More later. That'll teach me not to write anything for weeks on end. What is this, twenty paragraphs? Yeesh.


Megan Frampton said...

I was *just* going to email to make sure you were doing okay; I am glad to hear you are okay, although sorry about all this mess.

No wonder about the panic attacks, I get them too, and my stuff is not as bad as yours.

Hang in there, come vent when you need to, we'll be here.

Bev (BB) said...


Seriously, all things considered, it's not surprising that you'd have that reaction. I'm not even sure I'd call it a panic attack. More likely plain old anger. Not that that really helps but just know that we do emphathize.

Marianne McA said...


And thank goodness for Mrs E.

My niece has been pretty much out of school since October, and they've started to use the slow approach to getting her back in. First week she just had to put on her uniform, second week she had to go into school and spend a period in class or the library ... the idea being that by Easter she'll be in school until break time. FWIW, it's working better than I would have imagined it could have, given how impossible she seemed to be finding school.

Bev (BB) said...

Oh, before I forget, to take your mind off things and just in case you haven't seen it, go to JMC's blog and check out this trailer for a certain upcoming movie:



Kristie (J) said...

Sorry you're having such a rough go of it at the moment (((((hug)))))
Sounds like you finally have the right person to help with your son though. Even if it is late and a lot of damage has been done, sounds like things will start picking up. Just keep doin', that's about all you can do.

Suisan said...

Bev--She WANTS Jack, but she'll end up with Will. Which makes me feel kind of sorry for Will, perhaps being second fiddle in her affections.

OK, Maybe *I* want Jack and just can't imagine anyone running off with Will. Yeah. I think that's it.

To all the ones who commented who aren't Bev--Thanks for the hugs and support. I needed that. ;-)

CindyS said...


I'm sorry that it's just snowballing into something even greater. Hopefully Mrs. E can get him back into the swing of things and seeing as how I'm on meds for panic attacks I can honestly say you will see an improvement. Not right away - takes about a month for it to work up in the system and then there is the thought process that works against ya.

Just in case, they sent my Godson a notice for putting him in a class about panic attacks (I went as an adult) which would have been fine one on one but I told Sue that being exposed to other kids fears might overwhelm him and send him off track. Right now, anxiety is like a thing of the past. Learning about the body's reaction is one thing, being exposed to what other people fear I think would be too much! Although that suggestion is probably a long way off but still.

Also, what happened to your dad sounds horrible and what's worse, your brother knows the story and is using it to manipulate. I guess you wonder how someone like that is related to you - I'm glad your parents are standing firm and just so you know, men have the hardest time asking for help when it comes to depression or anxiety. Clearly he grew up only depending on himself and asking for help is probably far, far from his nature.

Take care of yourself and thanks for zapping back in - I was getting worried!


Bev (BB) said...

Oh, she does not want Jack. I'm not even sure Jack wants Jack. The monkey, however, wants Jack. Worries Jack. A lot. Hehehe.

I kept waiting for him to ask for the gun to shoot the monkey. He wants to shoot that monkey so badly. :D

jmc said...

Sorry about all the family stress and the panic attack. At least there's a little bit of good stuff mixed in? Cool about your daughter's trip to DC.

Jack's a charming scoundrel...but I like Will better, in terms of being a "hero". And I'm all out of patience with Elizabeth because she can't seem to make up her mind: Jack, Will, the Commodore -- pick one and stick with him.