Sorting It Out

Growing up I knew without a doubt that my mother loved me. I also knew that my mother was easily agitated, had high anxiety and suffered from debilitating migraines that could last days, even weeks. I learned early on how to take care of her, to try to keep stress to a minimum. I can’t say my brother and I always succeeded, we were children after all, but I think I did a fair amount of care giving at a very young age.

It was difficult for my mother to go into social situations. She would worry obsessively in the days leading up to any event, even those she genuinely was excited to attend (such as a family gathering). Once there (if she didn’t get sidetracked beforehand with a migraine from the stress) she would settle herself in and talk and talk and talk and talk. To an outsider it would look as though she was an extrovert, quite comfortable in her surroundings. But if you were to listen in you would overhear her saying things that others wouldn’t have said. Sharing deep personal information with virtual strangers. Making a blunt observation about someone – a comment that others might think but would not have uttered. We joked often about her not having a filter between her brain and mouth.

She also had strong likes and dislikes. She HATED the colour green. She HATED the coffee from McDonald’s. Don’t even get her started on Rich’s creamer. Crowds were overwhelming for her so she stayed home many times while my dad would take us to the Toronto Santa Claus parade and other exhausting but exciting venues as children.

It wasn’t until I became a mother to a son who exhibited many of the same characteristics that I began to see my mother in a new light. I began to understand and appreciate the lengths my mother went to try to overcome the challenges she faced in her life. It was important to her that I not feel as socially awkward and isolated as she had as a child. She signed me up for Brownies and when I began to balk at going, getting migraines from working myself up with worry, she put aside her own anxieties and became a Brownie leader. Of course I didn’t understand then how hard that must have been for her. To this day, those Girl Guide outings and camps are some of my best memories. I became so comfortable going that I moved on to Guides and my mother was able to fade into the distance.

During first grade I began to experience stomach aches and frequent headaches. My parents took me to the doctor, had my eyes checked and it was determined that these symptoms were due to stress. I was stressed – I remember being worried all the time that I was doing something wrong or was going to get in to trouble. I had this free floating anxiety for much of my life – not really being able to pinpoint what I was worried about. I told my mother I was afraid of failing. She spoke with my teacher and nothing could have been further from the truth but through that discussion it was decided it might help me if my mother had more of a presence at the school. So once again my mother offered to volunteer and she began to help out in the school library. It must have helped having her close by because all of the “symptoms” began to fade away.

How hard that must have been for my mother to put herself out there. But how devoted she was to me. That makes me tear up today. We are pretty sure, having gone through the assessment process for Corbin that my mother likely has Asperger’s as well. To think that she repeatedly pushed through her anxiety and other difficulties in her attempts to help me is an amazing testament to her devotion. I know she often berates herself for not being a better mother. But when I am faced with the most difficult times for Corbin I think back to the sacrifices my mother made for me. When I feel like I cannot possibly fight one more fight for Corbin I am bolstered by all that my mother did for me. He deserves no less – a lesson my mother taught me.

Update 8 years later – In 2013 my mother was indeed diagnosed with Asperger’s. While it doesn’t change who she is it certainly answered a lot of questions that everyone had, in particular hers.  I am re-posting this here to reaffirm for her that I do understand and appreciate the mother that she has been to me. 

May 13, 2018

Lessons From My Mother

Growing up I knew without a doubt that my mother loved me. I also knew that my mother was easily agitated, had high anxiety and suffered from debilitating migraines that could last days, even weeks. I learned early on how to take care of her, to try to keep stress to a minimum. I can’t say my brother and I always succeeded, we were children after all, but I think I did a fair amount of care giving at a very young age. It was difficult for my mother to go into social situations. She would worry obsessively in the days leading up to any event, even those she genuinely was excited to attend (such as a family gathering). Once […]
May 11, 2018

Finding What Matters

The last few years I have been on a path of self-reflection and discovery. Many hours in therapy, in silent contemplation, in writing, in conversing with family, friends and co-workers. One of the things I have grappled with is my health – over the years I truly let myself go and often cancelled doctor and dentist appointments over and over. Case in point: after focusing on overall mental and physical well being all week at work I decided it was time to finally make my 3 month follow up diabetes wellness appointment with my doctor. I keep cancelling it because I say I am busy but really it is because I don’t want to do the blood test because I […]
March 16, 2018

A New Normal

So where have I been the last 6 months? Good question . . . mostly at home, lol.  In September I took an online course in an attempt to gain entrance to the Master’s of Social Work program at Waterloo. The class was the last of 2 classes I needed before applying. Of course I left the two classes I didn’t want to take until the end. It was about Social Research and I just sucked at it.  It was a lot of statistical information (which I have never done well with) and concepts that I just could not get to stick in my head.  Aside from Anthropology in first semester of my first year as an undergraduate – this […]
June 1, 2017
Life Saver By Pool

Get In The Pool

In 2010, our darkest of times as a family, I began to use an analogy of a swimming pool when trying to describe the difficult parts of our family’s journey and I wanted to share it here. I make specific references to adoption because that is the journey I have made but I hope the analogy itself might strike a chord with other parents of kids with complex needs as well. Back when my husband and I decided to pursue adoption, we never expected it to be easy. Not at all. But there was no real way for us to know how very hard it would be until we had experienced it for ourselves. Throughout the adoption process we were […]
May 22, 2017

Becoming a Self Advocate

Months ago my youngest, Jeremy, read a book called Beyond Ok by Susan Schenk. It resonated with him and he was eager to discuss with his tutor about his own learning and what works best for him. We had been trying for years to explain learning disabilities and how they affect him. We tried to determine what strategies would work best for him but he remained silent and reluctant to discuss it. We were at a loss. Then along came the book and he just opened up. I read it too and we had some good discussions about it. He was doing a book talk on her book so he reached out to Susan on Facebook and she was kind […]
May 9, 2017

Mental Health Awareness 2017 – Part 2

So I left off with Adam and I becoming a couple.  He came into my life at just the right time. I had a new found love and respect for myself and I believe that is what drew him to me (plus my flirting wearing a low cut sweater might have helped a little). We were engaged after four months of being together though we didn’t actually get married until two years later in 1995. Shortly after we got married we started to try for a family. I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) so becoming pregnant is not easy. We eventually got in to a fertility specialist and even had an emergency round of InVitro fertilization (IVF) before we decided […]