Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Suicide Warning Signs I Missed in My Best Friend’s Death.



(WARNING: The following post may be a trigger for those
who are sensitive to content about suicide.)

This post is a follow up to my previous post: My Best Friend Committed Suicide

* * *

After losing my friend to suicide, I found myself searching for answers. I spent hours thinking through moments together, reading old texts and recalling previous conversations. I can’t help but ask myself, “Were there early warning signs to my friend’s suicide?”

My friend’s illness was not a secret to those who were close to her. For years she was fighting her illness fiercely. Trying different meds, seeing different doctors. She was always searching for the magic combo that would take her illness away. But as many of you know, the illness itself lies to you, it tells you that the meds will never work and that the doctors are doing everything wrong. It makes it almost impossible to accept the diagnosis and thus the treatment.

Over this past year, I saw her quit her job and give her dogs away. She gave her reasons, but looking back it’s hard not to see that as a sign. She claimed that time away from her job would allow her more time in therapy and that giving the dogs away were a good step to simplifying her life and removing responsibilities that caused her too much stress.

These events happened months apart, so at the time they didn’t appear connected. Yet they both seemed impulsive.

As her illness progressed, I witnessed more and more erratic behavior and extreme mood swings. It was hard to tell what the driving force behind it was. Was it mania? Was it depression? Was it a by product of her past trauma?

For months I watched her waste away, losing a lot of weight. Friends started to call, asking me if she was suffering from anorexia. When I expressed my concern to her about this, she dismissed it, claiming that she had only lost five pounds. Trying to get past her denial only led to arguments and hurt feelings.

She continued to pull away from society, isolating herself, afraid that people could see her depression. She was always so good at hiding her mental illness, only revealing it to those she trusted, but as her disease progressed, it became harder to hide, which made her isolate even more.

There was a day about 7 months prior to her death that I visited her and I could feel the weight of her depression in my bones and noticed that her expressions were completely flat. It was a disturbing experience, and made me feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

I had a terrible feeling then that she might try to take her life.

That afternoon I went to her home and asked her to go on a walk with me. As we walked around her neighborhood, I told her how concerned I was because she appeared to be dying. I told her that whatever she was doing to treat her illness was not working. At the time, her once bright eyes were dark and her speech was slowed down. Her depression made her appear drugged-up and zombie-like as she slowly shuffled by my side. I tried to encourage her to go back to the hospital, but she was resistant after her recent admission. I asked her if she had thoughts of hurting herself and she admitted to it, but she reassured me that she had no plans of it. That night she agreed to go back to her doctor and request a medication change.

Soon after she was on a new medication and she started to look better, even telling me that she had her first good day in 5 months. She even started to put on a little much needed weight.

But the illness is so deceitful. As the light was returning to her eyes and her energy was returning, she couldn’t accept it. Instead of recognizing the improvements, she was worried about the possible side effects, especially the weight gain.

Overtime she convinced herself that the side effects were worse than the illness.

Weeks prior to her death, she shared with me that she had quit all her meds and was now taking a supplement that she had researched online.

At this point, I was no longer able to encourage her to stay on her medications. I already had a heart-to-heart talk with her about not being med compliant and not telling her doctors everything so that they could appropriately treat her; in addition to sharing my concerns about her unhealthy weight loss. It pained me to be so blunt with her, but I couldn’t stand by and watch her continue down this path of destruction. Unfortunately, this conversation only added insult to injury and damaged our friendship.

What followed next was a deep dive into depression over a two-week period of time. Eventually she could no longer feel anything and she lost the desire to do the things she once loved. She was deteriorating before our eyes.

During this time her family was monitoring her closely and working with her doctors to keep her safe. She was surrounded by a network of family, friends and church members who were present or continuously stopping by to offer her support and care.

From the outside, it may seem obvious that she would try to take her life, but after years of seeing her through her ups and downs with her illness, and the fact that she never attempted suicide in the past, I don’t think any of us really thought she would do it. We had seen her like this before and she always bounced back.

The best way to describe what I saw towards the end was comparable to watching a person with a terminal cancer or better yet, Alzheimers. As the depression progressed, she was slowly overtaken by the disease. Eventually, she was no longer recognizable.

The last time I saw her she brought me a small, travel size tube of sunscreen.

“I thought you could use this for your boys since I won’t need it.”

It seemed odd to be giving me sunscreen when it was raining outside, but in context, it wasn’t unusual for her to bring me gifts or pass things on to my boys that she no longer needed. She was always so generous. But looking back, I think it was her final good bye. She knew then what she was planning to do and she knew it would be the last time we saw each other.

As I said goodbye to her that day, I didn’t realize then that it would be the final goodbye. But the memory of her facial expression said it all.

A few days later, she was gone.


* * *

Below is a list of the suicide warning signs I can now recognize after her death. Having previously seen these warning signs below through online resources, I thought I would be able to recognize them in the moment, but I have learned that it is much more complicated and subtle. These signs can appear over a long stretch of time. Some of these signs can also be witnessed in those who are suffering depression and have no plans of hurting themselves, so it can easily be dismissed. I know my friend saw a psychiatrist the day before her suicide and he didn’t pick up on this possibility either.

I have to add that in some cases, there are no cries for help. My friend didn’t mention her plans of suicide or thoughts of death to anyone that I am aware of and she was surrounded by a lot of people who were invested in her care. She kept this plan a secret and lied in order to make sure her plan would be completed in the small window of time she was alone.

It’s important to note that a person can be an advocate for suicide prevention and have strong feelings against suicide, but as their disease progresses, their perspective may change, making them vulnerable to something you didn’t think was ever possible.

Warning signs witnessed over the past year:
• Feeling hopeless. She talked about this a lot.
• Rapid weight loss.
• Feeling like a burden to others.
• Acting anxious or agitated.
• Withdrawing, isolating.
• Loss of interest in things she once enjoyed.
• Giving things away.
• Extreme mood swings.
• Issues with sleep.
• Not taking care of herself as she use to, grooming etc.
• Researching suicide methods online (found after her death)

If you have a seed of suicide in your mind, please do not allow this thought to grow, please call for help right now, this very minute!

I believe in my heart that if my friend could reverse time and undo her final act, she would.



No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area,anytime 24/7.




Wednesday, January 6, 2016

My Best Friend Committed Suicide


WARNING: The following post may be a trigger for those
who are sensitive to content about suicide.

* * *

I got the dreaded call after midnight, on the eve of Thanksgiving.

My best friend killed herself.

My response was one of shock. It felt like I was kicked in the stomach. I started to panic as I rushed to wake up my husband who was asleep on the couch next to me. “She did it, she really did it!”

I was in disbelief because I couldn’t imagine a person I love, one I spent countless hours, even years, trying to help actually ending her life. Even today it’s hard for me to believe that she’s gone. Yet I think a part of me understood since I saw up close the relentless suffering she endured due to her childhood trauma and complicated mental illness. For her, it was finally over.

Before the call ended I was told that she planned her death ahead of time, a detail that still haunts me today.

There are moments now when all I can think about are her thoughts as she made these plans. Was she scared? Was she tormented over her decision or did she feel a sense of peace and relief knowing she had a plan in place? Did she feel anything at all?

What was she thinking as she looked at me, as she looked at her husband and kids, days leading up to her suicide? Did she want to tell us about her plans? Did she leave hints? Was she hoping we would stop her?

That night when I finally went to bed, I was unable to sleep. I cried mostly and I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing her face. It wasn’t the happy face that so many people remembered, the beautiful smile and bright eyes, but it was the final look she gave me when I saw her last. She looked hurt and defeated.

The ironic thing about suicide is that it doesn’t end the pain. It multiplies it and spreads it to those who are left behind. Like a bomb that explodes in a crowd, there are now wounded people everywhere, myself included.

My best friend was a mother, a wife, a sister and a friend to many.

She was one of us. A mother of a child with mental illness and an advocate for mental health. She was a follower on this very blog.

Through our years together, we talked endless hours about how to help our kids. How to get around the school system, how to get that IEP and pick the best therapist. We passed phone numbers of our favorite doctors the way other moms shared babysitters.

During this time, I also supported her through her own illness with calls, texts and hours of conversations. When she was feeling well, we had fun shopping, traveling or going out for frozen yogurt. We always laughed at our inside joke that I was teaching her to be more “girly” after taking her to see a chick flick movie for the first time. Being that we both loved working out, we exercised side-by-side throughout the week, using our time together as a mini support group. We were two moms, sharing our lives as we encouraged one another along the way.

Considering our circumstances, it shouldn’t be a surprise that suicide was a conversation topic more than once. We both shared our fear of it and our desire to protect our children from this very fate. Just months before her death, she volunteered and participated in a suicide prevention fundraiser in our community. She was truly dedicated to this cause.

That’s why her suicide is so hard for me to accept. I knew her better than most, I knew how much she cherished life and how much she wanted to overcome her own mental illness. I knew first-hand that suicide was never an option. Until her final act changed that.


* * *

I’ve been at a loss as to whether or not to share this recent tragedy with you. But after much consideration, I’ve decided to open up with hopes that in some way, her story can help others. From our one-on-one conversations, I know she wanted to share with you her own personal story on this blog. I just never imagined it would happen in this way. In my next post I will reflect on what led up to her suicide and the possible warning signs we missed.



No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.



Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Memory Jar



Last year we started a new family tradition I thought may be worth sharing for those of you who could use some encouragement in the new year.

At the start of every new year I set out an empty jar with a note pad and pen nearby. Then throughout the year, as a family, we individually write down happy moments on paper then tuck the paper into the jar. At the end of the year, on New Years Eve, we gather around the jar and read the happy moments aloud. Often we find ourselves laughing as there’s always a few funny jokes added, thanks to the amusement of our middle son, but overall we are left with a feeling of gratitude for all the great moments that have happened throughout the year.

I think it’s easy when you’re facing significant struggles to reflect back on the year and only remember the bad stuff, but when you take the time to write down all the good moments, they quickly add up, you soon realize that you are blessed even through the trials.

This year has been especially difficult, but I’m happy to share that the jar is stuffed full, awaiting our discovery on New Years Eve.

Inside the jar you’ll find:
A first kiss...
Dancing in the kitchen after the party was over...
Making Leadership team at school...
A first girlfriend...
A new job...
Family scary movie nights...
and so much more...

We are thankful, so very thankful.

I wish you and yours a wonderful year ahead, even if the blessings are small, may your cup runneth over.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Not So Cheerful During the Holiday Season


It’s almost Christmas, just a few days away and I find myself fighting a war inside my head as I seek peace and joy. It’s been a very difficult time, almost comical if it weren’t my own life. At times I’m grateful for the blessings that God is bringing to my family, such as a new job for my husband, a successful surgery to remove cancer from a loved one and three thriving sons; yet there has been significant pain, such as the unexpected death of a close friend, unsuccessful job search for myself and financial challenges that seem hard to overcome.

I search for peace and I’m grateful when it comes, wrapping myself in it like a warm blanket. Yet it feels so fleeting at times. I panic, I think the worst is coming. My imagination goes into overdrive and I start to experience pain for events that haven’t even occurred yet. Then I experience pain for what has occurred.

There’s a lot of pressure during the holiday season to be “gleeful,” but this season of my life feels bittersweet. I just wish I could fast forward this season and not feel the pressure to be so cheerful. I find it hard attending holiday parties and trying to answer the question, “How are you?” I usually respond, “Doing good.” When instead I want to talk at length about how hard things are or how scared I am for the future. But I don’t want to burden others or come across as a “debbie downer”. So I fake it with a smile and pretend like everything is just fine.

I wish I could curl up on the couch with a pile of junk food and binge watch Gilmore Girls and escape all the hard stuff in my life right now.

Better yet, I wish we had a Christmas miracle to take these challenges away.

But I know that there is only one thing that will truly work and that is putting my trust in God. It isn’t easily maintained, so I have to choose to do it daily, sometimes hourly. I have to trust that God can handle it all, that He is big enough to take us over these mountains and that He can hold us when we grieve.

I have to let my faith be bigger than my fears, as a dear friend reminded me.

I admit I’m terrible at it, yet I know that it’s a truth I have to hold onto.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. —Jeremiah 29:11


Monday, October 26, 2015

HELP!!! My Child Went to WebMD!


I went grocery shopping today and while I loaded up my cart with a bounty of produce, I couldn’t help but think about my two sensory sensitive boys that refuse to eat all vegetables. I shamefully thought about the years that have passed and how I still can’t get them to eat these healthy foods.

Outside of a forced nibble on a carrot, some hidden spinach in a few smoothies or juices with combined vegetable juice, my boys have victoriously won the battle of refusing to eat vegetables.

It makes me feel like a failure as a mother. Though realistically I know that most typical mothers aren’t dealing with strong sensory issues in their kids and there’s the obvious realization that I’ve had bigger battles to win over the years, I still feel disappointment in myself over what I’ve failed to accomplish.

Now my youngest is having stomach issues. Constipation and pain most days. Knowing that stomach issues are associated with autism spectrum disorders, I’ve started the process of working with our doctor to figure out how to help him.

One day when his stomach was hurting bad, he admitted Googling WebMD to research his stomach issues. It was there that he learned that he needed to drink coconut water and eat rice and bananas.

My 10 year old went to WebMD!!!!

Every night he asks for prayers for the doctors to figure out what is wrong with his stomach and that his stomach will feel better soon.

But I still can’t get him to eat those leafy greens.

On the flip side, my middle son asks to make salads as a midday snack.

I just don’t know what to do.  It’s hard to sneak this produce into their meals since they know that there’s a taste, color or texture difference they object to.

I can’t force them, that leads to them throwing up onto their plate.

I keep hoping that making the healthy foods available and asking them to try, that in time they will start to give these foods a chance, maybe even develop a palate for them. But so far, that’s not working either.

So tell me moms and dads of sensory challenged kids, what has worked for you?


Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Anxiety of Giving Your Child Medication


Last week pretty much sucked for my oldest son. He struggled socially at high school, depression revealed its ugly head and he became overwhelmed with his increasing homework.

Then on Thursday night, while having our boys get ready for bed, our oldest son became dizzy and started sweating all over. His color didn’t look good and he complained that he was having trouble breathing as he panted for breaths while lying on the floor.

My husband and I looked at one another, not sure what we should do, he was getting air, but was breathing too fast. We’re fortunate that we have neighbors that work in the medical field so we quickly called them over to check out our son to see if we needed to take him to the ER.

It’s hard in these moments to not think the worse... what if his body is reacting to his medications? 

I’m not naive, I know these meds come at a price, the risk of serious side effects will always remain, especially the longer he remains on them. A part of me is always afraid that one day we will have to face this. I consider this every single week when I fill his pill box with so many medications. 

It makes my gut ache.

Our neighbors arrived and quickly went through vital signs and covered all the current variables our son has. Are his Lithium levels becoming toxic due to the heat wave? Are his compromised kidneys (due to reflux) struggling? Is his thyroid off? Is he eating and drinking enough in the day? Is this an anxiety attack triggered by stress?

We monitored his symptoms until he recovered and decided to keep a close watch on him at home. Our neighbor, an ER nurse, and her paramedic husband thought it was safe to keep him home, thinking that it might have been a panic attack.

The next day our son woke up a little extra tired but has been fine since. His psychiatrist had no explanation for the episode. We spent the next few days trying to remove stress and help with his depression by giving him positive things to focus on. By the weekend he was smiling again and doing fine.

I share this story not to scare parents from trying medications, we still acknowledge the importance of treating our son with medication, but I share this for those like me who always carry this weight of concern. I don’t think we ever come to peace with the decision to medicate, or live without fear of consequences. It’s one of those unfortunate decisions where you choose the lesser of two evils. 

Yes, I wish my son never had to take medications, but at the same time, living without them is not an option right now. I can’t let my fear of possible side effects prevent our son from getting the treatment he needs to thrive. 

Over any other treatment option we tried, my son feels that medication was the only thing that has made a difference. I am encouraged and thankful that my son can so clearly communicate this to us and have reminded myself of this when I feel my own anxiety about him taking so much medication.

As time passes, the longer our child is stable, we don’t have the daily reminder of why he has to take so many medications. Like the pain of childbirth, our experiences of our raging child wanting to hurt himself becomes foggy and the constant mood swings becomes a thing of the past. 

That’s the challenge with invisible illnesses, the evidence of the illness can be hidden by the treatment. That’s why so many people relapse when they quit their medications without the direction of their doctor. They feel better and no longer see the need for their medication. Unfortunately for some, upon quitting their meds, the symptoms quickly return and in some cases it leads to suicide.

As a mom with a stable child, I continue to live with a degree of anxiety about my child taking medication. Should he continue to take so much? Can we reduce his meds or even wean them off someday? Will he need it for the rest of his life? How much is too much? Will the side effects harm him? If we remove them too soon will the results be devastating?

I write this post today for the mama who is struggling as she sits at the counter with bottles of medications, counting out the pills for the week. 

I’m there with you, I feel it too.

You’re not alone.



Saturday, August 15, 2015

The End of Summer and the Beginning of Anxiety


This is the last weekend of Summer and over the previous weeks I have seen a huge increase in my youngest son’s anxiety. I know he hates school and it triggers a lot of stress and anxiety but what I didn’t expect was how it would reveal itself.

Instead of fretting about school, he becomes hyper-focused on his new fear of “creepy bugs” and will even refuse to swim at the community pool to avoid their possible appearance in the water. Right now it’s past 11 pm at night and he’s still trying to go to sleep after my numerous attempts to calm him since he’s scared because the house is “too quiet and dark.” A few days ago he was very anxious and upset about the possibility of the sun exploding years from now and hurting not his own children, but his children’s children.

A few weeks ago I had to hold him down on the floor in a Target when we tried to buy school supplies. He became so upset over the whole event that he began kicking surrounding objects and unfortunately a stranger’s shopping cart.

As much as we are prepared for the start of school, I can only do so much to help my son with this challenging transition. Last year he faced multiple trips to the office and a suspension as he tried to adjust to school. This year I’m trying to get the school to provide extra support through the school psychologist, but due to cutbacks, she will have limited time on campus and may only have time for testing kids, not providing emotional support.

Which if you asked me, seems kind of strange. Shouldn’t the district provide enough hours to do more than testing kids, but actually helping them once they demonstrate their need for support? I’m thankful to have an IEP for my youngest, something I was never able to get with my oldest, but I know the principal can only do so much until I have to fight the district.

I’m not much for fighting these days. With the stress of my husband being out of work, and the added hours I’m taking on to earn more income with my home business, it leaves little time to fight administration.

I’ve also noticed that as my son grows older and enters the 5th grade, he’s becoming more aware of his differences due to his autism. He is already expressing concern about how the other kids will react to him when he prefers to walk alone playing video games in his head during recess. He’s worried the other kids will think he doesn’t like them. He also has expressed concerns about making friends and being accepted. I know as he goes through the coming years, he will face more of these challenges as the kids around him mature and become less accepting of differences in general.

I wish I could rescue him from his anxiety, I know all too well as I face my own anxious thoughts how hard it can be to remain positive when under stress. We are both working on “being the boss of our thoughts” and replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, but as my son said tonight, “some nights it’s pretty hard to do.”




Friday, July 24, 2015

The Magic Glove Box


I love that my boys have great imaginations.

And I love that my husband embraces it.

Recently my boys were driving in my husband’s car, when my middle son opened the glove box and out fell numerous bags of cookies and chips.

Now before you think my husband is a hoarder of snacks, I have to explain that the bags of treats were stuffed into his car’s glove box after a golfing event where he was given these treats to take home. He randomly stuffed them in there and forgot all about them.

When my kids found the treats, they of course wanted to know where these bags came from. With a twinkle in his eye, my husband told the boys that it was his magic glove box that supplied yummy snacks to hungry boys.

To much of my kids’ delight, they went along with their dad’s story and helped themselves to “The Magic Glove Box” every time they rode in Daddy’s car. Making a rare occasion a special treat!

Then one day my youngest son opened the glove box and found that all the bags were gone. He was so disappointed.

So the next time my husband left to pick up my youngest son, my husband popped a bag of popcorn and stuffed it into his glove box. When my youngest son climbed into the car, he caught a whiff of the buttery smell of popcorn.

“I smell popcorn!!!” he yelled out in excitement.

My husband nodded towards the glove box and said, “Maybe you should check the magic glove box.”

My son quickly pulled open the glove box to find the warm bag of popcorn inside, and with a big smile, he joyfully sang praises for the magic glovebox in Daddy’s car.

* * *

I hope summer is treating you all well. We are doing pretty good, the boys have been really great, but the stress of my husband not finding work has been a challenge that requires our constant prayer and practice in giving our worries over to God. To cope, we are trying to focus on the small things that make us happy, like reading books on our back porch as we watch our birch trees dance in the wind, enjoying our favorite summer tv show Big Brother, and enjoying small moments with our kids—sometimes including a magic glove box for fun.




Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Safety Bubble


This past week I realized that my kids have been in a safety bubble. For weeks now we’ve stayed close to home, most days enjoying the lazy days of summer in our neighborhood, not venturing out too far. With my husband still home looking for work, my kids have had the ability to stay with dad and not run the usual errands. They barely leave the house and they’ve been so happy, life has been pretty easy.

Then the night before a planned adventure to a small lake in the forest, my little one broke down. He was overcome with intense anxiety, crying out for me to hold him and never leave his side and begging us to stay home. He clearly didn’t want to leave home.

I popped his bubble.

It hadn’t dawned on me until then that my kids were so at ease because we have been living in a safety bubble where almost everything was predictable. The daily stress of school was gone, the constant movement of church groups, sports and activities had come to a complete stop and everything in my son’s world just got very comfortable. No wonder he has been so cheerful and compliant. He was stress free and there wasn’t anything to fight about.

I wish his stress ended there, but over the next few days with back-to-back adventures and a 4th of July party, he faced many more tough moments. I even saw it in my oldest when he was unexpectedly placed in social situations with his peers. He shut down and became very stressed. I was thankful that he was able to keep it together, but I could tell, and so could everyone else, that he was pretty upset and uncomfortable.

This week has taught me two things. First, my little one can not be homeschooled. Pulling him out of school would make his world too small and it would make it even more difficult for him to function outside our home. Second, we need to have balance. Sheltering my kids too much can have a negative impact on their ability to adapt to new situations. I don’t ever expect them to enjoy it, and I don’t want them to be constantly exposed to it, but they need to venture out of their comfort zone every once and a while to work on what’s hard for them.

Yes, we will still be the family that modifies almost everything we do so that our kids can enjoy life and we can enjoy being with them, but there is a fine line that we need to be aware of.

Balance, like everything else, whether it be food, exercise or social settings, it may not always be fun, but it’s necessary in staying healthy.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Graduation Day Has Arrived!


Well it officially happened!

My oldest son graduated from middle school—with honors!

We couldn’t be more proud of this guy, he continues to amaze us everyday with his continual progress.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may recall that starting middle school in 6th grade was pretty rough. There were days when we thought he would never make it. He was overwhelmed in so many ways, battling depression, facing bullying behaviors from older kids, bad teachers—6th grade pretty much sucked.

But 7th grade was much more comfortable. He was no longer the youngest kid in school, he was now familiar with his surroundings and made a new group of friends that were a lot like him. He also started to learn how to communicate better with his teachers, as did I.

Then 8th grade scooted along smoothly. He had a few hiccups and started Wellbutrin to battle the winter depression, and out of it we saw a more confident, happier kid with a lot of friends, and even a sweet girlfriend who he talks to daily. More than once I had a teacher say wonderful things about my son. As one teacher noted at the end of a correspondence with me:

PS: I absolutely love your son. He has a great sense of humor and is so incredibly sweet! He is one student who ALWAYS wishes me a nice day and a great weekend. You’ve done a great job!

I can’t tell you how much this meant to me, that a teacher noticed my son standing out among his peers for wishing her a nice day and great weekend. That he was recognized for being “incredibly sweet” melted my heart. She got to see my true son! To hear that he can connect with others in such a positive way made me so proud, more than any good grade would have.

My son finished the year with his IEP testing. In the end he was denied an IEP, but we did learn that he has a slow visual processing speed. This happened to be something he is born with and can’t be improved, so they will continue to allow the use of a calculator and extra time on tests to accommodate for this. I was glad that the testing was able to identify where his struggles were, this explained why doing long math problems and testing was so difficult for his brain to process, as he went through each step, his slower processing led to fatigue and ultimately him performing poorly.

Even though he was denied an IEP, the school met with us to help with his transition into high school. We have already started putting a plan into place. Hopefully we can make his transition into high school better than it was for middle school.

Can you believe he is starting high school already!!!

My little guy has grown into an impressive young man. Standing much taller than me, he has found his passion for computer programming. That is pretty much all he wants to do, other than talking to his girlfriend. He has taught himself many programming languages and continues to grow his skills. This week he’ll be building his own computer with his grandpa where they’ll be soldering the actual computer together!

After years of seeing him struggle doing math, or writing a paper, I have watched him come alive with computer programming. At the library he leaves with a pile of text books on computer languages, books that I swore would never be read were later filled end-to-end with post-it notes from his consumption of information. Where I once fought him to watch YouTube videos on how to complete a math problem, I now watch him complete multiple online courses on programing. It’s amazing to see him thirsty for knowledge and see him excel in something he knew nothing about just a few months ago. I’ve learned that my son has no problem learning if it’s on his terms and if it’s something he cares about. If only I can get that hunger to transfer to high school academics!

But more than that, I have seen my son become more stable than I have ever seen. I can not tell you the last time he raged or even became threatening. In fact, I watched him tonight teach his younger brother on how to cope with emotions in a social setting. The student has now become the teacher!

My son is happy, growing and thriving. I couldn’t have imagined a better place for him.

You may wonder... does my son still have challenges?

Yes, he does, but with the help of medication, maturity and learning how to manage his limitations, he is able to navigate through challenges really well.

As excited as I was to see him graduate middle school in a cap and gown, he adamantly refused to participate. Believe me, I tried to encourage him! As he said, “It’s not my kind of thing (crowds, stages etc.).” He also refused to go to the 8th grade trip to the water park.

I admit that I was a little sad to see all the kids in cap and gown, knowing that I would not be able to see my own son do the same, but I also realized that it has taken years for my son to recognize his own limitations and to avoid situations that might trigger him. And the fact that he can successfully do that now is a huge victory, one that I need to honor and respect. So I had to push aside my own selfish feelings and recognize that this ceremony is not about me and what makes me happy, instead, it’s about my son and what makes him happy.

So we humbly celebrated at his favorite place over burgers, fries and ice cream cones with just mom and dad.

Seeing him happy that day was a memory I will cherish forever. And I didn’t have to wait through a long graduation procession to see it!

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I hope that this recent update encourages all of you who are in the deep pit of this struggle. I was there—everyday. We never thought it was possible to arrive where we are today. But I hope to encourage you that IT IS possible. Hang in there, be kind to one another, protect your marriage, hang on for dear life, do whatever you have to in order to survive and with the right tools and in our case medication, along with a dose of maturity and the grace of God, things will get so much better for you and your family. Never give up!