Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lithium 3 Years Later—Life is Good.



I’m sitting at a small, wooden desk, nestled into the corner of a beach house with an ocean view. A cool breeze drifts through my window smelling sweet like honeysuckle. Sunlight is dropping into the meadow creating an orange glow in the tall grass surrounding the house. In the distance I can see a mother deer tending to her babies, keeping watch as they nibble on the golden grass. I can’t complain about anything, life is really good right now.

We are 6 days into our week long vacation. I’ve been present, basking in the love of my family. Are things finally perfect? Nah, we still have the occasional meltdown from our youngest who’s easily overwhelmed and our boys still have a gift for finding the other’s weak spot, but considering our journey, life is pretty darn perfect right now.

The month of July marks the 3rd anniversary of our oldest son being on Lithium. Some of you have asked if we’re still seeing the benefits. I’m happy to share that we are. Our oldest continues to thrive in so many areas of his life and he contributes his success to Lithium. While packing for this very vacation our youngest had a friend over and I warned my oldest about the consequences of messing with his brother’s guests and my oldest quickly reminded me, “Don’t worry mom, I won’t do that, remember the last time that happened I wasn’t on my medication.”

He’s right, I don’t need to worry so much anymore. My oldest, now 13 years old (and taller than me) is getting so much more self control now that puberty is settling in, maturity has been a big helper. Sometimes I wonder if he still needs all his medication, then I’m reminded that he does when I see a small crack in his stability. Recently I experienced this when we were in line at a Starbucks. While waiting for a snack, his blood sugar was dropping and he started to have rapid mood changes. He started crying with tears running down his cheeks and seconds later he dropped his head back with uncontrollable laughter. All while strangers looked on. I haven’t seen these mood changes in years, so it surprised us both to say the least. Once he ate and his blood sugar stabilized, he was back to normal. Like I say, we only see small cracks.

My oldest finished his 7th grade year with honors. But that wasn’t his only success. He also did a class presentation all on his own, in front of his peers (a major victory) and socially he has grown too. He has a girlfriend. You might be surprised that I find this to be a good thing. It’s really helped with his self confidence and self esteem. It’s also exposed him to a bigger group of friends, opening up his world a little and giving him the confidence to go to events such as school dances. Their relationship is very innocent, which makes me happy, but I can see how much he has blossomed because of it. He seems to stand a little taller and feels like he fits in more at school. Years of living with a mood disorder can destroy a persons self esteem, but having a girl tell you that she likes you and knowing that she will stand by your side at school goes a long way in allowing him to see that he has value in this world and it’s more than just his mom who thinks so. Don’t we all need that?

Puberty has infected more than just one boy in my house. My middle son, at 11 years old, is already going through puberty and the changes are even more dramatic. Suddenly girls have become the most important thing in his life and the social circles just took on more importance. Gone is the sweet boy and inward comes a young man flexing his muscles and making sure he has on the best looking outfit as he rides by the house of the girl he loves. And texting, well let’s just say that it’s become his first line of communication. Oh man, my boys are changing so fast. I feel like I can’t keep up!

My youngest is doing pretty good. We’re still working on his emotion control. He tends to scream at a drop of a hat and his anxiety is strong too. We’re also trying to work on his social skills, helping him communicate better and we’ve reduced his electronic time to force him into the real world. Ironically, taking away his electronics hasn’t always stopped him from disconnecting from others. Just the other day I found him lying flat on his back on the couch with his eyes closed. When I asked him if he was ok he said, “Yep, I’m just paying a video game inside my head.” I wish I could say that this was the first time that this has happened.

While sitting on the beach earlier today, I watched my middle son fearlessly dive into the crashing waves and swim into deeper waters with confidence. Trailing behind I watched my oldest who’s always more cautious and my youngest whose anxieties keep him from trying new things, slowly inch further into the deeper water. Both keeping their eye on their middle brother. If middle brother was safe in the ocean, they too would be. I watched as my middle son recognized their timidness and joyfully called out to them to join him. They trusted him and followed.

In that moment I recognized that my boys are not on this journey alone. Beyond my husband and I, their middle brother is helping, along with their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, their teachers, their friends and even their girlfriends. They are surrounded by people who love them, who are helping to lead the way, no matter how deep the waters get.