If you haven't read the first part of this series, you might be a little lost if you start with this one. Read my first blog post about my family's journey to wellness here.
I left off in my last blog entry talking a little about my third child's diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, some food experimentation, changing out diet, the results and seeking more natural ways to keep my family healthy.
During the same time all of this was going on, I experienced a miscarriage and had 2 more children. My 4th living child was diagnosed with Asthma at 6 months of age, while all of this stuff was going on with his older brother. To say that added to my stress is an understatement. I still don't know quite how I made it through those years. Something else just took over. There is no other explanation other than God sent me the Holy Spirit as my helper because I did not have a physical person there to help me through those days. Lonely, would also be an understatement as a description of those days, weeks and years of my life. I know there are moms out there who can relate to feeling isolated and lonely when your kids are young and very needy; They need naps, lots of attention, guidance, instruction and supervisions. That is true for every child. When you add in challenging behaviors that go along with ASD and then medical issues that you can't seem to get doctors to understand PLUS another child who has a medical issue needing daily attention and medications so he can breathe effectively PLUS just all the regular mom stuff----I was STRESSED, anxious and tired. I didn't sleep well and I certainly didn't take care of myself. It wasn't even a thing I thought about. I just performed. (**Stress LEVELS of moms of kids on the Autism Spectrum are equal to that a soldier in combat. See here for the evidence. We also experience traumatic events more frequently and become hyper-vigilant. Read more here.)
I stayed home most days. I didn't have the money, let alone the energy for outings. It was too much work, too much effort and outings were stressful for a young child on the Autism Spectrum--it wasn't worth the issues I'd have to deal with and getting out of the house presented it's own challenge. We lived in poverty at the time and used some public assistance to make ends meet. Gas money was for therapy appointments, doctor's appointments, grocery store trips and attending church. Period. Looking back, I wish I'd had the presence of mind to consider what all of this was doing to my other kids, but I didn't. It wasn't that I was only thinking of myself but I was blinded to how this was all effecting my son's siblings. I can see it now. I know they also struggled, suffered and felt lonely too. Relationships didn't get much attention and feelings were never discussed. I'm trying to change that now, but it's been a lot like trying to get a toddler to try a bite of broccoli---almost impossible. But, I'm stubborn and don't give up easily.
***If I could get one piece of advice across to moms in a similar situation or any mom--TALK about your feelings with someone you trust. Find a therapist to go see once in a while. Don't stuff them down and don't hide from them. The feelings aren't bad or wrong---they can't be. But they will have side effects if you don't deal with them in a healthy way. My avoidance of them led to a lot of anger, resentment, bitterness, victim mindset, taking frustration out on others, unhealthy eating habits/weight gain, headaches, anxiety and sleeplessness. Those feelings will have physical manifestations, it's not if, it's WHEN. The chronic stress is not goof for the body or the mind. ***
Staying home became a way of life, for the most part. My "social life" was nonexistent mostly by necessity. Even if I'd had the funds to go to a movie with friends or lunch--- I didn't have the energy or the mental/emotional capacity to do it---I also didn't have friends so therefore no invitations to attend much of anything. There were occasional wedding or shower invites, etc.. but with no money and 5 kids--- that wasn't happening.
At some point during everything that was happening in my life I was told that my attitude, lack of a smile and overall demeanor drove people away (paraphrased). At the time, that drove a sadness, grief and sense of despair through my heart. I don't know if the person that said those words to me thought it would jar me into behaving differently or what--but it had the opposite effect. I walked away feeling so discouraged and rejected. Ashamed. And shame can do a number on a person. It's that feeling that you are unworthy of love and acceptance, that you don't belong unless you act or are a certain way. I definitely felt unworthy and unloved. I also wondered where did I belong??? Did I belong at all? I was in such a bad place emotionally that I needed some love and understanding. It would be a very long time before I would find it.
I guess I sort of just put my head down and did what needed to be done. There is certainly some advantage to that, but the detriment was that I didn't see or notice a lot of other things that needed my attention. My vision was somewhat single minded: Keep my family healthy and help my son be the best he could be. That tunnel vision also blinded me to the pain my other kids felt because of their brother's diagnosis and the distance that created between them and him and all of us. I didn't see that until many years later.
While emotional healing would be a long time coming, our physical health was improving rapidly. Behaviors, sleep, focus, learning and general health all improved for my son on the spectrum. His younger brother needed the inhaler and nebulizer less and less. I lost some weight. I had a bit more energy. I could definitely see improvements from changing what we ate and adding in supplements like Vitamin C, Zinc, D3 and a multi-vitamin to support our health. I had purchased a few homeopathic remedies and some herbal products to support our health during times of illness which was far less frequent by the end of 2013.
I wasn't quite satisfied though. One of the remaining issue that my son had was allergies. For about 9 months out of the year he was miserable and so were the rest of us. Allergies for him didn't just mean a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and maybe a slight cough. It meant a DRASTIC change in his behavior. And sleep. He became more argumentative and he would fixate on certain things, becoming very OCD-like and he would be up until the wee hours of the morning, mostly checking baseball, football or basketball scores depending on the season. He would become extremely uncooperative, belligerent and defiant. My normally kind, cooperative, quiet, helpful boy would change almost overnight. The only time he had relief from this was during the coldest months of the year when everything was dead.
It was so bad that, at times, I considered hospitalizing him because of his very agitated state and his somewhat aggressive physical behavior. I would occasionally be afraid of what he might do to himself or others. Thankfully, it never came to that. However, it was still very stressful 9 months out of the year. I had gone back and tried pharmaceuticals, I added in some natural histamine blockers and supplements to help his body deal with the allergens. Some relief was seen but it wasn't enough.
Answers were coming soon, though. I would find out just how important the food my son was eating is to his well-being and health. I'd also find some answers I seekded in one of God's creations: Plants.
Watch for my next blog post in this series: Seeking Health