“How Fast Are You Going?”

Yesterday my parents and I were on our way home from the hospital after my mom’s major back surgery two weeks ago, and a subsequent rehab stint.  She was sitting in the front passenger seat, and due to restrictions from the surgeon, could not lean over to see the speedometer. My mom likes to have control of every situation. She is a worrier. As we were heading down the expressway towards their home she patted my leg and asked me, for the second time in 5 minutes, “How fast are you going?”  I was not speeding and there was no clear reason why she was asking, but she is my mother, and I have known her all my life.

After spending two weeks sitting in hospital rooms for long hours, making special meals due to her restricted diet and incessant worrying, and more time with my strong-willed mother than I am used to, I was reaching my limit.  In the end, that comment in the car was a reminder for me. I have seen how stress affects her and promised myself years ago that I would not do that to myself. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. Appreciate what you have. Look for the positive side of everything. Find  beauty in the world.

My parents are only in their seventies, but at some point in the last few years I realized that my time with them is limited. Many of my friends have already lost their parents, so last night when I tucked them into bed, and I mean that literally, I felt pretty lucky. My dad was already laying down, and I finished helping my mom into the bed, covered her up, and turned off the lights. Oh, and I offered to read them a bedtime story, sadly they declined. For me, it was a moment I won’t forget. Coming full circle.  Role reversal at its finest.

In the wee hours of the night she called from the bedroom in a small voice….”help!” I stumbled out of bed to assist her in the journey to the bathroom, reminiscent of the kids’ younger years,  but for her I am a spotter of sorts. As I walked behind her to make sure her legs didn’t go out on her and held  on to a safety belt wrapped around her chest, she pushed her walker across the carpet while comparing the pile to a field of corn. Her arms were weak and it was tough work. We had to take breaks along the 30 foot trip for her to catch her breath, yet she was also impatient to get to the destination. In her rush, she was a terrible driver. Banging the walker into everything, she failed in her mission to allow my dad to sleep and she giggled all the way. She’s pretty cute in the middle of the night, making me laugh, and unknowingly saving herself just like a child does. When she starts giving me step-by-step instructions for a menial task today, I will remember those late night antics.

I will not let the little things get to me.  Instead, I will pick the moments  I never want to forget. These  are the memories I will treasure when they are gone.

Will you do the same?  “How fast are you going?”

 

 

Why Me? Why Us?

There have been times over the years when I have said “Why me?” “Why us?” Why did this happen to us and not somebody else. Sometimes it just seems that no one else has the same misfortune. I know that isn’t true, and our situation could be much worse, so I don’t dwell for long. I thank God that it isn’t, and for the blessings He has given us.

A majority, if not all, of these events have been medical in nature. My health, and the health of my family. Severe allergies as a child, Crohn’s at the age of 29, which progressed at an alarming rate, cataracts at the age of 32, removal of my colon at the age of 33. Most recently, the Essential Thrombocythemia diagnosis at 42.

The last few years have been no exception to this question. It has floated in and out of my brain, off and on, for months, but after a few moments of self pity, I remind myself of our blessings. This time, though, it was the health of our children.

In 2014 my daughter was bullied, as I wrote about in the post titled, “Until the Scars Fade” (http://superfiveshanghai.com/2015/09/20/until-the-scars-fade/.) At the time, a number of the parents who learned how she attempted to cope were scared of her. They didn’t want their children to be around her. Their ignorance on mental health astounded me. These were well-educated individuals, who must have known that depression isn’t contagious. This is a 10 year old child we’re talking about. She was literally shunned. She had left for the school year and was being tutored, while receiving therapy, and I was encouraged NOT to bring her back for any school functions, so as not to upset other parents, while the bully continued in school with no repercussions.

It has taken two years to be able to take a deep breath. To feel like she is back on track to health. From the outside, it is not apparent. No one else would know what she has been through, and the resulting depression she experiences. No one would know the struggle it has been. As a parent, it has been stressful and heartbreaking. Why my baby girl? Why does she have to deal with this?

Last spring, my oldest son, who suffers from ADD, had some serious anxiety issues. This had never appeared to be a problem before, but it escalated quickly. He was working his first job, taking a few too many college classes, and the pressure and responsibility overwhelmed him. He has always been very independent, and doesn’t like to ask for help. Up until recently, he preferred that we didn’t. We knew he was skipping some classes, and calling in to work, and we had decided that it was time for him to learn the hard way. We had no idea it was due to anxiety until the end of the semester, when he finally told us. After four months of keeping it to himself, he finally released himself from carrying the burden alone. The semester was a bust, and he left his job, but we could, and would, help him.

He spent seven months after the failed-semester ended, in twice-a-week therapy, having medication adjusted, and spending hours and hours in his room. It was, once again, heartbreaking to see one of our children suffering. We spent most of 2015 worried that he might never come back up for air, while his therapist told us it would just take time. She had enough faith for all  of us. She was right. In November, he got a new job, and he started classes in January. He comes home from work happy and talkative, something we have rarely seen from our quiet boy. He goes to class, and has been getting high A’s. Once again, I feel like I can take a breath.

After the events of the last few years, I look for ways to spread awareness about mental illness, and mood disorders. I need to do more. Obviously, I have written about some of it in the blog. I hope that readers will share my posts to spread the word. My Facebook page, Sunrise Strong-Mood Disorder Awareness and Acceptance, is a another step, but it is not enough. As stress at home continues to decrease (fingers-crossed and a bunch of prayers), I hope to have time to find other ways to spread awareness. Maybe that’s why……..why it’s me, why it’s us.

“A Storm’s a Brewin'”

We have had a house guest this week. A nasty and violent visitor reeking havoc where it is not wanted. We have been free of its wrath for several years. I guess our time was up. Stomach flu, we abhor you.

Bill stayed home Tuesday, to keep tabs on me…..from a distance whenever possible. I had spent the night with the porcelain prince, and although he proved useful, I did not ask for, nor want, the date. It had been years since I had spent such time with him, and hope it’s years before we meet in this manner again.

Shortly after 9am, Bill came running to the bottom of the stairs in concern. The visitor was raging again. Loudly. Once he found me resting peacefully, he started searching for the source. The youngest child was at school, the sleeping, middle child,  was fine, and the oldest was at chemistry class….or not. Ethan had made it to school, taken a quiz, turned in a paper, and told his professor that he was ill and would have to make up the lab. He raced home at break-neck speed, pulled into the driveway, grabbed his bag, opened the car door, dropped down to the ground, and decorated the front lawn with his breakfast. He was driving my car.  Bonus points for keeping it outside. Number one child, was the second victim.

It was at this point that Bill and child number two started to bond in brotherhood, to protect their right to health.  The Clorox wipes and Lysol came out. Lines were drawn. We are here. You are there. Do not cross this line.  They went to the raw juice bar, and downed immunity ginger shots together, then questioned their sanity as the intense spice burned its way down to their bellies. They each had an extra large green juice chaser, cooling the flame,  and cleansing the body, in hopes of further protection. They swore their allegiance to health. They would not fall.

Yesterday, for whatever reason, after 24 hours of reprieve, it felt safe. I don’t know why I thought it was okay to take a deep breath, but I did. I continued washing the linens, towels, and bacteria-laden clothing, optimistic that a full family infection had been avoided. Unfortunately, as I walked past Brennan late in the afternoon, he angrily mumbled….”a storm’s a brewin,’ and I blame you.”  Dad walked in minutes later, pumped his fist in the air as he saw Brennan, still residing in the land of the living, and shouted “Solidarity, son! You’re still on the island!” He was answered with doubtful head shakes. As I write this, the second child is the third to go down.

There were only two left on the island. Father and daughter allied. Fist bumps ensued. Who would be the last family member standing? How long would they last? Realization hit. The allies became competitors.

At 3:12am, unusual activity is heard from the bathroom, and lights are being turned on. From a dark bedroom the sounds of the third child…..”Hey, Dad?! Are you off the island?! I imagine a fist pump may have taken place n that dark room. The fourth has succumbed. Survival of the fittest.

Carleigh is still going strong. I fear she may be dripping in germs, but she has a reading at mass today, and she has no signs of illness. May God protect her and her classmates from our unwanted visitor, and me from their parents, if things go awry.

 

 

The January Vacuum

It pulls everything out of me, and I feel like a deflated balloon. I struggle to function. Hiding in a corner like that lone dust bunny, just trying to make it through the storm. Closer to March, closer to spring. January sucks. It sucks everything out of me.

In Michigan, it is a cold, wet, gray, month.  Long gone are the sounds of college football blaring from the TV, and fall breezes wafting through the open windows. The trees are bare, and the neighborhood children have moved their play inside, away from the winter chill. The holidays are over, and it is too far to the next. There are more overcast days than blue sky days, and warm weather is too many months, or too many miles away. Going out to do errands, on wet and sloppy, or slick and icy roads, is unappealing. Crawling into bed with a good book, or a movie, and a hot cup of coffee, is much more so. Then again, being cooped up brings me down too. I waffle between the safety and comfort of home, and raging cabin fever. I have often felt that there is no way to win the battle of January, at least not in my world.

For years, I let January swallow me whole, but recently I have tried to find ways to overcome the vacuum. We have bought light therapy lamps, and when we consistency turn them on while waking up, they do help. On those days I manage to drag my body out of the warm bed, early morning workouts go a long way to making me feel better, as well. Vitamins. Music. Essential oil aromatherapy. I’ll get there. I’ll find the right mix, and eventually, we’ll move to a sunnier state. For now, I continue to fight for good, for light, and hope for the renewal of life outside my window.

What I learned from my Crohn’s Disease

Part III –  Repost for Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week. Spread the word.  Share to increase awareness. There is hope!

As I have said before, I have Crohn’s Disease. It has been in remission for 12 years, but from a year after my diagnosis in 1998 to August 2002, it was like a wildfire reeking havoc on my body.

I spent three years, from the summer of 1999 after Brennan was born, until my major surgery in 2002, fighting for my life. I didn’t realize it at the time. It snuck up on me in little increments, and before I knew it had overtaken my body. Specifically, my large intestine. I was on a severely restricted diet, and took handfuls of medication and vitamins. I was constantly in doctor’s offices, or emergency rooms. I had raging fevers, higher than you would think a person could survive. Higher than the kind that send parents into panics. I had a racing heart, even at rest, lost partial vision in my eyes, and fought a staph infection in my leg for a week in the hospital. I never had the stomach pains that many people with Crohn’s do, but I probably spent more time in the bathroom than the average person will spend in their lives. My weight went down to 88 pounds.

In the end of December 1999, after spending the holidays (which are crazy busy during NORMAL circumstances) at my grandmother’s and Bill’s grandfather’s viewings and funerals, I got what appeared to be the flu. It went on for a week or so, and didn’t seem to be getting better. As lay down for a nap one day, I said a prayer. I asked God to give me a sign. To let me know if I should go to the doctor after the New Year, or if it would go away on its own. When I woke up, I had little insect bite-like bumps all over my body. I will never forget that moment. We are a quietly religious family. I have always been a believer, but this was a pivotal moment in my life, my belief, and love of God. I spent the next two weeks in the hospital.

I remember, sometime in the second or third year of my Crohn’s, being exhausted. Tired of the constant battle. Laying on the bed, getting ready for another nap. I, again, said a prayer. I asked if I would be feeling better the next day, and begged that I would. Within a minute or two, and I kid you not, the phone rang a strange double ring. It reminded me of the way my phone at work rang when I was getting an interoffice call. When I picked it up, it was an operator recording. “I’m sorry, your request cannot be processed at this time. Please hang up and try again later.” I ran downstairs and asked Bill, who was sitting on the couch, if he had heard the phone ring. He said yes, but didn’t notice the weird ring. Another moment I will never forget. I am still quietly religious, but much more so. I believe. No one could ever tell me otherwise.

I fought having the surgery to remove my colon for a long time. I was too young to have an Ostomy bag. I was only in my early 30’s. How could I deal with that for my entire life?! I finally gave in to myself, it was my choice. I wanted to be there for my boys, and I was just too ill to be the mom I wanted to be. When the surgeon went in for my pre-op colonoscopy, he couldn’t even complete it due to the swelling. I had put the procedure off, and if it had been done sooner I’m sure they would have told me how dire the circumstances were. I’m glad I made the decision myself prior to that. I’m glad that I did it for the love of my family. In the end, it would turn out to be so much more than that.

That surgery saved my life. Literally. It was that bad. I can now eat anything I want, I take no medication for Crohn’s, and am back to a more-than-healthy weight. And I am LIVING. Living a life I wouldn’t be, if not for said surgery. I am living a life I would not be, if not for Crohn’s Disease.

I have learned to appreciate the little things that so many take for granted. The blue sky, white clouds, green trees. The contrast between them, and the beauty of it. The breeze. The birds. The smell of fresh air.

I have learned not to take my family and friends for granted, and to catch myself when I think that I am. To take care of them, as they took care of me. To love them with everything I have. To look to them for strength when I need it, and to give strength and support to them when they do.

I have traveled farther out of my comfort zone than I ever thought I would. If not for Crohn’s we would not have traveled abroad, adopted our daughter, or lived in China. Before Crohn’s my life was ruled by fear of the unknown. After Crohn’s, by the spirit of adventure, and a love of life.

I have walked on the Great Wall of China, and stood before the first emperor’s Terracotta Warriors. I have trekked through the rainforest in Langkawi, Malaysia, and floated through the mangroves. I have basked in the hope of longevity from the waterfall of the Pure Water Temple in Kyoto, Japan, and walked the Nightingale floors of Nijo’s Castle. I have explored the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, and traveled through the Mekong Delta. I have walked the beautiful beaches of Vietnam. I have zip-lined through the trees in Thailand, and fed an elephant bananas. Right into that giant mouth. I have been to the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea, and I have stood in North Korea, in the MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building.

Through my Crohn’s Disease I learned how to live. How to love. How to learn. But I’m not done. I have so much more to see, so much more to experience, so much more to love, thanks to my Crohn’s Disease.

Second Chances

Part II……  Repost in honor of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week. Share the  post, raise awareness.

The first thoughts that crossed my mind, while I was recovering in the hospital, were very basic. How do I dress now? Can I wear the same clothes, or will I have to wear overalls, or baggy dresses, for the rest of my life? Will the bag show if I wear jeans? Will I ever wear a bathing suit again? Will people know by looking at me? Am I going to have a perpetual bump on my front, right side? How do I take care of this new “appliance?” All of these things were a little scary for a 33 year old woman. It felt like these were things I shouldn’t have to worry about at my age; like I was robbed of some of my younger years.

Once I returned home, however, I discovered all the positive results of the surgery. I required no more medication to control my disease. It was finally in remission. I didn’t have to know the  location of each public restroom before entering a store or restaurant. The innumerable foods that I hadn’t been able to eat for four years were ecstatically served to me by my mother who was such a blessing and a help during those years.  I could easily hide the Ostomy bag. I didn’t have to dress differently, and if I didn’t choose to tell someone, they had no idea that I was any different then them. Finally, my kids. I could be there for my kids. I could help at school, take them to the park,  and play with them, without having to do it while lying on the couch.

Over time, I realized how strong this experience had made me. If someone had asked me if I could go back in time and change things; if I had never had Crohn’s at all, would I do it?  The answer was “NO!” Crohn’s made me who I am today. If not for this disease, I would not love life, the little things and big, in the way that I do now. I would not notice God’s beauty in so many everyday ways, and appreciate them on a daily basis. I would not have stepped out of my box to do things that I was not comfortable with, but I did……..things I never thought I would be able to do.

The Unexpected

In honor of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week, I am reposting some of my Crohn’s related entries from earlier this year, for those of you who may have missed them. Feel free to share, and spread awareness, near and far!

When our first child was about two years old, I realized that my health had been slowly deteriorating. I was often out of breathe, with little action to cause it, tired, and I was having digestive issues. I made an appointment to see my doctor, not really expecting anything serious. I had no idea that this would be a pivotal point in my life moving forward.

In May of 1998, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. This can affect any part of the digestive tract, and although it can go into remission, it is a lifetime disease. My Crohn’s was basically limited to my large intestine. It became inflamed like a tire, both inside and out. It required medications to reduce the swelling, iron for anemia, due to the bleeding it caused, and a restricted diet. The diagnosis was very upsetting at first, but I soon felt that it was manageable, and went back to life as it was, with a few more pills and a few less tasty foods to eat. I was months away from getting pregnant with our second son.

The following summer, after our son was born, I started having increased symptoms from the Crohn’s. These things creep up on you. You feel like you have it under control. Change the diet a little more, change the medication. Tell yourself that things will get better. Only they don’t.

On January 2, 2000, while most of the world was taking a sigh of relief that their world didn’t fall apart as many predicted, mine did, as did my husband’s. Or at least it began to. I went to the doctor after feeling like I had been suffering from a flu bug for a week or so, and ended up hospitalized for 2 weeks. It would be the first of a number of stays. After the pregnancy, running around with two young children, the stress of two relatives passing away around Christmas, and my denial of the symptoms, I was so dehydrated, and my blood pressure was so low, they didn’t know how I was even standing up.

In the year to come, I would have 105 degree fevers, tachycardia (racing heart), extreme weakness, handfuls of pills, a severely restricted diet, and I would go down to 88 pounds. The boys were now 4 years and 6 months. My husband had to travel quite a bit for work, and my mom would come help me. When she couldn’t be there, you would find me feeding the baby while I was wrapped in a blanket due to chills. I lived hour to hour.  Morning nap, afternoon nap, bedtime. Those were my goals to make it throughout the day.

In the summer of 2000, I was once again hospitalized. This time for a staph infection I developed after hitting my leg on the car. For most, this would be a two day stay. For me, it was seven, including my birthday. My immune system was just too compromised from the Crohn’s.

There would be no relief for two more years. In 2001, I developed cataracts from the steroids I had to take for the inflammation, and at the age of 32, I would need cataract surgery. In April 2002, I lost vision in my eyes due to swelling of the optic nerve. This would require a hospitalization as well. Though I did eventually regain most of my sight, I still have blind spots, and have to be checked every few years.

Finally, in the summer of 2002, when all medications had been tried and none were working, I  realized that I had to take more drastic measures. I could not be there for my boys as I wanted to be. I couldn’t help at the school, or take them to the park. This disease was taking me away from my kids. I couldn’t live with that. I chose surgery. My large intestine was completely removed. When they removed it, my heart rate immediately went back to normal, and I mean at that very moment in surgery. They said it was almost perforated in so many areas that if I hadn’t been on a strong antibiotic for so long, I would have had a massive blood infection. I had no idea how close I was to dying.

I will live with an Ostomy bag, for the rest of my life. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I have never regretted it. Not for a single second.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am JUST a Homemaker

I recently read a post from a friend who was belittled for what she does for a living. She has many, many talents, and is constantly looking for ways to impact the world around her with the use of those talents. Her biggest passion, one of her finest  talents, is loving and caring for dogs. She has three of her own, and she walks many others for a living, for people who trust her with their precious pets while they are away at work. She is always happy and smiling, and has a peace within her that most do not. She works hard. She has found a way to make a living doing something she loves. It’s unfortunate that some do not find that to be a worthy job. That one would diminish another, who is making the world a better place for others.

I am JUST a homemaker. I have been so since the birth of my second child. I do not work for a paycheck. I DO work outside of the home, though. I have a job that requires travel. I spend hours traveling to, and waiting outside of my children’s schools, going to doctor’s offices, guitar lessons, rock climbing gyms, volleyball, baseball, and swim practices, meets, and games. Driving children to and from work, and friend’s houses. I don’t get paid for gas or mileage in the typical way. My payment comes in the form of happy, healthy, well-rounded children. We don’t force them to play sports or take lessons, they only do what they want to. We let them explore their talents, and find their passion. It is worth every penny I  ” lose”  by not working for a paycheck.

My life involves daily professional development seminars. I am constantly learning FROM my children, and FOR my children. They share with me. They talk about subjects that they are excited about learning, goals for their future, and  what they are worried about. They ask advice. They look for reassurances, and guidance. I am always there, doing the best I can to provide it, and constantly looking for, and refining, ways to help them meet their goals.

I have odd hours, and I am constantly working overtime. My busiest times of the day during the “work week”  are between 6:30am and  9am, and 2pm and 11pm, but that varies day-to-day, and I am by no means “off” during the time in between, I am merely working independently. I don’t have weekends or holidays off. I am constantly on call, and I can’t leave my “work” at work, at the end of the day. Vacations are severely limited. The pay raises and bonuses are not traditional, and may not be fully realized until years  later. They come in the form of growth in my children. Kindness, gratitude, honesty, empathy, courtesy, morality, love. My bonus comes in ensuring that  my children are raised to be decent, thoughtful, giving, caring, happy adults who don’t diminish others for what they choose to do.

This is NOT a thankless job.  I know I can never be replaced. Job security is never an issue. There is no possibility of a lay off in my future. The health benefits are variable, but the retirement benefits are countless. I have never regretted this job. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I have been given.

Can They See Us From Heaven?

Over the last week, my heart has broken over and over again, as I think of my dear friend, who just lost her son. As a mother, I cannot imagine having to deal with such a tragedy.  I feel like she is on my mind almost every minute.  I check her Facebook page several times a day, to see how she’s doing, and what others are doing in support for her. I can’t help it. That’s how I’ve always been. I  want to help people. But where is the line between concerned friend, and creepy Facebook stalker, and have I breached it? Are others who are close to her, also consumed with her grief?

In the past, my daughter has been in circumstances similar to what Adam endured. It is because of this, that she feels connected to him. The day of the funeral she expressed sadness that she did not know him, and therefore, could not help him in his darkest days. She asked me if he could see and hear us, and I told her it’s possible. Maybe he even knows of their connection. I would like to think that is part of the reason for the rainbow I saw on the day of the funeral. She desperately wishes she could have told him that things would get better. There was light in his future, even if  he didn’t see it yet. Seek help. Don’t be afraid. Have hope.

Shortly after our conversation, I went upstairs to take a shower. As I have said, Adam and his family have been constantly on my mind. I started wondering if he, or any friend or loved one in Heaven, COULD see and hear us. This was followed by the realization that I hoped NOT in the shower, or other awkward moments for that matter. Heebie Jeebies commence. This thought reminded me of when my oldest son was three years old. He walked into the bathroom while I was taking a bath, looked me straight in the eye and said….”Grandpa Dave is watching you.”  For many years, and countless times, we have told that story, assuming he was referring to my “very much alive” father-in-law, in some unexplainable yet very creepy, toddler moment. It had never occurred to me, until now, sixteen years later, that my grandfather’s name, on my mom’s side, was “David.” He passed away before I was a twinkle in my parents’ eyes, before they were married, and even before my dad entered into my mother’s life. Because of this, I don’t often think of him, or his name. Once again, but in that wide-eyed, “I see dead people” kind of way….heebie jeebies.

I hope my grandfather is watching over us, and if Adam is keeping an eye on my baby girl, I’m all in,  but unless there’s an emergency, can you keep it on the other side of the bathroom door, please?!

 

Until The Scars Fade

This post has been brewing in my heart, and soul, for a long time. I knew, however, that writing it was something  I could not do until the scars began to fade.

My daughter was bullied.  All three of my kids have been bullied at some point, just like many children have been, including myself. The difference with her, was that she was bullied to the brink, and it wasn’t at your average public school. It was at a very expensive Catholic school, with small class sizes, and a strict behavior policy. It consisted of children of wealthy families, mixed with a few from the middle class. We were part of the latter.

Affording this school was a huge stretch for us, but it reminded me of her school in Shanghai. A school that still included a second language, as well as art, gym, and music classes, that were scheduled more often and delved a little deeper than public school. It was also conveniently located very close to my boys’ school. We decided that the financial sacrifice was worth it. We would, however,  still need to apply for scholarships and financial aid.

In third grade, her first year at the school, our daughter had a small group of friends, and was relatively happy.  Most of her classmates were well-behaved and kind. By all appearances, we seemed to have her in the environment we were looking for. A safe place for her to thrive.

As her fourth grade year began, she seemed more irritated, and reserved. She was easily aggravated by questions about her day, or just general conversation. I assumed it was pre-teen hormones, and began preparing myself for the moodiness of the next few years. Unfortunately, we were still months away from learning  what was actually happening.

One afternoon right before Christmas, I  pushed her to tell me why she was upset.  She admitted that she had been slipped a threatening note by another student.  Instead of bringing it to someone’s attention, she had thrown it away. I called the school, and a very considerate receptionist dug it out of the garbage for us. The next day, we were told the incident was addressed and taken care of. This would be the first, and last, we heard of any bullying for quite some time.

Several months later, while we sat at the kitchen table arguing about whether she had to go to swim practice or not,  the flood gates broke open. She told me that the same child had struck her several times, and continued giving her threatening or demeaning notes, as well as verbally telling her.  “No one likes you.” “You don’t have any friends.” “You should just kill yourself.” It didn’t matter that she did have friends, and that they liked her very much. The more she was told these things, the more she believed them. She told no one, and if anyone observed it, they did not take action.

Our baby, our confident little spark plug, our kind, funny, smart, beautiful, daughter, was crumpling into a little ball. Her self-confidence shattered. She could not see her own self-worth. She thought that she was not deserving of love, or attention. One wintery afternoon, in February 2014, the stories started spilling out of her, and our world as we knew it fell apart.

There was no quick fix for this situation. We had to pull her out of school. She finished the year in a small tutoring center, while undergoing counseling several days a week. We intended to send her back to the same school for fifth grade, as we were assured that the bullying was being addressed. I didn’t want to teach my daughter to cut and run when things got difficult, and she really liked her group of friends there. I still had faith that they would take care of the situation. It was a Catholic school, so how could they not?!  It was run by women who had sworn their life to God. How could we not trust them to do the right thing?!

For the next six months, we had countless meetings with the head of the school (although she had a habit of cancelling and rescheduling them, often for weeks later), as well as the tutoring center, and therapist. There were dozens of phone calls and texts.  We were constantly reassured that our child had a spot at the school and would be welcomed back the next year, but it was a never-ending process, with many delays. We were 10 days from the school year starting, and she still wasn’t officially enrolled again. They still wanted more meetings. I have no idea about what. She had been cleared by her therapist to return. Worried about the quickly approaching school year, and in our daughter’s best interests, we decided we should leave the school. It was “our choice” to change, but it was obvious we were being pushed out.

I  forgave that little girl long ago. She knew what she had done, and I believe she learned a valuable lesson. However, I never would have imagined that a Christian school would bury this incident, even amongst the staff. During our meeting with the middle school, we found out that they had not been advised of the bullying; where class assignments and schedules would have had to be considered for both girls. The head of the school had lead everyone to believe that my daughter had  broken down for no reason at all. The one who was bullied, was struggling to get back into school, while the the bullier continued as if nothing had happened.

In the end, we learn. This is not my first scar in life, but it is my baby’s. At least the first she vividly remembers. I can only imagine how being adopted effects her psyche. These lessons in life shape us. They make us stronger and more resilient. They remind us of the feelings of others, and how to treat people properly. They teach us of the importance of honesty and integrity, and what happens when they are lacking. They remind us to be the best we can be, because that is the right thing to do.

Our  daughter is in her second year at her new school. It is also Catholic, but possesses the Christian values that you would expect. Fifth grade was tough for her, she was in protective mode at all times. She made friends, but had trouble trusting people. We have had many discussions, and she continues to see her therapist for “maintainence” visits every now and then, but she is a new girl. Or maybe her “old-self” with improvements.

She is wiser than most her age. She has learned lessons that many do not. Sixth grade has started out wonderfully. She is beginning to trust again. She has loosened the protecctive shell. She has put herself out there, to try new things, without fear, or at least facing her fears. I am one proud mama. Those scars have started to fade.