Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh, The Weather Outside Is Frightful

I’ve had clinical depression and anxiety probably my whole life, though it wasn’t diagnosed until I was 25. At an age where I knew everything and planned to live indefinitely, I was forced to confront some self-righteous judgments I had about mental illness and medication. Being reduced to the point of absolute non-function is a humbling experience. But had I not been so, having to first ask for, and then accept, outside help would have been impossible for me.

After confronting all my own prejudices about mental illness, I still wasn’t spared from hearing everyone else’s. And a lot of it was painful at the time. But how could I blame anyone for thinking just as I had thought? It was good for me to realize I didn’t get to be an exception to the rules.

I also have an eating disorder: one not readily recognized by the medical community or the general public as any more than a moral issue, a lack of discipline. I am a compulsive over-eater. Food-obsessed and weight-obsessed, I dealt with all of life’s perfectly natural frustrations with ice cream and pizza. I could not stay on a diet for more than a short time, and my weight continued to rise even beyond the point where I started to worry about my heart function. I was fortunate to be introduced to a 12-step program which, through a great deal of hard work, discipline and spiritual butt-kicking arrested the progress of my disease, brought me back to a normal weight and gifted me with the tools for how to live without sugar and volume eating.

After confronting all my own prejudices about food and weight issues, I still wasn’t spared from hearing everyone else’s. And a lot of it can still be painful. But how can I blame anyone for thinking just as I had thought? It has been good for me to realize that I am one among many, that all my perceived intellect, talent and good will doesn’t give me a ‘get out of jail free’ card when it comes to life’s difficult realities.

My son is classified “Emotional Behavioral Disorder” by the school district. In January, we will begin testing for Aspergers. It was in my family long before it had a name. But it’s still a pretty recent addition to medical knowledge and general understanding. I have a little boy who is as sweet and loving as a puppy, smart and curious as an engineer, funnier than most professional comedians, and more in tune with people’s emotions than any therapist I’ve ever had. Yet this overly cautious child who hates to get dirty does unexplainably impulsive things. Walking on a partially frozen pond. Horsing around in front of a school bus. Playing crazily too close to the lake when he’s terrified of water. And when he’s upset—usually when he perceives that you are upset at him--he takes off running. Or destroys something he loves. Or acts like a lunatic. So crippled by the shame he can’t stand to be in his own skin. He’s been known, when confronted, to shout “I am SUCH an idiot!!!” It always breaks my heart.

This is not a child without limits. He functions normally in the safety of his own home. Does his homework, eats his vegetables, practices his piano, takes his consequences for misbehavior and serves his time. But stir in a few extra bodies and it’s almost like he’s possessed by a demon. That’s honestly how it’s felt to me at times. Yet I have been graced with the most exceptional team of school district professionals you could ask for, an amazing clinic willing to work with us on testing, and the love and support of family and friends who know and love this little boy and want what’s best for him.

Of course, after confronting all my own prejudices about children’s behavioral issues, I still am not spared from hearing everyone else’s. And it is acutely painful. But how can I blame anyone for thinking just as I sometimes think: that I did this. That he’s difficult because I can’t parent. It is good for me to realize that I’m not a perfect parent, but that I don’t have to do it alone.

Sometimes I just have to slog through the ‘real world’ and know that it’s okay. That even if the weather outside is frightful, it’s what’s inside that matters. Because I am graced with a spiritual connection to God and a loving family, I can accept that I’m just not the one running the world—which is good, because I’d make a terrible mess out of it. I can ask for the strength to take the next right step, no matter how hard it is, no matter how much I don’t want to. I can strive to be of maximum love and service to those around me and, if my motives are clean, I can know that my best is good enough. And as long as God loves me so, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.


  1. Well written, as always. Cheers, Booper

  2. Absolutely, if our motives are clean, we get to do what we can, and then let our Higher Power take care of the rest. We get to accept people just as they are (prejudices and all) - and in so doing, accept ourselves just as we are (flaws and all).