Category Archives: family

Good-Bye 2011

2011 is almost over, so time for me to assess the good and the bad of the year.

Bad:

1: continued depression

2: back and hernia surgery

3: worrying about things that I cannot control

Good:

1: surgeries have and mental treatment have helped my well being

2: Growth of my family relationships: working through “for worse” and “in sickness” with my wife; watching my children grow; new honesty and openness with my parents and sister; meeting my brother and continued growth and reconnection with my biological family

3: blogging as a tool to help organize my thoughts and feelings.

Thank you all for reading and commenting.  Tomorrow: looking forward to 2012

 

 

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Filed under adoption, blogging, depression, family, life, personal, siblings, surgery, writing

Where I have been.

Yesterday I alluded to the fact that my quest for mental health is looking up, just as my quest for getting a great photograph has.  It hasn’t been easy.

Over the past two years I have been battling some health issues along with my depression.  This all came to a head over the summer.  Out of disability time at work and out of room for appeals, I was let go.  Luckily my wife has a good job and good insurance, because in June my back, which I had problems with on and off for years, threw an all out hissy fit.  I couldn’t stand, sit, or lie down without pain.  When I saw the doctor and had an MRI done, it turns out that I had a ruptured disc.  It was so bad, in fact, that he didn’t even give me a choice.  Surgery was necessary, and as soon as possible.  Afterwards, he told me that the rupture was so big (about the size of a thumb) that they named it.

Recovering from two surgeries in six months (I had two hernias fixed in December) and depression really took its toll on me.  I was lethargic, irritable, but most of all apathetic.  I just didn’t want to do much of anything.  I would drop the kids off at daycare (I was in no shape to care for them on my own), come home, and go back to sleep.  It was a pretty miserable existence.  On top of everything, I was only hurting my relationship with my wife, and possibly my kids, but I didn’t feel that I had any power to change.

Life didn’t follow my lead, but instead continued to change with me along for the ride.  Not all changes were bad.  I told my parents and my sister about my contact with my birth mother and my siblings.  It was a huge burden off of my back, and I think generally well received.  However now I think they are having a little trouble working through their feelings about it.  At least now I am in a place where I am more comfortable to talk about it and work through their fears.

Life wasn’t completely bleak either.  I attended my brother Adam’s wedding and had a great time.  Watching my kids growing and learning made me feel good.  Most of all, knowing that my wife was sticking by me in the most difficult part of our marriage got me through a lot of bad feelings.

Although I hadn’t hit rock bottom, I could see it from where I was standing.  My wife and I went to see my counselor.  He could tell that my mood had gone completely off the rails.  Rather than trying to work through it himself at that time, he referred me to the local behavioral health hospital.

My wife and I went there immediately.  I did a short assessment.  Rather than admitting me as an inpatient (I was neither suicidal nor homicidal) I was admitted to the “partial hospital program”–in effect I would be considered an inpatient, attending group sessions most of the day, but I was able to go home and spend the evenings with my family.  Since that time I have transitioned to the intensive outpatient program.  Basically the same, but I am limited to a certain number of hours per week that I am able to attend.

Perhaps one of the most valuable things that I got right away the first week of treatment was a diagnosis: Major Depressive Disorder.  Although it sounds worse than just “depression”, it has actually helped me.  It is not part of me anymore than a bad back was.  It is just an obstacle that I have to overcome.  Giving it a name rather than a nebulous concept gave me something to combat.

It’s a work in progress, but it is already bearing fruit.  I feel better.  My wife is happier.  I am happier.  There will be bumps in the road.  I know that I will be able to overcome them.

Next time–medications and stigmas.

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Two Girls Revisited

Earlier this month, I wrote about my two wonderful nieces who happen to have Autism Spectrum Disorders.  As I have noted, April is Autism Awareness Month.  April also happens to mark both of their birthdays.  These incredible young ladies are on my mind quite a bit, and I wanted to share something that I think it is not only important for parents and family of kids with autism, but for all parents in general.

When my older niece was diagnosed with autism, my sister and brother-in-law were able to enter her into an early childhood preschool program to help her develop social skills.  There were still struggles, but as the time to send her to kindergarten drew closer, it became evident that she would be able to enter a “normal” elementary school.  Going to mainstream school seems to have helped her flourish.  Maybe it was the extra interaction with kids, maybe it was the structure, maybe she was just ready.  In any case, like I have stated before she now looks and acts pretty much like a typical tween.

My younger niece would follow the same footsteps.  She attended the early childhood program preschool.  Although she wasn’t as advanced as her older sister when it came time for kindergarten, program administrators along with my sister and husband agreed that she would be able to attend an elementary school in a normal classroom setting.  The one difference is that she has always had an individual aide assigned to her. 

Flash forward to a couple of months ago.  She is now in third grade.  The principal requested to meet with my sister.  The school had made the decision to transfer my niece to a special education classroom at a different school.  This was quite distressing for my sister.  Like many kids with autism, changes in routine can be traumatic for my niece.   It turns out that being in a smaller classroom has had an incredibly positive effect on her.  She genuinely enjoys going to school now.  She won an award for citizenship at her school.  She has even been able to go off of one of her behavioural medicines, which has had the added benefit of letting her slim down considerably.  The other day she had a swimming party for her birthday where she invited kids from her old class.  It was so great to hear the kids tell her how much they missed her.  Although I am sure that she misses them too, I can’t help but think she is happier now.

As parents, how many times to we try to fit a square peg into a round hole?  My nieces have taught me that each child is unique, valuable, and respond differently, whether they have a “disability” or not.  We worry that Baby Girl doesn’t talk as much as Little Guy did at the same age, but we neglect to remember how incredibly verbose he was for his age.  Yet, she seems to have motor skills that are far ahead of what his were at her age.  It seems that we will never stop learning from our children.

As a reminder, please visit Autism Speaks for more information on children with autism spectrum disorders.

UPDATE: Please visit this awesome site.  Autism Love Hope.  She makes awesome jewelry that you can use for gifts or to help spread awareness.

WEDNESDAY FUN: My first artistic endeavour

Earlier this month I spoke about my sudden desire to create some art, and I wanted to share my first painting:

I was actually pleasantly surprised.  While I obviously have amature level skills, I went about it without much of a plan.  The sailboat is going away from stormy waters towards calmer seas and the sunrise, an obvious metaphor for overcoming depression.  What I didn’t plan was that the side representing the future is much more blurred, and the brush strokes follow no pattern.  An added, but not purposeful metaphor.

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What’s in a name?

Have you ever sat back and pondered if your name makes you part of who you are?  I once heard it said that the thing that people most like to hear is the sound of their own name. 

Growing up I would think about this.  I liked my name.  Ryan.  Even if others had the same first name, it branded me as an individual.  Although now it appears to have been gaining popularity when I received it in the 70’s, it still seemed unique enough to me growing up.  My middle name (I will only share my first, sorry) was more traditional, but it had meaning to me as a place in my family.  It was the same as my favorite uncle’s first name, and the middle name of both of his sons, my cousins.  For an adoptee, it tied me into a history of sorts.   Of course my last name created even more of an identity.  It officially made me part of a family, of a tradition.  Almost a reference point for my life.  It made me proud to share it with my family, as I am proud now that it is carried by my wife and children.

An interesting discovery for myself as an adoptee searching for my roots was the discovery of my name given to me by my biological parents.  In fact, learning my name was an impetus for making the search.  Originally I had petitioned the adoption agency for my medical and non-identifying information.  Part of the information that agencies give for non-identifying information is the adoptee’s original name (minus the last name, of course).  So, as I pored over the information, there it was in black and white.  My first name was Stephen.  Somehow, it felt like I always knew that.  I remember thinking back to grade school, when the teacher asked each of us if we were to give ourselves a name, what would it be, and why?  Stephen is the name that I picked out, but I don’t remember the rationale.  My Mom and Dad had also mentioned that they had considered calling me Stephen before settling on Ryan.  Was it preordained?  It turns out that I, like many that would go on to be placed for adoption, was named after relatives.  My father’s name is Steven.  A small difference that is philosophically interesting.  A small change that ties me to him, yet makes me different.  It is almost as if it acknowledges the “good” parts of his personality, while giving me a clean slate to wipe away the “bad”.  Although I don’t think this is what they had in mind.  I can think of three more likely reasons.  Being Catholic, it would have been more traditional, i.e. my patron saint would be St. Stephen.  It may have reflected the family heritage of my mother’s side of the family–it being a more traditional spelling given my ethnicity.  Finally, my mom also has a brother that is named Stephen.  Of course, it could be none of these things.  I also think about the possibility that if I hadn’t been placed, I may have gone by “Stevie” as a differentiation from my father, at least while I was young.  I like that too, even if it is total conjecture.

My middle name was so unique, I was almost certain that it was after someone else.  Actually, it was one of the puzzle pieces that led me to finding my mom.  It was my grandfather’s name–although he went by a nickname.  The first time that my mom wrote me back she confirmed this–I was named after my father and my grandfather. 

My last name was a mystery, though.  I had found my mother’s maiden name, and I was pretty sure what my father’s last name was (I was right).  Which would I have been given?  I tended to like my mom’s.  I tried them both on, saying them to myself in my head.  When we did meet, she placed a piece of paper in front of me and said “Here, look at this.” although I was sitting down and she was behind me, I could hear the smile on her face.  It wasn’t my official birth certificate, but one of the commemorative ones that the hospital gives to new parents.  I did have her name.  As I have gotten to know my siblings, I find it interesting that they all seem to strongly identify with her side of the family.  Perhaps, having two different dads, it is the thing that ties all four (now five) of them (us) together, in spirit and in genetics.  An unbreakable fraternal bond. 

I have always kicked around the idea of writing a book, and thought that if I did so I would write under a pseudonym.  I could never think of one that I liked.  It turns out that I have the perfect one, and it isn’t “pseudo” at all.

FRIDAY FUN: Photo Favorites

Sunset over a rural Iowa skyline.

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What a weekend

This week I am going to eschew my normal philosophical musing type posts.  I am doing this for a couple of different reasons.  The first is that now since I have established a blogging style, it is time to sprinkle in a few other things.  Secondly I wanted to talk about a few things that are important to me.  Last, I don’t want people to start thinking that my entire life revolves around depression and anxiety (be prepared to still hear mention of those).  I do experience and observe other things in life.  If you do like the other format, fear not!  I have plenty of topics still in the hopper.

This weekend we went to visit my bio-family.  What a great time.  Just a quick synopsis of how my relationships shake out:  After I was born and placed for adoption, my parents did end up getting married.  After getting married they had two more sons.  After getting divorced, Mom married her current and second husband, and they had a son and a daughter.  I am roughly 2 years older than Brother 1 (I couldn’t come up with nicknames that were clever or that weren’t completely dorky, so this is what you get) 3 years older that Brother 2, 9 1/2 years older than Brother 3, and 19 years older (kinda weird to think about, but so cool) than Little Sister.

After several failed attempts I still hadn’t met B3, and mom had mentioned how she would like to see Little Guy and Baby Girl.  It almost didn’t work again, as B3’s completely adorable little one (10 months) was going through diapers like a hot  knife through butter, and he had a lot of homework to do.  In the end Mom convinced him to come, as we could all go do something and take the baby with us, so he could have the house all to himself.  I am so glad that it worked out.

Within minutes of getting there on Friday and settling down, LG climbed up on Mom’s lap with a book.  If we hadn’t done anything else for the whole weekend, that sight was pure gold.   Soon, B3 arrived with his fiance and little one.  his fiance came in first and almost asked my what I was doing there before she realized who I was (B2 and I look so much alike).  When B3 came in we shared a big brotherly bear hug (loving the alliteration there).  The kiddos had a great time with their cousins.  In particular, Little Guy had a ball with B2’s daughter who is about the same age as he is.

Mostly, though, I had a great time.  We all got to talk about things serious, silly, philosophical, and fun.  LW commented on how strange it felt that everything was so comfortable.  I was a little worried that B3 and I wouldn’t have as much common ground with me as the others because on the surface we seem the most different, but that is not at all how it turned out.  By the time we left, BG who is normally quite shy had warmed up to Mom. 

We talked about the next times that we would be getting together.  I left feeling recharged.  I am so tired today, though!  It was definitely an eventful and satisfying weekend.

MONDAY FUN: YouTube Music Favorites

Joe Bonamassa

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