So much to tell, so little time to truly explain it in.
Nate is now 9, and is enjoying his 2nd year at Camp STAR, which is a YMCA camp which integrates kids with Special Needs with neurotypical kids. There are 5 kids in his group, and he has his own counselor. He's doing AWESOME. I got one phone call, and that was on his birthday, because he forgot that I was picking him up later in the day. Besides that, nothing but awesomeness, happiness and him growing like a weed. I don't know how long that will last, the medication change (went up on the Concerta) seemed to help lots and he's on a great streak of being very aware, using his social skills, expanding his theory of mind and realizing that other people don't share his perspective and that it is okay. He is more active in sports at camp, if he wants to play a game he will, if he doesn't, he will help facilitate the game. He had friends from school come to his birthday party for the first time. He was very happy to see them. Even his bully, who he HATED, wanted to come, I told him that we need to see that boy out of a school environment. What a pleasant and well mannered boy he was. Granted, he was probably being on his best behavior, but he was not a shred of trouble (and I can smell trouble!) and Nathan remarked how different he was. I was glad to dispel that myth in his head and how proud I was that he allowed the class bully to come into his home.
Me? I'm head counselor at the ARC's summer program. It is the hardest work I've done to date. But what truly helped me through is therapy and the great support from my counselor Marcy and from friends and upper management.
I didn't realize how much anxiety ruled my life until I figured out that anxiety was really ruling my life. It's a daily struggle to keep myself focused on that moment, but I'm doing it quite well. When I first went into therapy, I was talking about my problems, which was awesome, but wasn't doing any work to solve them. When I knew I had to actually do work and do therapy hand in hand, that's when progress emerged. There are days I still have anxiety and sometimes it's crippling. I know I will have it for the rest of my life. I know now that I have options. I can call friends, I can write in my journal, I can breathe through it. If it's really bad, I can leave a message for my therapist and she does call me back and we talk briefly and then decide if I need to come in earlier than scheduled. I've only had to do that once since I started in November, so I feel pretty proud about that accomplishment. I'm also proud that I am doing this completely unmedicated. I could very easily have gotten meds, but I chose not to have them. I want to be able to work through this with my brain unaltered.
Of course, one could argue that you put your son on meds, why aren't you on them? Nathan was struggling socially, behaviorally and emotionally. He could not control his brain and does not have the skills that I have as an adult. If he gets to that point where we feel he does not need to be medicated then yes, we will go there. These improvements are happening organically, without the help of the meds. The meds do not make the choices he makes. He does. That's the important thing. He is actively making positive and mature choices. And he's doing his mom proud.
Another thing he did that I am so proud of?
He was in a production of "Annie" as Sandy the Dog. That's his classmate, Bailey, as Annie. He stayed focused and attentive throughout the whole process. Believe me, there were days I wanted to choke him because of stress, exhaustion and little down time for the both of us. But there was always love behind that stress, and understanding and forgiveness. He would say after a performance, "Mom I feel proud!" I was even more proud than he could ever imagine. I was in it, too, as Miss Hannigan.
Here I am, all menacing as the evil rotten Miss Hannigan. This was from the photo shoot where it was over 100 degress that day. You couldn't tell because we were all laughing too much. This is the role that I almost didn't try out for because I was terrified to audition. I was afraid to be me. I was scared to be me. And my son, my voice box from the Universe told me, "Mom, focus on the song, not on the people."
Sage advice from my 9 year old, I tell you.
And if you ever need advice, or want to bounce some ideas off, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am available for counseling sessions over the phone or via email. :D