Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How Not To Write a Christmas Letter

This time of year, mailboxes everywhere are filling up with letters from our friends and relatives recapping their years. To a parent of a kid with special needs, or any child struggling, or any family struggling, these letters can be as painful and annoying as sciatica. Maybe I should speak only for myself. I find them to occassionally be as painful and annoying as not just sciatica, but as heartburn, canker sores, and blisters.

I should stop here, or at least pause, to say I do share in the victories of my friends and their kids. I guess I have a hard time with the comparison. Were I to write a Christmas letter, this or any year, it comes out sad and tragic and just not right. Perhaps it's just my writing style, or my intense need to be honest (should anyone ever ask me about it later, I need consistency), but I'm just not one of those people who can paint things in a light that is more cheery than things really appear.

My Christmas Letter, had I actually written one this year, would read thusly:

To my dear friends and family,

Here's hoping 2008 really is coming to an end soon, and let's hope and pray for a fabulous 2009. I hope that the celebrations of Christ's birth in your home and community are filled with peace and love, and if you don't believe in Jesus, I hope you have abundant peace and love too.

We've had quite the life changing year this year! The year began and only 5 days in, my mom's eye went out. As you may know, she has been blind in her right eye for the last 7 years, due to a series of retinal detachments. On January 5, her left retina detached and the surgery to repair it ended up permanently damaging the back of her eye, rendering her almost completely blind. I had essentially moved in the day she had surgery, to help her recoup, but then made it permanent somewhere around March, when we knew that her vision would never recover. The rest of the year for her has been spent relearning how to negotiate the world, and with the help of my awesome sisters and my mom's generous friends, she is doing very well. I tell everyone who asks about her, she's exactly the same, her health is still fine, she just can't see you if you sneak into a room.

So, I moved back in to my childhood home. It's a nice home, I have no complaints. My cat certainly likes it more than she liked our old place, there are more windows and hiding places. I've always loved my bedroom, with its south and east facing windows.

The Kid had a comeback this year that would put Shatner to shame. He started the year in the throes of antipsychotic withdrawals, which lasted until the better part of April or May. I got sick of his weight gain, drooling, bedwetting and continued erratic behavior and told his psychiatrist he was going off of the meds. The Kid dropped from 15 mgs of Abilify to none in 9 months, dropped tenex and depakote without much down-titration (and without ill effects really, it's the abilify that was the bitch for him to lick). While going off of the meds, I tried to engage the help of the psychiatric community, but they all told me to put him back on the meds. I went completely against medical advice, and was right. After he had the meds leave his body, he dropped approximately 50 pounds, his violent and aggressive behavior generally stopped, his motor skills improved, he slept through the night, he engaged at home more willingly, he began to participate in academics more fully, he became capable of participating in group activities at school, he could make it through a day, then a week, then a month without aggression, without outward difficult behavior. We fought hard to add occupational therapy and assistive technology to his IEP, and won.

To anyone who has ever poo-pooed mother's intuition: Go suck it, I was right on every single point. Vindication is the word of my year. That, and eyeball.

So, The Kid was officially rediagnosed with Asperger's in April, bringing on the official autism spectrum disorder diagnosis I'd inexplicably put off for several years. With it comes a new slew of therapies that are on the slate for 2009, most notably occupational and vision therapy. He is getting more one on one work at school on social thinking processes, and my approach to helping him has grown in innumerable ways.

This fall he went back to school and has been an absolute success over last year. His problematic behaviors gone, we've been able to concentrate on a number of core issues and challenges, most notably sensory integration, handwriting, reading, and understanding other's social intent. He's making some progress, and our hope is that before the end of the school year, he will move into a less restrictive classroom environment inside of a general educational setting, so that maybe he can meet some kids who live nearby, and maybe he can begin to make some friends. It's exciting, and terrifying.

I spent a great deal of the year in career limbo. My boss quit his job, leaving me alone for a full 9 months before my company realized I was sitting there day after day with little to nothing to do. I've been reassigned and I'm busy and hassled and annoyed again, and with the economy the way it is, I've never been more grateful to say I have a job, even if it annoys the ever-living crap out of me 90% of the time.

Personally I've been in a deep dark hole and for the most part I've been inside my own head so much I barely recognize the outside world. I wouldn't say I was depressed, because I know people who get depressed and I just think I'm chemically incapable of being depressed. God knows I would have refused psychiatric medications anyway. I am held up by my family, my amazing and loving inspriration of a child, my sisters who are my best friends, my best friends who are like sisters (and brothers), and I guess, I world of hope and a deep-seeded belief that I'm at this for one reason or other, which will only be elucidated after a long life. I'm doing okay. You move back into your mom's house at 32 and tell me you would be all, "MY LIFE FUCKING ROCKS! I'M AWESOME!" you know?

Anyway, hope you get some good loot for the holidays, but more importantly, you get the opportunity to tell someone that you love them, and that you have the luck to be told that you are loved back.

Much love,


nonna said...

i think that your letter is not sad and tragic. it seems to me that you and your son have made great strides this year.

i've been trying to read through your old posts and yet still read your new ones too, and comparing his progress now to when he was just starting school, it really seems like things are getting better.

obviously, i know you know you shouldn't be comparing your lives to others who don't have to fight and struggle for each milestone, but i think it's just human nature to do that and to resent others who seem to have it so easy.

anyways, this is supposed to be cheering you up and saying yeah!! for you sticking to your guns and doing what you think is right for him.

hope yall have a merry christmas!

caty said...

I just read this post and think, "I love you, Molly."

Big sentimental hug to all the family for the holidays,


Lyndsey said...

This is exactly why I have not written a Christmas letter even though the desire has been there. It does seem a bit like you're only supposed to write about the big changes if they're nice and not depressing.

Despite the not so typical goings on in your letter, I have to say that I am constantly amazed at your endless giving, and I'm proud and so happy about the changes in The Kid's quality of life and your perseverance (our kids aren't the only ones who know how to perseverate;).

Lorna said...

I think it's a fine letter. I think it's great that you have achieved so much with your son this year. Let's hear it for mother's intuition.

Diane said...

I thought it was a great letter. You showed grit, strength and exactly what the year brought. You followed your intuition and your lives are much better for it. I hope this showed the medical experts a thing or two that wanted him over-medicated.

I'm happy to hear that your mother is doing so well. Merry Christmas to you all.

GMOM said...

I love your blog! I never knew "Mr.Lady" got her name from your son. I admire her even more...I too have a son with high functioning autism/asperger's. I know what you mean about the form letters. Mine would go more in line with yours.
Again, I love to read your blog (found you through Mr. Lady) and am thrilled when you post. I think reading your blog gives me solace when I'm arguing with the dr's. They are recommending ADD medicine (my son will b 8 in January) in regular ed with a 1:1 and they feel it will help him concentrate. Academically, he's fine - it's social issues (and new acquired not so postive behaviors).

JenPB said...

Wow...well, that would be QUITE a letter to receive, and certainly not the norm. Well, you know, lots of people strive to live outside the box...perhaps you can take pride in achieving that goal. (Tongue firmly lodged in cheek!)

Keep up the good fight. You're a great daughter for taking care of mom (lots of daughters aren't so caring) and your women's intuition, mama power or just plain common sense prevailed over high-dollar, highly paid and sometimes just plain wrong medical establishment.

Best wishes for a MUCH improved 2009, a year in which "eyeball" is not anywhere NEAR the top 10 words of the year!

Jen said...

(((((((((Molla))))))))) How is it that I've never found your blog before? OMG! Anyway, I love it and will be a faithful reader from now on. I love the Christmas letter, think it was great. Happy Happy, and thanks for all you do for all of us, me especially. :)

Jen (mom2andrew)

wrongshoes said...

Yours is my favorite one so far.

Stephany said...

Bravo, that is the best Christmas letter I have ever read, you never gave up and look what future you gave your son off of meds! You are a heroic mom, thank you!

Em said...

I wish every christmas letter was like this one! Honesty...damn, what a concept! Like you, I hate those letters that go on and on about the academic and other gold medal moments of their kids while we just hope for a good IEP meeting.

Leslie Dillinger said...

Dude, this is SO the best Christmas letter I've ever gotten! I love you! I wish we could have seen each other more when I was out there, but at least we had our special date! Fucking Broncos. Sigh. I miss you already! :( This year will rock for you, I know it.


Kelley said...

What a year.

And you ARE fucking awesome.

hope4jackson said...

(((Molly)) I loved this letter! You have an amazing strength. I am so proud to have you for a friend!

Maeve said...

My Christmas letter would read similar to yours.
I almost hate going to family functions because of all my son's "regular ed" cousins. It is hard to see where my son should of been had it not been for the autism.
It is hard to see all the kids playing while my son sits in a quiet room watching tv and hand flapping.

kyra said...

i hate those christmas letters too but i love your letter, especially the part about mother's intuition. yes, go suck it, indeed!!

do you know lorrie moore? she has a short story which is entirely one of those christmas letters. i can't remember the name of it but it is hysterical.