Lessons from a Ghost of Christmas Past

We had a truly great meeting with my son’s psychiatrist yesterday. For the first time in the 18 months he’s been under the care of this doctor, my son actually looked him in the eye while he was speaking. And he smiled. And he laughed. And it was amazing.

It’s still not a place he’d choose to be (none of us would choose to be there), but the combination of time and medication has made it an easier place for him to be. He still doesn’t want to answer the hard and icky questions about how he’s feeling and what he’s thinking, but he did it anyway. He’s never before participated in the conversation about medication changes, but yesterday he was an active part of that conversation. Yesterday he was no longer a spectator. Yesterday he became a self advocate. Have I mentioned how amazing it was? It was amazing.

This morning I was reflecting on how far we’ve come since about this time 3 years ago. As I took my pre-dawn jog around our neighborhood, my mind kept coming back to a Christmas past – to be specific Christmas of 2014. It was a time when we were still trying to figure out what was “wrong” with our son – there was fear, and worry, and stress, and exhaustion, and isolation as we watched our son seeming to unravel before our eyes. That was without doubt, the darkest and hardest Christmas season I have ever known.

Later in the morning, I was scrolling through Facebook and came across this “ghost of Christmas past” from that dark season of 2014…

Sometimes you don’t know, what you don’t know – and in this case that was a blessing. I had no way of knowing how much worse things would get in the days, weeks, and months following this post. I can remember the feeling of utter relief when I reached the “other side” of that span of four weeks. And looking back now – knowing that in a matter of just days we’d discover a new definition of “rock bottom” – I am so thankful that I had that gift of relief and release.

After that amazing meeting with the psychiatrist yesterday, there is a piece of me which is tempted to once again revel in having “made it through to the other side.” But I won’t. Because in the end, it isn’t really about “making it through”, it’s about making it work.

There are always going to be challenges and obstacles. That’s just life. And if we focus on “making it through” we are depriving ourselves of the beauty that will always be within and around the rough edges of life. When we shift our perspective from “making it through” to “making it work”, we make room for grace – grace for ourselves, grace for others, and grace for the circumstances over which we have no control. If I have learned one thing in the past 3 years, it’s that I am a better parent, partner, and person when I make room for grace – and that means celebrating small victories like an amazing psychiatrist appointment, but not viewing them as milestone moments.

So while I am thrilled (THRILLED!) about that amazing meeting, the Facebook memory which represents a Ghost of Christmas Past cautions me to not revel too much. It’s just us – making it through with as much grace and joy as we can.



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