Fighting Together

July is the least favorite month of the year for my husband and me – the double whammy of it being an extra busy time of year for both of us at work, combined with balancing kids on Summer break means we rarely see each other during daylight hours, and sometimes don’t have conversations that go deeper than “Can you pick up milk on your way home?” In a “normal” year, the month of July is stressful and exhausting. This year – with the added chaos of refinancing our house, a visit to family in NJ, and having our son at work with me because panic disorder and day camp aren’t things that co-exist peacefully – and the stress levels have been astronomical all month. It’s been rough.

In the midst of this rough month, there have been a handful of incidents that made me stop and think about how other people perceive our marriage. At different points in this month, my husband and I both had people essentially ask how our marriage was handling the stress of our son’s current struggles. We both answered, without hesitation, that we are doing just fine, thank you very much.

Do we argue sometimes. Of course. Is there added stress on our marriage? No doubt.Is it easy? Nope. Is it fun? Not always. Is this what we dreamed of for our family. Heck no. But it is our reality, and we work with what we’re given. We work with what we’re given, and we have love and faith and stubborn streaks that win out when the days get hard.

We have love and faith and stubborn streaks that win out when the days get hard. We also have a relationship that predates kids by 13 years and is coming up on 24 years in duration. We’ve been together longer than we haven’t, and even in this this rough season of life there is no doubt we are meant to be walking through life together.

Part of the beauty of such a long, shared history are a handful of long, shared friendships. One such friend, somebody who has known us from the very beginning, was at our home recently. At some point in the evening, my husband and I disagreed about something. Our daughter told us to “stop fighting” and our friend replied, “But that’s what they do. That’s what they’ve always done.”

“That’s what they’ve always done.” There is absolute truth in that statement, but it isn’t as ominous as it sounds. There is probably more in life we disagree about, than we agree about. And we aren’t afraid to let each other know when we think the other is wrong. We generally agree to disagree on the small stuff – and it’s mostly small stuff – but we always find a way to come together on the big stuff. It’s worked for over two decades, and it works now as we navigate this latest chapter of our story.

And what a story it has been so far.

We met and fell in love as college freshmen. We came into the relationship with distinctly different world views and not much more in common than a mutual love of music and innate sarcasm. Add in the fact that our relationship was a long distance one, and the odds weren’t in our favor to survive the first month, let alone last through college. But we did.

And then we were 20-somethings trying to find our way in our prospective careers, and navigating what a not-long-distance relationship looked like for the first time. By this point we had grown into who we thought we were as a couple, and that didn’t exactly line up with who we needed to become as a couple to make it through the transition into the real world. It was bumpy and ugly, and sometimes frightening. But the one constant was our shared belief that we were worth fighting for.

So we fought for us, and just about the time that common lore would have you believe we “should have” outgrown each other, we were married. Our early married years were easy, compared to the seven years that preceded them. We found our groove in our respective careers, continued to grow together, and settled into a generally happy little life.

Then came the years of struggling with infertility. That could have been enough to tear us apart, but it just made us stronger. And the day we found out I was finally pregnant, was also the day my husband found out he’d been accepted into his first choice of graduate school programs. He started business school 6 weeks before our son was born and by the time he graduated 3 years later, our family had grown from 3 to 4 with the surprise addition of our daughter – a surprise that kept me on bed rest for much of the second half of the pregnancy, with a toddler and a husband traveling for business while also completing grad school. Those years redefined “hard” for us and redefined us once again as a couple. Once again, it was bumpy and ugly and sometimes frightening (and this time also exhausting). But the constant remained our unwavering belief that we were worth fighting for.

So once again, we fought for us. And eventually we settled into a new rhythm and a generally happy little life. We bumped along together. Figured out how to be parents together. We adjusted, and adjusted, and adjusted again as the kids grew up and their needs changed. We worked with what we were given, and when that suddenly included a son struggling under the weight of anxiety and depression, we used all of our energy to fight for him. We fight together to get him the care and support he needs. We fight together to make sure he feels safe and loved always. We fight together to help him find his way in this world. We fight together for our son, and for our daughter, and for ourselves. We fight, it’s what we’ve always done.

So if you were to ask us how we are doing, we will likely tell you we are doing just fine, thank you very much. This is our reality, and all of the difficult times that preceded this truly hard season of life built us up to the people,  and the couple,  and the parents we need to be to meet this challenge. This is our reality, and while I wish for an “easy” day once in a while and for more quality time with my husband, I wouldn’t trade away one second of this life we’ve built together.

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Happy Father’s Day

We are clearly in a season of parenting that is h-a-r-d. Parenting one child battling anxiety and panic, while also trying to meet the needs of a “typical” child. This is the part that nobody warned us about. This is the part we couldn’t have even imagined. This is the part where there are more questions than answers. This is the part where we can’t commiserate with other parents experiencing a similar phase of childhood. This is the part we wouldn’t wish on anybody. But this is where we are.

And if we have to be here, there is nobody I would rather be here with than the man I call husband, and my kids call Dad. He helps me find the humor and light in even the darkest days, gives me space when I need it, and holds me close when I cry. He takes time to patiently work on Lego projects with our son, listens with great care to stories about YouTube videos or comic book characters, and holds our son tight when panic or anger consume him. He encourages our daughter to follow her many and varied dreams, embarrasses her with corny jokes, and plays special songs on the guitar just for her.

We are about as polar opposite as two people can be, but that is actually the strength of our relationship. For almost 24 years we have been perfecting the art of deferring to each other when appropriate, changing each other’s minds when necessary, and agreeing to disagree in the times in between. And in this season – in any and every season – there is nobody else I would want as my partner in life and in parenting.

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The Lie I Told Today

This is the lie I told this morning at church…

In response to the question “How are you today?” – my answer was “fine, thank you.” Or some version of that several dozen times as I greeted different people. I smiled and lied to each of them.

The honest answer would have been…

“I’m exhausted and worried. My son is retreating further into himself every day, and I feel like he is taking us all with him as we try to figure out how to help him. It took every ounce of strength I had just to get myself here.”

But that honest answer is probably more than most people want to hear. And it is also more than I tend to want most people to know. I am an introvert and self-sufficient. I am slow to let people in, and even slower to ask for or accept help. I have worried that telling the messy truth will elicit one of two responses from people – either running away as fast as they can, or inviting themselves in with offers of help and support. Neither scenario is particularly appealing. As much as that is true, it is also true that continuing to tell people that everything is “fine” is not sustainable.

So this blog is where I can shout “I AM NOT FINE. WE ARE NOT FINE. WE ARE ALL A LITTLE BROKEN!” It is a safe way for this introvert to reach out into the world and to let people in. It is where I can acknowledge that in order to have the strength and energy to get my son the help he needs and the healing my entire family needs, I need to be willing to ask for and accept some help.

For those of you who know our family in “real life”, the truth is we are struggling each and every day. Struggling to help our son, while keeping things as “normal” as possible for our daughter. Struggling to make the time and space needed for our kids, while also being good partners to each other and  daughter/son/brother/sister/friend/employee/boss to so many other people. We are not fine. We are struggling and we are broken, but we are fighting. We aren’t entirely sure at this point what our son is battling against, but we are close to having some answers and we know there is a long, hard battle ahead for all of us. We know we need our personal village. We know that we have so often in the past been the ones to offer support, and now we need to be willing accept some support.

For those of you who have come across this blog, but don’t know us in “real life”, the truth is we are struggling each and every day and we know we aren’t alone. Whatever your personal battle may be, I hope that following along on our journey will give you comfort. I hope that you will find the strength to reach out to your own personal village and accept the grace they may offer to you.

 

 

 

This is Us…

This is what you might see on the surface when you look at us…A “perfect” nuclear family – husband, wife, son, daughter – who love each other deeply. We have been married for 16 years and together for 23 years. We are college educated professionals, who also make time to volunteer with scouts, PTSA and sports. We own a comfortable home in a good neighborhood. We are active members in our church and in our community. Our children do well in school and participate in in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities. We travel often and do our best to provide our children with a wide variety of life experiences. If I’m being honest, it is a good life and we are actually quite lucky.

What you don’t see is…a son who struggles daily with anxiety and a sensory processing disorder, and the effect that has on not just his well being, but also on the family.

What you don’t see is…a son who is increasingly unhappy, agitated, and withdrawing from the people, places and activities that used to bring him joy.

What you don’t see is…the ever growing list of specialists the parents consult in an effort to figure out the problem and help the son.

What you don’t see is…the stress and exhaustion of the parents.

What you don’t see is…the daughter who knows something isn’t right, and tries her hardest most days to be understanding, but doesn’t always succeed.

What you don’t see is…the mom who has fibromyalgia, but isn’t taking the time to care for her own physical well being.

What you don’t see is…the mom who often feels unsuccessful in balancing work, kids, husband, and volunteering.

What you don’t see is…the dad who struggles with being thousands of miles away from his own aging parents.

What you don’t see is…the dad who feels guilty when he has to travel for work.

What you don’t see is….how we are all struggling to not lose ourselves or each other.

What you don’t see is…we are all a little broken.

We are all a little broken – and we have love and faith and stubborn streaks that win out when the days get hard.

We are all a little broken – and we can still laugh.

We are all a little broken – and we will get through together.

We are all a little broken…