Tuesday, June 30, 2009

If It Weren't for Autism...

Although I hate having Autism as part of my life and affecting my children's lives, I'm beginning to realize that Autism is teaching me some essential lessons about parenting.

If it weren't for Autism...

1. I could have been one of those Moms who tells her kids to "shut up"
2. I might have gained my own self-worth through my children's successes
3. I might have taken it for granted to hear my children read
4. I would have certainly been a control freak parent who HAS to have a clean house and perfect kids on order to feel OK
5. I would have my kids signed up for too many activities and have the entire family stressed
6. my husband and I might have little to talk about
7. I would not have been able to find this kind of joy in my chilren's words
8. I might have overlooked the invaluable gift that only other children can give to my kids
9. I would have never experienced the completely unselfish and precious gifts some teachers and caregivers have offered
10. I might have gotten lazy about teaching the basics of making friends, coping with anxieties, and using your words to have your needs met

Because of Autism...

1. I will have the immense joy of watching my children accomplish the nearly impossible task of graduation and moving away from home OR I will have the joy of getting to live with them always... either way it'll be joy
2. I have learned to relax and let my children have fun
3. I have learned to play
4. I experience GRATITUDE every day for smiles, eye contact, complete sentences, having other kids WANT to come to our house, and happy children who love life

Photo above found at:

Friday, June 26, 2009

From Victim to Victory

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I am a fan of feeling the pain. Go in it, dig in it, rub it all over your body, cry, writhe, scream, act a total fool and get it out. We've often kept quiet too long. We've hid our true sadness, masked our real anger, and been scared frozen of our own grief. For crying out loud (no pun intended) FEEL it. This is my mantra.

I don't really know exactly how long this process takes. From my own experience and walking with many clients through pain and grief, there seems to be a peak when the pain is at its worst, then it starts to recede and we're able to move. At times it is so painful we try to escape it through overeating, living out a rescue fantasy with a crazy partner, drugs, depression, work, whatever will distract! Then we'll go back to the pain until it is unbearable and start the escape process again. Working through pain is very messy. It is filled with stops, starts, and lots of damage done at times to our relationships while lashing out or completely withdrawing. There are sometimes periods where our work and family lives are put on hold while it takes every ounce of physical and emotional energy just to put one foot in front of the other for one more day. Nonetheless, we do make it through one more day.

The whole point is that eventually this does end. This horrible suffering is endured. Yes, it is. It is endured and it begins to recede. Unfortunately, I see people all the time who never seem to find this end. There are many reasons why this might happen. Sometimes people become stuck because they do not have the external resources to move forward. That is, they do not have social supports, positive relationships, or they continue to experience unfortunate life circumstances they set them back. Another reason people may become stuck is due to lack of internal resources. This is when a person may be fully willing to begin rebuilding a positive new life and they have no clue where to start. For these folks, there are little to no positive or helpful thoughts embedded anywhere in their brain that can be accessed during this time.

I believe a third possible reason people get stuck is they have adopted the VICTIM ROLE and are very hesitant to give it up. Being a victim actually feels good in some sense. When we are the victim, we can blame someone else for being the "bad" person. Look what he/she did to me! Being the victim requires little effort. We can just lie there, cry, and receive lots of comfort and empathy from people. This feels good and we do need that continually throughout our lives. Ultimately, however, we get up from our bed of ashes, take off the sackcloth, and decide it is time to take responsibility. When we stop identifying ourselves as the victim, we are forced to live life looking not at what people do TO us but rather to look at what are WE doing for ourselves. Frankly, sometimes we are just too lazy and/or scared to tackle this.

I have been a victim many times throughout my life. I grieve these episodes and validate them. I acknowledge the reality of what happened and the depth of the pain it caused. I gained a sense of self-acceptance and even self-worth by allowing myself the space to do that. What naturally grows from this is that self-love propels you into action. Yes, I have been hurt, and I am feeling strong enough now that I want to rise above it. I am nobody's victim today. I have not forgotten the past but I don't recreate it today. I don't even really need to talk about it today. My eyes are on the future and creating a great life for myself.

Jesus asked a crippled man, "Do you want to get well?" This man had sat by a pool of healing waters for years complaining that no one would help him into the pool. Essentially, Jesus said, "If you really want to get better, then GET UP."

If you are in your 10th year of grieving, cannot enjoy life, and are not sure why... well, gather your wonderful self together, organize your external and internal resources, and GET UP!

Photo above found at:

Michael Jackson-- Much Love

Say what you will about Michael Jackson as a person, but no one can deny the musical genius and talent in this man. With all the garbage being said about him today, I wanted to put out something positive in his memory. I was a child of the 80's so MJ pretty much sang the soundtrack of my childhood. What a talent! He started out breaking down cultural barriers in 1970 with his performance on Ed Sullivan with the Jackson 5:


I watch some of his video performances and am amazed at his dancing. MJ brought a dance style all his own, completely unique, and one that is copied by pop and R&B performers today. He set the stage with his moonwalk performance on the Motown awards show. I watch this video and stand in awe. Who does this?! WOW.


His dance sequences in Thriller and Smooth Criminal are amazing. I could watch them again and again. They stand the test of time in talent and entertainment. I listen to his songs today and hear the soul that pours out. Even on later albums that didn't get the sales and notoriety of earlier albums, he put his all into his vocal performances on those songs. He lays his very soul on the line in Man in the Mirror and Dirty Diana. You can't sit still while listening to Don't Stop Till You Get Enough and Billie Jean. He's given us a legacy of entertainment and wonderful music. May you finally find rest, MJ. Thoughts and prayers to your family.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

These are Children

Pray for the ones who cry alone
who cry aloud
for those who cry to mothers and
those who hold the tears in cold
steel cups behind the eyes.
Pray for the ones who tremble at
themselves, who fear the night, who
hope to die,
suffer in silence,
reach out for someone
anyone anything
find nothing.
Pray and know these are children.

Pray when you rise from your bed, when
you hum along to the radio in
rush hour traffic.
Pray when scrubbing the dishes
rocking the babies
mowing the grass
reading the morning paper.
Pray for someone else's children.

Melissa Greene
the photo above can be found at:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Writing as Therapy

I recently had a comment from Glenda Beall, a fellow blogger at Netwest Writers ( netwestwriters.blogspot.com ). I love her blog and hang out there quite frequently just for the sense of writers' community I get there. Glenda pointed out to me how she too has felt writer's block during times of happiness. I mentioned this in an earlier post, and I couldn't agree more that writing is a form of therapy.

I do a writer's workshop once a week at Vanderbilt's Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital. This project is made available through Nashville's Youth Speaks organization. This pulls together my two greatest loves, psychology and creativity. I find that the troubled children there are highly creative, cooperative and open to the writing process. I enjoy them every week and find such inspiration in their courage to share honestly. Although I work with lots of great poets who also help facilitate this writing group, I believe I am acutely aware of the personal struggles of the adolescents there because of my experience in counseling this population for many years now. I enjoy them so much, and I am always thinking of both writing skills as well as tools that will help them cope with the many traumas and stresses they face in their young lives. I thought I might share some of those with my readers.

Processing an Emotion

One skill I teach the teens is how to take a feeling and squeeze every drop of sensation from it. I encourage them to describe in great detail the thoughts, body sensations, colors, and images associated with it. A common exercise we do is giving the emotion 5 senses. For example, if anger had a taste, what would it be? What color is anger, what would it feel like in your hands? Often we hold intense emotions in one side of the brain with no connection to positive neural pathways or even words! This exercise helps to make emotions more bearable and work them through.

Dealing with Obsessions

Another skill I teach the adolescents is how to "write out" an obsession. Often these children are plagued with anxieties or worries. I ask them to imagine that they have literally been eating whatever is the target of their obsessions or anxieties. If they ate this particular thing, what would we see running from the corners of their mouths? What would other people think or feel when seeing this? How did it feel to swallow? The kids love this exercise. One girl wrote, "There is no pain like mine. I have been eating your last words to me."

I believe our writing puts to words the pains that are often indescribable. I cannot tell you about the depth of my hurt, but I can describe the cold hand clenched around my throat, hoping to take my life. Bringing these feelings into being through image and sound puts them into a safe container. Writing about joy engages the same senses, but joy is not often a feeling that was forced into suppression, nor does it require safe placement. Joy is safe, and I'm more accustomed to writing about the forbidden. Joy, I feel it but am still learning to write it!

Picture above found at: