Tag Archives: hope

Painting Pictures With Words

30 Apr

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 30 – Word Cloud: Make a word cloud or tree with a list of words that come to mind when you think about your blog, health or interests. 

When I read this prompt, the first (OK, the only) thought in my head was, “Eh?” Although I have seen the term “word cloud” bandied about in various places on the Internet, I’ve never paid attention to what it might be. I was visualizing a mind-map kind of thing, and I was wondering how on earth I would come up with something like that. It seemed to be a highly visual concept, which would imply a kind of creativity completely alien to my way of thinking. While I think in pictures, I’m hopeless at actually creating them in any artistic sense. I can only paint pictures out of words.

When I Googled “word cloud” (because, you know, Google knows everything), I discovered that this is exactly what a word cloud is: a picture made out of words. All I had to do to make my picture was import a list of my blog tags into this online tool, select a few options, and click the button. It turned out to be lots of fun: I experimented with different shapes and colours, and finally settled on a picture that represents what my blog is all about.

When it comes down to it, Running For Autism is really about two things. Hope and love.

I think my word cloud is a perfect representation of that.

23 Months In One Year

20 Apr

April 20 – Miracle cure: Write a news-style article on a miracle cure. What’s the cure? How do you get the cure? Be sure to include a disclaimer.

Try as I might, I was not able to get this prompt to work for me. Therefore, I decided to use one of the bonus prompts that were provided at the beginning of this challenge.

Best doctor’s visit or hospital stay: What made it the best? The news you got? The nurse/doctor/surgeon you saw? The results?

On a cool Spring day in 2010, my husband and I drove George, then six and a half, to an appointment with a psychiatrist. The purpose of the visit was to get the results of the assessment that had been done six weeks previously.

The anxiety we felt went beyond normal parental angst. We were both remembering the assessment that had been done a year previously. It had not gone well. George had been agitated and distracted. He hadn’t settled, refusing even to take his coat off. Throughout the assessment he had underperformed on just about every task. In the next room, I had answered questionnaires, checking the “never” or “rarely” box to almost every question about George’s capabilities.

It had been a dismal experience, and the results had shown severe deficits. Now we were back, one year later, to see what quantifiable effects his first year of IBI therapy had had. He had shown almost no anxiety during the assessment this time, and the specialists had emerged smiling from the room, but we knew that we just had to wait and see the numbers.

When she greeted us, the psychiatrist was as charming and soothing as always. She ushered us into her office and gave George some markers so he could follow his favourite pursuit of scribbling on her white board. He surprised us all by writing lists of words instead.

The psychiatrist could tell that we were nervous, and she was kind enough to dispense with that beat-around-the-bush suspense thing that so many doctors seem to take an inordinate amount of pleasure in. She cut right to the chase.

“George has made phenomenal progress,” she told us.

She showed us reports and charts showing gains in almost every area: cognitive, language, fine motor, gross motor, emotional regulation, behavioural, daily living skills… What this child had achieved in the last year was off the charts.

It was literally off the charts. The psychiatrist showed us a graph showing percentiles of progress after one year of IBI therapy, and sure enough, George’s accomplishments went way beyond the right margin of the page.

In his first year of IBI – in a single twelve-month period – George  had made no less than 23 months worth of gains.

That was phenomenal. Far from following the usual model in which autistics develop relatively slower than typically developing children, thereby falling relatively further behind, George had developed at almost double the usual rate. He was still behind other kids of his age, but he was far less behind than he had been, and in some mathematical areas, he had actually started outperforming typical kids.

It’s like starting far back in the pack at a race and being way, way, way behind the leaders. And then, while the leaders maintain the same pace they started with, you put on a hell of a sprint. You probably won’t cross the finish line first, but instead of being twenty minutes behind the guy who wins, you’re only ten minutes behind.

Before getting these results, we had seen changes in George. Progress like that cannot go unnoticed. But it was wonderful to see it in numbers, to see visual proof of what our boy had achieved.

That day, my husband and I truly started to see possibilities for the future, and we made a promise there and then to help our son reach the stars.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)

Autistic Is Better Than Dead: Guest Post by Sara Morgan

3 Jan

Two years ago, my husband’s cousin lost his 20-year-old son to cancer. At the funeral, I kept myself together reasonably well until I saw the friends of the deceased enter the church. I remember thinking that this – the loss of a friend – is not something that any college student should have to deal with. And later, in the cemetery, I saw the bereaved mother standing there bravely, clutching the teddy-bear her son had had as a child. The overriding thought in my mind as I watched a mother and father burying their child was, “Thank God all my child has is autism.”

Today’s post, from Sara Morgan, expresses the same sentiment. Sara and I have two things in common: we are both autism parents, and we are both moms of angel babies who never got to live. In this heartfelt post, Sara reminds us that where there is life, there is hope.

As a mom of a child with Autism ( and one Highly suspected of having Aspergers, but that’s it’s own rant) I seem to get a lot pity, or compassion, or…I’m not always sure what to call it…. thrown at me.Like I’m some sort of saint for not thowing my child in the dumpster because of his Autism. I’m not brave, or special really in any sort of way except that I’ve come to the conclusion that Autistic is better than Dead.

When people see me walking on the street they see me and my 3 children,Faith, Alexia & Gabriel. What they do not see is the 3 I carry in my heart. Angel, Devan & Jeremiah….who would have been Gabriel’s twin. Pregnancy loss has long been a taboo subject, and I have fought hard to keep thier memories alive…how they died doesn’t matter near as much as that they once LIVED. That they will continue to live on in our hearts and our memories, that I will share them with thier siblings, even Gabriel with his autism and his limited understanding will know someone was in there with you….and he has a name, and a place in this family as do all his siblings.

Autism can really be it’s own depresing journey, it has it’s own grieving process, just as losing a child does…..It has the ups, the downs. The times you just want to throw yourself on the floor right along with your child and scream “WHY ME?” At the end of the day I can hold myself together because in the long run, he’s still HERE……I can do Autism…..Autism is Better than DEAD any day of the week….we can work with this! Autism will always be a debilitating condition,My son will always stuggle….but there is nothing more debilitating…more final…than the death of your child, anything else has possibilities.

I have Grown so much since I started these journeys, both as a bereaved mother, and as an autism mom. Don’t look at me with pity, Heck don’t even look at me with pride because I’m doing exactly what anyone in my position would do….I’m picking up the pieces and trying to put them back together and move on the best I can…and that my friends is all any of us can do.

(Photo credit: Sara Morgan)

The End Of Days

29 Dec

Laura might have been dying, but she wasn’t stupid. She chuckled inwardly as she listened to Peter and Holly talk in hushed tones at her bedside. Along with everyone else, they assumed that because she was non-responsive, she couldn’t hear or comprehend anything that was going on. She could not see anymore, and that put her at a dreadful disadvantage, but her hearing was just as keen as it had ever been.

Laura was 93 years old and cancer had been eating away at her body for over a year now. As soon as she had been given the deadly diagnosis, she had checked herself into this private nursing home. Peter and Holly had vigorously opposed this move, saying that she would be better off staying with them. They had made her read articles and statistics about how badly sick old ladies were treated in nursing homes, but she was having none of it. Peter and Holly – her son and her daughter-in-law – did not care about her. They just cared about her money, and they wanted to protect their inheritance.

It was no secret that Laura was a woman of means. She had always had a knack for managing finances. She had known when to take risks and when to be conservative, when to save and when to spend. Over the years, her wealth had grown slowly but steadily, with only the occasional minor setback. She had planned it all just for this eventuality. She did not care about big houses or expensive cars, but she had always known that she would want to spend her final days in a place where she would have her own private doctors and a bed with the best linen money could buy. This place cost an absolute fortune – hence the disapproval of her so-called family – but where she was going next, she wouldn’t need her money.

It was funny how Peter and Holly had ignored her for the last twenty years, only to conveniently reappear in her life when it became apparent that her death was imminent. Peter was her only surviving family: Emily had been cruelly taken by ovarian cancer twelve years ago, and Frankie had only been twelve when the drunk driver had slammed into him while he was riding his bike. Laura’s husband was long gone, and so were her sisters. She didn’t have anyone else to leave her money to, really. But she loathed the idea of her greedy son and his greedier wife getting their hands on it. They had always had more regard for her wealth than for the person she was. It saddened her to think that she had raised a man who expected the world to provide for him without giving anything in return.

Now, as she lay listening to their chatter, she knew that her time on this planet was very close to being at an end. She didn’t mind. She had lived a good life. She had been happy and she thought she had treated her fellow man in a way that would guarantee her entrance into Heaven, if such a place existed. She was ready to move on.

Peter was going to get the surprise of his life when she died and her will was read. He knew that he was the only person his mother would logically leave her fortune to. She wasn’t the eccentric type who would leave everything to a cat shelter, like the woman in the newspaper article a few weeks ago. But little did he know that the money would come with conditions, that he would have to prove his worth as a human being before he saw a dime of it.

Laura’s son might be 56 years old, but she didn’t think it was ever too late to teach him some values. If the promise of money was what it would take to make him give something to the world instead of taking all the time, then so be it.

It’s never too late, she thought, moments before she died. It’s never too late to be a good human being.

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Niqui, who gave me this prompt: "Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." – Mark Twain
I challenged Michael with the prompt: "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." (Douglas Adams)

No Fixed Destination

30 Nov

Phil looped his camera around his neck and trudged out to his car. The rain was pelting down and the wind was so strong that it was making his eyes burn. For a moment he considered staying home, but he dismissed the thought immediately. Every Sunday for the last twelve years, he had gone driving around the countryside in his battered old Volvo, taking photographs of whatever he happened to see. He was a good photographer, good enough to have acquired a decent following and sold a few pictures.

That’s not why he did it, though. He did it because it gave him a sense of purpose. He had worked so hard to overcome the addictions that had destroyed his life, and he was afraid that if he stopped these Sunday excursions, everything would fall apart again.

Phil pulled out of the driveway and headed north, with no fixed destination in mind. As he drove, he thought of Lily. She had been nine when he had seen her last. His heart ached as he remembered his ex-wife calling him an alcoholic junkie who had no business trying to raise a child. He had begged her not to take his daughter away from him. He had actually fallen on his knees before her, sobbing.

She had stopped yelling then, and looked at him with something approaching sympathy. “I know you love her, Phil, but you’re destroying her,” she had said. He had buried his head in his hands so he wouldn’t have to watch them leave.

After they had gone, Phil had allowed the drugs and alcohol to take over his life completely. Within a year, he had been out on the streets. He had lost his home and been fired from his job, and he had spent a few nights in jail for possession of illegal drugs.

One afternoon as he was staggering down the road with a newly acquired bottle of rum, a woman with a couple of kids had looked at him with thinly veiled disgust before crossing the street in order to avoid him. He stopped walking and stared after her, feeling as if he’d been hit with a sledgehammer. I’ll never see Lily again, he thought.

He slowly started walking again, barely paying attention to where he was going. His head was filled with images of his daughter. He wondered if she still had that pink feather boa that she loved so much. She would wrap it around herself and twirl around so fast that he thought she was going to fall over.

Now, as Phil drove, he remembered how the thoughts of Lily and her boa had stopped him in his tracks, and how the tears suddenly streaming down his face had attracted some curious glances from passersby. If it had not been for the kindly stranger who had offered him help, he did not know where he would be now, or if he would even be alive.

After he had gotten his life cleaned up, Phil had written to his ex-wife.

Tell Lily that I’m clean from the drugs and alcohol,  he wrote. Tell her I that I love her, and that I am more regretful than words can say for the pain I caused her. Let her know that I understand if she doesn’t want to see me, but if and when she is ever ready, I want to be her Dad. And this time I will do it right.

Throughout the years, Phil sent letters to his ex-wife. He told her about the night-course he had gone on, the job he had got, the photos he had sold. He proudly wrote about the modest house he had bought, the quiet, solitary life that he lived, and the handful of friends he had acquired through his AA meetings. He sent birthday cards to Lily.

In twelve years, he had not received a single reply. But he never gave up.

Phil was abruptly pulled out of his reverie when the old Volvo suddenly blew a tire. He pulled over onto the shoulder of the quiet country road and pulled out his cell phone. Damn. Not enough battery life to make a call.

Phil got out of the car and started walking through the pouring rain towards the only building he could see. Maybe they would have a phone. It wasn’t until he got right up to the front door that he realized it was a pub. Instantly his palms started to sweat and he was shaking. He couldn’t go in there. He hadn’t had a drink in well over a decade, but he was still terrified of being in the same room as alcohol. He thought he had enough self-control to avoid drinking – it was the memories he couldn’t face.

He was unbearably torn. He needed to call Roadside Assistance for a new tire, and this place might have the only available phone. But if he went in, the memories of his old life would come flooding back, and he would feel like a ruin in the architecture of humanity. He found himself alarmingly close to tears.

As he stood in the doorway, a young woman ran from her car into the pub. As she was going through the door, she turned and looked back at him curiously.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

Phil stammered. He was not good at talking to strangers.

“Well, you see, my car. It, uh, broke down, just down there, and I need to call for help. But my cell phone died and I cannot go in here because I’m – uh, an alcoholic. That is, I’m dry, but I don’t want to be anywhere near – you know.”

He tapered off and shrugged helplessly.

“You can use my phone,” said the woman, rummaging in her purse. Phil registered random details about her: the scuffed black boots, the flaky nailpolish, the red-gold hair tucked neatly under the hood of her raincoat.

As she handed him the cell phone, she said, “Actually, I’m not from around here and I could use some directions. I’m visiting my dad, only he doesn’t know I’m coming. I haven’t seen him since I was a little girl, and I want to surprise him. But this little town he lives in is impossible to find.”

Phil stared into her eyes, eyes that were exactly the same colour as his. And he knew that the second chance he had been waiting for for so long had finally arrived.

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Bewildered Bug, who gave me this prompt: Write about anything you want, but include the following words/phrases:  pink feather boa, Volvo, architecture of humanity, flaky nailpolish.
I challenged floreksa with the prompt: You are at your own 100th birthday party, reflecting back on your life. Tell us about the best day of your life, from the standpoint of your 100-year-old self.

Out Of The Darkness: Overcoming Post-Partum Depression

4 Jul

This post was a hard one to write, even though the events described happened several years ago. It took me a number of days to get this all down, and it has taken another few days to actually decide whether or not to publish it. My hope in publishing this is that it will make a difference to somebody. Maybe you’re a new mom who is going through post-partum depression. Or perhaps you know a new mom who seems to be retreating into herself. If your life is touched in any way by post-partum depression, know that there are things that can be done. Talk to your friends and family, seek help from medical professionals. And whatever you do, don’t lose hope.

My younger son James was born at a tumultuous time in my life. I had lost my dad to cancer a year previously, and me and my husband were going through some challenging times in our life together. At around that time, we were also starting to realize that there was something wrong with George and we had started to experience the frustration of wrangling a referral out of our family doctor.

I sometimes wonder, when I look back, whether all of these factors led to the post-partum depression I went through. Or perhaps it would have happened anyway. This is an illness that can strike the most unlikely of victims.

I knew within a couple of days after giving birth that the utter bleakness I was feeling was more than a case of “baby blues”. What I had experienced with George two years previously – the mild sadness, the anxiety, the tendency to be emotionally weird – that was baby blues. What I was going through now was completely different.

On New Years Eve that year, when James was six days old, I was sitting in front of the TV nursing my newborn while I watched CNN coverage of festivities around the world. At about five to midnight, Gerard brought me a cup of tea, and as he set it down beside me, he asked in surprise, “Why are you crying?”

I was just as surprised as he was. I had not even noticed the floods of tears rolling silently down my cheeks.

Even though I was filled with this feeling of terrifying – emptiness – I did not initially label what I was experiencing with any name. The first time I thought of the term post-partum depression in relation to myself, James was about two months old. A replay of an old Oprah episode was on – the episode where Tom Cruise spouted forth about how there was no such thing as post-partum depression, and how all new moms could solve all of their problems by eating right and exercising.

What an idiot, I remember thinking. This thought was followed by the sudden light-bulb moment in which I realized that I was suffering from post-partum depression.

There was a good news and a bad news aspect to this discovery.

The good news was that I now had a name for what I was going through. I had something to Google, and sure enough, on every checklist I found, I was able to put checkmarks beside all but one or two of the signs and symptoms. I had a basis for research, and I felt some validation that I wasn’t simply going mad.

The bad news was that I too far down the path of post-partum depression to be able to actually do anything about it. Talking to someone – my doctor, my friends, or even my husband – would have taken energy. And that was something that I had in very short supply. Just getting through the day was an accomplishment. Once I had attended to the basic needs of my kids – feeding, diapering, bathing, dressing – there was nothing left over. No reserves of energy whatsoever.

And because I didn’t do anything about it, my illness got steadily worse and worse. I didn’t talk to anyone about it, and no-one recognized the signs. My friends and family saw me retreating further and further into myself, but they did not know why. They saw that the kids were obviously being taken care of, so they didn’t realize that there was anything to be concerned about.

Even when my depression was at its very worst, I was not suicidal in the sense of wanting to actively go out and kill myself (again, that would have taken energy that I just didn’t have), and I was never in danger of harming the kids. Their health, safety and happiness were my top priorities – my only priorities.

I did start to think about dying, though. I fantasized about what it would be like to die in a car accident, or to have a sudden heart attack, or to be shot during a bank robbery. I thought about being on a plane that had a bomb on it. What if I had some undiagnosed condition, and simply went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up?

My depression went untreated for over a year, and by then I honestly thought that I was lost forever. Right after George was diagosed with autism, I went to see my family doctor, who had received a copy of the diagnostic report. I was seeing the doctor about something unrelated – an old ankle injury was acting up – but he immediately picked up that there was something seriously wrong.

My doctor, who had been absolutely dismal at detecting signs of early developmental delay in George, was able to tell right away that I was going through a major depression. He put me on medication and insisted on seeing me once a week until I was out of the woods.

The pills were both good and bad for me. The bad part was that they made me feel angry. While I was taking them, I was mad at everyone and everything. Back then, I didn’t even have running as a stress coping mechanism, so the anger just sat there and frightened the living daylights out of me.

The good thing, though, was that the pills helped with the depression. I started feeling some energy again – even though the energy itself was negative, it was a start. Negative energy was better than the absolute empiness and desolation that I had been feeling for so long now.

And so gradually, I started finding my way back. With time, I rekindled my relationship with my husband, and I discovered the true joy of parenting. I went back to work and started to find my own identity again. I started running. Little buds of hope started to grow within me.

I found my way out of the darkness, and into love and light.

Giving Blood, Giving Life, Giving Hope

20 Jan

I sit in the chair across from the nurse, anxiously waiting for that tiny little needle to pierce the end of my finger.  Has it worked?  Has my healthy eating, strict regimen of iron-enriched vitamins, and consumption of gross vegetable juice made my blood as healthy as it needs to be? If I am turned away now, I will be pissed off.

I am lost in my thoughts, willing my blood to cooperate, trying to analyze everything I’ve eaten in the – OUCH!  Holy crap!  For a tiny little needle that HURTS!

Not as much as the big fat needle going into my arm is going to hurt.

Not as much as the multitude of agony that Captain Snuggles has endured over the last five months has hurt.

It’s a tiny little needle, don’t be such a baby.

The nurse puts a little smear of blood onto a slide and feeds it into a machine.  She tells me that the number has to be 125 or higher.  We wait for a few seconds, the machine beeps, and…

…154.  YES!  As I follow the next nurse into the next screening area, I imagine my healthy blood cells, marching around my body like sergeants, getting ready for deployment into the next human body that needs them.

Screening goes well.  My temperature is good.  My blood pressure prompts the nurse to tell me I must work out a lot.  My heart rate is slightly elevated because I am excited to be doing this.  No lesions or bruises on my arms, all of my questionaire answers are acceptable.

I am deemed Fit To Donate.

I am taken to a row of folding chairs, where I take a seat and wait my turn.  I know that my friend extraordinaire and maid of honour Michelle is a short way behind me in the process.  I look for her and she is not in the room; she is probably in the screening area telling the nurse whether she has ever taken money for sex or taken cocaine intravenously.

As I am waiting, a man starts to pass out with his blood in mid-flow.  The kindly woman seated beside me looks at my “First Time Donor” sticker (which I feel entitled to since my one and only donation attempt, over 20 years ago, ended in disaster and could not be completed) and says, “Don’t look at him.  He’s a man.  Us girls can handle this!”

I am led to one of the stations, and as I take my seat in the thing – it’s not a chair; it’s not a bed; what’s the word for it? – I imagine those blood cell sergeants lining up in my arm, getting ready for their marching orders.

Michelle takes a seat on one of the folding chairs, which means I can talk to her instead of looking in the direction of the nurse who is taping tubes to my arm in an ominous manner.  I squeeze my eyes shut, grit my teeth, and – the needle is in!  Those little sergeants have started marching!  I imagine the blood cells in the Captain’s body straightening up and getting their act together (because let’s face it, they have been slacking off in the last little while).  I imagine them coming together, strong and whole, forming a line of defence against illness and infection.

As my blood flows out of me, I imagine Captain Snuggles getting better.  I picture his broken body healing, becoming whole.

My actual blood will not get to Captain Snuggles.  But it will get to someone who needs it.  Captain Snuggles, through his suffering, will have saved a life.  Many lives, since I am now committed to being a regular donor.

It takes less than ten minutes.  When the needle is removed, I sit in my thing-thats-not-a-bed-or-chair for the prescribed five minutes.  There is more fiddling with my arm and bandages, and then I am permitted to go and sit down in the cookie and juice room (no caffeine for first-time donors!)

As I sit there drinking my orange juice and eating my cookie, I imagine where my blood will go from here.  Samples will go to the lab for testing, and the donation will be added to the blood bank.

I imagine it being transfused into someone’s broken body, transforming the probability of death into the possibility of life, into hope.

I imagine the joy of some family, in some hospital, when they are given the news that their loved one is going to make it.

I imagine Captain Snuggles healing and becoming whole.

I imagine myself someday saying to him, “Thank you.  Thank you for making me a better person.”