Mom and blogger. Diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. Likes to keep people on their toes with a quirky sense of humor.
Dad and active duty military man. Diagnosed with PTSD. Undiagnosed ADHD. Harley motorcycle junkie – riding is life.
Daughter and oldest sibling. Diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder with psychotic features, ADHD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Super artistic anime freak.
Son and oldest twin. Diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Masterful musician – plays Alto and Tenor Saxophone.
Son, younger twin and most severe of the family. Diagnosed with Autism. Nonverbal. Likes to strip naked as soon as possible upon returning home.
Our family joke is that nothing we do is “normal.” ‘Go big or go home’ has pretty much been our motto since Eric and I got married. We both have our own sense of adventure that compels us to try things others may see as risky or downright insane. Eric is a thrill junkie and I’m simply drawn to experience new things. To understand our family though, we’ll need to go back to before Eric and I even met.
I have dealt with depression since childhood. I honestly cannot remember a time when the black hole was not there. My teenage years were full of alcohol and any pills I could find that would give me some sort of release from the draw of that hole. Self-harm even became a silent issue late in my teen years into college. My first major depressive episode came when I was 22. My high school sweetheart, love of my life, told me that he had never loved me as I had loved him. He was a homosexual. My world literally collapsed. Every truth I had ever believed in was gone – my faith decimated. I remember very little if anything of the following two to three months. I remained in a fog for 2 years after that. It was during this time that I met and began dating my daughter’s biological father. Within months I became pregnant but refused to marry him because I knew he wasn’t the one for me. The relationship fell apart after Paix was born. He has not been a part of her life since she was just over a year old. She, however, saved my life – having her forced me to take the focus off myself. She needed me. The depression was still heavy, but she was the light that pulled me through some of the darkest days. Just as I was coming back to life, as I like to put it, I met Eric. We did not hit it off right away.
Eric and I met while I was dating one of his military friends. He was a major jerk as he was nursing his own broken heart after a recent divorce. A year later we fell in love. (Its a good story that I may share in a later post. Goes along with the ‘go big or go home’ idea.) We married after only a few short months of dating – much to the surprise of both our families. Paix was 3 years old. Eric had been raised by a stepfather and did not have a relationship with his biological father either. He was perfect for Paix. I have always said that God meant for him to be her daddy. Paix was diagnosed with ADHD at age 5 and again Eric was the perfect fit as he had struggled with ADHD his entire life.
Shortly after getting married, I became pregnant again. This time with twin boys. We were excited and mortified at the same time. As the pregnancy went on, one twin, Aidan, was thriving as the other, Ryland, slowly fell behind. When they were born, there was a full pound difference between them Aidan at 8lbs and Ry at 7lbs. There was not too much concern at the time because of how big they were. I had a scheduled c-section at 40 weeks. However, Ry continued to fail to thrive and was diagnosed as microcephalic at just 1 month. It was the beginning of a long road of doctor’s appointments, frustration and disappointment. There were genetics appointments, neurology appointments, occupational and physical therapies – this went on for years, but no one could give us a definitive diagnosis. Our world was shattered when one neurologist told us that he would be a vegetable the rest of his life and that we should seriously consider putting him into a home. (We gave absolutely no thought to following his advice!) A geneticist told us that it may be Angelman Syndrome but could not give the official diagnosis because the genetic markers were not present. Ry did not (and still doesn’t) sleep in a regular cycle. He would be up for sometimes days on end before taking just a couple of hours nap then back up for another round. To this day the only time he will sleep over six hours is when he is sick. To top it off, Ry ended up being non-verbal and put into early childhood education classes followed by special education classes.
So here we were a dad who was active duty going to the field every couple of months, a daughter with ADHD, a son who was non-verbal with no clear diagnosis, and a sleep deprived mother who was in constant zombie mode. How could things get worse?! Well the Iraq War happened. Eric was an infantryman at the time and was sent off on two separate deployments. He returned from the first with PTSD. At the time, neither of us wanted to admit it, especially him. There was a huge stigma related to PTSD back then – it would mean the end of the career he loved. The second deployment only added to the rage that bubbled more and more recently. Ry was still the focus of the family through all this. So much so in fact, that we completely missed the signs that Aidan had been exhibiting for Autism. It wasn’t until he was in 3rd grade that a teacher intervened and asked for psychological testing. He was officially diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.
Now autism became a focus. I researched all I could to better understand what Aidan was up against – what we all had to look forward to as he grew up. When so much is happening in a family, full concentration can not be aligned to one circumstance. At the same time, some things fall from the table. Once Aidan was diagnosed, all attention given to Ry and his diagnoses fell from view. There was only so much I could do to balance Paix’s incessant movement and school issues, Aidan’s new-found issues especially at school, Ry still not sleeping, Eric’s every growing isolation and anger, and my own black hole that was also steadily growing in size threatening to swallow me whole. Every day was a game of coping skills. During that time, I stayed especially busy with volunteer work (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Church groups, etc.) thinking that if I slowed down even a little, I would crash and never recover. In a way, I was right. I began counseling as life started to unravel.
By the time Paix reached high school Eric’s PTSD had reached a breaking point for all of us. It had progressed slowly but steadily. He had been self-medicating for years and it didn’t seem to be enough anymore. His suicidal thoughts came more frequently, usually prefaced by fits of seemingly uncontrollable rage. He was in a downward spiral that was picking up speed quickly. All of this had a profound effect on the family as a whole. Paix started exhibiting signs of depression so we decided to get her into counseling as well. Eric was refusing help even though he was falling apart at the seams. Everything finally came to a head when I couldn’t handle any more and decided to end my life. I had a plan and was starting to execute it when once again, Paix saved my life. She could see that I was not acting right and called my therapist who in turn called Eric. I was admitted into a psychiatric facility and finally diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. It was this hospitalization that pushed Eric to seek help for himself. At last, we were all heading toward better days!
Soon life had become manageable again even though Ry was still not sleeping and I was having to fight to get him into appropriate special education classes. Aidan was now in speech therapy, peer groups, Boy Scouts along with participating in many school activities, one of which was marching band. Paix was in counseling dealing with her issues and doing well in school again. I was making progress with my counseling for depression and Eric was also in counseling for PTSD. We were happy again. Then Paix started college. She soon had to withdraw because of anxiety, mood swings and hallucinations. She was diagnosed as Bipolar with Psychotic Features. Yet another blow to the family. After living on her own for two years she has had to move back home as we try to get her back on a healthcare plan and properly medicated.
That’s where we are now. One bit of good news – after receiving much help from our primary care doctor, Ryland was finally diagnosed with Severe Autism just after the boys 18th birthday. The diagnosis opened a world of therapies we had been unable to get for him before or that had become inaccessible since turning 18 – speech, occupational, and ABA. Also, Aidan has graduated from high school. He is now going to a university in town and is a part of the marching band.
Life is never boring in our home! We have lots of stories to tell and lots of laughs to share about how we’ve made it this far. Stick around and you’ll hear all about it.