Jeremy’s tree…

I almost forgot to add a picture of Jeremy’s tree. I had to go back and buy a new topper because the star zie originally picked out didn’t work when we plugged it in the second time. It was working when we bought it. Luckily Dollarama also had a topper with “rainbow lights”…

purple tree

They don’t show up as much in the picture but zie has four sparkly chandeliers on the tree and a bunch of purple butterflies. Also, we really need to paint zir room. Maybe this spring…

Anxiety…

“Mom? Do we really live in a democracy?”

I turned around from brushing my hair and blinked at Jeremy. It wasn’t even 6am and I was barely awake. I’d heard Jeremy up several hours earlier though.

“I mean we vote for three people who were chosen by their parties. How can that be a democracy when we have such little choice?”

I put down my hair brush and tried to think of a coherent answer. “Umm… I think we’re in a democratic oligarchy.” That didn’t sound right but it was as close as I could get before the sun rose. “Hon, can we talk about this later?”

Zie rolled zir eyes and headed out to the living room. I followed along behind, thinking of what I needed to do next. My lunch was in the fridge and my phone charging. I grabbed both and put them by the front door then I pulled my shoes from the closet.

“Mom! The computer’s still screwed up! We need to take it in to get fixed immediately!”

I was leaning against the wall while lacing up one shoe. “So it won’t turn on?” I called back.

“No, it turns on. It just drops down to three frames per second once it loads.”

Huh? I had no idea what zie was talking about and didn’t have time to find out. It had taken me much too long to drag myself out of bed and now I only had 10 minutes until I needed to leave and I still needed to make breakfast.

“Hon, can we talk about this when I get home tonight?” I asked then sighed to myself. It wasn’t like tonight was going to be any less busy. I wasn’t getting home until 5pm and we needed to leave by 6:30pm to get to PFLAG.

“Our computer is pretty much destroyed and you’re not going to do anything about it! You’re just going to let it get ruined!” Jeremy yelled before storming off to zir room. I tied my other shoe and headed to the kitchen.

“Where are my track pants? I need them! I can’t go to school without them! What did you do with them!” Jeremy screamed from zir room.

“Jeremy, I haven’t even seen them. You had a blanket wrapped around you last night before bed. They should be in your room.”

“You don’t understand. I need these track pants! You just don’t care! What happened to them? I wasn’t wearing them yesterday, I was wearing my jeans, but they’re too big and my teacher says I can’t wear them anymore and, oh, there they are…” Jeremy’s voice dropped about 5 decibels. I got the peanut butter from the cupboard and signed.

“So, are you going to apologize to me?” I asked.

“No,” Jeremy replied scornfully. I sighed again.

Then I went to work and jumped every time the phone rang even though the school hasn’t called in ages. Instead they’ve been sending Jeremy to the AR room to do whatever zie wants. I don’t think Jeremy’s been learning anything at school for several months now.

I called Jeremy on my way home and was surprised by how quiet zir voice was.

“Can we just stay home tonight Mom? I’m feeling really anxious. I can’t go out anywhere. Please?”

There wasn’t any point in forcing zir to go to PFLAG. Not if zie felt that bad.

“Okay,” I said gently. “Just make sure the big pots are washed so I can make dinner when I get home.”

“I’ll try,” zie whispered.

Jeremy was asleep in front of the electric fireplace when I walked in the door. Zie immediately grabbed zir phone and headed off to bed to watch videos. It wasn’t even 6pm yet. Then zie turned down dinner and even the hash browns I’d brought home from work. Zie loves hash browns.

The kid reads like a checklist on depression. Zie’s barely eating… unless it’s 3am. Zie can sleep for hours… unless it’s night. But zie can also stay up for hours too (I think zir record was 36 hours). Anger… lethargy… tears… anxiety attacks. We’re seeing our family doctor tomorrow. Something has to be done.

And my heart melted…

“Mom! You have to look at our tree!”

Jeremy announced this as soon as I walked in the door from work. I headed into the living room and eyed the tree nervously. The was no smoke or frayed wires. Nothing other than the TARDIS was spinning. Actually I couldn’t see any difference.

Jeremy sighed. “Look down at the presents.”

Oh. There was a new one there with Jeremy’s name clearly printed across the front. My Mom had volunteered to drive twenty minutes each way to pick Jeremy up and take zir to counselling then suggested taking Jeremy out for lunch. Apparently a shopping trip had followed their meal.

“I bought you a present,” zie added. “Well, Nana bought it but I picked it out and I know you’ll really like it. I can’t wait until Christmas when you open it.”

I gave the present a curious look. It’s small and skinny… too small to be a book. Maybe a candle? Goodness knows I’ve got enough to light our entire apartment in a power failure but one more wouldn’t hurt.

“Mom, when I get my inheritance money from Grandpa, I’m going to give Nana and Grandad a hundred dollars. They’ve done so much for me over the years. Taking me places… buying me things… every single present I’ve ever given you was paid for by Nana. They deserve to have something given to them for a change.”

And, with that my heart melted.

Gearing up for Christmas…

Right now I should be baking a batch of cookies, making caramel corn, and filling chocolates. Instead I’m sipping a mug of hot chocolate and writing here.

Today is our family Christmas dinner, held early because my parents are heading out to BC to visit Amy and her family over the holidays. It was also my youngest nephew’s birthday last week so we’ve got a birthday present to deliver as well and Jeremy promised, as the big cousin, to go over and play Minecraft with him. Speaking of which I better wake Jeremy up and remind zir of that promise.

I am looking so forward to Christmas, it’s my absolute favourite holiday. This year is going to be a lot more quiet than usual and I’m looking forward to that too. I love our big family gatherings but find them a bit overwhelming. Having just Emma and Mark over will be nice.

And this year will be a different Christmas for Jeremy too. Lots of purple… lots of glitter. I even found a purple, remote control car. There’s a sonic screwdriver in that purple sequined bag under the tree and gummy bear earrings in zir stocking. I bought things I’m sure Emma will like as well but won’t mention them here. *waves at Emma*

I got you an invisible, inflatable purple elephant hon… just like last year :)

I told Jeremy I’d wake zir up in a half hour and I’ve hit that mark now. Plus I really need to get started on the Christmas baking so I can get it cooled and wrapped in time for this afternoon. I’m going to leave you with a video I took a few days ago of a house just down the street from us. Not just any house though… the Merry Christmas house. They really decorate so enjoy :)

School trepidation…

Gatineau*

The first time I heard that name was with Emma. She’d been dealing with several issues; bullying, anxiety, and an overwhelming conviction that she’d made her Dad disappear and he was never coming back. I asked the school’s social worker for help and was assured that Emma and I talked well so we didn’t need any outside help. This was flattering but not useful. I requested an assessment from the school psychologist and asked for more help. Gatineau was recommended and an assessment was scheduled immediately.

A stern looking older man met us outside their interview room. Emma immediately froze. He stared at her then barked, “She’s obviously depressed.”

“She’s very shy,” I replied as we edged past him into the room. “She’s always been scared of men. Besides, she was laughing and joking around just a minute ago.”

I looked back to see him glaring at me. “I’m the psychiatrist and I know depression when I see it. She’s depressed.”

His tone said he felt that was clearly the end of the discussion. I figured it wasn’t worth starting off with an argument, not when I was there to get Emma help so shut my mouth.

The room was filled with a huge circle of chairs and a fish tank, which looked oddly out of place. We all sat near the door, the fishes swam alone on the other side of a vast expanse of chairs. There was a man who sat across from us with a pad and pen, obviously ready to take notes. He didn’t make Emma any more comfortable although, to be fair, she could hardly get any less comfortable.

Then I thought of something else. “Before we begin, I should let you know I’m having Emma tested for Aspergers.”

The psychiatrist looked over at Emma then shook his head. “She definitely does not have that,” he replied haughtily.

I began to wonder if it was possible to pull a doctorate of psychiatry out of a cereal box. The psychologist had me fill out checklists that started almost from conception and sat with Emma for hours. Meanwhile this doctor had diagnosed her in under two minutes without speaking to either of us or even attaining eye contact with her.

The doctor settled on play therapy for Emma along with a parenting group for me. I wanted Emma to get social skills help and was assured that would come as long as I joined their parenting group. I agreed and we were placed into art and group therapy at the same time. The only caveat was I needed to miss the first three sessions as my parents were away and I needed them to watch Jeremy. I was assured that was fine.

I knew immediately the group was a poor fit. Emma was prone to slamming her bedroom door while yelling, “I hate you! You’re mean!” Meanwhile the rest of the group were dealing with youths who set fire to the living room, robbed stores, and smashed furniture.

The weeks went on. Emma enjoyed her therapy, coming home regularly with crafts, while I listened to the other parents and offered any support I could. One day our group mediator was late and conversation immediately moved to the psychiatrist.

No one in the group liked him. They disliked his attitude and distrusted his diagnoses. I commented that Emma was diagnosed with Aspergers** but hadn’t got any of the social skills help I’d been promised. The mediator stepped into the room to tell me I was wrong, their psychiatrist had ruled out that diagnosis, and my diagnosis couldn’t count because Aspergers was only diagnosed by a psychiatrist. I pointed out that he made that diagnosis in less than two minutes, without speaking to Emma; meanwhile the psychologist spent hours with her. He retaliated, saying their art therapist had also spent hours talking to Emma and agreed with the psychiatrist. I pointed out that their art therapist wasn’t a psychiatrist either, so if I couldn’t go by a psychologist’s thorough assessment, he couldn’t use six hours of art therapy for a diagnosis either. But she was well respected and spent many hours with children… and so was the psychologist. The mediator told me they’d never agreed to any further help for Emma and certainly not with social skills; they didn’t even offer it.

Didn’t even offer it. What the hell was I doing there then? I sat through the rest of the session feeling numb then talked to Emma about her sessions. I’d thought the therapist was letting Emma discuss her feelings about her father and school. Instead she’d been spending therapy listening to why her art therapist felt she didn’t have Aspergers. I pulled us out of Gatineau.

I got a withdrawal letter a month later, claiming I’d missed almost half the group sessions and had been a reluctant participant. I looked at the dates and realized he’d not only counted the initial classes but a full month of sessions after we’d left. I vowed I’d never go back to the agency.

And then came the chance for a new class for Jeremy. A smaller class setting, an LGBTQ friendly school, a program that offered a chance to earn school credits, and it was brand new and barely had any students. Jeremy could get in almost immediately. But the class was run by Gatineau.

Yeah.

I stammered that I’d been there a few years ago and had not been impressed with the service, only to be reassured that they had almost all new staff and no longer had that psychiatrist.

We had our intake assessment. The new psychiatrist was cheerful and engaging, while Jeremy was in amazing spirits and responded quite animatedly. I was told a second appointment would be set up “next week” between us, Gatineau, and someone from Jeremy’s school; probably zir teacher.

There was a message from Gatineau today, wanting to arrange Jeremy’s counselling sessions. I called them back and was told they could only offer an appointment mid-day, which means Jeremy is going to miss a full day of school every week on top of what zie’s already missing due to anxiety. Then I asked about the class.

“Oh, umm, yes. Well, that class is full right now so Jeremy’s been placed on a waiting list. We’ll let you know when he gets to the top.”

“I’ll have to call [school board member] and try to get Jeremy into a different class then. Zie needs to get out of zir current class immediately.”

“Oh! Oh!!!” She sounded shocked and a bit worried. “I’ll have to talk to J and see what she says. I’ll let you know next week where Jeremy is on the list and if we know how long it will take for him to get to the top.”

So yet more waiting. Waiting for Gatineau and waiting for the school board member to call me back.

There’s a meeting on Thursday between the school board and PFLAG to address how the board can improve how they work with LGBTQ families. I figure we’ll have quite a lot to discuss.

* Gatineau is not the real name of the agency
** Emma was diagnosed with Aspergers through the school board. However it is not a diagnosis she agrees with and she’s subsequently been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and depression. I’ve also since discovered that Aspergers and anxiety have a lot of similar symptoms.