Living with…

It feels completely bizarre for me to fill in the above blank with “chronic illness” or “mental illness” when I think about myself. We have these images in our heads of what it means to be chronically ill, to struggle with mental illness, to have a disability. For a long time, I told myself, “it’s not that bad. I can still (work/parent/whatever).”

Until I realized that those were all myths and stereotypes and stigma. And by not taking these labels onto myself, I was perpetuating these myths. It’s a realization that I have had to make again and again. I’m not stupid. It’s not that I don’t get it. I have intellectually understood for ages. But sometimes it takes a doctor’s appointment on a Saturday night to remind you that this is real life. This is what you’re living with. And those layers of cultural conditioning can be strong and deep. We have to peel them back, piece by piece, until we find who we are underneath it all.

This is me.

I struggle with anxiety. I have OCD. I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder about whether my house is falling down. I re-play conversations, over and over and over. I can’t get to sleep. I fix and re-fix and fix the rearview mirror again and again, because bad things will happen. I get rid of everything in my house that I possibly can because I will internally combust if not. I will not pick up the phone, even if I see the caller ID. I just can’t. Phone calls take like 8 spoons for me.

I lived through trauma, domestic violence and abuse. I intimately understand the way that abusive relationships can be insidious and difficult to leave. I know that a mom can love her kids to death, can be amazing at mom-jobs, and still have a hard time walking out of that situation. I understand loving your father to pieces, yet also being afraid. I know what it means for the bottom to drop out.

I can be weird about sensory things. Showers are painful. I can’t wear shirts that touch my neck. I hate shoes. I never wear socks. I sit cross-legged in the car so that there is pressure on all of my legs. I have become so overstimulated in a store that I have left my full cart in the middle of the aisle and walked right out.

I have autoimmune & allergy issues, with the biggest being my thyroid. And some sleep issues that we haven’t quite figured out. So sometimes I hit a wall. I struggle to stay awake for even six hours a day. I spend my school breaks sleeping as much as anything else, and I feel incompetent, weak, and lazy. We watch television more, we play iPads more, we do all the thing that the mommy wars will ridicule us for doing.

But I’m also a really great parent. I am responsive and respectful. I listen to my kids’ needs, whether spoken or not. I maintain high structure but I support and accommodate my kids so that they can be successful within that structure. I choose connection over compliance. We make time to watch movies, to play video games, to go to the park, to travel, to swim, to do what they need and love. I am giving them a gorgeous childhood, filled with laughter.

I’m a fantastic teacher. I bring work home. I show up early and stay late. I am completely present with my students and teaching in a way that brings out everything that is best in me. I collect data and use it to drive my instruction, while also staying playful and true to developmentally appropriate practice. I connect with families. Learning how to be the best teacher I can possibly be for them is the top of my list.

I do yoga when I can. I go to the pool when my energy allows. I read books, mountains and mountains of books. I read the news. I stay active on various Facebook communities, trying to give back what they have given to me. I blog. And I try very hard to be a good partner and a good friend, always learning.

All of this can be true. I can be a great parent, a great teacher, and have an anxiety disorder. I can need to rest more than the average person and still be raising amazing kids who grow each day. I can be someone that goes above and beyond, that always has another project to do, and be someone who is a little bit of a mess sometimes.

It’s true of all of us. We are all both/and. We are strong and limited. We are brilliant and afraid. The doses may vary in each person but none of us are all-anything-all-the-time. When we give ourselves permission to be ourselves, messiness and all, to stop hiding — we lead the way for our friends, our family, our children. They see that “both/and” applies to them too — that mental illness or disability are part of who we are, maybe big parts, maybe parts that drive the way we see everything else, but they are parts of the whole beautiful, messy, amazing person that defies any and all stereotypes.

Stand as yourself, and stand tall. Be a parent with mental illness. Be a doctor with anxiety. Be a teacher with chronic fatigue. Be a friend who can’t always get out of the house. Be a customer who taps their toes and flaps their hands and rocks in place. Be a salesperson who cannot shake hands. Be a wife who struggles with attention differences. Be a grandfather who has panic attacks. Be you. All of you.


How We Do It: Bringing Comfort during Hospitalization 

I know — I owe you a follow-up to language modeling, and it’s coming. But we are in the midst of a hospitalization experience and this seemed more relevant. As helpful as hospitalization can be, as necessary for physical or mental health, it still sucks so much. This is especially true for children who may be confused and scared, who are almost certainly anxious about when they will be returning home. And few hospitals are truly designed for the needs of children. Here are some of the ways we bring comfort to both the child in the hospital and the child outside. 

  1. Favorite toys. Each night we visit, we bring LM one small matchbox car. When Diva was in the hospital, we had the iPad with YGG. Stuffed animals are another great one. Small things that remind them of home. Pro tip for extended stays — don’t bring the most favorite one ever, because the risk of loss is too great.
  2. Books. We have brought a couple of our favorite books about love and family to LM, including I Love You, Stinky Face. We try to read them together before we leave, but it doesn’t always happen. We do always make sure to write a note on the inside cover and have all three of us sign our names. We leave it for him to look at and think about whenever he wants. 
  3. Pictures. The therapist we are meeting with this week printed pictures of our cats for LM, and this is the single most comforting item he has. They are just black and white pictures from a printer, so it’s okay for them to be lost or ripped or well-loved. When we can, we look at pictures with him of things we have done together. We’ve also taken pictures of him and brought those pictures home to Diva, when that’s allowed in policy. We sent LM a lot of pictures of a Diva after surgery and when recovering last year — it was an essential part of him knowing she truly was okay.
  4. Routine. We try our very hardest to visit and call at the same time every day, so LM can expect us and know we will be there. We leave with the same routine every day, where LM walks us to the elevator and exchanges hugs. We stick to bath and bedtime routines with the child not in the hospital, even if they are staying with a family member. Their world is upside down, sideways, and pretty much chaotic in so many ways during a hospital stay. We do what we can to add elements of the regular. 
  5. Flexibility. What? Didn’t I just say routine? Yes. It is a hard balance, but sometimes you just have to break the routine or the rules. Easy example — going to a bonus visit that you get offered last minute, if you at all can. Or letting Diva listen to more music and more television, because they are some of the only familiar things while we are far from home. Last year, we temporarily let her have a TV in her room when her recovery was long and painful.  Other examples — not expecting “please” and “thank you” and prompting a child’s super best manners when they are under stress. Carving out time in the day for an extra snuggle. Being patient with impatience. Listening to your child when they are saying with words or body language that they need a short visit today. So many ways to be flexible that are about connecting deeper with a child who is hurt and scared. 

Those are some of the things that we do. They are simple and common sense, but can be forgotten in the hectic life that is hospitalization. I know we usually bring a picture, for example, but we didn’t have anything on hand this time. And remember — you can do these things for yourself, too, not just for the kids in your life. We all need a little comfort when life gets big and rough. 


Hard days.

Sometimes, we have hard days. We hear about hard days at school, or have hard days at home. Maybe something gets thrown, or someone screams. Maybe everything’s a mess and now there’s a hole in the wall. Hard shows up in lots of ways. When hard shows up, the first instinct is to MAKE THINGS CHANGE. We are taught by society, by our own upbringing, to threaten, to punish, to consequence. “Go to your room!” “If you don’t stop that, we are not having pancakes!” “That’s enough!” “Get back here this instant!” (And, yes, most of those lines do show up in the book No David. They are said way too much.)

We often feel afraid — what if I don’t get control over this? What if this happens everyday? What am I teaching? Am I a good parent? Am I doing this right? What if every day becomes hard? What do the teachers think of us? What will the world think of us? Why is this happening? Indeed, our minds are really quite good at playing games and spinning us in fear circles of “what if”.

But what happens when you have a hard day? What do you want from your best friend? From your partner?

I know that I’ve come home, slammed doors, stomped my feet, and been in a bad mood. I’ve been tired. I’ve been cranky. I’ve raised my voice when I didn’t mean to. I know that Husband does not send me to my room. I’m pretty sure doing that would make me slam another door. He doesn’t tell me that he won’t cook my favorite dinner unless I get it together, or that my actions will mean that we can’t go to the movies this weekend. Think of saying those things to your peers. Would that relationship last?

Instead, I might get a hug, or a hot chocolate. I get time to watch a show or take a nap, on a lucky day. I always get understanding. I get nurturing. I get questions of — “what can I do to help?” Why do we choose differently for our kids?

Today was a hard day for some of the members of our family. So we came home and didn’t bring it up. We followed our normal routine. We watched The Avengers and Diego and used the swing, doing all the after school things that help everyone wind their bodies down. We played video games and ate baked ziti (a favorite meal). We talked a little, asked a few questions, probed for feelings and underlying things. We briefly talked about how “stick together” means stick together on field trips AND at school AND at home (a point of confusion). Then we moved on to bath, with lots and lots of toys, and George. We compromised. Over the evening, the tension began to dissipate. The goofy antics of anxiety around “What’s going to happen? I had a hard day! Oh no! I’m in trouble!” relaxed. We snuggled and hung out. We acted out of love, instead of fear.

Tomorrow might still be hard. I don’t act out of love to manipulate tomorrow into being easy. I choose connection because of respect. I choose connection because that’s what we value, now and long-term. People will tell me that I didn’t do enough. People will say that I am not teaching about the real world. Here’s the thing — I think the real world has enough natural consequences of its own, and I don’t see my job as making up fake ones.  I see my job as being a soft place to land when things are hard. I see my job as working together to form proactive solutions for tomorrow. I see my job as meeting needs. I trust that kids do well if they can. I’ve lived the experience of kids doing well if they can. I know that everyone in our family CAN.


Hospitalization: When? Where? How?

When you have a child with serious mental illness, hospitalization is something that comes up frequently. The first time hospitalization was mentioned to us, it felt like a slap in the face. It was frightening. No one wants to think of their child in the hospital at all, and being in a psychiatric ward just felt so much worse. But after the first time Little Man was hospitalized, we realized that we would probably be doing this again, and not just once. It was time to make a plan. Mostly because plans make me feel better and, also, it’s a pretty good idea. Here are my tips for thinking about and preparing for hospitalization.

1. Set your plan in advance.

Do NOT decide in the moment what your criteria for hospitalization is, if at all possible. Our criteria for admission is extremely high, because hospitalization sucks. We consider hospitalization when Little Man has had 3-5 consecutive days that include hours of aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior that has a high risk of injury and is not able to be managed through therapeutic parenting and/or PRN medication. Your admissions criteria will depend a lot on what your family needs, what your family can handle, and what services are available in your area. General red flags to consider: self-harm (especially new), suicidal ideation, risk of injury to others, homicidal ideation, hallucinations / psychosis (especially new, or considerably more severe than previous instances).

2. Know the nearest psychiatric hospitals & their admissions criteria.

What hospitals are within a 2 hour distance? What age do they accept? What are the philosophies of their medical team? What supports do they offer via hospitalization? What are the visitation policies? Most importantly, what is the admissions criteria? You usually MUST be a danger to yourself or others. Unfortunately, what you think is a danger may not be to the psychiatric ER doctor, especially if they don’t have beds. Write down the crisis phone numbers to all the hospitals where you would be willing to admit your child; all hospitals that take children within 2 hours are programmed into my phone. Call in advance when you can, because it stinks to drive several hours, wait in an ER, and then find that there are no beds. (When that happens, you will either need to wait for even more hours, go home, or be transferred elsewhere. What will you do?)

3. Know which ER feeds to which hospital system.

Not every hospital has a psychiatric emergency room, and emergency room is usually your best bet for admittance. (Ask for a psych eval when you enter.) If you prefer XYZ hospital, know which emergency room will get you there.

4. Know your options for getting to the hospital.

If you can get there under your own steam, do that. Do it. Police escorts and ambulance rides are not fun for anyone in the family, and there’s no guarantee that the people who arrive at your home will have any training in supporting people with mental illness. If you do need to call 911 for one of these things, be sure to say that you are calling in regards to a psychiatric emergency for someone with a documented mental illness.

5. Find out if your county has mobile crisis services.

Many counties do have mobile crisis type services but do not advertise it. Mobile crisis usually means that a social worker will be at your home within a certain amount of time to provide support. These people can sometimes help refer you to services in the community. Call your county’s mental health department and ask about it. Put their phone number in your list. In most areas of Virginia, there’s also a service called CrisisOne. It provides 8 hours daily, maybe more, of crisis intervention services to prevent out-of-home placements. We’ve found their supervisor to be very receptive to feedback as well.

6. Spend your money on a quality psychiatrist (if possible).

I know psychiatry is expensive. If you can, at all, pay for one who is more than just a prescription pusher. Shop around; interview them. Ask the psychiatrist what the availability and plan is for after-hours psychiatric emergencies. Do they have an on-call psychiatrist? Are they willing to give out their home/cell phone numbers for true emergencies? How often are they willing to see you? Our psychiatrist sees Little Man every week during psychiatric emergencies, and never goes more than 3 weeks in between appointments. For a child with serious mental illness, a 15 minute appointment every 2-3 months is not going to suffice. Bonus: A good psychiatrist may be able to get you admitted to the psychiatric hospital while avoiding the emergency room. They usually have to be willing to spend quite a bit of time on paperwork and the phone. It’s worth it. I know that’s not feasible for everyone, but it makes a huge difference to both avoiding hospitalization & getting admitted more effectively.

7. Talk to your doctor about PRN medication. 

With your pediatrician or psychiatrist’s consent, consider carrying a PRN medication with you. Benadryl can be more effective as a PRN for some of our kids than prescription PRN medication (usually antipsychotics or benzos). Have a plan for when a PRN will be used, and document its use. Note that this is not medical advice, and you should make no medical decisions without speaking to a medical professional who knows you & your child.

8. Make safety plans for every situation you can imagine.

A safety plan is exactly what it sounds like — a plan to keep everyone safe in a situation. When you have a child with serious mental illness, you need safety plans for road trips, for being at home with siblings, for being at home without siblings, for being at home with one parent, for being at home with both parents, for shopping trips, for restaurants, and so on. Some safety plans are all about prevention. Little Man is never allowed to have unsupervised time with animals, and his supervised time with animals is strictly limited. We have a safe room with loads of cat toys & furniture for our animals when he is in the home and awake. We have all sharps and medication locked at all times, even kid scissors. Other safety plans are “what to do in the moment”. For example, when Little Man begins to engage in property destruction, we immediately remove his sister to our bedroom & lock the door. When you can, go with prevention over reaction, clearly. Don’t just think these through in your head — discuss it with any other caregivers for your child.

9. Know who you can call for help.

Do you have family or friends that you can call? Will they assist with the child in crisis or with the child’s siblings? Do you have therapists that would be able to speak to your child on the phone and/or come to the house to help in a crisis? What order will you call them in? Do all caregivers for your child have those phone numbers? Are they posted around the house?

10. Be prepared for the hospital.

There are some simple things that you can do to help ensure the process goes a little bit smoother, like having your child’s insurance cards on you. Keep a list of your child’s current medications & supplements in your purse, along with a printed list of medical providers or therapists. The hospital will want all this information, and it’s way easier if you can just hand it to them. If you have time, pack 2-3 outfits. That’s usually all your child will be able to bring. When the doctor asks you about what happened, do not sugar coat, not one bit. They need to know the real deal in order to help your child & your family. If you cannot take the child back home safely, then you need to be clear about that with the medical team. Maintain this firm stance throughout treatment, and do not let insurance dictate your discharge date. Fight back. And, please — tell your child where you are going and why. Do not let the hospital become this surprise thing that happens when the kid is “bad”. That’s not going to build any trust in you, medical teams, or medication, all of which our kids need.

11. Remember the strengths and limitations of inpatient treatment.

Acute inpatient treatment is honestly not that therapeutic or structured, especially compared to quality therapeutic interventions that exist in the home or at the best residential treatment centers. They have a revolving door of patients, as well as high turnover of staff. Your child will often be seen by a variety of residents, rather than one psychiatrist who has known them for X number of years. They will be around children who are also in varying states of psychiatric distress. Do not expect the hospital to do much other than provide basic crisis stabilization services and medication management. Medication management is probably the strongest reason for hospitalization, as they are able to make rapid changes due to the 24/7 psychiatric nursing supervision, instant lab access, and so on. (Hospitals are often pretty honest that this is what they do — at least the good ones are.) It’s also a very sterile environment, which means that your child is not likely to be able to hurt themselves or someone else. And that’s a huge relief, when you have a child for whom you are very, very afraid.

Feel free to leave additional tips & suggestions in the comments! I would love to hear what has helped you avoid the hospital and/or make it a better experience. I’ll have to make another post about how to make hospitalization more effective for your child (and less scary for the whole family), coming soon.



There are no services.

I never thought I would see a situation that is worse than that of children with developmental disabilities in the state of Virginia. I have. It’s that of children and adults with mental illness in the state of Virginia (and many other states).

My husband and I are tired. We are exhausted. Little Man requires us to find ways to simultaneously keep him stimulated and regulated to avoid hour-long rages. We have to find ways to minimize his stress, or risk hallucinations and/or aggression. It’s fatiguing work. Worth it, because he is able to experience more joy. But fatiguing.

So we have been seeking out supports for our family, and finding out that it’s kind of a joke. He cannot qualify for most of the waivers here, because his developmental delays are at least partly attributable to his mental illness. It apparently does not matter that he functions like a 2-3 year old. It apparently does not matter that he is at a greater risk of out-of-home placement. It only matters what his current labels are. Little Man cannot participate in after-school and weekend activities with his typically developing peers, whether it’s gymnastics or swimming. It’s too much. The expectations are too high; the stress level is unbelievable. Yet most of the special activities & programs in the area are also tailored towards children with intellectual disabilities.  I can access services for my daughter who, though requiring lots of assistance, is not going to hurt herself. She is not going to hurt me. I cannot get help for him.

I finally just emailed the school and asked them if we can consider adding “intellectual disability” to his labels at his upcoming eligibility. I was frank and said that we are seeking outside services, which require this label. I figured that I had better odds with being honest. (I did also mention that his recent appointment with the developmental pediatrician expressed concerns that there were underlying cognitive deficits.)

Here’s the thing, though, world… Everyone should get help. Everyone should have a chance to live a fulfilling life. It shouldn’t be about labels, at all. We should say — what does this child need? Where is this family hurting? But, even if it can’t be like that, I think it’s even more important that these people who pose a danger to themselves and others be able to access services. If we help Little Man now, perhaps he can graduate, hold a job, live a fulfilling life. He can “pay back into” the system that helped him find his footing. If we don’t… I don’t want to think about what could happen.  


From denial to sadness to acceptance.

I read January First this week. It was so familiar, like a pair of clothes that I have been wearing for a year. The parts that horrify others are part of our normal, every day life. The holds, the screaming, the stares from strangers. Medication management, mood tracking, and frequent psychiatrist appointments. We have crisis lines to the local psychiatric hospitals posted on our refrigerator, and have the personal cell phone to our psychiatrist — just in case. It’s all part of our life.

Something about reading the book kicked me into acceptance. Until now, I had been alternating between denial and sadness. I hoped that this was “just” the trauma speaking, because Little Man has been through a lot of trauma. I hoped things would get better. Medications would be discontinued eventually. We would have happy holiday memories of decorating the house and trees. We would have touches of normality amidst the craze.

On other days, I felt very sad. I felt sad for Little Man, and sad for our family. I felt sad for the future that would not be. Little Man struggles significantly with mental illness. He is six years old, and has already spent 10 days for in-patient treatment at the local children’s psychiatric facility. He was released not because of stability or substantial improvements, but because his reactive attachment disorder and that he was starting to see his nurses as his family, undoing all the work of the past year. He now attends private school. He is the youngest child who has received private day school in our county, which is one of the 100 largest districts in the nation. He’s the youngest child in all four of the private day schools that we toured (likely covering 4-5 counties). He will never have “normal”. We will never have “normal”. We will lose friends and possibly family members. I already feel sad that I cannot really speak about Little Man’s challenges with the heartfelt honesty that would heal our hearts. Some people become scared. Some people tell us that if we tried this alternate therapy, if we tried this behavioral strategy, if we tried this diet, then everything would be okay. Some people minimize (because no one wants to think of a six year old having hallucinations or making death threats). Some people begin to see him as “other” and “less than”, which is my biggest fear and the largest reason that I don’t talk about much. We plan everything carefully, with escape routes. We learn to ignore the stares of strangers who likely believe that we are the cause of these meltdowns, that we should be “stricter”. We run into doctors who think the same. Stigma exists everywhere, and our lives are entwined with it.

Reading January First, I am starting to find acceptance, an acceptance still tinged with the blue edges of sadness. I don’t know that the sadness will ever go away. But — There are other children like Little Man. There are other families who face the same challenges, who spend much of their time working to create low-stress environments for their children. There are others who know the ache of loneliness and the fierce anger you feel at the unaccepting world. This helps ease the ache. Little Man will likely need medications forever. Little Man will never be “normal”, whatever the hell that means. I have no idea what Little Man’s future holds — high school graduation? College? Job? Relationships? I don’t know. I don’t know. I know that I love him, and will always love him. I can’t think about “what if” because the stories of adults with mental illness in this country can be so sad. (And it’s so not the adults’ fault. Our country sucks.) I live here, now, with him. I live in the moments of freeze tag, brushing back the hair from his forehead, or seeing his face light up when we hang our first twinkling lights in his room. And I live in the moments of screaming, of damage control, of crisis management and de-escalation strategies. I accept that we will always have to seek the moments of joy. We will never take them for granted.

In that way, there are gifts. There are gifts to seeing the fragility of happiness and life itself. There is a tiredness, but there is also a presence. We are here, with him, now. If we leave this moment, he will find ways to bring us back, rapidly. There is the gift of knowing him, which I would not take back, even if it meant that my life was calmer or quieter. There is the gift of connection and hope in finding other families who fight. I never realized how awful the stigma towards mental illness is in our country. I never realized how it affects every inch of someone’s life. We don’t talk about mental illness. We don’t talk about living with mental illness. At best, we watch it on reality TV and feel grateful that it doesn’t affect our lives. We judge, we shake our heads, and we go back to the comfort of our quiet lives and laughter. I don’t have that anymore. I don’t have the “blessing” of ignorance, and that is the biggest gift that I’ve been given.

January First also reminded me why I blog. It’s not to share tips and strategies. You can pick up any book with those. It’s to share life. It’s to share our life. I write to bring humanity back to mental illness. I write to lift the veils on others’ eyes. I write because this world will only be healed when we accept all shades of the rainbow, the stormy and the calm, the wild and the withdrawn. I will keep writing; I will keep fighting.


Sweet relief.

Twenty-four days ago, we had to pick up our Little Man from school at 10:00 in the morning. He was hiding under a desk in the office, shivering, and hallucinating that the lights were falling down on him. We had an emergency psychiatric appointment, repeated phone calls to our trauma therapist, and finally decided that, after five months of delaying, it was time to take LM to the hospital. My six year old was placed into a children’s psychiatric facility due to being an imminent danger to himself and others.

At first, the hospital seemed to think that LM was having a tantrum that I just couldn’t control. He’s just six, after all. We heard that over and over again in the first day or two. He’s so young, they said. The medications that I wanted to pursue were taken off the table (though I turned out right in the end) and we were reassured that the average stay is 3 days.

He stayed for 10.

We visited 3-4x each day. We spoke with therapists and doctors. We had alarming visits, where I had to call for help with my child, something that I’ve never done. I know what to do with my child. I know how to weather the storms of the day, to redirect the energy, to turn a three hour rage into a messy pile of giggles. We ate out, a lot, and went days without seeing our daughter much at all. We had IEP meetings and frantic emails, trying to determine where he would go when he was discharged since it was clear that his public school did not want him to return. We did this mostly on our own, with the help of a few close family members, because no one asks how your child is doing when they are having a break from reality. No one wants to hear about a six year old who is hallucinating. No one brings you dinners or offers to clean your house. (Well, except for my mom, who is, of course, amazing).

And then he was home. He was discharged with some improvement, but not as much as any of us would like. The dilemma is, of course, that he has reactive attachment disorder. Every day away from home was like cutting another one of the tiny threads that took months to build between us. So, he came home, somewhat ready. Relieved. We kept touring schools, fighting battles to get him the services he needs, and going to work, while also having a very fragile six year old at home every day. Our house is, understandably, a disaster. Our mental sanity not much better 😉 I’m glad. He needed that time with us. He needed the time to remind himself that this is home, this is family, and this is love. But it was hard. It was hard on all of us, individually, and together. It is hard to have your family’s life revolve around a very fragile little boy, as wonderful and sweet and charming as he is. It is hard to be wary of creating too much stress, of making the world too big, of pushing too hard too soon — while also knowing that you must push him some, for he has to grow and be challenged in the ways that we all must.

We’re tired.

Today, though, he started school. It feels like we are moving forward, like the frenzy of our first hospitalization (and I don’t kid myself… It is unlikely to be our last, though I’d love to be surprised!) is finally over. I’m so grateful to the hospital. It was the most reassuring and supportive experience that I could have imagined for such a troubling time. (He’s six!) But it feels good to be moving past it. We can close the chapter of that book and begin to pick up the pieces and help our child keep on his journey towards wholeness.