Why I Don’t Blog Anymore

Last night David asked me why I don’t blog anymore. I don’t have a great answer, but I suppose some sort of explanation might result in a blog post, so here goes.

My brain seems to have trouble staying focused long enough to string multiple paragraphs together coherently. It’s hard for me to determine the exact cause for the current state of my brain, but it has been a steady problem over the last couple years and three situational things could be the culprit: having a second child who is a lot of work, relearning life after a child’s cancer treatment, changing careers into something that requires quite a bit of creative energy.

Likely any of the above could be to blame. I’ve also had struggles with managing depression and anxiety over the last couple of years, and I was diagnosed with ADHD fairly recently. Finding the proper medication to manage these conditions has been a nightmare and I’ve mostly given up. I’ve thrown my hands up in the air and I’m just muddling through with subpar depression medication and zero ADHD medication. Which is exhausting.

Needless to say, I am thoroughly frustrated with life and the fact that I often can’t seem to get my words out (other than through a litany of complaints) doesn’t help. As David pointed out to me, though, writing is (was) my outlet and it seems to be a need for me. So even if this is a disjointed litany of complaints, it will at least be beneficial to me (hopefully).

If you’re reading this, thank you in advance for bearing with me through this.

Motherhood is Maddening

I don’t like being a mother. There, I said it. Don’t get me wrong: I love my kids. My heart bursts with love for them. I’m not sure who I would even be without them. I am grateful for their existence beyond anything.

But the role of motherhood is maddening. I am terrified of losing my kids, whether it be through cancer or some heinous crime like violence in schools or trickle down effects from an insane orange dictator. Fearing for your kids’ safety constantly is crazy-making.

Motherhood is exhausting. It is primarily up to me to monitor my kids’ food intake, to stay on top of their vaccines and appointments, to make decisions about schools and IEP goals and assessments and extra-curricular activities, to keep track of clothing they grow out of and replacements of said clothing. I know I should ask for help more often, but regarding that I point you to You Should’ve Asked.

Motherhood is staring your own failings in the face every day. Jack is struggling with depression and anxiety. Despite telling myself that he at least has a mom who gets it and can help him navigate it all, I am still constantly heartbroken over it. I am a contributing factor. I knew going into parenthood that there were risks and that mental health problems run in my family. I should be doing more to help him. He needs better therapy (Kaiser just doesn’t cut it) but I can’t seem to find the time or funds for it.

Even as I’m writing this, I’m telling myself, “You are only one person and you are doing your best. You love your kids and that’s what matters. You don’t have to be a perfect parent. Your kids will be fine regardless.” Even that adds to the crazy-making!

And let’s talk about my second-born for a moment. I struggle with him. He is highly active and into everything and doesn’t sleep. Since Dez has been born, it has become RARE for David and I to sleep in the same bed. Bedtime with Dez is long and drawn out and exhausting, often involving tears and anger and throwing things. It has gotten better, 3 and a half years in (at least he sleeps through the night most nights), but that is all relative. (Please, do not give advice on this. We have tried everything. EVERYTHING. EV.ERY.THING.)

Dez is the type of kid who will purposely do something after you told him not to. If you try to discipline him, he will laugh right in your face. He is a limit-tester and he gets away with too much because we are simply beaten down. We’ve taken him to two different events recently and each time only stayed an hour because it’s just too exhausting to manage him. Even when it goes well, we head out early because anything could happen.

Dez is also smart and sweet and funny, but damn! He is a tiny terror and has me completely relearning and questioning what it means to be a parent.

Being the Parent of a Cancer Survivor

While Jack is much easier than Dez in many respects, he clearly has his own challenges. Obviously, cancer is to blame for the biggest challenge of them all!

It’s been over 2 years since treatment ended and life has improved dramatically. Jack has had only 1 absence from school all year, a huge change from the years where he rarely made it to school a full week. He is rarely sick and when he does get a cold, he recovers more quickly than any of us. (Caveat: I still freak out inside when he does get sick or is feeling “off.” I’ll never get over the cancer diagnosis.)

But the fallout is rough. Mental health issues, learning disabilities, and a general feeling of being different from others around him. He is having quite the existential crisis and asking questions about the meaning of life much too early.

The needle phobia, on which we spent thousands of dollars on a therapist who specializes in exposure therapy for phobias, never fully went away and only got stronger after we quit therapy (partially due to finances but also due to having made significant progress).

We finally tried medication to try to address the needle phobia and steadily increasing anxiety, but that was disastrous. I knew that Jack had odd reactions to medications when he was on treatment, but those odd reactions have continued. One med meant to help with anxiety and ADHD instead made Jack extremely anxious and suicidal, and another had him falling asleep and nearly fainting at school.

We decided to that perhaps we would wait until he is older to try any other medications…

And finally, after over 6 months of torturous failed attempts to get a blood draw that left us all dejected, Jack’s oncologist said we could stop trying. That doesn’t eliminate the problem (he will need a blood draw at SOME point), but at least we’ve gotten a reprieve.

Now that we aren’t managing cancer treatment, we are managing school. In many a childhood cancer survivor’s case, that means things like special education through an IEP. Due to the timing of Jack’s cancer, we have no idea if he would have had these issues if it was not for the cancer. I try not to dwell on that thought much, but it creeps in from time to time.

We recently went through a triennial evaluation at Jack’s school where Jack was evaluated to determine whether services were still needed for him. This is routine for all IEP students, but it is still nerve-wracking for parents. It was suggested by the school psychologist that services may be reduced or taken away because Jack was doing so well (nevermind that he was failing at the beginning of the school year and the IEP is what keeps him afloat), so that was a big stressor. Finally the school psychologist changed her tune when she heard from Jack’s math teacher and his special ed teacher that he often gets overwhelmed in class and hides under his desk. In the end, we were able to keep all the resource hours in Jack’s IEP and the team added a weekly check-in with the school psychologist.

Based upon the fact that my child is getting overwhelmed and his response is to hide under a desk, combined with the atypical results in the educational assessments (along with the odd reactions to medications and a few other niggling things), I finally crawled out of my place under a rock and decided to get Jack assessed for Autism Spectrum Disorder. I have no idea what the results of this assessment will look like. I go back and forth on whether this is a giant waste of time, but in the end it’s good to at least rule it out, I guess? At least we’ll know whether Jack is just unique or if he has more significant neurological differences that aren’t explained by what we know so far.

Hence, Why I Don’t Blog Anymore

Between the overwhelming number of things to manage in life, the sensitivity of the topics I am addressing, and the sheer fatigue to overcome…is it any wonder I don’t blog anymore? It all comes out as emotional vomit.

I want to write, though. I am going to try, but I will make no promises. There’s a lot of living to be done.

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Drowning in December: A Depression Story

December feels like drowning. The chill in the air sucks at me, the gloom from a hidden sun suffocates me, and the weight of a million responsibilities pulls me down. I am sinking beneath it all.

I have been fighting this relapse of depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms for about a year as of this month. I’ve gotten to a functional place; I can work and take care of my kids reasonably well. Almost reasonably well. These are the things I’ve prioritized over everything else in my life out of necessity.

I look around at my house and see clutter; we are STILL cleaning up from Thanksgiving, in fact. I look at my backyard with the broken fence and my patio dotted with random pieces of rotting furniture. It’s all a reminder that I’m not keeping up with the day-to-day and it’s been building up and is even less manageable than it used to be. It’s a visual representation of the garbage in my brain that I can’t seem to clear out.

In the middle of my own struggles, Jack has mental health challenges, as well. The fallout from cancer is seemingly neverending. His last successful blood draw was over 6 months ago; he is long overdue. We have (and by that I really mean David has) made four attempts in the last month to get the draw at the lab, but Jack’s fear and panic have won out each time. He has had anxiety and depression, too. And so we are heading back to therapy this week, and adding a psychiatrist to the mix.

He’s 11. This is too much for an 11-year-old. Hell, I’m almost 37 and it’s too much for me.

As for me, there is nothing to be done but to keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep trying whatever medication cocktail my psychiatrist suggests, and keep focusing on the fact that I’m still IN IT but that I will float back to the top eventually.

Try not to sink. Try to swim. The surface is there; you just have to the find it.

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Helpful Books for Anxious Kids

Coming out on the other side of a life-threatening medical diagnosis and the ensuing treatment takes a lot of ingenuity and resources. We’ve run the gamete looking for ways to help Jack deal with anxiety and depression during and after his bout with cancer, including various types of therapy and a whole lot of books.

While there is no substitute for a good therapist (particularly if you are a worried parent who is also trying to deal), books are enormously helpful on a day-to-day basis. For the other parents out there dealing with anxious kids, I thought I would share some of the books that our family found helpful. Please note that the below photos contain Amazon affiliate links.

Story Books for Kids with Medical Challenges

Little Tree

Age Range: 4-8

Franklin Goes to the Hospital

Age Range: 3-8


Story Books to Help Children Deal with Emotions

Is a Worry Worrying You?

Age Range: 4-8

When I Feel… Series

Age Range: 4-8


Workbooks for Kids with Anxiety or Medical Challenges

My Feeling Better Workbook

Age Range: 6-12

What To Do When You Worry Too Much

Age Range: 7-12

Digging Deep Journal

Age Range: 12+ (Artistic kids and mature kids as young as 8-9 could do great with this, in my opinion)

Do you have recommendations to add? I would love to hear about more, particularly any books specifically for tweens and teens!


These books are helpful for anxious kids between the ages of 4-12 who are dealing with big emotions and medical-related anxiety.

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Doors

It happens at bedtime. Wild-eyed and almost vibrating with anxious energy, Jack zooms through the house. He sweeps down the hall and into his bedroom, from which I hear frantic murmurs. Moments later he zooms out again and I catch him up in my arms to steady him. I feel his heart beating rapidly in his chest.

I ask him what’s wrong.

“I don’t know. I don’t feel right. Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in a dream? Do you ever look in the mirror and feel like it’s not you looking back?”

Yes, I say. Many times.

He doesn’t really hear me. He disengages from my arms and zooms around the room again, first toward the kitchen, next toward the door. “Doors,” he mutters and reaches for the knob. I say no and he turns on his heel and makes a beeline for his bedroom again.

I follow. He sits in his desk chair and taps his fingers on the desk. His brown eyes fill with tears and dart around the room.

“My brain doesn’t feel right. I think I’m broken.”

He goes on to tell me that everything is boring. He says that fairytales are lies that are written to cope with the fact that there is no real magic in the world. He reads them and he feels hope and then reality returns: there is no magic, there are only lies. He will never have adventures. He will get up in the morning and eat his boring toast at the boring table and then go to boring school…it is all so awful.

His eyes meet mine and he pleads, “Is there something that can fix this?”

He says he worries about taking pills. He worries he is not meant to take pills, that he is meant for something that the pills will suppress.

Where did he get this idea, I wonder… How can a 10-year-old even possess this level of critical thinking?

“I don’t know how to fix this, Son, but I have ideas for what to do to help right now. You don’t have to figure it out on your own.”

First I give him headache medicine for the pounding in his head. Then we find a music station on his iPad, a soothing station of instrumental lullabies.

Draw, I tell him. Draw the monsters that are in your head right now. Draw and listen to the music and breathe while I make a cup of tea.

I come back with a steaming cup of minty tea and hold it under his nose, telling him to take a whiff. He does and then continues drawing.

He sketches twisted faces, pairs of eyes, a vortex, a banana tree. An instrumental version of “Hey Jude” plays while he draws. A calm settles over him.

“I’m feeling better,” he says. “I’m starting to forget the thoughts. I just need to draw this one last thing.”

He draws a door. “I kept seeing doors,” he explains as he puts his sketch pad aside.

We climb into his loft bed together, where he sips tea while I read to him. He is mostly back to his easy-going self by the time I tuck him in and say goodnight.

I breathe a deep sigh as I walk away from his bedroom door. I am bewildered. I don’t know what happened to my son this evening or why it happened, but we got through it together.

It is behind him, for now. It is my turn to cry.

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It’s A Hard-Knock Life (For Us Parents)

I have a migraine right now and my hip is fucking killing me. I would love to go to bed – I don’t even care that it’s not even 9pm on a Friday – but I can’t go to bed because Dez is trying to go to sleep in said bed and my presence is not conducive to him falling asleep.

This is parenthood. Sleep is like vacation to me – better, even, because it requires much less planning (and yet is no less elusive at times).

David and I are involved in a tag team effort at bedtime these days. I nurse Dez, then David steps in when Dez decides maybe he doesn’t want to go to sleep and tries to make a break for it. Daddy means business, though, and when he walks in the room, Dez knows his attempts at delaying bedtime are doomed.

Being the parent of a toddler is hard. I had forgotten just how hard. I guess that’s what happens when you wait eight years to have a second child! This little person who is most definitely his own little person and yet can’t do a damned thing for himself yet (except stuff too many yogurt melts in his mouth at one time) can make you question your choices in life, your sanity, and your self-worth. I had forgotten, but now I remember: I do not like the toddler years, Sam-I-Am.

Frankly, the pre-teen years aren’t seeming to be much better at this point. I’ve been meaning to write about all kinds of Jack-related things but it’s a big ball of complexity that I barely want to think about. The shortish version is this – he has been diagnosed with ADHD, dyscalculia (a math learning disability), and anxiety brought on by medical-related experiences. And in a year he goes back for more testing because the neuropsychologist isn’t sure she was able to get him all figured out.

At nearly the same time that we got the diagnoses and the rest of the results of the neuropsych testing, things at school got particularly bad. Jack and his teacher are at complete odds. It’s partly Jack’s fault and partly the teacher’s fault, and both of them are less than flexible people. We are working on Jack’s behavior, though I think we (and the teacher!) will just have to accept that Jack will have some bad days.

Therapy has been successful, though, so that’s a plus. Yay! I’ll take all the victories I can get.

Back to Dez…he’s a weird little fellow. He’s no longer that magical unicorn baby. He is vocal and can be clingy and so very quirky. He took his first unassisted steps a few days before Christmas, and then hasn’t walked since. He just goes around walking on his knees (which are now quite callused). He doesn’t say much, either. He has some words but very few that are clear. That doesn’t stop him from chatting, though. He talks a LOT – just not in English.

He also doesn’t sleep for shit. He is a terrible, no good, very bad sleeper. I think he must have gotten it from David because Jack and I both excel at sleeping!

He is a great eater, though. He’s got Jack beat on that!

So clearly we’re living a hectic existence right now. I know it won’t last forever and one day I will look back and miss the moments where Jack helps his brother walk around the living room or Dez snuggles up to me for midnight nursing sessions…but right now I am dreaming of peace and quiet.

Fewer headaches and a massage would be lovely, too.

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