As I write this there are still a couple more days left in August 2023 for things to go awry but I’m hoping I can close out this chapter of our extraordinary lives and move on into Fall with a bit less eventfulness. The month started off with a lot of genuine excitement which quickly descended into chaotic storms.
Here’s a list of what our family has dealt with this month:
Tad, my talented and geeky partner, started rehearsals for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sing with his beloved Baltimore Symphony Gamers Orchestra choir at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore. He was thrust into three weeks of several rehearsals a week which culminated in a singular performance on a mid-August Friday evening. What a joyful achievement we got to celebrate with him!
About the same time he began rehearsals, one of our special needs adults went off the rails with her stealing behaviors which necessitated putting new locks on three doors to rooms we go in and out of all day long.
This behavior kicked off the arduous process of acquiring the funding needed for her much-desired group home placement (I call this Hunger Games resourcing for good reason). We will be working through the paperwork slog on this for the next year or two.
Another joyous but time-consuming trek involved moving our son into his new dorm room on one campus, and moving another child into their first official crappy grad student apartment on the other side of the state. These happy occasions were tainted by a very uncomfortable exchange with an airbnb host who accused us of doing damage we could not possibly have done and ended with an offer to drop the issue in exchange for a 5 star rating.
My sweet partner’s job suddenly also went into extra mode and he - for the first time in about 15 years - was thrust into 11 hour days, and weekends on call. It could not have come at a worse time and created some real challenges with his rehearsal schedule and our family calendar.
We took our goofy dog Remy to the emergency vet to find out she had two tick-born diseases and her platelet count had tanked. Instead of slowly improving as the 2nd vet hoped would happen, she succumbed to nerve damage in her spine and yesterday we had to let her go on to her next adventure. I already miss seeing her laying in the sun spot behind her dad's work desk.
As if all that wasn’t enough, our county got hit by a big storm which took out electricity for 10s of thousands of people. Our home lost electricity for 3 days and 3 nights which meant no well pump so no water either. Providing water for our flock of ducks and chickens suddenly became a major affair. Now we were locking and unlocking all those doors all day and night long in the dark, nursing our ailing pup, and taking many trips to stores and friends’ houses for supplies and showers for our household of 9 people.
Our trusty generator (once it was repaired in the dark) carried the load of two refrigerators valiantly, but the outage still caused wide-scale damage to appliances and electric circuits after the electricity was restored. My poor husband had to nurse our oven, two standing freezers and two fridge/freezers back to life all while rewiring outlets in the kitchen and dining room, and continuing his crazy work schedule.
Somewhere along the way, my husband received a call from his mother informing him that his father would be having immediate brain surgery. Wanting to be as supportive as possible, he planned the 6 hour drive to Ohio for the surgery, but instead got caught in a web of confusing communications with his family. Update: His dad came through the surgery beautifully and is recovering well.
Our dear son’s ferret died suddenly and his same age sibling’s bearded dragon died as well. Both were beloved pets who provided important levels of emotional support for our teen boys who have now lost their dog as well.
We celebrate a lot of birthdays in the month of August and, while purchasing a rug for my parents for their birthdays, I got accosted by a man and woman couple in the parking lot of Ollie’s Outlet. My 86 year old mother was in the car when this man and his wife followed me across the parking lot screaming at me and calling me names and demanding the poor rattled store employee they drug outside with them, do something about *my* horrendous behavior.
Late last week, our 19 year old son called his dad from work reporting he had run his dad’s car into a fence. Our son and the fence, thankfully, are physically ok. The car is not.
Today there will be an emergency trip to the orthodontist the day before the braces were supposed to come off. Hopefully whatever is going on in her mouth has not undone the past two year's worth of orthodontia. This feels like a vain hope.
This week our four remaining homeschoolers are easing into their new school year. Finding a practitioner to prescribe meds and planning workable strategies for the 15 year old newly diagnosed with Autsim and ADHD is proving to be challenging - but at least this is a challenge we’ve met many times before.
In fact, most of these are challenges we’ve met before. We are no strangers to long work hours, car accidents, losing beloved pets, or navigating the systemic failures involved in group home placement,. Living in a rural area, we have weathered many an electrical outage. College kid transitions and homeschooling neuro-spciy kids are second nature to us.
The encounters with unbalanced people as we went about our lives were rather disconcerting but what challenged us most about all this was the rapid-fire rate at which each of these situations occurred and their need to be navigated simultaneously. Some of my family members are truly struggling.
When I first started writing this type of post, I wanted to document my own healing journey out of constant dissociation and into mindful presence.
Earlier today, I was thinking back to the landscape of dissociation I once occupied full-time. The first 35 or more years of my life were experienced through the lens of derealization and depersonalization. Even when I wasn’t experiencing that form of disconnection, my mind was fragmented into dissociated parts that were constantly buzzing with communications amongst themselves.
Slowly I learned to tune into the present moment without leaving my body behind or seeing the world around me as untethered to reality. I learned to settle those voices into a comfortable conversation instead of a series of raging inner monologues. And as that happened, I noticed that life became more manageable. Relationships became more stable and meaningful. My children delighted and challenged me with their creative and active banter. And I felt safe in my own body.
Before all that growth, though, I realize that I would not have made it through a month like August 2023 OK. I would have been alternating between raging at the world and shutting down. I would have been throwing out blame like candy, and trampling relationships on my way out the slamming doors I would have been leaving in my wake. I would have been a terrified and terrorizing mess.
But this is now - after the growth - in the midst of emerging into my fully wizened hippie crone self. And right now I am OK. I still haven’t perfected it all but I have perspective. I’m pendulating between the necessary mini-shutdowns and the presence to check in with my beloveds and make sure we’re all making it through this together. I’m finding joy in the achievements, acceptance in the things we cannot change, and making time for grief.
August 2023, you’ve been a challenge. And I am OK.
If you are navigating life in a dissociative haze due to early childhood trauma, I've been there and I get it. Please reach out if you'd like companionship on the journey past your trauma and into mindful growth.