When My Son With Autism Befriended His Bully

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There was a lot of good that happened to my son, Brock, in his first year of public school, but there was also something happening to my son that is a fear for all parents. My son was getting bullied. Brock made some really good friends in kindergarten, but outside of school, he was going through something I’ve feared for a very long time. A neighbor boy who is a few years older was bullying him.

It started one day at the end of winter. Brock was playing football with all the neighborhood kids. I was sitting on the sidelines reading a book when I ran into my house quickly. When I came out, I heard something that made my heart drop. I heard this child mocking the way my son ran. Brock has some developmental delays and part of that causes his legs to turn out and his knees to turn in when he runs. It would be very noticeable for someone who hasn’t been around my child much. So when I heard this child yell really loudly, “Look at Brock running, what are you retarded or something?” the tears instantly came to my eyes. I walked up to Brock, who had also started crying at that point, grabbed his hand and walked away. I had a million things I wanted to say to that child, but my first priority was my son.

I held Brock for a long time that night while he was crying, and he said something to me that completely shattered my heart. He said, “Why do I run so funny, Momma? Please help me be the best runner ever.” Thus started our daily runs.

Over the course of the next few months, the bullying didn’t subside; the teasing got worse. I saw my child turn into himself more and pull away from all the people who cared about him. Every morning before Brock got on the bus, we’d always say our “I love you’s” and pat each other’s backs (it’s Brock’s sign of affection). If for some reason he’d forget when the bus pulled up, he would either run back or yell, “I love you, don’t forget that.”

One morning when the bus pulled up, I bent down to his level to pat his back and say I love you. The meanest look I’ve ever seen crossed my son’s face. He said, “Don’t touch me. I’m not a baby anymore.” I was completely taken aback. I said to Brock, “I show you affection because I love you. Did someone say something to you about it?” He replied in the affirmative and said the neighbor boy called him a “momma’s boy baby.”

After the months of teasing, and later learning was he was also tripping and pushing my son, he came home one day with marker covering half of his white-blonde hair. I decided it was time to have a talk with the child’s father. Some may ask why I didn’t do it sooner, and but when I did talk to the father, he laughed in my face and said something along the lines of “That’s my boy.” He is a person I’m not very comfortable around.

I had some talks with Brock as well and told him to ignore him, and I started driving Brock both ways to school. He was much happier, and anytime the neighbor boy came to the door and asked to play with Brock, I’d decline for him.

That all changed this summer when I bought a pool for Brock and the child asked if he could play, too. I told him, “I’m sorry, but under the circumstances I’m going to have to say no.” So when Brock said, “Just let him, Mom,” I was surprised. When I asked Brock why, he said, “You always say to be nice to everyone and that wasn’t very nice.” I asked Brock if that’s what he really wanted and he said yes. I looked to the neighbor boy who had been the cause of so much pain in my house and said, “The first time you say one mean word, put your hand on or tease my son in any way, you’re out.” He promised he wouldn’t.

So this is how an unlikely friendship started. Every time he’d come to my door and ask to play, I would be right there. I did that for a whole month until Brock asked if I could basically back off a bit. So I did. Sort of. During one of their times playing together, and my times eavesdropping, I even heard an apology. My son said to him, “It’s OK, don’t do it again. Everyone needs a friend.”

The child who was bullying my son doesn’t have the best home life. He in turn lashed out at my son. They aren’t the best of friends, but they do get along now. My son taught me a lesson through his kindness: Yes, everyone deserves a friend. Or a safe place. After seeing how truly happy my son is, the boy who was bullying him wanted a part of that, too. Not everyone can make amends with their bully, but sometimes being the bigger person helps. Brock could have told him, “No, you can’t play with me,” and that would’ve been understandable. Instead, he took the high road and extended a branch.

Everyone has a story, and we don’t always know what goes on behind closed doors. But we can put aside our differences and be there for someone who really needs it. Even when we don’t want to be.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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How Watching My Mother Slip Into Depression Helped Me Face My Own

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I’ve heard people say depression is a phase everyone goes through.

For my mother, it was a life-long ordeal. She tried to hide it. She tried to pretend it wasn’t there. She tried to shut off the idea she even had it. For a while she thrived, but then she was triggered. For her, this meant her hard work at fighting off the fog meant nothing, and the darkness of depression returned. She sank back into her shell as if the light at the end of the tunnel had faded. She lived there, in the darkness, and it seemed like there was no way out. 

But my mother fought a decent fight for a long time.

She built a life, a family and a home with my father.

For a while, she thrived in her career and as a wife and mother.

She refused to accept the darkness would return.

But when it did, she wasn’t ready. She fell deep into herself, never to return. It was her mother’s death that did it. Even with family around her, she never found her way back out of it.

I was triggered into depression my late adolescent years, then again in my early teens, then again in my late teens, but I fought it. I knew I could beat it if I could just make myself healthy. I knew I wouldn’t go down the same dark path as her. I tried everything. I wrote poetry and stories. I exercised. I sang. I tried yoga and paintball, took up more new hobbies and spoke to counselors, close friends and family. I pushed, pushed, pushed the depression away as hard as I could. I saw myself as strong and capable conquering everything.

By the fourth time I was triggered into depression, my mother was out on mental disability. We weren’t speaking, but my brother told me she was suicidal and hospitalized for her anxiety and depression more than once. Her entire life had turned upside down, and the life and love that had once surrounded her had depleted, leaving her alone and drowning in her sadness. Looking at my mother and how she ended up, I was absolutely terrified.

So by the fourth time I was triggered, I realized if I didn’t do something to fight off my depression for good, I’d be fighting this exhausting fight for the rest of my life. It wasn’t just me being sad or “going through a phase.” This fight was biological and hereditary, and there wasn’t enough serotonin in my brain to keep me consistently happy forever. I didn’t want to follow the same path I watched my mother go down.

Carrying the knowledge I had tried all I could, I went to a doctor.

But I didn’t just go for me.

I went for the woman who lost everything to this horrible disease. Who pushed her husband to divorce and alienated both her children in her pain, rendering her completely alone.

But most of all, I went for the little girl who lost her mother, who didn’t understand it wasn’t her fault and who kept quiet because she didn’t want anyone else to feel her pain. 

Today, I’m not keeping quiet. It’s been about two weeks since I took that big step to get the medication I need to keep the darkness away permanently.

With help, I learned to live again. I realized I’d been missing out on so much in life. The fog cleared, and my perspective on how happiness could be obtained and kept was a feeling I never imagined I’d have.

I also learned depression is not anyone’s fault, but a biological and chemical error that sometimes we can’t fix on our own.

We’re often taught depression is just a phase or something we should be ashamed of, but it’s not. Only when we speak up about it can we get the help we all completely deserve.

Follow this journey on The Moments In Between.

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Hugh Jackman Surprises Wolverine Fan With Cystic Fibrosis in an Epic Way

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Domenic, 9, from Australia, is a huge fan of actor Hugh Jackman and the character he plays in the X-Men movies, Wolverine.

Domenic was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was a newborn, according to the YouTube video below. Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and progressively limits the ability to breathe, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

With the help of the Make-A-Wish foundation, Domenic made a visit to Australian radio station KIIS 1065 where he got to speak to Jackman on the phone. What the little fan didn’t know was that Jackman was actually just in the other room. The smile on Domenic’s face when Wolverine himself bursts in is priceless.

Watch the video below for the whole interaction: 

h/t HuffPost Good News

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To the Anonymous Donor Behind My Marrow Transplant

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On February 10, 2011, with one phone call I became a terminal cancer patient. The hematologist told me I had Ph+ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia), a rare and aggressive blood cancer. He said that, left untreated, it typically kills adults within weeks.

I was hospitalized and endured the first of what would be a possible eight rounds of intensive, round-the-clock chemotherapy sessions running eight to 10 days each. By April, I was in remission. But to defy the odds to live beyond the eight chemo rounds, I needed a donor for a marrow transplant.

After four rounds, still no donor. I went to yet another clinic visit with Dr. Anthony Stein, my hematologist-oncologist at City of Hope in Duarte, California. With a half-grin on his face, he shared the news that the care team had found an anonymous, matched donor! I did a little Snoopy dance and was speechlessly happy.

The program allowed me to write a thank you card to my donor. To keep the procedure anonymous, I could not reveal my identity or location or that of City of Hope. Here is what I wrote.

To my donor:

Thank you for your kindheartedness in placing yourself on the donor registry. Though you may shrug it off for the slight inconvenience of a cheek swab, you were thoughtful enough to see beyond yourself to those, like me, who might be in need.

Thank you for your patience as you went through the tests in preparation for donation. I hope that the workups, from blood tests to cardio tests, were a novelty that you can merely log in your memory.

Thank you for your bravery in donating a tiny bit of yourself to save me. I recognize that you may feel some discomfort for several weeks, that you may have to take time off work, all for someone you’ve never met. So let me introduce myself.

I’m a 39-year-old wife, mother, editor (on leave) and yoga teacher (on leave again). My husband of nine years and I were raising our beautiful 12-month-old boy, making a happy home, having a quiet life, until Thursday, February 10, 2011. That was the day I received my diagnosis that I have Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphocytic leukemia (Ph+ALL). Everything about our world turned upside after that. I was hospitalized the following Monday, Valentine’s Day, to begin chemotherapy near our home. I went through two rounds during six weeks, and I waited for the day I could feel a breeze on my face again. That time came when my husband and I relocated our family so that I could receive treatment at a cancer center of excellence. I’ve now gone through three more rounds of chemo (out of a possible eight). Thankfully, my doctor releases me from the hospital between rounds so that I can be with my guys and breathe in the fresh air.

I’ll be turning the big 4-0 the day I receive your donated stem cells, and I want you to know that your gift is going to be the best present ever! I will make every effort to treasure every extra day that you will have granted me, rejoicing in being with family and friends, and trying to do good in the world.

Thank you,

Your recipient

This story is an adapted excerpt from my memoir, “Every Breath Is a Gift: Reflections on My Leukemia Journey.” For more information, please go to www.ErinMichaelaSweeney.com or email to [email protected]

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Write a thank you letter to someone you realize you don’t thank enough. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When a Barber Fulfilled His Promise to My Son With Autism and Me

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Back in May, I wrote about my son Michael’s barber, Freddy. I had jokingly but sort of seriously said that I would fly Freddy back and forth from New Jersey to Virginia after we moved just to cut Michael’s hair, if I had unlimited funds. Freddy read that post, and it touched him. He made the amazing offer to me that when we moved, he would drive to Virginia to cut Michael’s hair. I was absolutely stunned and speechless at such an generous gesture.

Sometimes people say things they will do just as a kind gesture. Even if they never follow through, the fact that they offered is a lot to be thankful for. Freddy did follow through.

Freddy and his wife, Chaquira, made the trip from New Jersey to fulfill the promise he made to us. This was after he worked in his shop all day until 8:30 p.m. They left New Jersey at 9:30 p.m. They drove all night and arrived here in Virginia at 5 a.m. They slept for a few hours, and then he texted me saying he would be here when I wanted because his day was dedicated to us.

When they got here, my husband, Jason, gave them a tour of our new home. Then Freddy got down to business. Even though the venue changed and he was cutting Michael’s hair in my backyard, nothing else changed. There were lots of laughs. Michael made sure to remind Freddy to not cut his ears off. That is a reminder Freddy gets every time from Michael, from day one. And he sat, as he has from their first meeting, and let Freddy cut his hair.

Of course, no cut with Freddy would be complete without a spray paint of color. That is Michael’s favorite part, and Freddy didn’t disappoint. My daughter, Jordan, also got into the act this time as well. Orange hair for all!

Freddy said something a few weeks back on one of my Facebook posts that really hit home with me. Freddy, I hope you don’t mind, but I’m sharing it here.

He said:

“Some clients are clients, some clients become friends, some clients become family. I thank God I had the opportunity to meet Joan Leigh Flores and her family and gratefully consider them part of mine.”

Freddy, my friend, my family: I have said it before. No words can properly express my gratitude for what you have done. You are one of kind, you are generous, you are amazing and I am forever grateful that our paths crossed.

Follow this journey on This Ausome Family.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe a moment you gave or received a gift that touched your life in a special way. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Should I Become a Parent If I Live With Chronic Pain?

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I never thought this question would require pondering. Up until the past year or so, I was pretty confident that I wanted to be a parent, and more specifically, that I wanted to bake my own, give birth and send a bundle of my genes out into the world with my heart tied around its ankle. I thought I’d be pretty good at it and that it would make my life more full in a good way, not to mention increasing my chances of having visitors when I’m old and decrepit.

Now I’m not so sure.

I don’t need to tell most of you that chronic pain is a life changer. As demonstrated by my treatment plan, managing it well usually means adjusting every corner of daily life, from seemingly innocuous things such as going to bed at the same time every night to major things like navigating a whole new career path. This is just another decision in a billion that I will make while living with chronic pain, and one that I am incredibly fortunate to make. But it’s still a hard one because, infuriatingly, there is probably no right answer. So naturally, a pros and cons list will be required.

Pros:

1. I know a few folks with chronic pain who are also top-notch parents, both single and partnered, and I firmly believe that excellent parenting and chronic pain are not incompatible. This is reinforced by the oodles of blogs out there that chronicle the lives of some pretty badass, determined and loving parents with chronic pain who find endlessly creative ways to manage family life when pain limits their abilities.

2. Not only do many parents with chronic pain do a fine job, they sometimes claim that the joy of little ones helps to get them through some of the roughest times.

3. I am of the mind that “it takes a village” and am fairly confident that I could organize friends and family who would be willing and able to help out so that not all the responsibility would fall to my partner on major pain days.

4. Life is unpredictable, and abilities change. Even if I were making this decision without chronic pain, my health would be no guarantee. Because  sh** happens, having a parent with an invisible disability would probably be a learning opportunity on many levels.

5. Despite the potential tribulations, I can’t imagine ever regretting the decision to become a parent, whereas I can imagine regretting the decision to abstain.

Cons:

1. I feel as if my plate is very full already with doing my job and taking care of myself, and I can barely commit to the responsibility of feeding a friend’s cat, let alone carting kids somewhere on any given day. Having to cancel plans due to pain already feels crappy. I am guessing that having to cancel a child’s plans due to pain would feel even worse.

2. In the imagined scenario where friends and family help out more than in the traditional nuclear family, I may not be able to return the favor, at least not by giving my own physical energy, and would really be quite dependent on the generosity of others. I’m not sure how I would avoid/deal with the guilt around this.

3. Parenting would likely mess up my treatment plan pretty often. Lack of sleep and noise levels in particular are two of my biggest triggers. A kid might mean worse pain more often, which usually means a tougher fight with depression. And while I know healing is not linear, that would just be hard.

4. Migraine is thought to be passed on genetically, according to a New York Times article. If I baked my own kidlet and they ended up struggling with migraine, I suspect that would also be very hard.

Lucky for me, while this topic might feel heavier some days than others, I’m in no rush to decide and neither is my partner. My biological clock has taken a break from cats-turning-into-baby dreams, and having come into an agreement with my incredibly demanding, change-despising body, I’m open to the idea of adopting later in life. For others, despite recent debunking of the dramatized “fertility cliff” of 35, I know the ticking of the clock is still a source of constant worry.

People with chronic pain who are parents, parents-to-be, undecided and decidedly childless, what are you thoughts? What pros/cons have I missed?

Anna Eidt the mighty.3-002

Follow this journey on Migrainebrainstorm.com.

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