Get down? or Get back on track?: Depression nearly got me

Yesterday felt like the lowest of the low kind of days. I felt like it simply took EVERYTHING inside of me just to get out of keep going…to keep working towards getting T help in school…

All parts of me felt on the verge of hiding under the covers and simply going back to sleep, avoiding the challenges we have been facing for a simpler, quieter, easier kind of day.

Was I depressed? Absolutely. Is this depression…I don’t think so. But easily see how if I were to give in to that desire to stop ,it could easily be there in a heartbeat.

As a family, we’re exhausted…we’ve been working with the school board in trying to find a solution to support our son in school. It’s been incredibly draining and the amount of meetings/emails/conversations we have had about it has us living in survival mode to just get through each day. We are continuing to advocate for T and won’t stop… but its taking every piece of energy we have.

Add that to the fact that I have been injured over the summer, have hardly exercised and ballooned in weight because of it. I just hit a wall. I started seriously questioning whether I needed to consider going to see someone professionally by mid afternoon??

But then we had an Autism Meetup last night. A group we started to support Parents in the city of Toronto who want to look at different ways to manage through Autism, look to each other for support, get advice on different solutions and talk through the victories and challenges we have.

It helped. But this morning helped even more.

I decided I can’t let this get to me. I know we have to keep fighting and I need to keep energy high to take care of our life. I need to be there to support our kids as they begin the school year, my husband, who is writing the most well-articulated letters to anyone and everyone willing (or not willing) to listen and my business, that I need to keep going in order to maintain the flexible schedule we need to access therapies/resources for T throughout the day.

I decided to try to go for a run…and then someone woke up early and agreed to come for a run with me. T…agreeing to come along if he could run in his pajamas.

Sometimes we need a little reminder what we’re fighting for

We raced…full force…fast…as hard as we could…and I remembered why I started running in the first place.

Running helped me work through the diagnosis of ASD, helped me gear up for the fight and I realized that I REALLY need that element in my life to stay sane.

I might not be as fast as I was awhile back, but I’m back.

Warning: Acting like you’re 17 can have adverse affects on your health

So I thought I was being wimpy.

We had bought this boat to rediscover the hubs and I’s love for watersports and felt it was that time to get the kids engaged in a whole new different world at the cottage. I grew up waterskiing every weekend and couldn’t WAIT to get back out on skis. So we dropped the boat in on May Long Weekend and I braved the water temp to enjoy one of my favorite feelings of all time..the tug of the boat, the speed, jumping across wakes and going slalom…ahem…wait…did you say slalom?….Did I forget the fact that I haven’t skied in nearly 15 years…??

N and her fave part of summer. Getting thrown in the lake

As I got up on 2 skis, my arrogance  and adventurous nature of youth came careening back into my soul and I somehow forgot that I am living in a 37 year old body and instead felt like I was about 17 again. Not a problem unless that exaggerated sense of competence leads you to believe that you should drop one ski the first time out in said 15 years…so as I come sailing by the dock I think, “I can do this!!”  and promptly loosen out of one of my skis…and then promptly have one of the wickedest falls of my entire waterskiing history. 🙁

I felt a slight ache in the back of my leg but didn’t pay much heed to it until we went tubing later on…crashed (in a fun, “OMG I feel like I’m 17 again”, weeeee kind of way!) and hit the same spot on my leg.

That was May 24 and when I started out running the next week to maintain our training schedule for our next half, I just couldn’t do it. Everything about my leg felt sore and painful. I talked to my physio, went to massage and Active release therapy and nothing was fixing it. I just stopped running. Even walking or sitting in a chair was enough of a trial that I realized I had tweaked it somehow and needed to give it rest.

But here’s the problem with summer…with summer comes fun, food, drinks and parties…missing out on the exercise that counteracts all that fun gains you back the pounds shed over the last year and a bit. We all know it’s a cycle, you are either on the healthy train or you’re off and with this injury I fell off…and how! I ultimately went for an ultrasound on my leg and discovered I have torn my hamstring in two places. What does that mean? 8-12 weeks of recovery and physio to get it back in working order. I am starting to come to terms that the half I had planned is not going to happen but what I NEED to do is get back on the train.

So today I went out for my first run this morning since the week after May Long. I accomplished 2.5km…

At first I thought..2.5k? Yuck! I’m starting all over again. And then I realized..”Hey, I’m starting all over again…if that’s what it takes, that’s what I’ll do as long as I am doing!”

The other thing I realized is that part of why I haven’t been writing on the blog is because running always helped me decompress, sort out my thoughts and decide what I wanted to write about. Without that outlet, I really feel like I have been lost these past two months.

I have bought my ticket and I am getting on the train (I look at it that I was temporarily in the station). The journey feels like it will be longer this time but look forward to what’s next in the adventure.

Magnum, our friends dog getting the most out of the boat

A much needed TIME OUT to keep in the game

Let’s be honest. June knocked the wind out of my sails.

My resolve got knocked down, my heart ached, my dukes down in the fight. This is how it started…

Part 1: An autism conference where I realized how still very far away they are from really understanding Autism, how to treat it, and really concrete ideas on managing through it. But I also felt like my heart had been given hope and crushed at the same time as we learned more about  just how much of a fight this will be in T’s growing up..Abundantly clear thanks to an endearing dialogue between The Thomas’ a mother, Sandy and her 22-year-old son, Dylan as they candidly talked about their perspectives on what it was like growing up with Autism. Bottom line..”it will break your heart, it won’t be easy, but you’ll get through…”

Part 2: A series of “showcased” events (School dance, year-end shows, school field trip) in which it became fairly obvious that people I assumed “got it” were not exactly sure how to treat or address Autism as a normal part of daily life. One instance was the school trip in which I got the impression they thought T would  “dart” …we were on a farm..I volunteered that day but instead of including the two ASD kids in with the regular group and asking us to be active observers, we were kept separate along with the other Autistic boy in class and his mother, keeping the most important challenge of Autism, socialization the missing link on that adventure. Another moment was when he was set to the side at the dance,  that “joining in” to the rest of his class would get him too excited.  The last at a year-end recital for dance (we do Tap with him cause he loves the impact), I couldn’t help but cry because he was actually doing the routine (slower-about a 5 second delay) but he was doing it, and enjoying it and we were so friggin proud! and then…he just checked out…went off to his own planet halfway into the second routine and I started crying for a different reason…I was crying because I just wanted him to come back.. to be part of the moment…to be proud of what he accomplished…to be there.

Part 3: Where we are told that the Toronto District School Board does not have enough funding to provide an SNA (Special Needs Assistant) for T (and many others) next year and that we now need to fight our way up the ladder, become the squeaky wheel, do whatever is necessary to try to facilitate support for our son in the school system.

Part 4: Friends started asking how it was going, how T was doing, how our family was doing. I struggle often talking about Autism (except ironically online) because I don’t want it to consume our life. I don’t want it to be the only thing people think of when they look at T and yet, I want it to be a comfortable piece of conversation that is shared between our friends and family. I started to say something but couldn’t get the words out without that evil lump in my throat showing up. I’m not exactly sure why I started sobbing except that my energy felt it had hit an exhaustion point and my  heart-felt that it was physically aching. I said I was worried. That I felt like I wasn’t sure we were doing enough, that I hated thinking about how hard he might have in trying to connect with people growing up, worry about him, our daughter and making sure she is fairly and evenly cared husband that he’s doing ok (as much as we talk, he still has taken on the role of guardian, papa bear to us all). We have amazing friends..but I didn’t realize how amazing until we started talking and they just let me talk…and gently asked questions and reassured me that we were doing everything we could to help T and support his success.

Strength in your relationship will give you the energy you need

And this is how the month ended…My parents came to town and let us get up to the cottage on our own. I sincerely think this saved my bacon. After reading an article in the early days of ASD that quoted parents of special needs were 80% more likely to divorce, I have been a big believer that it is essential to keep your relationship strong in helping manage through Autism. This trip time gave us the chance to regroup, to reconnect, to talk, to laugh and to remember why it was we got married in the first place.

We came home stronger, moving on and ready for July..refreshed and optimistic. We will all have those roller coaster times but this part of the ride I want to stay on for a long time.

The journey through Autism isn’t always easy

Last week I attended an Autism conference by KidsAbility in Waterloo and had the privilege of listening to a very honest, heartwarming and heartbreaking dialogue between Dylan Thomas (a 22 year old U of W student with Aspergers) and his mother, each describing their point of view of what it was like growing up with Autism. The closeness of their relationship as mother and son as well as their unique perspectives gave me moments of laughing my ass off with Dylan’s straight shooter depiction of thinking of people as animals to that large lump that gets in your throat as his mom described the constant challenges they faced in navigating the school system on Dylan’s behalf.

That presentation as amazing as it was, somehow turned me into a sobbing mess on the way home, an ache in my heart that felt so heavy as I thought about the road ahead and what we might have to face as T grows up.

That was Friday and it somehow opened the floodgates for the weekend as my most amazing husband sent me off to the cottage with the girls to regroup, relax and reconnect with lovely ladies I hadn’t had a chance to catch up with for quite a while. These are beautiful friends, women that I know very well, enjoy their senses of humour, and can easily talk about anything. Yet I found myself, worn out from a fairly exhausting month of work, unable to prevent the crack in my voice and the floodgates to open when we were having a simple conversation about Autism. I’m not sure if it’s that I don’t want to talk about it in case in starts to ostracize people or if I don’t like talking about it because I don’t want it to define who T is and who we are. I surprised myself by admitting that anyone who gives me that sympathetic, “I’m sorry” head tilt, I want to slap and I find myself putting the word “Autism” out there as almost a dare for anyone to react in a way that is anything different from normal.

T is doing really well right now. He is engaging in social conversation, he is doing way better at looking people in the eyes, his frustration freak outs are almost non-existent. He is doing well because we are working hard at managing a household that works for Autism. We go to Speech Path weekly, we practice at home, we work with his teachers, we know what sets him off and create plans that don’t contribute to those ugly moments.

No one ever said the road would be straight…

But he still has Autism.

He still has repetitive behaviours, over-stimulation issues, sound and texture sensitivities, communication and social challenges.

We always try to take a very positive approach to this journey but I have to admit, after a month of school field trips, volunteering in the classroom, school dance, and most recently an end of year performance where the kids go to dance, we are emotionally exhausted. Every time we go to one of these events, my heart is FULL of love for our little guy..we feel so incredibly proud of what he has achieved. But there is a part of me that is really sad…sad when he checks out into his own world in the middle of a performance, sad that kids aren’t connecting to him in school activities, sad that he is left out…sad because we can’t make a difference in those moments.

I know this just a moment in his life but its one I wish we could speed through and get to the other side.

After hearing the Thomas’ story, it seems like the road is a long one.

23 Years Later and I finally finished what I started..

It took 23 years to get there but I finally finished what I started.

I am pleased as punch to report that I passed my Bronze Medallion final exam yesterday and received the elusive Bronze badge and medal that I had originally started going for when I was 13 years old.

and now the question I have gotten ALL the time?

WHAT possessed you to go and sign up for a class where you are older than even the teacher by 20 years, get to hang with the 11-14 yr old/pre-pubescent, like “Oh my GOD, he’s sooooooooooooo cute” set, force yourself to accomplish endurance tests that aren’t necessary and receive a qualification that would only be good if I suddenly decided to change careers, channel by inner Baywatch star and become a lifeguard?

3 Reasons

1) Because I had quit…when I was a kid and it really has lurked in the back of my mind for this many years and I wanted to show my kids that regardless of the time it takes, it’s always worth finishing what you started.

2) Because I am continuing my quest to show my kids healthy living and next on my to do list is a Try Triathalon and the Ottawa Army Run in late September, so working towards endurance in the water fits perfectly in my training plans

3) Because I have this silly list…a plan of things I was going to scratch off before I hit’s not 40 that’s the issue (at one time, I wasn’t sure I would get past 29 with the kind of adventures I was having!) It’s the list..Of things I really want to do…to take life fully by the horns and live every day as fully as I can. I have scratched a few so far- motorcycle license, bungee jumping, zip lining, parasailing, scuba diving, surfing, Italy, Spain and as of yesterday, my Bronze Medallion.

The catch is, I have a TON more on my list and find with having kids that my nerves of steel are starting to get a lot more like rubber..torn between making smart decisions that won’t put any of us at risk, and wanting to lead by example to my children to go for the adventure, do something that scares you every day, take the bull by the horns. I want them to go after what they want. To work hard and reap the rewards. To never believe that they can’t do something. If I can get that through to them, it’s one of the most important lessons I can pass on.

I’m not sure which adventure the list will take me next but I can honestly say…its something already starting to percolate in my head.

How training,hard ass coaches and mantras helped me finish the race

We did it.

Half Marathon Start lineEven with a case of monster shin splints and a cold day of…I am proud to say I accomplished my second half marathon in a time of 2:07.

This was the first time we had trained with the Running Room in terms of the half and man! was it ever different than when we did it on our own.

On our own, we did most of our runs in the am..pushing each other to get up every one of those mornings to go forth and run. We ran into a few issues…our backs each gave out at one point in time or the other, I totally had visions of a serial killer stalking us in the park when we ran at 6am, heavy heat and humidity left us in dire need of cold showers as soon as we got back in and we compromised on distance, pace, and amount of runs per week. Our first half was in October and we finished in 2:12.

This time, we decided it was worthwhile following an official running program and training with an organized group. Our group leader was Stephen. Hard ass, no mercy..Stephen’s focus was about being supportive in that military kind of way and pushing you to get to your personal best. There was no “compromise” with him. Instead, he would drill into us that if we did not believe that we could accomplish our goals, then it was only our own heads getting in the way. Stephen is somewhere in his 60’s and just ran the Boston Marathon. If there was someone I have met recently who simply commands respect its him…and as much as he would yell at us to keep going and work hard, it was because he really wanted us to be proud of the training we did to get there.

The half we chose to do this time was filled with sweetness as the Mississauga Marathon was the very first 5k run we did last year and we were coming back to do the half.

We felt nervous but ready…a bit unsure of where our time would net out but focused on trying to run our own race. (A couple of days before we started debating heading to 12:1 or 15:1 Run/Walks…in the end, we agreed “why would we invent a new program when we have been training with 10:1 and that has suited us perfectly).We ran together to the 16k mark at which point, my running partner Jen went on ahead. I started slowing up a bit and feeling the aches of the shin splint and ankles I had been working so hard to avoid the previous 3 weeks. By 20k, I was chanting my mantra (the list of kids names I know who are managing through Autism- when I get into challenges, I keep thinking if they are expected to fight through everything they will have to, I should be able to get through a stupid run) Tired and Sore, I debated if it was worth just walking to the finish line?

And then my brilliant, most amazing, most outstanding husband did something utterly perfect. He set up our two very loud and very proud kiddos at the last km mark to get me through to the end.  It did just that. They cheered, I teared and came in to the final stretch strong and so happy to have achieved my personal best (So far!)

I thought this would be a one time shot. To scratch off my bucket list and keep heading to new adventures.

Who knew that this might actually be becoming a habit? and one that I am really starting to enjoy…:)


Trying to talk Teenage while crossing off my list

So here’s the scoop…

I started my Bronze Medallion at the St. James Civic Centre in Winnipeg at age 13. I have absolutely no recollection why exactly I didn’t finish the course but life somehow got in the way and I didn’t think it was a big deal to not complete.

I promptly forgot about it for the next 17 years. But like getting my motorcycle license, it was has been on a particular list in my head for years. A TO DO I wanted to complete, something in the back of my brain about the fact that I never actually finished something I started. So when my running partner and another equally fabulous friend decided that we should go for a ‘Try Triathalon’ this summer, I somehow found the perfect training ground for the endurance swim that we would have to accomplish on the Tri circuit…AND finish something I had always meant to. Killing two birds with one stone per se.

So I signed up. But what I DIDN’T think about is that I might be a little older than the average participant in the Bronze Medallion course. Hilarity ensues at what I am now affectionately calling the Social Experiment.

I showed up the first week having no idea what exactly to expect and ran into another mom at the entrance, asking the direction to the Bronze Medallion class. I sigh with relief and say “Oh, are you taking the course too? That’s great! We can be partners!” (maybe a bit too enthusiastically). She promptly looks me up and down and says “Uhhhh nooooo, I was checking for my 11 year old son” ..11? They are seriously as young as 11? You gotta be flippin kidding me!

So I walk in to the theory part of the class and it is me and 20 11-13 year olds. I go to my mat (yes,mat…cause young people can sit on mats for 1 1/2 hrs whereas us evolved really do prefer a chair) and we are subjected to 2-18 year old instructors who truly believe that yelling at us is the most effective form of teaching (Umm, yeah: intro to management course!) We then go into the pool for the next hour and a half and have to perform varying acts of self-rescue and rescue techniques. Fabulous if you have a butt who has not experienced any form of weight gain, child birth, age in general. Not so fabulous as you have to huff out of the pool as if you are climbing out of “mock” ice break incident and thinking really…how much cheek did I just show these poor kids?

I find it a challenge to relate to these young bucks. There are some seriously hilarious conversations I have been witness to, laughing to myself MANY times throughout this adventure and wishing there was someone there I could share a snicker with. My favorite conversation so far was one of a girl asking everyone in the class where their family background was from. As she went through the line, Ukrainian, Polish, Scottish, etc…she came across a guy who indicated his background was Indian and Dutch. Her response “OMG! That is sooooo sick! (Thought sick was out by now?)  I would love to be Indian but I don’t like Indian food!” COMEON! This is the future of our youth today?

I am now in my 5th week of the course and have found a camaraderie of sorts with the girls in the class…In part because of an exchange of discussing the Hunger Games (OMG! I SO think Gale is cuter !) , part because I know a lot of answers to the quizzes when we are practicing for a theory exam. I have 4 more weeks to go and then I will have completed that elusive certification. As much as I don’t get the kids in my class, it was totally worth it. I completed a 500m endurance test today as part of the qualifications and was beyond excited to NOT be the last finishing the laps. This has been a lesson in connecting with the younger generation, age discrimination, weight discrimination, staying cool in the height of an emergency and staying focused in managing through a crisis

I am particularly proud that I will be able to pass on this “completion of starting something” with my kids and only hope they can take cues from the fact that mommy will never quit unless it’s really serious. In the meantime, get out and swim…it’s seriously one of the best forms of exercise I have ever been a part of.

Here’s to the next one…


Injury and Inspiration-Can I make the race?

Mother Trucker!

It’s 2 weeks to race day and I have battled a week of sheer frustration. It started about 2 weeks ago. We were on a run and I began feeling a faint bit of anger in my leg as we went along. I was hoping it would be like other instances I’ve had of shin splints, where sometimes just running it out makes the world of difference. But this wasn’t so simple.

This pain has stayed and as we keep training, is becoming a persistent nag in my lower leg and ankle. I have cared for it with icing, elevation, epson salt baths, stretches, you name it. Give me something that you once heard might help shin splints and I will try ANYTHING at this point.

The kicker was this past Saturday. I had put on a compression ankle hold on my left foot which in some ways made it feel a ton better, but as we went along I could tell my right leg was taking the brunt of the run and started feeling the impact on that side as well. By the time we hit 17k, my running partner was well ahead and I just wanted it to be over. By the time I got to the end of the 18km, I asked her to look the other way and bawled like a little girl. Since then I have taken a break from running and have even given in to trying acupuncture for the first time. Good friends have suggested new shoes, others have suggested taping..I will try it all. I just want it to feel better.

I have done other training in the meantime, (swimming and biking throughout this week) but am cautiously planning on trying a run this evening. The weekend also brings a 21k practice run and I feel as nervous as a pre-teen at her first dance.

I’m really trying to focus on the positive belief that I will be ok but have had a few warning conversations from a number of friends/family about not pushing it. That you have to be careful at this point and straining it could cause much worse damage.

I hear that. But I also have an incredibly hard time giving up on something that I have been working towards. We even have a standing joke in our family that the “Powells aren’t quitters”! (Sidenote: This is something my husband actually said to me in the delivery room as I was in labour and about to go in for an Emergency C-Section and yes, I am still married to him…)

It’s true though. We don’t quit and really like to show examples of finishing what we started to our kids. I keep looking at running as a metaphor of what we are going through in working with Autism. Even though you come up to a wall, you have to keep going. If we don’t keep going, who’s going to advocate for my child? I am fighting through this with a determination I haven’t had in the past but I’m not stupid. If it gets too much, I will defer the race but I can’t help looking at so many people who overcome far greater obstacles and think “who am I to cry about a wimpy shin splint”?

If you ever want to feel truly motivated and inspired by what people can overcome…watch this clip of Team Hoyt. (Get the tissue)


Come before winter. Do what you need to do now, before it’s too late

This has been a heartbreaking season for many people dear to me. Every week it seems, we are talking with someone who has been dealt a huge loss or going through the stages of a terminally ill friend/parent/loved one as we get closer and closer to Christmas.  We try to be as supportive as we can, wishing we had those perfect words of  comfort to help the people we love but its hard to find exactly what to say.
Hearing news like this often causes reflection on your own life, thoughts of mortality of people close to you, how you are running your life and does a great job of kicking you in the ass when you need to keep perspective on what’s important. What we have realized is most essential for our happiness is spending meaningful moments with the people you love and telling them what they mean to you. No words left unsaid.
My mother in law recently went to a hospice workshop in which the speaker quoted
a line from the bible that (even though I’m not religious) has become a bit of a mantra for me as of late. He talked about losing his daughter and the importance of recognizing that life is too short. He quoted St Paul who (knowing he didn’t have much time left) wrote in a letter to Timothy ‘Make haste and come to me quickly..Come before Winter’.
This resonates with me so much as we navigate through the waters of parenting and parenting special needs in particular. I easily get caught up in feeling the need to clean the house, or organize parts of our lives but am steadily realizing that as I’m focusing so much on maintaining order in our world, I’m missing out on a ton of just having fun with my kids. (Something I am sincerely envious of my husband’s ability to do and boy! does he ever do it well!)  Taking this into consideration, instead of figuring out my to do list the other day, we randomly went to a movie at 2 in the afternoon. To say the kids got a kick out the fact that we were the only ones in the movie theatre is an understatement. That moment was FULL of giggles and joy as we sat through a personal screening of Happy Feet 2.
I am now realizing that I have put off a ton when I was stuck in corporate schlock-land and am hell bent on changing numerous parts of my life. First off, running…
I thought one half marathon was what I needed for my bucket list. That after I accomplished that I didn’t need to do it again. But I’m hooked…I’m missing the discipline of training, and feeling slumpy after having felt so fit for awhile.
I have been inspired by so many stories as of late of people who have just “done it”, “gone for it” and “proven to the world that they can…that now I am intrigued about what else I could do in exercising…My girlfriend has suggested a Try Tri and I am seriously thinking about going for it.
The second, believing in our idea and not letting ups and downs of a challenge bring you down but more focusing on what needs to happen to make a dream become a reality. That Operation Thanks, a project we have designed to say Thanks to the Canadian Forces next year is truly going to be the most epic movement of pride and nationalism, Canada has experienced since the Olympics.
The third, and this is starting to get easier…to relax a bit on the need for clean and tidy and just let go…spend the kind of quality time our kids need to thrive and focusing on what kind of moments we can make together. To help them dream as far and wide as they can and believe that they can do anything.
And if you think you need a little motivation to conquer a dream…watch this..…