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Today’s story is written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular stories on my site since February 2015. The purpose of her writing is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness, and serves as a gentle reminder for ALL of us to continually press forward towards mental health and wholeness. If you’d like to read the stories I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the stories she’s shared on this site, check out Tiffany’s Story. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

I’m still kinda bummed that summer is over and school has started. The fun-filled days of warmth, all-day play outside, friends, dolls, flowers, t-ball, swim lessons, pools, weddings, parks, parties, and staying up later and sleeping in. I will miss those summer days.

This year, I have a second grader and a preschooler. With both kids at school, I have some extra free time for myself. The ups and downs of this school year have pulled at my heart. I have experienced emotions I did not even realize I had anymore. This past summer was full of appointments to get both kids back on track. With hesitation, I’d like to share with you what’s going on at home and at school.

My seven-year old daughter, Raegan, can be a lot of work sometimes. After hours of observation and therapy, we were told she has conduct disorder. We were referred to people who could help out. Raegan has improved drastically. She is a perfect angel at school, but at home she went from having around six uncontrollable fits a week, down to one or two. Some weeks, she doesn’t have any fits and rages, as my dad would call them. She still, at times, wants what she wants and will cry and be out of control until she gets what she wants. In the past, I gave in more than I do now.

Raegan’s behavior has passed on to my three-year-old son, Xander, as children learn from their siblings. Xander attends preschool two mornings a week at the same elementary school that my daughter goes to. They like to look for each other throughout the day. Xander also attends a group three afternoons at a center that focuses mostly on emotions. He was just recently diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder. I hope that neither of their diagnoses are lifelong, but we are working on both kids early to fix whatever is going on. They like to keep a close eye on the kids since I’m a single mother with a chronic mental health diagnosis.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Xander has separation anxiety?! Every day that he has had school so far, I’ve had to hand him over to his teachers crying. They all give me updates on how he is doing. He usually goes in and out of crying during his time at class, but from the pictures I’ve received from his teachers, he seems to be having some good moments too. Am I putting him through too much at such a young age? That question goes through my mind every time I drop him off at school. One day I hope to be confident in the choices I am making for my children. It takes a village to raise children, and I’m utilizing all the help I can get!

During the first couple weeks of school, I found myself looking all over for my kids in a panic. Oh my gosh, where are my kids? Slow down. Slow down! Xander is fine, and he’ll be done with school at this time. Raegan is at school, and she’ll be home on the bus at this time. Everything is okay! Now, fifth week in, I find myself more and more aware of the places they need to be.

At the end of each day, I wait for Raegan to get off of the bus. I wait for Xander to get out of the van. I really miss them. I’m excited for them to be home. I look forward to their hugs! I look forward to their smiles as they tell me about their day, piece by piece. Everything may not be great in my life, but we are surviving. Hopefully, everyday we can get some smiles out, some happy feeling. Raegan and Xander are on a path to becoming who they are. I am so happy to be their mom on this journey!

With both of my kids at school, I’ve had blocks of time to myself. I’ve experienced good things and bad things. Many times, I have been uncertain and confused about what I should be doing with my time. I’m so used to having both kids with me most of the time. I’m still trying to figure out how I can make the best use of my time. The main emotion I have experienced with both kids gone during the day is sadness. Am I making good decisions to have them in the programs they are in? It’s very difficult to leave a crying child, yelling “MAMA!”

I’ve also experienced lack of motivation. I have lists of things I could be doing, but I end up doing nothing. One day I was so tired that I planned on taking a nap. I just laid there thinking about the kids. I felt uneasy that I was not utilizing the free time I had. Week two started and slight motivation started happening. I hung out with friends a couple times and thought of more ways to spend my time.

I have reached out to others, asking them what they thought I should do with my free time. Some people thought I should start working or volunteering, while others felt I should spend my time doing whatever makes me happy. I am not in any condition to start working. I feel that I could volunteer, as long as it’s something I enjoy doing. I thought of volunteering at the behavioral health center, because their building is located right next to my place and I spent months there when they first opened. I would really enjoy working with others who deal with mental health issues. But they gave me a “no-go” to volunteering there. They are super locked down and only let service dogs in. Another volunteer opportunity I thought of was to look into publications I could write for. Other than that, I’m still exploring ways to make the time I have off productive.

The school year has started, and if we have school-aged kids, we’re all adjusting in some way or another. The process takes time, but I feel the kids and I are adjusting well to the new school year. They are happier knowing what’s coming next. They like eating breakfast at school each day. For the most part, they are enjoying their daily routine at school. For me, there has been good, not so good and uncertainty so far. Only time will tell how the remainder of the year goes. I am hoping for fewer tears and more smiles!

Tiffany

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