The Unquiet Year

2019 has been pretty quiet here on the blog since I finished my cancer treatments. But the year has not been uneventful. It seemed like conquering the Big C would mean everything else would feel simple, right?

Not at all. In fact, I would argue that the rest of what we have been going through has maybe been harder on me than chemotherapy or radiation.

The blog went quiet in October. I never shared the Halloween photos. Or Thanksgiving photos. Or any of the ones in between. My blog is being weird and needs updates that I don’t know how to do, and I’ve been entirely too busy to do it. So no photos. Which makes me sad.

But that is not what has made the first semester of this school year so difficult.

I’ve thought often about how or if I should talk about this, but I found that I would be a massive hypocrite if I didn’t. I spent years in this space talking about the importance of telling our stories about mental illness in order to get help and destigmatize.

But that was my story. This one is not wholly mine to tell. The problem is, I don’t want to wait until it is mine to tell–when it’s too late–to share.

Charlie has been struggling.

It seems my little mini-Cortney has inherited his mother’s brain.

The school year started out fantastic. Charlie was doing so much better than last year in first grade and we were really hopeful that the rough times were behind us. He was playing soccer and participating in school. Around mid-October–when I stopped blogging–he began to slip.

Charlie has gone through lots of testing both by an outside psychological resource and by the school. He has been placed on the autism spectrum with a very hefty load of anxiety. This fall I watch that anxiety trigger depression in my little boy.

I watched, with a broken heart, as my little guy walked the same path I did almost 10 years ago: paranoia that he wasn’t good enough, rage, and even thoughts that life was too hard and it would be easier to quit.

I sobbed with him.

We have taken several steps since then. It’s been about three weeks, but things are looking a bit brighter.

Being on break from school–a place that he loves and hates at the same time–I think will be good. It will give him the opportunity to let some of the strategies and steps we have taken to work without the pressure of school, and then start over in the new year.

As you can imagine, this has been so difficult for everyone, mostly for Charlie. I see Cortney in Charlie in every possible way, and then to suddenly see the worst trait he could have inherited from me take form was very triggering to me. While trying to be the one who “gets” him, I’ve also been falling apart.

Cortney and Eddie have been worried. It’s hard to understand if you don’t have the depression voice whispering lies in your ear. It’s hard to get why just doing your work can be impossible. It’s hard to understand how someone can go from fine to wishing life was over in about 10 seconds. It’s just hard to watch someone you love struggle so much.

Alice, who seems to be unaware, is anything but. She craves attention. Her brother needs attention. She has been seeking it in very screamy, demanding ways. While she doesn’t understand what Charlie is going through, she does understand that he is getting a LOT of one-on-one and “extra” love lately. In her 4-year old eyes, it is not fair.

The worry affects every bit of life. My brain has been completely elsewhere since October and my lesson plans and grading and relationships with students and co-workers and friends and family show that. Even my classwork for my grad class dipped in November. Nothing felt like my best.

The first half of this year saw the end of my cancer treatments. I had radiation burn and a bald head, but I was cancer-free.

Going into 2020 we are holding fast to each other and fighting another illness. Mental illness is just as real and life-threatening as cancer. And we need to be able to acknowledge and talk about them both. We need to advocate for treatments and cures and research for both.

We are extremely thankful for all the resources we have and all the people who have shown up for both me and Charlie and the rest of the family this year. It’s been rough, but we know we are not alone.

Thank you for being part of our team.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. Sending all the love ❤️

    My patron saint is Dymphna, patroness of those with mental/emotional/neurological illness. My sister bought me a small zipper pull of her I put on my work bag. It reminds me when I need to take a breath or seek help. Maybe that would help your little guy?

    Wishing you happy holidays!

  2. Watching our kids struggle is one of the hardest things there is. My family’s story is very different, but I am still very familiar with that brand of pain. I also had a year in which I was incapable of being present for anyone other than my kids–not my job, not my other family or friends, not myself. I am so sorry you all are going through this, and I hope 2020 is a year of healing and peace for all of you.

  3. Thinking of you and your sweet boy.