Monday, September 26, 2011

From the Wolf Den: And So We Reach

This is a hard post.

Wolf is struggling, and as a result, so are we. We shudder when the phone rings, shut our eyes when a new email pops up, and our eyes fill with tearful uncertainty when someone asks about him.

There are so many reasons for Wolf's swings of emotion, and we purport to know only a few of them. Indeed, when he is raging at staff, his therapist, or us, he repeats the only fact we, and he, know with absolute certainty:

"You don't understand! You Just Don't Understand!"
We never could, and probably never will.

Our family will eventually come through this crisis as intact as we possibly can, but right now it is a painful reminder of just how tragic this "mental meth-lab" of behavior disorders truly is.
We are reaching up, and out, and all around, as far as we can, to find some way of helping Wolf.

I'm going to take a blogging break, hopefully returning soon. Please join us in praying, thinking, pondering, meditating; whatever you feel comfortable doing, for peace in our son's soul, and in ours.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

From the Wolf Den: The Wheel Goes Round and Round, and Round.....

Now that Wolf is back in the same city as family, Yukon and I have noticed a decided shift in his behavior. Having a taste of the same air as us, knowing our weather patterns and traffic noises, Wolf is beside himself to "come home," even though we, and probably he, knows he can't.

As a result, he is spinning his emotional wheels, trying to drag me under them in the process. Our telephone conversations are abrupt, long, and full of "Why me's" and "How could you's" that do nothing but make me feel as if I suck as a parent, and do little else for Wolf than ramp up his already ramped self.

Staff at New Facility are now getting to see what Wolf is like when he is angry, and on one level, I am glad. On another, I am painfully aware how horrible it must be to live like this, and it makes me sad.

But like a wheel that keeps turning around and around and around, eventually the tires wear out and something has to change. I just hope Wolf will be able to recognize that before the axle breaks and he flies off into space.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Autumn in Alaska

The AK Fam took a trip to Fairbanks this weekend, during which was intended to be a visit with Wolf. Even though he has returned to Anchorage, and given that arrangements had already been made, we went anyway.

I'm glad we did, for Life, in its unexplicable and unpredictable ways, manages to go on.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Be Not Afraid

Trudging slowly through the thick stands of willow and alder trees, my calm exterior belied my shivering insides. I was three miles up a small but vigorous creek in Hallo Bay, Alaska, some 100 miles from Homer and more than 300 miles from Anchorage. A guest of Hallo Bay Bear Camp, I was there to gather material for an article in Alaska Coast Magazine. I'd been there before; a day trip last June left me curious about this camp so far off the grid they used solar, wind, and occasional generator power to function with 20 people in a safari-like atmosphere. I wanted more. What I didn't count on was a whole lot more.

Those who know me best know I have had a strong aversion to bears over the course of my lifetime (I've gotten over the small plane thing; this is Alaska, and if I ever want to get anywhere cool, I've got to fly. So be it.). Bears are big, they are unpredictable, and they are known for doing things on their schedule at their whim. It is not my nature to be in Nature with these beasts, sharing the same trails and creekbeds, and yet there I was.

Hallo Bay guides work endlessly to establish a sort of rapport with these bears, meaning they stay out of their space if at all possible. Guests are drilled on a set of instructions before, during, and after each "encounter" to ensure safety and preparation for the next one; because at Hallo Bay, there is always a next one.

Fortunately or unfortunately depending upon who you talk to, Guide B. and I were the only two-legged people out on the creek that day. It was incredibly stormy, with rain and wind swooshing against our hip waders and rain jackets. It was also noisy; recent rains had left the creek high and water boiled and rushed, leaving us, and the bears, with less warning should the other suddenly appear. My reticence to enter the green, creekside thicket was not unfounded.

As Guide B. slowly led the way over logs, through leafy underbrush, and across smaller stream channels, my brain screamed over and over and over "," an internal monologue I kept up despite B.'s attempts at chatting about our various college degrees, football season, and travel.

Some spots were simply too rough to navigate on land and necessitated a return to the creek where, at our final count, eight bears had been seen fishing or sniffing or scavenging along our three-mile hike. With every bear we spotted and passed on the way up, we knew that the gauntlet would need to be run on the way back, so we ticked off bears; Silver Ears, Scaredy Bear... numbers dwindled as we got closer and closer to the creek's outlet near the beach.
I was nearly there. Faced the giants, even. Damn, I was good.

But then.....

A sow with her three-year-old cub came ambling around the corner, he (?) slipping in and out of the chilly water, playing in the grass, like all youngsters do; she carefully watching his every move yet allowing some freedom, since this was likely the last year he'd be under her protective wing.

B. eased us out into a sand bar to watch their progress and ensure visibility, knowing that bears, with eyesight comparable to ours, would be smelling us soon and our popping out from a willow grove would not be appropriate. We crouched quietly on the shallow sand, and waited.

Cub strayed up to the trail we were standing upon minutes before and Mama remained in the water, but both kept heading our direction; she on one side of us, he on the other. B. took out a flare all guides carry for protection (no guns or spray are allowed at Hallo, but flares provide heat and light and are reliable methods of deterrant) and said "Just wait here, and we'll see what she does. I'm pretty sure she'll cross in front of us to get in between us and her cub."

Pretty sure? Unprintable words rose in my throat as I froze, hunched over on the sandbar which suddenly seemed way to small and infinitely vulnerable to something so, so large.

"Good bear. You're a good bear." B. crooned with the smoothness of Bing Crosby as Mama and Cub came close enough for us to smell their fishy hides. "You're sure she'll cross over?" I quavered. "Sure I'm sure," B. replied, his eyes not leaving Mama for an instant. I did notice, though, that his thumb was heavy on the top of the flare and a large raincoat was within reach of his other hand, something I found out later was also a deterrant (bears hate the noise of flapping fabric).

Seconds felt like hours as the two bears indeed met at our sandbar's point and proceeded to pass us at about 20 feet, so close I could look into Mama's eyes as she warily, but steadily, lumbered by.

"Keep on going, bear. Nice bear, good work, keep moving." B. kept up his one-sided conversation until the two were well on their way upstream, then he slowly placed the flare back in his pocket, strapped the raincoat on his pack, and said, "Let's go."

So we went, our footprints seeming more than a little out of place on the wet sand next to the two other, larger sets.

It was only later that night, sitting in front of the woodstove at camp, that I realized something.

If a mother bear could walk past something so potentially dangerous as two unfamiliar creatures very obviously in her space, and with a cub to boot, then would it not make perfect sense that I could do the same?

Be not afraid.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mom Goes Away

It is fortunate that I had a trip already scheduled for Hallo Bay Bear Camp, today through Saturday. Given everything that's going in our world, the timing could not be better for an off the Grid, cellphone-silenced, computer-void (sort of) experience.


Hallo Bay Bear Camp is an hour or so out of Homer, Alaska, down on the Kenai Peninsula. It's lovely, and I'm looking forward to visiting again and staying for a few days. I'm anxious to see if the bears I saw back in June (above) are still moseying around now that fall is upon us and the primary mission is to eat, eat, and eat some more.

Yukon is in charge of the home front, and friends are helping out with Bear. It's cub scout orientation night and an open house at the German Halls of Higher Learning, so it will be a busy evening. But tomorrow is Friday.

Wolf is hanging in at New Facility. Our clock has begun ticking as to future plans, and hopefully the Team will keep plugging away in my absence. It is likely, though, that we are looking at more out-of-state placement, since Alaska has nothing to support a young adult with his constellation of issues.

One day at a time, and right now, I am taking one for me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In Step

"When you get married, it's time to learn how to dance correctly."

A resident at the long term care facility I managed told me this just before my wedding. Her generation married young but already knew how to dance. In fact, their children knew how to dance, too, because they were enrolled in etiquette classes. Not so for my generation, and all my residents knew it. They had seen me stumbling around, trying to lead, which was bad, they told me.

For a young lady to truly dance correctly, these proper women patiently instructed, she must both give and receive. Give; as in surrender the irrepressible urge to always know the right way to go, and when, and how. Receive; as in allow the dashing young man (they're always dashing, aren't they?) to completely sweep you into his arms and carry you away on the music, even if the music is unfamiliar, harsh, or not particularly to your liking. As in, trust him to make it work, or, at least try to make it work as one entity, rather than two individuals.

"Partner: Either of two persons who dance together." (Webster's Collegiate Dictionary)

It's our eighth anniversary today.

It's an unfamiliar tune to which Yukon and I are dancing lately, but I trust him to help us with the steps. And he trusts me to let him when I just can't seem to figure out the sequence and my ankles turn on those crazy spiky shoes. The music is indeed harsh, and uncomfortable, but we are moving across the dance floor, one turn at a time.

He's a good partner.

The best, actually.

Monday, September 5, 2011

From the Wolf Den: Full Circle

Wolf and his escort landed in Anchorage last night around 9 p.m. Wolf was anxious but willing to go along with things, thankfully. During the course of our day I reminded him that he likely had an advantage; he had been through residential treatment before and would be generally familiar with procedures and routines.

That said, it was a nervous teenager who called us from the airport, saying he'd safely arrived and was headed to New Facility.

We're again so thankful to our friends, T & J, who sat with Wolf over the weekend and were parents-by-proxy for Yukon and me. What a blessing to have people be in the right place at the right time.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Update From the Wolf Den: Today

It has been an impossibly long 24 hours for the whole family, and for the people to whom we are close. Here is an update as things stand at this particular milisecond (thanks to another blogger friend who provided me this appropriate word), and how amazed I am at the people who have wandered in and out of our lives:

Yukon and I completed intake procedures for an Anchorage-based inpatient treatment facility to stabilize Wolf and conduct some additional testing to investigate his current behavioral trend. Through the course of the day it was discovered that Wolf probably had not been on a consistent medication regime since his arrival at Arctic Manor.

Wolf found his way to a kindly older couple's house who fed him, talked with him, and encouraged him to call us, whereby we found transportation to the hospital's ER for a checkup and the beginning stabilization process. He is currently safe, warm, and sleeping after a traumatic series of events that, understandably, were exhausting for him. This older couple deserves our humble thanks and appreciation for using enormous amounts of grace to refrain from judging Wolf, us, or the organization. They probably saved his life last night.

Initial Arctic Manor House Parent N deserves our thanks as well for remaining in contact with our family even though he was under no obligation to do so. Without his support and obvious compassion, Wolf may not have agreed to go to the hospital.

Friends from Anchorage are visiting family in Fairbanks and blessed us with the offer to collect Wolf's possessions from Arctic Manor and visit him as he waits in the ER for transport down to Anchorage. This couple likely the people who understand Wolf the best outside of our immediate family, and we are so, so thankful they are helping take at least a bit of the worry from Yukon and I. Update: Wolf just called and said they were there, bearing McDonald's, which made him feel "pretty good." He was surpised to see them, and "very, very happy" they came.

New Facility's Associate Medical Director is the individual who first diagnosed Wolf with Asperger Syndrome in 2007, and is one of the few clinicians with whom Wolf had a rapport, and the only physician I trust thus far. That he is still at this facility provides me with a level of relief I have not felt in some time.

However, the bed that was initially available at New Facility last night is no longer available today, and now we wait. Wolf will remain in acute care in Fairbanks for the interim, which is hard, and is a constant issue among mental health providers throughout the State of Alaska. But he sounds rested, and much, much more at ease with himself than earlier in the week.

I am cleaning the house, because that's what I do when I'm stressed.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Update From the Wolf Den: Everybody Hurts

Changes are hard, even traumatic, for children on the autism spectrum. For Wolf, they are made even more difficult due his extreme impulse control problem. He's been struggling mightily this week after a transition into a strict, unbending, yet very loving new home (a good thing).

He's been running away almost every night. It's not safe, it's not appropriate, and it's hell on us.

And now our worst fears may be realized. Bringing Wolf home was a difficult decision driven partly by Alaska Medicaid and partly by us. Three years at CHYC was a long time, and something had to change. As initially positive the move back to Alaska was, and as beautiful our moments of reunion were, Wolf is resorting to primal reactions to basic interactions (and conflicts) with other people, and is manifesting his disorder(s) through running and all the absolutely negative behavior that goes along with it.

Who knows? Maybe I'd spend my life running, too, if inside I had no idea who I was or why my brain was telling me to do things I didn't understand, and if the world appeared to be a jumble of other people telling me to do things as well.

I have spent the day on both my cell phone and the landline, on multiple conference calls, to put together a plan of care for Wolf in both the short and long-term. Thank God I have a background in long term care, for the scenarios and paperwork and emails might otherwise swallow me whole.

Nonetheless, my kleenex box is as empty as my heart, right now.