Saving my son from himself for a second time

My 19-year-old son Zach attempted suicide for the second time yesterday. Why am I posting about this? Because I know many parents have experienced this and feel ashamed as though it's a reflection of their failure as a parent and a person.
 
Something like this is horrible to try and go through alone and my support system has been AMAZING in the past 24 hours.
 
Those familiar with the situation know Zach lives with Asperger's, ADHD, Dyslexia and severe depression. His thinking is very rigid which has made tradition therapy ineffective as he refuses to budge from his negative beliefs.
 
We've done all we can on an outpatient basis and even inpatient. It's clear now something more long-term is needed and things are in motion to make it happen.
 
One thing I've learned through raising Zach and his brothers (all with Asperger's and ADHD) is our kids seem to experience more anxiety than we did as children. The onslaught of information and the bombardment of 24 hour video entertainment overloads their nervous system and they have a hard time learning how to calm down. That's a conversation in itself.
 
It's sad to say that we saw this second attempt coming and tried to prevent it. I won't go into the specifics but fortunately, his mother discovered him yesterday morning and called 911.
 
He's unresponsive to all but pain and shouting his name in response to which he opens his eyes. They're monitoring his breathing and giving him what he needs to clear out his system.
 
Zach is a wonderful, loving young man who is suffering deeply and we will continue to work until we find the tools to help him find his happy again.
 
We're doing well here. Unfortunately, we've done this once before and as I said, we felt this coming. We don't need anything at this point but should that change I'll be sure to ask.
 
I share this primarily for you. Help your child without embarrassment or shame. We don't don't have crystal balls or magic wands as parents, but we do have each other. Reach out, let us in and we'll get through this together.

My kid won’t clean up their messes! What do I do?

I was asked, "My son with Asperger's has an extremely hard time staying on task. To the point where he thinks we are trying to be mean to him by telling him to do the same thing over and over again. When really we just want his help around the house and to teach him responsibility. So when it comes to cleaning up his own messes, his toys all over the house, what is a tool I could implement to help bring his attention back?"

Below is my response to help point things in a better direction. 

You MUST be motivated to read this

I'm just not motivated enough?

I've lost my motivation?

What the hell is motivation anyway?

One definition of motivation refers to factors that activate, direct, and sustain goal-directed behavior.

Motivation is a drive to act in a focused way until you achieve a desired result.

  • Avoid hitting a pedestrian.
  • To make a specific amount of money each month.
  • To win the attention of a certain someone.
  • To change your feelings from helpless to hero. 

But before you can act you must first believe that YOUR actions can influence the outcome you want.

It begins with the realization or decision that NOT having what you want is so unacceptable that the mere idea of not taking action is unacceptable to you.

Next, you must believe that your present situation CAN change, that YOU can change it and that you MUST change it.

With those beliefs in place, your next step is to take your first, focused, goal-directed action. Then keep doing it until you get what you want.

But what do you do when you, "Just aren't motivated enough" or "Have lost your motivation?"

Neither of those problems really exist. What they mean is, you don't believe things MUST change. Your current situation isn't uncomfortable enough for you to act.

Secondly, a loss of motivation is the result of a shitty feedback loop. You've lost touch with the belief that you CAN change it. Likely because you're beginning to lose patience, become discouraged and have allowed doubt to set in.

How do you get your motivation mojo back?

Review your motivation recipe to see what's out of place:

  1. Do I know (clearly) what I want?
  2. Have I decided my present situation is unacceptable, MUST change and that what I want is the remedy?
  3. Do I believe my present situation CAN change, that I can change it, that I MUST change it?
  4. Have I chosen my first action?
  5. Upon taking my first action, what results did I get?
  6. What did I learn to ensure my next action will move me forward, etc, etc.
  7. Do I have an accountability partner to help me remain focused and prevent me from giving in to doubt? Have I utilized this person?

Pretty straightforward huh? Pretty basic, right? Right, because you have to start somewhere, get the ball rolling. 

Begin with this, ask me questions. Tomorrow will keep moving forward.

Thanks for being you,

Brian

P.S. I'll be adding this series of articles and videos (from Facebook) to the FREE section of http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions for your convenience. It will save you a lot of time when reviewing this information. 

Do you know a Gladys?

A reason, a season or a lifetime, the length of time a person who impacts your life stays until their purpose is fulfilled.

Today I met Gladys. She’s a volunteer at the hospital I'll be going to for surgery this Friday to repair a double hernia. 

I had a pre op Doctor visit this morning and it was the responsibility of Gladys to escort me to the Doctor's office.

She must be in her 80’s and from my height looked to be about 3 ft tall. But she was larger than life.

She was feisty as hell and talked smack to the other volunteers who got a kick out of her.

She had to slow down to keep up with me as I hobbled alongside her with my cane.

She kept offering to get me a wheelchair cause of the distance we’d be walking. She probably could’ve just slung me over her shoulders and done a fireman’s carry.

It’s easy to forget your worries when in the presence of someone like Gladys.

The reason I met Gladys? To remind me it isn't your age, nor your height, nor your stature that makes you stand out. It is your spirit.
 
Thanks for being you,
 
Brian

When your best parenting fails

Yesterday was a very emotional day, which culminated in sending my oldest Zach to live with his mother.

Zach will always be my hero. I’ve watched him struggle and grow through years of public school missteps and outright failures at the hands of willfully ignorant administrators who ignored or minimized his Asperger’s and ADHD.

Zach soared in high school and it looked like the sky was the limit after graduation. That was until depression took hold. My caring, optimistic son became distant and mentally self-destructive.

As a young man with Asperger’s, he’s subject to black and white thinking, inflexibility and social anxiety.

After his mother left us when he was 11, I became a single parent to he and his brothers for a time. Unbeknownst to me, and possibly him. He developed a belief that no one had the right to parent him but me. He also decided he had no mother, couldn’t trust a woman to be his mother because his own mother left. Beliefs he holds to this day.

Because of this, he began lashing out at every woman who tried to guide him. This brings us to today some 8 years later.

I’ve used my best tools to help Zach let go of these toxic beliefs. As much suffering as they cause him, he believes they protect him from even greater suffering.

Unfortunately, these beliefs result in such abusive behavior toward others, women, that want nothing more than to guide him and see him do well. That having him in our home on a daily basis was no longer a healthy arrangement.

As of yesterday Zach now lives with his mother. There are still many hard feeling there but he and I both see this as an opportunity for the two of them to explore and heal their relationship.

One thing I learned long ago, that in order to replace a toxic pattern with a healthier one, you need to change people, places, and things. We couldn’t do that here. Zach needed a new environment to work on himself and he agreed.

Fortunately, this doesn’t change anything between he and I. I’m still his biggest supporter, and a very proud Dad.

I hope to talk with him daily and guide him as he makes peace with and eventually changes the beliefs that have protected him emotionally all these years but have done so at a high price.

Along with his therapist and his mother, we’ll support Zach in becoming the best adult he can be.

What’s this mean for you? If you find yourself in a similar situation with a child and are struggling to make a similar decision. It may be helpful for you to remember, that as hard as it is to do. It isn’t a rejection, it isn’t a punishment to entrust your child to others in their time of need.

It’s an opportunity to introduce some fresh eyes, in the hope of fostering new growth. Its an act of faith, unlike anything you’ve likely done before. Let me tell you, it makes for one hell of a long night.

No matter how knowledgeable you believe yourself to be. You’re still biased toward your own perspective. When it comes to your own child, sometimes the greatest act of love is to ask for help when you run out of answers.

I miss him already, but I know where to find him. He knows that as long as I’m breathing, I’ll always be there for him. 

Thanks for being you,

Brian

P.S. I've added a lot of FREE Resources to http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions so you can get support without having to invest in anything. Remember, I'm here to help. 

Please see me and not my wheelchair

When I was a child, I felt invisible. To this day its one of my greatest fears. 
 
But I found a solution in a quote from Steve Martin, who when asked what advice he’d give to someone who wants to be successful replied, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” 
 
In whatever field you endeavor, if you want to be noticed you have to be so outstanding that others can’t help BUT notice you. That’s something that drives me to become better each day, especially when it comes to being a better person. 
 
Yesterday I posted a few graphics on Facebook I wanted feedback on. They were designed by my friend Shawna Barnes who is also disabled and a gifted artist. We loved the graphics (which included me in my wheelchair) and I allowed my ego to get too invested before the feedback started coming in.
 
I read a few comments which “I INTERPRETED” as criticism. 
 
Comments like, “A wheelchair doesn’t convey resilience” and “Do you want people to see you or the wheelchair”?
 
The subsequent conversation between my ears led to feelings of hurt, sadness, and anger. 
 
I responded to them with what I’d heard and they graciously clarified their statements. They didn’t mean it as I’d interpreted it. 
 
They expressed concern there was insufficient information on the graphics to explain what I do and it could leave a consumer mind prone to stereotyping to miss the message.
 
An excellent point, but my audience is the folks who live in a wheelchair and know someone who does and gets it all ready. 
 
The point is, I reacted to what I HEARD and not to what was MEANT! But there’s more. It was late at night, I was tired and had a lot of pain in my legs. Why? Because I’d been walking a lot that day instead of using my wheelchair. 
 
When you feel like crap your ability to be resilient can take a hit. 
 
I usually let statements like these roll off my back, immediately clarify and move forward. Now that things were clear and I was feeling calmer I reflected on why I’d become so upset. 
 
Coupled with the fear I was being judged for being in a wheelchair with the pain from a day declining to use my wheelchair led me to a very honest conclusion. 
 
The issue wasn’t how they saw me in a wheelchair, it was how I see myself in a wheelchair. The truth is I’m frightened about what my future will look like because of all the uncertainties. I still resist using the wheelchair in favor of a cane and I pay for it. 
 
This is a problem of my own ego, my own level of acceptance and not about how others see me. 
 
There’s a continuum of acceptance and I’m much further along than I was, with a lot of room to grow. 
 
This acceptance is critical, more than convincing those who stereotype why they MUST see me and not the chair.
 
I need to be able (easier said than done) to look at that person and see that person. To make sure they don’t feel invisible. You can’t wait for other people to change. But you can create an experience for them so powerful, so good they can’t ignore you.
 
Maya Angelou said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
 
If you don’t want them to see the chair, give them an experience that leaves them feeling good about themselves. Where they remember you as a great listener, a kind person who cared for them. 
 
When they see who you are and feel how you see them, the differences can disappear.
 
Find a way, deep within yourself, to show up so present, compassionate and focused that the experience you give someone else is exceptional. Then they can see you for your humanity. 
 
Wouldn’t it be great if you could model a way of being that becomes the new stereotype for people in wheelchairs? Don’t sell yourself short. 
 
I remember an episode of Different Strokes in which Arnold had a friend in a wheelchair over. At one point he started up the stairs saying, “Come on I want to show you something.” He caught himself and went back to his friend apologetically saying, “I’m sorry, I forgot you were in a wheelchair.” 
 
“Arnold, that's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.” That’s the point. 
 
Remember that ideas like this, healing like this, discovering like this are things we do every single day in my group coaching program, http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions
 
Join us, so your life can change too.  
 
Thanks for being you,
 
Brian
 
 

Socially awkward? Use it to your advantage.

Social awkwardness can be a common experience for people living with disabilities. Especially if you're very self-conscious. 

Many years ago I was diagnosed with Asperger's, just like my three sons. But I've worked so hard over the years to become so proficient in social strategies that today I no longer fit the diagnostic criteria. 

I remember the days when I pissed people off by saying the wrong things, was accused of insensitivity because of my blunt honesty and the list goes on. I was so hungry for belonging that I stopped at nothing until I achieved it. 

Unfortunately, until you have the skills you need, you could end up trying so hard and feel so afraid you'll look bad in front of others that you become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

This topic came up in one of my group coaching calls yesterday. I'll give you a synopsis of what I taught my clients.

People judge! That's a reality. No matter how open minded you believe yourself to be, your mind likes to label and categorize. It's your awareness of and acceptance of this fact that determines how much it influences you. If you deny that it does it'll sabotage your relationships.  

So what the hell do you do when you're afraid of being judged by people who will likely judge you anyway? 

You use a strategy a refer to as "Social Disclaimers." This means you explain the rhyme and reason for a social quirk their likely to encounter while interacting with you and why it's to their advantage to roll with it.

The anatomy of a social disclaimer is:

1) Describe the quirk
2) The problem it solves for you
3) The need it meets for them

Here are a few examples: 

1) Eye Contact - "I just want you to know I may look away while you're talking to me, that's so I can tune in better to what you're saying because I really want to hear you.

2) Monologuing - "If I ever get long-winded when I'm talking about something, please interrupt me I'm totally cool with it. I also want to hear your thoughts too."

3) Boredom - "I sometimes forgot others aren't as interested in certain things as I am. So if you ever get bored please ask to change the subject. It's not all about me." 

4) Foot in mouth disease - "Sometimes things sound better in my head than they do when they come out of my mouth. If I ever say anything that upsets you tell me right away so I can clarify. I care about your feelings so I want to eliminate any misunderstandings between us."

These are just examples and they're more art than science. The key isn't to memorize them but to develop your own based on beliefs that this kind of disclosure is necessary for healthy relationships. 

There are likely many old ideas, habits and experiences you'll have to work through before you find the confidence to use these strategies comfortably and consistently. That's why this subject comes up on my group coaching calls. Because you don't have to figure this out alone. 

​​More people than you realize are living the same struggle and are getting the support they need to be more socially successful. I can help you too. Learn more at http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions

Thanks for being you,

Brian

How to be a man, being disabled

"What does masculinity mean to you?" 

That's a question I was asked when speaking to my new friend, Barton Cutter. He lives with cerebral palsy, is married, just adopted a puppy and is an all-around great guy.

I felt an immediate shift in my emotions, a guardedness because this is an issue for me. 

My health decline has been pretty fast and has moved faster than my acceptance. 

Two years ago I was walking nature trails with my family and walking hand in hand with my wife. Much of my identity as a man and a father was wrapped up in what I do with and for my family. 

I could protect them from danger, run around on the playground, rough and tumble etc. The culturally preferred role of Dad was something I aspired to and something I saw advocated for in a few of the Facebook groups I belong to.

Bigger biceps meant you were more manly. I'm not knocking fitness, I'm advocating for a broader definition of masculinity. 

It's been a significant kick in the pride to go from long walks to long naps because climbing a flight of stairs is now tiring. 

What you may lack in physical muscle, can be more than compensated for in the building of emotional, psychological and spiritual muscle. Resilience, attitude, and mindfulness are skills that become stronger in you, beyond your biceps. 

For the record, I'm still working on sorting out what being a man means to me with all the changes I'm going through. But I want to share what I've already discovered. 

I'm shifting from an emphasis on what people see to one in which how a person feels with me is the priority. Face it, if a person can't see you (physically) then what experience do they have of you? They experience your heart, soul, your presence, your compassion.  

Who you are, is best demonstrated by how you show up. Do you say, "You won't believe the morning I've had" and make it about you? Do you show up with a smile and ask, "How's everyone's morning going?"  

How present, attentive are you while with another person? Are you truly paying attention? 

The strength of your presence is what makes you a man in that moment. 

Finally, it is critically important to strengthen your dignity. Your sense of self-respect.  

Whether you stand, walk or crawl. With a sense of your own worth, it's much easier to stand tall (figuratively), speak with conviction and feel strong.

What has ultimately changed isn't your worth as a man, but in the way you need to BE in the world.  

Every day I have the privilege of helping others stand a little taller while living with their disabilities. They strengthen their dignity, courage, and resilience through my Resilience Warriors Program. Check it out here http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions

Thanks for being you,

Brian

You are not your disability

What do you think about the following statements?
 
I am dyslexic.
I am autistic. 
I am a loser.
I am Italian.
I am married.
 
I wholeheartedly disagree with the first three because they declare a term can describe who you are as a person. Nothing could be further from the truth.
 
As for all 5 statements, they describe what you have decided is most important about you and what should be the headline as you decide what you can and cannot do in relationship to the rest of the world.
 
I was having a conversation with a client yesterday who has made a habit of shutting down every teachable moment by declaring, “Well I have Asperger’s.”
 
"Are you telling me you can’t learn and grow?”
 
“No, but it’s hard.”
 
“Great! We can work with hard. Working with CAN’T is more difficult.”
 
As you know, I have multiple disabilities, but not a one of them tells you who I am. If you think you know me because I share a label such as ADHD or Dyslexia and you begin making assumptions, that’s called stereotyping. 
 
It’s human to do so because we like to know and be certain of things. It’s also a tremendous barrier between you and me because once you decide you’re right about me, it becomes my work to prove otherwise. Not an easy task. 
 
Many years ago I was at a networking event. I was speaking with a gentleman who asked, “Do you consider yourself an expert?”
 
"I consider myself human.”
 
This is my highest recommendation to you if you struggle to incorporate a diagnosis into your sense of identity. 
 
It’s easier to connect with others when you realize you’re both human as opposed to, “You don’t have what I have so you couldn’t understand.” 
 
So slam the door in their face. 
 
Not being able to relate to one experience doesn’t disqualify them from being able to relate to others. Get over yourself. I’ve observed that much of the isolation experienced by those with disabilities is self-imposed (much, not all).
 
The much I’m referring too is the stream of bullshit running between your ears that assigns difference to everyone you see. "That person can walk and I can’t, I’d probably be a burden to him so I won’t even introduce myself.” Follow me?
 
Carrying that conversation around in which you make up someone else’s mind for them is a detriment to your identity and your life. Instead of building relationships and a support system you spend a disproportionate amount of time disqualifying people from participation in your life.
 
What if, starting now, you live from the answers to these questions? 
 
1) As a human being and nothing more, what do I have in common with everyone else?
2) Of the experiences we all share, how would I begin a friendly conversation about one of them? 
3) What could I say to another human being to help them be seen by me as someone who gets it?
 
Seriously think about these questions, then hit reply and share your answers with me. 
 
The client with Asperger’s I mentioned earlier is a member of my group program and has an exciting career opportunity open to him because he’s opened himself up to improving his communication skills. It’s amazing to play a role in transformations like this. 
 
Thanks for being you,
 
Brian
 
P.S. I’m going to begin creating audio (podcast) and video versions of these articles which I’ll share on my website. 

You’re at your smartest when you know to do this

If you’re like me you enjoy helping other people. I also seeing help as a way of honoring those who have helped me over the years (and there are a lot). So it’s rarely a question of whether I can be of help, the question is how?

Yesterday I participated in a discussion in which a woman was asking for guidance on whether to support her father after he’d made a huge mistake. She’s estranged from her father who has been abusive, blaming and enjoys his substances. Her mother phoned asking for money to bail her father out of jail after he was arrested for DUI.

The dutiful daughter in her thought she should support him unconditionally, which (as she knew), she’d done in the past and his behavior hasn’t changed. She feared enabling him to continue this trend. 

Another part of her wanted to yell at him and tell him to get it through his thick skull that he did this to himself. She didn’t like that option either, thinking she’d only be upsetting herself as he found someone else to blame and ignored her.

Others in the thread gave wonderful support, suggested she already knew what she wanted to do but needed to act or that she needed to search her heart for the answer.

My responses in threads like this tend to be more direct and less fluffy. I suggested the following, “Sometimes the best help we can give is to get out of the way.”

It’s common to think of helping as taking a deliberate action to solve a problem. As I described above, she realizes that if she took the requested action it could perpetuate the problem. Who knows what the root of her father’s troubles are, but she knows she lacks the knowledge of how to address them.

Let me give you a scenario, you come upon the scene of an auto accident. You want to help but don’t know how. Suddenly, highly trained members of EMS show up and order you to get out of the way. How do you respond?

“I got this guys, I just need a minute to Google what to do.” Of course you don’t, you get your ass out of the way.

You know it’s one of those moments when the best way for you to help is to get out of the way, knowing that help is out there but it doesn’t need to come from you. 

Natural consequences can be tough to witness. You can decide to feel guilty for allowing them to unfold without intervening. But you and I both know they’re powerful teachers.    

I routinely recommend allowing natural consequences for the parents of children with ADHD and Asperger’s that I coach. The key is knowing how to have a conversation with your child about those consequences in a way the child will listen and learn. Many of these conversations are recorded and are available at http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions

Thanks for being you,

Brian