Monday, November 26, 2007

Who I am, really (part two)

Despite the devastation of losing both of our jobs, another dream was forming. My husband had discovered the joy of writing screenplays, and he wanted to become a professional screenwriter. We decided together that I would go back to work, and he could stay home with our son, Clark, and write. He completed several screenplays this way.

As for me, I continued to improve. I added foods back slowly, but had a hard time pinpointing any real reactions to anything besides gluten. I also limited dairy.

My healthy improved, and I lost weight quickly, eventually 40 pounds. I was able to discontinue the steroids and pain medications. My energy returned, and despite the attitude of the manager at my place of training, I was promoted and given my own store to manage.

I was an aggressive manager, and I attacked my new project immediately. Within the first few weeks, I caught one employee stealing and fired her. My district manager uncovered other errors that pointed to another employee stealing from the deposits, who quit before I ever met her.

I turned the store around, and at the end of my first nine months there, the store was turning double digit profits. I was number one in the district.

I was very proud, but the pay was far too low, and after all we had been through, we finally had to declare bankruptcy. I had to find another job, so I ended up in apparel as an assistant manager again, this time with better pay.

It was a decent job, and our plan was starting to really come together. Back after being laid off, back when Jeffrey had told me he wanted to be a screenwriter, we decided that it would be best for us to eventually move to Los Angeles. Part of the benefit of retail was that it was a very mobile job that could be done anywhere. So we started saving money with our newly clean slate.

During that time, we located my husband's grandparents, who he hadn't seen since he was a small child. It was a wonderful family reunion and making the connection with them was amazing. Shortly thereafter, they wrote my husband a check -- for all the missed birthdays and Christmases.

Added to the money we'd already saved, it was enough money for us to move to L.A. It was a difficult decision, especially since we had just made contact again, was his dream. By that time, it was our dream. Somewhere along the way, Jeffrey got me writing too. I wrote a screenplay, and then I started writing podcasts for Pendant Audio too. He believed in me, and made me believe in myself.

We drove across the country with our 3-year-old son, crammed into a moving van that only had two seats. I sat in between on two cat carriers, with our cats inside. Our trip took three days, and it was brutal. I transferred within the retail company, and started my new job almost immediately.

The new store in L.A. was terrible. I did not get along with any of the people there. My boss hated me, and the district manager didn't like me either. The difference was night and day.

Still, we were in L.A., and everything was new and exciting for a while. The job dragged on, and I befriended many of the associates at the store, despite my differences with management. I was clearly the popular favorite, which irked my supervisor even more.

Happily, one of the employees I befriended had a daughter who was a headhunter of sorts. One day, she cornered me and said, "I know things are awful with you. Tell me what's wrong." I told her everything, including how my boss was trying to find any excuse to get me fired.

Her daughter got me an awesome job, and I was able to drop my keys on the desk and walk out the door ... only a week before Christmas. It was easily the most satisfying experience of my life.

Christmas came and went, and it was a happy time. Clark turned four years old, but I felt there was no way he could handle preschool. He had always been difficult to deal with, and exhausting, and we never knew why. Finally we decided to enroll him in preschool, due to urging from his doctor.

The experience at the preschool was awful. This horrible woman told us, "There's something wrong with your son. He needs to go away. There was another boy like him, and he went away." They told us he needed to be evaluated. They had us come in and observe him. Clark didn't seem to understand a lot of the routines the kids were doing, but he didn't seem that bad to me. But many days, we would come in, and he was sitting by himself by a garbage can while the other children participated. I didn't think that was good for him at all, so we pulled him out.

The evaluation came, and they told us he had autism. I didn't know what to think, really. They were optimistic, and said that he was only mildly autistic, that he had a great shot at being integrated in the future.

I didn't know. I knew something had been wrong, I did. We always asked his doctors, and they said he was doing everything when he was supposed to do it. He seemed more intelligent in many regards. At the age of 2 he knew all uppercase and lowercase letters. But he couldn't communicate effectively at times. He could label everything, but not tell you what he wanted.

He went to a mixed special ed/general ed preschool. We met Mrs. Riley, the special ed teacher, and Mrs. Close, the general ed teacher. Mrs. Riley saw the apprehension all over my face and really put me at ease.

Clark thrived, absolutely. He had a great time and he did very well. We took him off gluten during that time, and his teachers noticed the difference in him. I felt good about it, and I went back through my old journaling of Clark. I saw that he had made no significant language gains, from the age of 2 to when he went gluten free. I was astonished.

I was worried again when Clark was about to enter kindergarten. Clark's birthday is in November, and the cutoff birthday in California is Dec. 2, making Clark the youngest kindergartener in the class. Clark was assigned an aide and went to a general ed classroom at a local kindergarten-only facility.

And it started all over again. The principal was downright hostile toward us. For the first day, there was no aide present for our son. They ended up taking him to an office and calling my husband so he could take him home, which was against the law. She told us it might take weeks to get an aide, which prompted us to contact the special ed support groups in the area. This resulted in legal action against the school for not complying with the law, which didn't exactly win us popularity points.

We went back to the school with Clark to tour the grounds with the principal. Clark was upset the whole time, humming and rocking. He knew what had happened that first day, and that people were upset with him. I felt so bad for him.

I tried meeting with the staff and giving them suggestions on how to deal with Clark. The principal moaned constantly about the fact that they weren't equipped to handle children like Clark. Despite him having an aide, the general ed teacher treated Clark too gently, and since Clark was so intelligent, he practically got away with murder. As a result, his behavior at home went downhill, too.

We called an emergency IEP meeting. At the meeting, the principal's behavior was absolutely inappropriate. She told us that we were difficult, that we weren't working with her. We asked about more challenging schoolwork for Clark, because he was so bored with the work he was getting, that homework was becoming a fight. She insisted he had to do the same work as the other kids, despite already passing the final exams for kindergarten (they used them as a test).

Finally, one of the people in the meeting suggested that Clark change schools, because it was clear he could not receive an appropriate education there. We decided to put Clark into another mixed classroom of general ed and special ed students.

Everything happened very fast. We had started Clark on a school track that started in the summer. When it was decided that he should change schools, he switched to a new track that was starting the very next week.

We met his teachers. I was still uneasy, and I was very glad when parent teacher conferences came around two months later. I then learned he had been headbutting and biting people. I think they were surprised when I told him that Clark never did that at home. We worked together to eliminate the behavior, but he was stubborn, as he always is.

It was around this time I discovered SCD. For a while I continued to toy with diets for myself. After moving to L.A., I had a hard time keeping my arthritis in check, so I started the Paleo diet. That actually went well, for a while, but I was still addicted to sugar and I would constantly sneak candy.

Finally I did an anti-yeast protocol and I went off all sugar, including all fruit, for two weeks. It was absolutely miserable, but I broke the addiction. After that is when I discovered the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

I intended to try it for myself first and then bring Clark aboard, but my husband wanted me to try it with him right away. We had been frustrated by Clark's behavior issues for months and we were desperate to find something that worked.

After the first week on SCD, Clark stopped headbutting and biting, entirely. He was happy and cheerful and the words...they just keep tumbling out of him. I am so excited to see what he says next. My first posts to this blog detail some of the early progress.

I think this is the key for him, I really do.


The Colletti Family said...

What is the cleansing you did for removing sugar addiction? Was there anything you ate to help with removing all sugars? I want to do that before I fully jump into SCD- I have Crohn's

Thanks and love your posts :)

Susan said...


No cleansing. I just stopped eating all sugar and fruit. Cleanses are not recommended on SCD and can often feed the bacteria you're trying to starve out.

Susan :)

Bonnie said...

Hi! I am 3 weeks into SCD for IBS. I love reading your blog, and love that you have recipes for the different phases! My sis in law has RA also, so I am going to recommend she read your blog too! Thanks for sharing your story and your ideas with us!

Susan said...

Hi Bonnie! I'm so glad you find my blog helpful. Welcome! :)

Suzanne said...

Hi! I just found your blog, thank you for being here. My son has "autism" (though we think it is mostly food intolerances) and has been gfcfsf plus other foods for a while now. He has improved so much but still has a lot of bowel issues. I tried putting him on SCD last summer but there was a lot of resistance in the family so I gave up. Finally I said enough and have started him again on it. I think he is going through die off now (seems similar to last year) but not really sure. I am doing it as well though not really going through the stages as I am trying with him (more paleo/primal for me).

How did you cope with the beginning stages with for a small child? I can get him to eat hamburgers and pancakes but that is about it. I also hide broth in his juice and ice pops but I can't do much or he figures it out. I worry that everything he eats will make him react :(

Susan said...

Hi Suzanne,

As long as he is eating something, then that's a good thing. My son was not very picky about most things. I would test a new food from stage one about every three or four days or so. But I agree it can be tough to know. For some foods, I was suspicious, so after the three days was up, I would take it out and then try it again a few months later.

Good luck!