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June 2020

No Light at the End of the Tunnel

We are almost at the end, friends, of what I call the Rise and Fall of Luke Inwood. If you’ve been following along then you know our main character is in a desperate place. It is March 2015 and there is not much right going on in his world. He is failing high school. He is being tormented with d-halls up the wazoo. Luke is not gaming at his usual level after being let go in January. He dislikes his job. He really dislikes his nagging parents – especially his mother because, well, she’s the one nagging all the time. His friends are all eagerly making plans for what happens after graduation and he is not. And thanks to the Addy and his anxiety, he is not sleeping and barely eating.

So, what is getting him up every day? What is motivating him to move forward? Turns out – nothing. He is hanging on by the proverbial thread because he has lost hope. He has nothing left to get excited about. All the dreaming and planning – just big idea bullsh*t that may never happen – is coming to a close because the crew is about to split up – each one headed in a different direction. But not him.

I am not quite sure how, but both John and I believe that Luke believed he was going to cross that stage with his friends in June for graduation. I don’t know if it was denial or plain misunderstanding of the dire straights he was in, but in March that news hit Luke like a brick. “I’m not graduating and everyone is going to know it.” I can hear that piece of information swirling around in his brain. Luke hated to look *less than* in anyone’s eyes and the whole world was about to find out. The King. Not graduating. He must have been scared sh*tless.

After Luke passed away and the police returned the laptops they had confiscated for review, John went through everything on them as best he could. One of the remarkable things he found was a single Google search at the end of March. It was called – How to Die like a Man. It outlined all the manly ways one might take one’s life: Gun shot, hanging, crashing your car. How to die like a man. My poor, sweet boy.

So here’s what I need you to know: Life is hard. Freaking hard. And we all know one of the things that gets us through is love. Giving our love to a few special people in our lives and receiving love and feeling like we matter to someone. But what also gets us through is hope.

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.”

– Merriam – Webster

Luke had lost hope. There wasn’t one thing he was feeling good about and I can only imagine his anxiety and his Adderall were one big negative committee in his mind. And we missed it. We all missed it. Now, our Luke was one helluva good actor, but still. We knew everything was going wrong in his life at this moment, but our own life experiences had shown us that it would get better for Luke. He just had to wait a few years for things to change. Your twenties are a whole new world. He just had to hold on. The problem was….we knew that. He didn’t.

So what’s the moral of the story, you ask? Build the hope… for yourself and for your children. Maybe find the things that make your heart happy and spend time doing that – walking in nature, reading in a chair, woodworking, birdwatching, photography, whatever it is. Tell your children how important it is to pursue your passions and model that for them.

And friends, I am going to get a bit preachy here, but we need to change the narrative for our children around what’s important to hope for. What is the hope or the positive outcome you are showing preference to for your children? Popularity? College? What is society and social media pushing on our children as preferred outcomes? Might I suggest that it shouldn’t be their GPA? Or the number of likes on an Insta pic? Or the number of times you get invited to a party or whether you carry a Gucci handbag? Or whether you are a star athlete in your little hometown? Perhaps we should be setting our kiddos up to hope to be a good human being? What if that is how we defined success? I feel like Luke lost hope because all of the things he thought were important were not coming through for him -some he had put up on the pedestal to achieve; some, like graduating, we did. At the end of the day, he was a good kid with a big heart and that should have been enough. Sigh. Whether we know it or not, parents plant the seeds of what a child deems important; of the future they should hope for. Be careful what you show them. #NotOneMore

The Rise and Fall

What Happens in the Garage…

My boy turned 23 on Friday and because of this I have decided to be a little lighter this weekend with the blog. Luke’s preferred state of being was the pursuit of happiness and he was damn successful a good portion of the time.

Especially with his buddies. Luke had just the best group of friends and these lads practically lived at the house. At some point, I don’t know when, the garage became an extension of their hangout space. Maybe when some of them took up butts? lol Maybe when all of them discovered pot? lol Don’t judge me; they hid it well! #LifeWithTeenagers. I honestly don’t know, but this citified gal, who swore there would never be a couch in her garage like some sort of redneck family, suddenly had TWO couches, a Lazy Boy, and a coffee table in there! All that was missing was a bed, lol, and if one had been there, some of those lads would never have left. 🙂

And if those garage walls could talk! I asked the lads if they had any stories they wouldn’t mind me sharing and instantly one of the boys said, “Anything that happened in that garage isn’t fit for publication.” HA! Hilarious! And he probably isn’t far off. A few things did come up that were *safe* to share. Here’s the text thread:

“All I know is that we smoked a ton of weed and played poker once till 6 am. And Luke cheated I’m pretty sure because he got pocket Aces like 25 times.”

“He had to have been cheating. Kid had like 30 Aces literally up his sleeve, lol. We also used to try and freestyle rap when we were freshman which I’m sure was painfully embarrassing.” (There is video of this somewhere and it is HYSTERICAL.)

“Me and Luke and Eric got the chair that’s in there from the side of the road in Holden and Luke sat on the chair in the trunk of Eric’s Pathfinder the entire ride home, lol”

The infamous chair lives on….

“The garage was the spot to hang out and just shoot the shit with one another. Either after school or on the weekend. So many good times with the crew. I remember that we’d always end up freestyling on the couch. We’d all say a line or two and then pass it to the person next to you. The couch and the garage was our place and is something that I’ll never forget.

So, one Christmas, when I found the sign in the photo above, I just had to get it and give it to Lukester. And there it still hangs. I have so much more I could write, but I will leave the stories, as the sign suggests, right where they happened. And I suppose, friends, the walls of that garage wouldn’t talk as I suggested above. They would probably hoot and howl and shake with laughter. Good times. Xxx

The FIrst Days

Rage

As always, these views are my own.

Let’s just cut to the chase: Luke felt targeted by the administration at his high school. Now, read this carefully. I am not saying he was; I am saying this is how he felt. But as I always tell people- a child’s perception is all that matters.

I have had my own students over the years that I am not sure felt the love the way I wanted them to. One of them in particular, whom I adored, really struggled with understanding anyone’s else’s point of view. He was diagnosed ADHD and ODD, had difficulty with peer relationships and authority, and anytime he didn’t like what I had to say to him, which was often, he would respond, “Why you always want to fight with me, Mrs. Inwood?” 🙂 Now, we weren’t *fighting* lol, but at nine that was how he described confrontation or debate. Those were the feelings elicited when he struggled to accept something he didn’t agree with. And again, that’s all that matters. I worked my hiney off with this kiddo… he was post losing Luke -which makes me try harder…. but I am not sure I reached him.

Now my Luke did not make the situation between himself and teachers and administration any easier. And I know how hard it is to not lose your cool when confronted with a sneer and a smart remark. But two events are forever burned in my memory and have shaped me as an educator ever since.

Game Changer Number One. Luke had this teacher, let’s call her Mrs. Smith. Now Mrs. Smith had been a teacher for a good many years at Wachusett, but I am not sure anything could have prepared you for Luke Inwood, lol. From Day One, Luke and *Mrs. Smith* did not get along. She was old school and wanted him to fall in line and do what he was told and not sass her about it. Sigh. So THAT didn’t happen. Next thing I know, I am being asked to go to school to have a meeting with said teacher and Luke and a school administrator – also not one of Luke’s favorite people. Actually, let’s just say it. It was the admin he felt so targeted by. So, here the four of us are, sitting around a table for what I understand to be an opportunity for us to have a discussion around how to solve this relationship problem and get Luke through this class. But that isn’t what happened. For, I don’t know, maybe ten or fifteen minutes, it felt like a lifetime, Mrs. Smith sat there and berated Luke. Went on about how horrible he was in her class and all his shortcomings and how if he didn’t fix it, well, that was his problem. What did I do? Shamefully, nothing. #IHaveRegrets. I want to tell you I was in shock. And I was. Who talks to a child this way? A student? None of us said anything, really, after that. Luke mumbled something about trying to do better and we got up and left. We walked down a set of stairs and when we got to the bottom, I stopped, looked at Luke and said, “Wow. You were right. She IS a bitch.” I told him to try and have a good day ’cause THAT was going to happen and headed out to my car. All I could think of was, if that was how she spoke to Luke in front of his mother, in front of her boss, what kind of barrage was he facing in the classroom behind closed doors? It made me sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I honestly don’t remember what happened after that. I think we pulled Luke from the class. Or maybe he failed that one. We never confronted Wachusett about it, I can tell you that. We chalked it up to Luke being an incredibly difficult student and what could you expect to happen? UGH. I feel sick just typing the words.

And unfortunately, *Mrs. Smith* was not the only one Luke had issues with. In his mind, of course, it was all the fault of the teachers. I know better, of course, having had the pleasure of interacting with some of the educators who truly tried to reach Luke where he was. But perception is everything. And Luke had his.

Game Changer Number Two. It is March 11th. It is a Wednesday. How do I know? Kept the emails that followed. :/ So, I arrive home and make my way upstairs to change out of my school clothes. I know Luke is in the house because the Altima is in the driveway, but he wasn’t in the basement. As I top the stairs I look left and there he is. Laying in his bed, just shaking. His whole body is vibrating.

“What’s going on, bud?” I ask him and make my way into his room.

“I have never felt so much rage in my whole life,” he tells me. ” I feel like my heart is going to explode out of my chest!” He is clearly distraught and tells me about a run-in with admin over d-halls and other infractions and we will never know what else. I am desperately afraid for him and his mental health at that moment. I’m also not sure I am going to be able to get him back to school. He is that angry. And hurt. And disheartened. What is a parent to do?

Well, you write an email. John reached out to school about how outrageous it was they they were beating Luke down this way. Because that’s how he felt. Beaten down. But the email we get back does not address our son as an individual, as a child who clearly doesn’t look like the other students; nor does it try to meet him where he is . It is, quite simply, more of the same. Thank you for not helping.

So, the next day Luke goes to school. He goes to school. This in itself is worth something. And then he goes to D-Hall that afternoon to satisfy the system. He is THERE. And you know what happens? He gets in trouble. He gets in trouble because he didn’t bring work with him. “And as a senior he should know better.” That is a quote friends, from the email I receive that night warning me that if Luke doesn’t bring work to the d-hall, that he is finally showing up to, HE WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE and issued another d-hall. Because you can’t make this sh*t up! So you tell me…. if you are Luke Inwood… how are YOU feeling at this moment? We all know the answer to the question. Four weeks later, he is gone.

So here’s what I need you to know: Now, don’t get your knickers in a knot. Are you blaming the school for what happened, Miss Patty? No. No, I am not. A lot of factors came into play losing Luke, but there is no denying high school had its role. But you know I like to say, when we know better we do better. So what’s better? We can’t simply be punitive in the education system. Behind every behavior is something and it is our job in school to do our darndest to figure out what the *something* is. I had the opportunity to go into my district high school and share my story and my thoughts about this and it was a fantastic experience and I believe it helped give the people present perspective. I will gladly visit your high school, TOO, to spread my message: No child gets up in the morning and says “Today, I am going to go in and really going to F*@# with that teacher.” That is Never the case. They get in there and talk themselves into a bad situation and then we back them up into a corner and like a caged animal, they don’t always make the best choices. They feel trapped. They lash out. WE have to be the adults. Remember that student I shared with you earlier? Well, every once in a while I would have to look at him and say to myself, “Breathe, Inwood. He’s nine. You’re fifty. You have strategies to deal with this. He does not”. And then I would give myself a time out, lol. Or call for back-up. I love my school psychologist. Or talk to his parents. Or sometimes I would just hug him. And he would be so shocked lol, he would roll his eyes and giggle and we would get passed it. Or sometimes we wouldn’t. But we need to remember who the adult is and who is the child. And they may be six feet tall, with facial hair and a potty mouth, but on the inside… they are six. They are children. They are somebody’s baby. And he was mine. #NotOneMore

The FIrst Days

Addy

4:15 pm. Monday, April 13th. I arrive home from work after a visit to the Rutland pharmacy. As I climb out of the car I can hear the lads in the backyard hooting and hollering and having a great time. And I smile. Because there is nothing like young sirs living it up to make a momma’s heart happy.

I climb the stairs to the kitchen and as I am coming in to the kitchen, Luke is strolling through the patio doors. He is soaked because he has fallen through the ice after one of the boys threw his chap stick in the pool and he tried to bear crawl to retrieve it. Sigh. Kids. But there is a smile on his face so it can’t be all bad.

“I picked up your prescription, bud” I tell him as he heads to the bathroom to grab a towel.

“Meh, I stopped taking it on Friday.” he responds, already heading back out the door.

“You could have told me and saved me a trip!” I holler after him. I shake my head and shove the prescription in my basket in the office. In case he changes his mind. But the next day, Luke is dead.

Adderall. My good friend Jane was the one who alerted me to the issues around Adderall and suicide. I don’t even know how it came up, I think maybe when I was filling her in on the ins and outs of Luke’s hardships over the past few months and mentioned he had been taking Adderall and lost a shit ton of weight. Jane started to cry, right there at my island. Jane was experienced with Adderall and the negative effects it had on people she loved. Jane was convinced the Adderall had pushed Luke over the edge.

And so began my research. My son had been taking Adderall since September and friends, it pains me to say, I didn’t know much about it. We have that blind trust in physicians sometimes, you know? But when you do an internet search for Adderall and suicide, well… it will make you cry. Adderall is no freaking joke, it’s essentially speed, and to take yourself off it cold turkey like Luke did… let’s just say, it can have serious consequences.

For those of you that don’t know, Adderall is prescribed for ADHD. It is one of many medications, Ritalin and Concerta to name a few, that aim to help with focus. And I don’t take issue with that. I recognize that ADHD medications can be very successful for some people. My issue is that I didn’t know. I didn’t know that suicidal and psychotic thoughts were a side effect of this med. More importantly, Luke didn’t know. And it makes me want to SCREAM. Did you know that doctors are not required to share side effects with patients. YOU have to ask. You have to read that sheet that comes with your pills. And I do. I’m sure you do, too. You read all those side effects, but you don’t really worry about it, because surely nothing bad will happen, right?

But we are talking about suicidal thoughts, here, friends. We are talking about kiddos who have diagnoses who are already struggling with anxiety or depression and then we put them on a drug and we don’t say, “By the way.. if you start having thoughts around suicide, that is not normal. That might be the medicine and you need to tell me about that immediately.” At ten or twelve or sixteen, if we don’t warn the kiddos that this is a side effect, they aren’t going to think it’s the medication, they are just going to think that they are *f’d up* as my boy liked to say, and they are going to be skinny and sleep deprived and listen to that voice in their head telling them to just end the hurting. Suicide.

So here’s what I need you to know: The photo for this blog is Luke’s prescription. Yep, still have it. This is one of those things I have kept to torture myself. #IHaveRegrets. We have called the conditions that came together in losing Luke the perfect storm – between his anxiety and depression, the issues with school, and the lack of sleep… and going off the Addy cold turkey was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Sigh. But Luke didn’t know. I want the people you love to know! So, if you or someone you love is on medication, please talk to your doctor about the side effects, no matter how minor. Talk about what suicidal thoughts are, even with your young kids. In my humble opinion, if they are old enough to take the drug, they are old enough to have the discussion. And lastly, make sure your loved one knows and understands the dangers around quitting medication without talking to a doctor first. Many meds need a gradual withdrawal from your system. #BeInformed #NotOneMore Xxx

The FIrst Days