Spring is here. One day it is cold and gray, the next it is almost 70 degrees. Soon to follow will be summer. Everywhere I look, people are happy winter is over. People are looking forward to bright, sunny days. They are planning camping trips, fishing, grilling, block parties and picnics. The invites to parks have already started. Ugg!

Winter is my favorite season. I love the darkness of a cold winter night sky. Life is quieter during the winter; almost more peaceful. During the cold winter months I have more energy, sleep better, eat more and I am more willing to leave my home to venture out into public-depending on my anxiety level. There is nothing better than walking outside among the skeletal arms of the trees and seeing your breath on the frigid air. Looking out my windows at the snow covered evergreens and being energized by the sight. The sub-zero wind chills slapping me in the face, even when I am sweating in my winter coat. If you have never stood on the shore of Lake Superior on a bitter cold January afternoon, then you have never truly experienced all the wonders winter has to offer. If you have never walked down a twilight lit side street in the record setting lows of March, you do not know the joys winter calm can bring to a person’s heart.

Spring time means uneven sleep patterns. The girls want to stay up later because there is more daylight, yet they still have to wake up at the same time each morning. This leads to chaotic mornings, added stress and overly tired, cranky children. Mornings are not my best time of day and they do set the tone for my whole day. Children induced stress filled mornings lead to very long, stress filled days. Thanks to arthritis, during the spring, my body goes haywire. This is part of the reason I am awake right now. My knee is swollen and for the life of me, I cannot remember where I put my knee brace. My hands and wrists are stiff, swollen, discolored, do not have full range of motion, and I have been wearing my wrist brace all day. Unless I keep my hands moving, they will curl into claws. This is typical during the spring. For about two months solid, I wake up each morning with limited use of my hands and they are usually clawed. It takes about two hours for them to resemble normal. Physical therapy can only do so much and the doctor said just get used to it. My back is so stiff, it could be used as an ironing board.

I am filled with nervous energy. Call me antsy. This is caused primarily by physical pain, however, there is a mental reason as well. My body must stay in constant motion, must constantly be doing something. If not, I become stiff and sore from head to toe. This reaction to spring is normal for me since my teenage years. Around this time of year I start going days at a time without sleep just to avoid my body hurting anymore than it already does. When I do sleep, it is usually in the evenings when J- is home from work or during the day on weekends. Trying to sit still or lie down actually hurts me.

Summer is next and I hate it. Oh! Summer is not my friend. The harsh sunlight is like ice picks through my eyeballs. The darkest sunglasses fail to shield me from the dagger sharp glare of the sun. Summer means midnight trips to the local emergency room for IV fluids and pain meds. Just taking my children to the park for an hour results in heat exhaustion and extreme dehydration. The summer I was 15, seen me in the ER five times for heat stroke, heat exhaustion, sun stroke and dehydration. They no longer need to tie off my arm to find a vein; I just flex my arm and the vein pops right up like a jack-in-the-box. This makes my doctor nervous. During a midnight ER visit when I was 17, the attending physician asked me if I used heroin because my arm had so many scars it looked like track marks.

Spring and summer bring heat and humidity. The air becomes to thick to breathe. No matter what, I am always breathless. The heat and bright light saps me of all energy. My daughters beg for trips to the park, to the local walking trails, to the zoo. We do these activities on a limited basis. Yes, I must bring them to these places because they are children and need to have fun. Yes, I pay for it afterwards.

Last summer we walked to the local park and had a picnic. It was a 20 minute walk each way. They played while I sat in the shade of a pavilion. We were only gone for 2 hours. When we returned home, D- took one look at me, grabbed both her sisters and took them to the bedroom to play with toys. If either of the two younger girls needed anything-including a diaper change- my oldest took care of it. My hands were shaking so hard, I spilled water down myself. I was breathing so hard, D- could here me from her open bedroom door. She walked me to the couch because I was seeing double and the room was spinning. I stayed awake because a then 12 year old autistic child should not be responsible for her two younger sisters, but I was useless. When J- came home from work over three hours later, I was still on the couch shaking. Dinner was delivered because I did not trust myself in the kitchen. Just smelling the food after it was delivered made me sick to my stomach and sent me to curl up in a ball on the bathroom floor. All of this because my children wanted to play at the park. This falls into the category of failure as a parent. D- never asked me to take her to the park again the entire summer. We still went because A- loves the park and asked to go daily. D- always went with, even when she just wanted to stay home and hang with the neighbor girls. She was scared something would happen to me or her sisters.

Seasonal changes bring changes in my body, my sleep patterns, my ability to eat and increases my pain level. During the summer, I only eat after dark unless I go to a restaurant with maximum strength AC. If I eat during the day, my stomach churns and acid burn takes over. My weight drops, but not in a healthy way. With the windows open or AC running, the noise level increases. Translation: instant trigger for migraines. Even my neurologist said my headaches are worse during the summer months. He should know since he has done multiple MRIs and CAT scans on me. My first CAT scan was at age 14; the summer I accidentally overdosed on Tylenol by swallowing 27 tabs in four hours and still begging God to end the pain. That doctor told my dad the heat and humidity were triggers and he needed to let me sleep during the day when possible.

We are entering the longest time of year for me. I am going to see my doctor soon. This year I want to be proactive. I am sick of ruining summer for my family.