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Labels Don't Define You - My Own Story

Updated: May 24

When someone says, "Tell me about yourself," my head starts reeling. There's so much over my 48 years of existence that it takes me a second to figure out what to say based on where I am or who I am talking with.

Hi, I'm Yvette; it's nice to meet you.

I was born and raised in Minnesota, living with my mom, dad, and younger brother. I participated in dance, figure skating, softball, downhill skiing, and marching band. School studies did not come easy; I had dyslexia and stuttered. Kids could be mean, even back then. Fortunately, my mom loved to travel and passed that on to us. We could see much of the country before I graduated high school.

I babysat for years but got my first official job at 15 years old. I graduated high school when I was 17 and entered business college for a legal secretary degree. I graduated from college with a Legal Secretary and an AA Degree. I went to work in a law firm full-time when I was just 20 years old. I had an apartment, and that's when I started eating more junk like Pop-Tarts and lemonade for breakfast or a big Perkins blueberry muffin, lunch was mainly sandwiches, and dinner was Hamburger Helper or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or something else from a box, bag or frozen. I spent hours cutting coupons.

I have always struggled with anxiety. But in college, my eating disorder kicked in. I would binge but could not make myself throw up, so I would go to the gym for hours. My coping with stress was hiding and eating. Then, I would feel all kinds of guilt and shame and would try to hide that as well. This was an emotional rollercoaster for years. I'm happy to say that now that part of my life is just a memory.


My son was born in 1999 (going by Z). It took more than two years, bedrest, one miscarriage at 11 weeks, hormone therapy, intense fertility interventions, and medications. He was breech and was born by c-section two weeks early. He would not turn and was born entangled in the cord. The doctor said he would not have come out naturally.

I didn’t know about healthy living. I shopped all the coupons, mostly the cheapest on the inside aisles. I did get my son his own baby laundry detergent and baby bath soap, but I ate garbage, doused myself in highly perfumed soaps and lotions, used department store perfume, burned candles, and had scented plug-ins all over my house.

I followed everything the doctors told me about how to care for my baby and what he needed. I was a new mom and didn’t know how to ask questions (or even if I could). They were supposed to be experts.

At 1 year old, my son was already developmentally delayed. The County caught it with a parent developmental survey I completed and returned. In-home speech was started, and I taught him sign language for certain words so he could communicate. He had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with accommodations before he started school. He had to get glasses and have a sedated hearing test since he kept failing hearing exams. He was sick all the time and had a medical history growing faster than he was. Developmental delays, speech and language delays, cognitive issues, stomach issues, digestive problems, breathing trouble, and low muscle mass. As I said, he was always sick. This pattern went on for years.

At 6 years old, the migraines started, and he had to see a pediatric neurologist. Some were bad. I had him at the emergency room more than once because he would not stop vomiting from the pain of the migraines. Over time, a chiropractor has helped diminish them, and we have discovered triggers with food and the environment that lessen them.

Later that year, the school suggested that he see a specialist. He was diagnosed by a child psychiatrist with ADHD, and the push for medication started. I was literally in tears, asking for other ideas because I didn't want to medicate him. They told me that was the best defense against the symptoms and a way for him to be quiet and still in school. He has been on Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, and Vyvanse. All of them brought side effects worse than the ADHD symptoms.

At 7 years old, the school thought he had an absence seizure, so he had to go have an EEG, which was negative.


Then, in 2009, at 10 years old, his autism spectrum diagnosis came, and the same year, his father and I divorced. We had to move, he had to change schools. Labels of divorce and autism or special needs mom are added.

Life got even harder. Not just for him.

I had to learn about autism and wrap my head around that and the stigma (labels) that went with it. The guilt of being told autism is genetic, but nothing could be done. I had been struggling with anxiety and depression of my own. Some days were nearly unbearable, and he was the only reason that kept me going day by day. I had panic attacks that almost sent me to the hospital, my anxiety was through the roof, my employer did not understand or care about my new life changes, and I nearly lost my job. I liked that job. It was the one thing and place where I felt confident and smart. I had worked my way up "the chain." People would come to me for questions or help.

I took autism parent classes and tried to implement what I learned from classes. There is a lot more now compared to 2009-2010. There were no iPads or apps to help with communication or pictures. The school didn't know what to do with him, even with an IEP. I had to print pictures, cut them out, and make my own PECS for him. His meltdowns were indescribable sometimes. It could be the smallest things that set him off. I had to learn to ignore strangers because most were mean and said the most horrific things about me or to me about his behavior. But even coworkers and friends said some pretty horrible things. This is probably where I started to learn to have "thick skin" and not let what people say bother me.

Also, his parents are divorced, he has a new school, friends are hard to make, schedules are all over, and the needed structure is nonexistent.

I did get my son in Play Therapy, and it was intense for him as he unraveled his struggles and trauma. I found myself a therapist as well.

Nothing ever let up.

In 2013, he was tested for growth hormones and testosterone. He was not gaining height like he should have been. He ended up on growth hormone therapy, giving himself daily injections in his stomach for over a year. The idea was to get him to grow before his growth plates closed. The process was intense. He hated it. I hated it, and I felt guilty. But the doctors know best, so we continued.


In all these appointments, doctors, specialists, the County, or the school, nothing was ever mentioned about nutrition, food coloring, dairy, soy, toxic cleaning products, fragrance, getting outside, or seeing natural doctors like chiropractors or acupuncture ... and I asked over and over for alternatives. They told me this was the best course of action. I started to "happen" upon podcasts or articles about nutrition, omegas, food coloring, and leaky gut.

In 2014, I attended a Healthy Kids seminar. I signed up for the weekend classes, and my mind was blown open. A lot of what I thought was true was unraveled. The first thing I did was order my son's entire life’s medical records.

When they came, I sat down and made a spreadsheet. I was beyond horrified.

I was horrified to see in black and white that when he got a vaccine, he had a reaction or illness.

In his first year of life - before he even turned one -

15 doctor visits

7 vaccinations

3 ear infections

2 viral infections

2 multi-day hospital admissions

1 upper respiratory infection

There are so many antibiotics and steroids I don't know how to count them now.

Shots at birth,

At 2 months, shots - a week later, viral infection

2 weeks after that, they gave him the DTAP

At 4 months, “well child” and shots - 3 days later, ear infection and vomiting

At 6 months, upper respiratory infection and ear infection

But two weeks later, they gave him another jab

Then, at 8 months, we were admitted to the hospital for the respiratory virus RSV, where we stayed for 5 days, went home for 2, and went back for another week.

At 11 months, another ear infection

This pattern continued for years, and with the flu shot, he would get a huge red welt at the injection site.

This kid had so many medical issues every year. His list kept growing and is quite long; this continued for years, so many ear infections, viral infections, he had rotavirus, bronchitis, phenomena, and topped out at 7 ear tube surgeries at the final count. He has permanent hearing loss and has had a hearing aid since middle school.

It was never caught because I didn’t know, and they didn't care, truthfully.

When I would call after the appointment, I was told it was normal and to give him Tylenol. Or he was given another round of antibiotics. No one ever said that Tylenol depletes our ability to detoxify chemical exposures, and vaccines are loaded with chemicals, some of which pass the blood-brain barrier. Or that antibiotics tear apart your guts and kill even good bacteria or take a probiotic.

I was so confused I needed answers. I used my legal background to start researching and fell deep into the rabbit hole. It was a rough couple of years of processing and unraveling a lot. The realization of the chemical cocktail that I allowed my child to have made me sick, followed by one hell of a panic attack, tears, and massive guilt. Guilt for years. I lost all faith in our medical system.


After that, a lot changed. Everything stopped. Food changed, candles and plug-ins went into the trash, and I used essential oils instead; cleaning and laundry products changed, I started watching sugar and buying organic, cut dairy, learned how to cook, and we saw chiropractors as regularly as I could afford them.

In 2015, at his 16-year-old "well-child" visit, the HPV vaccination came up. By now, I knew what to ask for and what to look for. I declined the one sheet and asked for the package insert. The nurse said she gave it to me. I said I wanted what was in the box, and until I saw it, I would not agree to any vaccinations. She tossed the tray on the counter and told me how horrible of a mother I was; she couldn’t believe I would put my son’s health in jeopardy to stop the chance of ovarian cancer. When I said he's a boy and doesn't have ovaries, she got even more upset and said it was for his future sexual partners. How dare I put those other girls in jeopardy, and she left the room, with me sitting there staring at the door and my son staring at me. When I read about Gardasil, I was so glad I went with my gut, stood my ground, and did not give in.

I attended another Kids Health Conference in the fall of 2015 and learned even more about vaccines. I was even more horrified.

I took classes at Fraser and Pacer.

Pacer is a parent advocacy group that had a meeting on your legislature day. I mustered up the courage and went to St. Paul. I learned how to talk so they listen. Honestly, my representatives don't listen, but some people do. I still advocate for medical freedom because nothing in the medical system is perfect for everyone. We need to have a choice and be properly informed of that choice.


This was a question I had never asked myself.

I had issues of my own over the years, but everything got put in the back because my son always needed something. Self-care was nonexistent. I never put myself first, and I struggled with numerous traumatic events in my own life, letting them pile up in my body. I had been financially devastated more than once and had been trying for years to dig out.

In 2015, my son and I had to move to a townhouse for personal safety. I was taking medications for anxiety and sleeping. I worked a full-time job and a part-time job to pay bills. I was going to weekly therapy. I learned about mindset, setting boundaries, dealing with and controlling anxiety, tracking positive progress, and being kind to myself; I made a vision board, narrowed down my core beliefs and values, and much more. I joined a gym wanting to work more on me and not wanting anything else except to make sure my son and I are healthy and healing.

I also learned not to tear down people who have been part of my life, even if I feel justified to do so. There are always two sides; perception is through the eyes of the beholder, and no one is perfect. I used to think that my side of the story needed to be told to keep the facts, but I learned not to care.

I learned a lot and have grown a lot. I truly appreciate the journey. I started to heal. When I decided to finally take control of my own life, get shiitake in order, and stand up for myself, things started to fall into place.

The unexpected piece was Nick. In 2016, I met him at the gym. There were butterflies and anticipation and apprehensiveness. I wasn't interested in any relationship and was hesitant. My intuition said he was different. I finally gave him a chance, and boy, was he different. His values are set in stone; he is hard-working, has integrity, and treats me with respect and understanding. He said he found my son incredible the first time we met. He had never met someone with so much personality and such an amazing outlook on life. We got married in 2018. He has been self-employed in remodeling for the last 15 + years and is a very talented carpenter. He is the rock of the family. He stands strong in his values and does everything for us. His acceptance and mentoring of my son is heart-warming; Nick had vows for my son at our wedding. I never thought I would have someone like him in my corner. He does things just because and remembers little things I say months later. I am truly blessed every day in so many ways.

Around the mid to end of 2016, I had some weird medical things start. On top of the anxiety and not sleeping. My hair was falling out, I gained a lot of weight, my joints hurt, I was sick all the time, I was super crabby and emotional, and I was so tired and had no energy I could barely get out of bed. I was barely hanging on and felt like the worst mom ever. I was good at hiding my feelings and how bad things had gotten. My doctor could not find anything.

I was referred to an endocrinologist. The doctors could never explain it. In mid-2017, they called it PCOS and thyroid dysfunction. The first thing the endocrinologist did was hand me more pills. I topped out at 7 prescriptions (3 for PCOS, 1 for thyroid, 2 for anxiety, and 1 for sleeping) and felt worse and worse. I hated taking them. I asked for alternatives, and again, they said it was the best course. I had been researching alternative solutions. I had been doing a lot for my son but had a hard time seeing the struggles in my own life.

In the fall of October 2017, I left my full-time legal career to get better. I was not getting better and felt worse and worse; I was miserable, I had hit rock bottom, I found myself looking in the mirror and thinking about my life and what had happened, and I feared I would die and my son would have no one to care for him.


I focused more on what I could do to feel better. Most days were a struggle, but mindset was key. I

Nick proposed in January 2018. He had the ring and the plans and wanted to head out on the town. I was reluctant and kept putting him off since I was once again down with a horrible cold, runny nose, and fever. Luckily, he is resourceful and flexible. He made me dinner and proposed later that night. I felt horrible I spoiled his plans for how he wanted to propose.

In June 2018, we went to California for my son’s high school graduation gift trip. We did all the tourist stuff: saw the Hollywood sign, my son went to the ocean for the first time, the Warner Brothers tour was super interesting, went to Venice Beach, rode the rides at Pacific Park, and took a double-decker bus around Hollywood.

Long story short, in a shop in Venice Beach, we learned about the CBD. We learned all about growing, processing, and the different types. We bought some CBD chocolate nuggets. The next day I tried one. The day was noticeably different than our first day in LA. I had no issues with back or joint pain, my anxiety was regulated even with all the people, the smells didn't bother me, and I was able to calm myself and be in the moment and experience the joy my son was feeling.

I needed to know more from what I felt and saw. After we came home, I researched for months, finally finding a company I could get behind in the two pure plant ingredients and had testing to back it up. My CBD journey is a whole story on its own. Within weeks, I got out of bed and began functioning again. I told my doctor I was taking CBD, and she wasn't super happy to hear about that. Within a year I went back, and she asked what I was doing because my blood was "normal" again, I was looking healthy again, and my weight had stabilized, she did not need to see me anymore and was taken off all the prescriptions. There is a long list of other improvements, and I joined the company.

In 2019, we were still trying to get answers and heal. My son was sent for genetic testing at the University of Minnesota's specialized genetic clinic. Looking for genetic coding on autism, eating disorders, speech delays, and growth hormone deficiency. A total cellular DNA was extracted for many things, and I had to go in for comparison on one test. Nothing came up on any testing. Nothing he struggles with is genetic. A lie I had been told for years.

In 2020, I finally got the doctor to do a heavy metal panel on my son, and he tested positive for Arsenic, lead, and mercury. Mercury is one of the most toxic substances known. Think of those old thermometers breaking and the metal balls rolling all over. Tiny doses cause damage to the brain, gut, liver, bone marrow, nervous system, and/or kidneys. It's linked to autoimmune disorders and neurological disorders like autism.


Looking back, I would do many things differently, but we can't go back, so now I talk to parents about what I wish I had known.

The biggest thing is we have to work through it. What the "it" is.

Not just the kids but the parents, too. Many things are overstimulating: clothes can be scratchy, shoes hurt, the grass is prickly, homemade food always has a different taste and consistency, people are mean, the play looks parallel, and the list can go on forever.

But they have to work through it, and you have to as well.

It's taken a lot to see that I knew what to do and tried my best. Most days, I didn't have the extra strength to deal with everything that was happening all at once. Many parents are in the same boat, and we do our best to get through the day most days. Push when you can, and try again another day if it doesn't work. Just don't give up.

My son tried a lot of different activities. He loved Legos, Matchbox cars, puzzles, and coloring or drawing. He hated his feet on the grass but loved playing in the sand. He loves to swim but would always get an ear infection. He tried t-ball, flag football, basketball, karate, football, and softball. Sometimes, he was more interested in chasing butterflies or pulling the grass, but he found he really liked softball. It was the coaches that made the difference. To this day, he still plays softball and loves it. He joined Special Olympics a few years ago and has played poly hockey, basketball, flag football, and softball. Social interactions, working together, and communicating are important life skills. There were fights, meltdowns, tears, and happy times. He also participated in our local fire explorer program, which was amazing for accountability, skills, problem-solving, safety, and personal growth. Activities are necessary for growth and building grit and tolerance.

In public school, he didn't have any behavioral issues. He had an IEP with accommodations. I learned to take his evaluations and look for words that signified a need. I made a chart, and the accommodations were written based on his needs. Unpopular opinion: Writing in many accommodations does not do them any favors. Homework would take literally hours. It was exhausting some nights. The things that should be taught in school are to help them as they get into adulthood. If you can homeschool, that would be my recommendation; public school was not beneficial for my son regarding adult living and learning skills.

Give them age- or ability-appropriate tasks around the house and yard. These are not only for life skills and cleanliness but also for skill building, following directions, memory, sequencing, task completion, and even building confidence. These skills can be transferred to an employer.

As they age, so do we. If they have the ability, do not shut that down. Let them learn and grow so that the parental fears of what will happen to them can lessen as everyone ages.

Driving. This is a milestone that 16-year-olds can't wait for. If your child is not ready to drive, that's ok. Let them do it in their own timeframe. Pushing them to drive could have dire consequences if they are not ready. In Minnesota, Allina Courage Kinney Rehabilitation Institute has a driving assessment and training for people with cognitive, physical, visual, or other disabilities. My son did this program after failing the first attempt at the driving test. He completed the in-school driving program, but the Allina program was much better for him individually. He now has his driver's license.

With an IEP, you graduate on an IEP. Transition school was an important step after graduation. Job coaches, county services, and waivers are now available (if they didn't already qualify based on income). The school encouraged the application for social security. This topic is way too long, confusing, and complicated for one paragraph. Each agency has different rules and different people with whom you deal. The turnover rate of employees is very high. Sometimes, two different people from the same office will tell you two different things. If you go down this road, a good record-keeping system is necessary.

There's so much more to talk about that circles around special needs as a child grows into adulthood. Once they hit 18, the rules are totally different. They are now considered adults with adult rules in the adult world, even if cognitively, they are not. This is another sticky area not to be taken lightly. Many factors need to be considered. Things like guardianship or power of attorney can help here. Guardianship is a legal process, and an attorney should be considered. Power of Attorney forms for medical and financial are online if that route is chosen. My son had guardianship up until recently when he requested a court hearing and proved to the court he was capable and had grown in many aspects of living. The guardianship was dropped, and he would call me or ask me to come with him if he needed help with something.

Another big one is finances. The school does not teach this. Students must know money management, budgeting, impulse control, needs vs. wants, and saving. This is all a necessary part of life. If they can have a place of their own, they have to know how to live in it, be clean, cook, and make sure they have money. My son has grown exponentially since he graduated. He wants to move out someday and is working on skills for that goal.

People have told me they see me as strong and courageous for what my journey and all the seasons have given me. I guess I don't see it that way because I didn't feel like I had a choice; it was my son's needs over mine, and any loving parent would do that.


I have since gotten certification in autism and ADHD, natural healing, yoga, and Reiki. I am always seeking new information and learning. Many years were spent researching, taking classes, learning, and advocating relentlessly for my son. The emotional rollercoaster took its toll some days. Having the label of mom has been the most rewarding and the hardest all at the same time, yet I would never change anything. I know I don’t have all the answers, and I certainly don't claim to be right about everything, but I do have enough personal information now to be firmly hesitant toward just following along.

I help families with holistic healing methods, educate them on CBD, pure supplements, and general overall wellness, offer products to help the body detox, and have a free calm-down strategies pdf built on my own experience.

Genetics may load the gun, but our environment pulls the trigger. Small choices can either be for our health or our demise.

I have had to look inside my mind and heart and work past the labels. Simple labels like daughter, sister, cousin, or friend. Labels that have not been positive or kind, labels that are mean, hurtful, or pure lies. Those labels don't define me anymore.

"Motherhood is incredibly exhausting. No matter what, someone always needs you. The day my child was born, I became a parent. The day they were diagnosed, I became an honorary nurse, teacher, physical and occupational therapist, and crisis manager. I became a fierce advocate and found my fighter's voice. I learned more medical jargon in the first few months than I did watching every season of my favorite medical drama. I learned to clutch onto hope and dream big. I learned that anything is possible. I was prepared to help my child grow into a strong and passionate person, but it turns out that's what they helped me become."

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