Tag Archives: behavior

The very long road to okay.

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This post is going to be very personal and open you up to a part of my family that I have felt too much shame to speak of. It has been years in the making so please excuse the length. I’m not even going to proofread this because, if I do, I won’t post it. But that’s why I am doing it. The shame is holding me back and it is a lie. There is nothing to be ashamed of. I am going to open a giant can of worms: parenting a child with a serious psychiatric illness. Yes, the child I am writing about knows and is on board. She thinks people should be aware and quit treating mental illness as everything but what it is: chronic and debilitating.

Over 22 years ago, I gave birth to the most amazing child. I remember physically seeing the world differently the day she was born. I vowed to be the best parent to her that I could be. I was going to research everything. I was going to be thoughtful in every aspect of being a Mom. I was going to get it right. In a lot of ways I did and in an equal number of ways I didn’t. What I know today is the biggest mistake I ever made was not listening to my intuition. It is there for a reason. It is there to warn us when something is wrong. This incredible child was beautiful, brilliant, slept well, ate well, laughed and was generally wonderful. We were off to a great start.

When she began puberty, things began to really change. She had always been headstrong but headstrong was turning into wreckless and adversarial. She began to have insomnia. She was failing in school. Things were not okay. I began to research. Because this was my first time to raise a child, I wasn’t confident in my abilities. I was sure all those older parents knew better than I even about my own child. I was assured it was just puberty. I was told to give her more vitamins or to spray her pillow with lavender or to begin homeschooling her because a better school environment would cure everything. I listened. I did everything I was told. Things weren’t better. All of these veteran parents had given me all the solutions so I blamed myself.

If I weren’t a terrible mother….If I knew more about raising children…..If I read another book….Maybe I could find the answers. The shame I felt for being her mother and not having the ability to make things better was so tremendous. It was debilitating. Piled on top was the shame I was feeling for spending so much energy on what might be wrong with my eldest, I wasn’t fully there for my younger two daughters. I regularly mentally flogged myself for failing all three of them.

We came to a fork in the road. A place where I had to choose whether all of those people were right or if that niggling voice in my head knew something was really wrong. I began researching therapists and she hated all of them. She would run circles around them and challenge their knowledge. This was not going well. I was so tired.

Friends and family blamed my permissive parenting. Others blamed homeschooling. Still others blamed my lack of leading a fully organic lifestyle. Obviously, I was doing everything wrong. 

I eventually came across Dialectical Behavior Therapy and my eldest was diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder. I cried because this dragon finally had a name. In my exhausted state, I convinced myself we could slay any dragon that had a name. Names were powerful.

It wasn’t that easy. Sure, the dragon had a name but this dragon was a liar and a cheater. This dragon would steal my daughter from my arms.

The lowest point of my entire parenting journey was the day my daughter had to be hospitalized. I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t will things to be better. She was on a fast downward spiral and I knew I couldn’t keep her safe. The hospital was horrible. I almost walked out with her. I won’t go down the road of how ridiculously bad mental care facilities in the USA are, but, trust me, when I tell you that you wouldn’t put your child there unless you had no other choice. I can’t tell you how horrible I felt. I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t make it better. Piled on to this was the litany of supposed friends who either quit speaking to me or only spoke to me to tell me what a bad decision I was making. I had *two* friends left and that didn’t even include my spouse. 

In that low point as I sobbed for my baby because she was hurting so deeply, I had never felt more calm because I knew I had listened to my intuition and I knew as bad as this was, she was safe and I was….at the very least….now on the right track. I would move heaven and earth to help my daughters and some days it felt as though I had.

Borderline is very difficult to treat. The medicines are mediocre at best. They either made her feel tired or nauseous or fuzzy-headed. She no longer felt her muse and couldn’t paint or write songs. Taking the meds was a fight because she wanted to feel okay but that wasn’t happening. We also went through periods where she felt okay on the meds so her illness would lie to her and tell her she no longer needed them.

She quit taking her meds. She decided she was going to just will herself to not have borderline. She would just decide she didn’t have it. She was now an adult and there was nothing I could do but beg her to think this through.

We began a slow downhill spiral that spanned several years. She wasn’t going to go back to the meds. She was going to be fine but she couldn’t finish her classes and she couldn’t focus. She had trouble holding down a job. She moved out of our home because she no longer wanted me to give her advice. She was angry with me. Angry I hadn’t done more. Angry I hadn’t fixed it. I always fixed everything so why not this. I was angry for the very same reasons. Why couldn’t I fix this?

We reached a new low the day I received a call that my eldest had swallowed a bottle of pills and was hospitalized. My mind was racing. How could I not have known she was suicidal? How could I not have seen the signs? The horrible truth is there were no signs. She wanted to see what would happen if she swallowed the bottle of pills. This couldn’t be happening. It was too horrible for words. How would we know if she was going to attempt something like this again? How could we stop such a dangerous whim? I forced the issue to have her hospitalized. I was terrified for her. She was livid with me. That dragon was telling her lies again. That dragon was telling her she could just pretend she was okay.

I hate that Borderline dragon. I feel a deep anger for all it has stolen from my daughter. It has taken years away from her. It has hurt her relationships with friends and family. It harmed her ability to do well in school or easily hold down a job. Borderline is an abusive bastard.

She has now reached a place where she has decided that she needs the medication. She reached her own low that let her know there was no turning back and there was no willing the borderline to go away. I am thrilled to say she is doing okay now.

It is funny, when my eldest was a baby, I wanted everything for her. I wanted her to go to the best schools and have an Ivy education and take on the world. I loved her more than life so I wanted the best for her. It took a long time to realize sometimes okay is the best.

Through all of these years, I learned the simplest but most important virtue of being a parent: I learned to be content and peaceful when things were just okay. I don’t know if things will always be okay, so I hold on to the good days for everything I have.

Listen to your inner voice if it is telling you something is really wrong. Intuition exists for a reason. Feel peace and contentment when your children are just okay. Let go of guilt and shame. They will find their way to better than okay if they want it.

If you have a friend who is walking a similar journey, check in on them. Don’t turn your back when they need their village the most.

I hope this post is helpful to someone out there.

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The Ukulele Parade

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The Ukulele Parade

*I know what you are thinking,”It has been a year since she posted!” Rub it in, why don’t you? Yeah, it has been a year since I wrote here. Let’s just chalk this up to not being a terribly prolific writer or ADHD or raising three daughters or some combination thereof. I had something really important to share and this is the best venue so I. Am. Back.

I had the opportunity to receive some perspective last week. A bit of background is necessary here: My daughters attend different schools because they are very different people and require different types of environments. My middle daughter attends our locally zoned public school, Wunderlich Intermediate. She enjoys the large, diverse school because it has many competitive opportunities. My youngest daughter attends The Banff School which is a small, culturally diverse, private school. She enjoys the ability to work with her teachers more closely and the fact that the school is multi-age/multi-grade allows her to work more at ability rather than her age/grade correlation. In her words,”I like that everyone gets their work done without all the drama.” No middle school is drama free but it is a more comfortable level for youngest. I am all for utilizing the environment that works.

Last Tuesday, I received a call from O (middle daughter) saying she had missed the bus through sobs of sadness. Now O is incredibly private and not one to cry easily so my alarm bells immediately began ringing and my inner Mama Bear was on the move. Upon arriving at school, I was fairly horrified to find out that a teacher (who doesn’t even teach O) had caused her to not only miss her bus but had also bullied and shamed her in front of another teacher for not being conversational. Important to note here, the incident she was referring to occurred at the local grocery store over one month before. O wasn’t rude, just chose not to converse which is her right outside of a school setting. O hadn’t done anything dangerous or broken any school rule yet this teacher chose to flex her authority and detain her. I was amazed to hear the assistant principal helped to stop O from getting on the bus and to hear him say that because O isn’t an adult she needs to learn to respect adults simply because they exist and are older than she. I reminded the assistant principal that respect can not be taught through fear and intimidation. You may reach compliance but that is far and away different from respect. Respect is earned and not just because you reach the age of majority. Respect is taught by modeling respectful behavior. We didn’t demand this assistant principal and teacher see negative repercussions, rather we asked they be trained in the research that we know to be true: Teachers who bully students are more likely to be bullied themselves. This Twemlow research shows the negative outcome of teachers and administrators who bully students. Please bear in mind, I do not think these adults were being malicious; I believe they were unaware.

Fast forward to Friday!

I received this photo in E’s (youngest daughter) school newsletter with the following caption: ‘The most exciting event of the week for 6th and 7th grade is a little hard to understand if you are not part of the Banff culture. If no one “signs the sheet” for an entire week in Mr. Crump’s World Culture class, he leads the class on a ukulele parade around the building.  Fun and quirky, but if it works…’

Ukulele Parade

I asked E about the Ukulele Parade and she says,”Oh! If no one has to sign the sheet (gets in trouble) then Mr. Crump takes us on a Ukulele Parade where we march, dance and sing through the school.” I couldn’t believe the timing of this information. You see, Mr. Joe Crump is doing something wonderful here. He is using a currency that is meaningful to the students rather than imposing his currency upon them. There is mutual respect happening here and the kids are responding positively. Now don’t get me wrong, I am aware that large schools don’t necessarily have the ability to have a ukulele parade but the teachers do have the ability to use currency which is important to the students. Then the teacher is part of what builds students up and not part of what tears them down or makes them feel inadequate or embarrassed.

I know many teachers practice positive classroom and student management. I love having the opportunity to showcase teachers doing awesome things. Mr. Crump renewed my spirit with his ukulele parade and I wasn’t even there.

We adults have the power to be a positive or negative influence on the children we are involved with. Childhood is hard; people can be mean. Be one of the people who builds up instead of destroys.