Monday, September 27, 2010

Hopeful Parents

I am so excited to be over at Hopeful Parents today writing my first post about the role and need for hope in my life. I will be posting on the 27th of every month at Hopeful Parents so come on over and check it out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The three boys alternate between walking and running all the way home. They barely stop at the street to make sure it is clear before bolting across - talking excitedly all the way to our house about what they will play with first and the funny things that happened at school. At the house there is a brief disagreement about whether they will play inside or out. The vote is 2 to 1 for inside. The guests want to play inside, the host knows he has lost on 2 counts (the sheer numbers and the manner rule that dictates guest gets first choice of activity). He is disappointed but no voices are raised coming to the decision, no feelings hurt. It takes all of 30 seconds and then they are agreed and all head inside.

Once inside they all throw off their shoes and backpacks, practically falling onto the toys before they even have their things off. I place snacks on the table and alert them they are there and then leave the room. I listen from my computer desk upstairs - the negotiations, the pretend battles and the plans for bigger and better adventures. No one calls for me. No one fights or gets physical. No one needs assistance in anyway.

I am not used to being this mom. I love it (I think), I have longed for it but it feels foreign. For my entire time of being a mom I have been actively on duty during every moment. I don't know how to be the mom who dissapears and only comes back once in a while to check in. I WANT to be that mom - I don't want to be a helicopter parent. I have just had to be. So this, this is very unfamiliar yet I hope it becomes more common.

While I sit at my desk and the boys play I am painfully aware that 2 of the three older siblings of these boys are down the street at the school, playing soccer. For the past two years that was my son as well. This year things are much different. My oldest is, at least for now, attending a Day Treatment school. There will be no soccer team for him this year. That hurts but I am also thankful that we are in a better place than we were several months ago. That we are on our way back, maybe to future soccer teams. There is also my awareness that if my oldest were home at the end of the school day on this particular day, these friends never would have been able to come over and my youngest never would have had this experience. That's hard to swallow. We wanted to believe for so long that we were doing a great job at managing C's needs and yet still fulfilling the needs of J. But how could we have been when C's daily rages meant not only was J expected to keep himself busy but no way could having people over ever have worked out? 6 year old boys should be able to have friends over.

So it is bittersweet that my youngest gets to experience "typical" 6 year old boy activities and I mourn a little for the "typical" experiences that C worked so hard to achieve and then, at least momentarily, lost. I grieve for all those experiences that C (and I) never got to have. I love where my boys are at right now, the stages and the experiences. I am so grateful for so much. But today is bittersweet.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sweet Sweet Denial

I admit wholeheartedly that denial is one of my strongest coping strategies.

Denial often gets a bad rap, people berate themselves for living in denial and people judge each other about states of denial.

Denial and me - we are like that (you can't see me but I am crossing my fingers together to connote that we are very very close). I am good with that. Denial is a welcome friend at times.

Unfortunately I also have too much insider knowledge sometimes. Having worked for over 15 years in early intervention with a focus on mental health and for quite some time as an advocate and resource to families of children with disabilities - sometimes I have way too much information inside this brain to be able to deny the path we are on or what something might mean. That's hard. When I am dealing with an agency in town I can try to only go by the experiences we directly have with that agency but I cannot, and should not, ignore other people and family experiences with that same agency. If I have sat in a meeting where a professional for that agency acted reprehensibly and then when the parent appealed to higher powers and was rebuked - then I need to take that into account for my own family. If an agency acted in (what I think is) an abusive way to a child in their care - I NEED to take that into account when considering options for my own child.

But sometimes that knowledge and experience can make you hyper vigilant and it becomes very hard to trust. You cannot take people at their word - you find that you need them to prove to you over and over that in the end they will do what is right and do the least harm possible. That, as many of you know, is exhausting all on its own. I am already exhausted by the time I drop off C every morning - to then spend the day trying not to worry and the nights going over and over the events of that day - beyond exhausting.

That makes me sad. That is how my son lives and now I follow in his footsteps. I don't worry that my son will be misunderstood or hurt (emotionally more than physically) in some way. I assume that he will. Instead I hope that the occurrence will be minimal and that the people involved will be able to repair their relationship with him AND me.

C had a very difficult day yesterday in his day treatment program. From all accounts (even from C) it seems as though they handled it quite well. Of course there are things that I would have done differently. Of course I only have part of the story and will never get the whole story as I was not there. Of course there are a couple of items from the day that give me pause and concern but no alarm bells are screeching. At least not yet. A is counselling me to go in on Monday and focus with them about all the things they did right - much like the approach we would take with C himself. Focus on the positive. I know he is right, I had the same thought. But I also feel worried that I might reinforce the negative aspects of what I understood occurred. There aren't many (that I know of) but they feel important to me because they are important to C.

So as we head into this weekend I am inviting sweet denial to come on over and hang out at my house. She did a great job around the whole domestic duties issue (my house is a mess and I have been blissfully able to ignore it) and now that I have emerged from denial about the house there should be plenty of time and room for her to work her magic as far as C and agency issues. A healthy dose of denial for even just a few days would be welcome.

Friday, September 10, 2010

World Suicide Prevention Day

Tuesday December 11th, 1990

Right now I am sitting in front of my locker and no one knows what I have done. I'm scared. Scared that everyone will hate me and no one will understand what I've just done. Scared to live though. I really am. I honestly can't see a future. I want someone to help me, to take away the hurt and make me happy but no one can.
Please forgive me for I am so sorry.


That was part of the suicide note I wrote on my 17th Birthday.It was about 4 weeks after I had BEGGED for help and sat in the Hospital Emergency room with my high school guidance counsellor for 5 hours. I had two wonderful teachers that had noted something was wrong and they worked so hard to get me the help I needed. Children's Mental Health services and awareness in 1990 was even less than it is today. I had "held on" and managed to see a Psychiatrist through the emergency room and he wrote a script for Prozac, with 2 refills, without a second glance. There were no other services or treatment offered, just the prescription and an appointment for 6 weeks later for follow up. My loving and concerned yet ill informed parents filled it and gave me the bottle to administer to myself. I took it for several weeks and was not feeling any better. The day after I got the prescription re-filled was my birthday and I was just more miserable and more lost, more lonely and more desperate. When I downed the contents of the bottle on my lunch hour at school I hadn't planned to do it that day or in that way but thinking and writing about my death had been the primary focus of my life for quite some time by that point.

I remember standing there, stunned, staring at the empty bottle and thinking "now what?". Part of me felt a little exhilarated with the knowledge that my horrible existence would soon be over. I sat at my locker, my heart racing, and wrote the note. Then I realized I would likely pass out at my locker and be found unconscious or dead by some unsuspecting student. I felt horribly guilty that someone would find me like that. This wasn't at all what I had envisioned when I thought of the various ways to end my life. I began to panic. Eventually I went to my guidance counsellor and handed her the note I had written.

Beyond that was a long and very painful path of multiple hospitalizations and medication trials and repeated suicide attempts. I had some horrible and scary experiences while hospitalized as a 17 year old in an adult Psychiatric ward. I also met some amazing people along the way who began to help me rebuild my life and uncover the causes of my severe clinical depression. I lost and found friends along the way. My parents experienced unimaginable pain and sorrow. With the help of a therapist provided by the hospital where I had been an inpatient I was able to do a great deal of healing. With the right medications I was able to move past the deep depression and anxiety and function again.

20 years later I took my own 11 year old son to the emergency room after he brought me housecoat belts and rope, begging for me to tie him up because he was worried he was going to hurt himself. He repeatedly told us that he wanted to die. That life was too hard and he wanted to die so it all would stop. He begged us to keep him safe. We were sent home from the emergency room. There were no beds available, we were told there was nothing they could do. Thankfully we didn't listen. We made calls, pounded on doors and refused to stop until he received the treatment that he needed.

It goes without saying that I am glad I did not die that day in 1990. But my pain was so real and so raw I still break into a sweat when I think about those days. I am glad my son was able to tell us this past spring how horrible and desperate he felt. Unfortunately too many people die from suicide every day. The general public often thinks those that attempt or die from suicide are weak or desperate for attention. Mental illness is as much a true illness as Cancer and Diabetes. People who are struggling with any form of a mental illness need our support and assistance not our judgement. Its not that they want to die - they just don't know where to go, who to talk to or what to do. They just want the pain to end.

Today is world suicide prevention day. Here are some resources:

Friday, September 03, 2010

Do it Anyway

A few months ago, during one of my darkest and most hopeless of times, I found myself questioning if all that hard work for so many years being C's mom had been for nothing. Had we really added to his life if where we ended up was where all those "professionals" we saw in his early years predicted? I sat in front of our Social Worker and told him where my dark thoughts had led me that day. He reassured me that although perhaps I couldn't see it through my pain that day, we had done a lot for our son. I asked him to please just keep reminding me over the next few months that being his parents has made a difference to his life. He honoured that request as did the rest of the team. I needed their hope and conviction while I found my way out of the deep dark hole I was in.

A friend then sent me the following in an email a few days later. It hit home then and it hits home now as we try to navigate a new system and educate and build relationships in our home community with service providers.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

~Mother Teresa