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A new voice has been added to the bullying issue and it’s an unusual one, Bette Midler.   I’ve always enjoyed her work but her latest post on facebook echoes my thoughts lately.

It is a sad, sad day for America when young people would rather die than endure one more day of hatred and relentless persecution. As a mother, I am ashamed of all the parents who have failed to teach even the most basic human lessons to their children, “Live and let Live” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The normal, everyday kindness that we took for granted just a few years ago is a thing of the past, and I for one, mourn it deeply. Technology, the Internet, with its anonymity, have allowed people to behave like beasts, pouncing on the weak and howling with laughter when they inflict a wound, that only the strongest could survive. What are we doing to ourselves? How are we to survive as a nation, when hate seems to be the only thing that motivates us??

Four children are dead by their own hand because they just couldn’t take any more. How many more are we going to sacrifice to the hyenas? Isn’t it time to stop?

If you want to comment or forward this post on your facebook account (which I highly recommend) you can connect  here.

I’ve been wondering how much of the callousness of our youth is being nurtured by the anonymity of the internet.  Add to that the blatant, unabashed vitriol we see every day from our politicians and reality TV.  I fear that what we have become is a society that is turning it’s back on community and the concept of behaving for the good of the community.

Reality TV rewards individuals who win and highlights the worst of behavior.  The individual is king, there is no community. Tell me how any of them are contributing in a positive way towards their community?  And yet, they’re making a lot of money and becoming celebrities.   This combination of money (which is the only source of power in our society) and media coverage perpetuates the problem.  Meanwhile, those of us who try to live our lives in a mindful manner, play by the rules, and give of ourselves to others, are struggling.

Now, before you start thinking that I’m becoming a media/internet hater, I am not advocating getting rid of TV or the internet.  I do not believe that these are the evil Frankenstein monsters of our society.  We have been able to do so many wonderful things through the collaboration of the internet with so much access to information that we can use to solve our problems.  We can research anything from a do-it-yourself project to medical conditions.

Somewhere we’ve made a wrong turn in acceptable behavior.  The problem is that we are not taking a stand against the bullies online because we are too polite to call them out.  We allow ridiculous things to be said and go unchallenged by others – politicians, facebook postings, celebrities, etc.  Or, even worse, we believe the outrageous comments or sound bites which just furthers the credibility of these idiots.

Is it too late for us to turn this around?  Does it make any sense for us to continue or  have we become a vanishing species about to be swallowed by the vicious predators around us?

I think what it takes is for us to stop remaining silent.  We must respectfully challenge these comments.  My challenge to you is to take a stand.  The next time someone posts a ridiculous comment – challenge their thinking.   The next time you see someone make an outrageous claim, research it and find out if it is really true.   And, when you find it is not, challenge it!  Ignorance and intolerance cannot be allowed to continue.

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Dad Confronts Bullies

September 17, 2010 by

Here’s a man after my own heart.  He went on a school bus and confronted the kids bullying his daughter.  These were kids putting condoms on his daughter’s head!  Although he used profane and threatening language, I must admit that I admire him.

I worked so hard to control my anger towards Amy’s bullies.  I had to keep reminding myself that they were only 12 but I mostly wanted to just take a 2×4 to their heads.  We had just left Amy at the hospital after her suicide attempt.  I cried and cried and cried until I could cry no more.  The next morning I was so worried I couldn’t concentrate on anything but making them pay for what they did to her and the rest of my family.

I prayed to God for forgiveness but it wouldn’t come.  After a few hours, I finally went to the back yard and started weeding.  I’ve never done that with such fervor.  Each weed was expending more energy until I finally had nothing left.  No tears, no strength, and miraculously, no more anger.  God had finally granted me peace and forgiveness.

Although I don’t condone this father’s behavior, I can certainly understand it and, truthfully, I secretly admire him.

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And now it’s time to get the T-Shirt!  You’ve worked hard, endured things other parents never imagined and you’ve persevered through it all.  No one else close to us can imagine the strength we’ve needed to find as we help our kids back to health.  We have gone places that the angels fear to tread all for the love our our kids.  If we don’t deserve this T shirt, no parent does!

Proclaim your greatness with an official Out of the Rabbit Hole T-shirt.  Available for all of us very dedicated  Mighty Moms and Fearless Fathers at the following link* Moms and Dads wear it loud and wear it proud!!

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Today’s post is a re-post of a message from Diane Chosinski.  She left it on the yahoo group, BiPolarParentsT.  This group is a place for parents of bipolar teens to share their stories, ask for advice and just seek a little support. If you haven’t explored the online groups available, I encourage you to do so.  They can be so helpful in finding that you are not alone in this struggle.

The message really hit home for me.  We have all been there.  I want to thank Diane for so eloquently describing our darker moments.

Today Shelly turned 16, when she was a baby no one told me told me about the roller coaster life that we call bi polar.

No one told me that I would be up for days at a time worrying about Shelly if she was ok making sure that she wasn’t going to hurt someone or herself.

No one told me that instead of planning a sweet 16 birthday party I would be having a supervised visit with her in Denny’s.

No one told me that instead of cake and ice cream i would be serving her lamatical and Risperidone with a side of melatonin.

No one told me that instead of going out and getting her driver license that instead we have to go to a bench trail for her behaviors this past yr.(breaking my nose, breaking her sisters foot, breaking all the kitchen chairs, and on and on)

No one told me that instead of having all her family and friends over that we would have to make sure that no more than 2 people were with her at a time and they were court approved.

No one told me that the beautiful baby that they handed me was going to have to live in a daily hell. No one told me that I wouldn’t be able to fix whatever was bothering her.

She should be getting ready to go out on her first date tonight instead she will be in lock down at 9. I used to joke and laugh with her about if i was rich she would go off to a rich boarding school in Europe never meant a RTC some were here in IL.

Never thought I would be one of THOSE parents were DCFS knows you on a first name basis.

I am angry today.  I am angry at this illness for stealing my daughter’s life away from as I had hoped and dreamed for her. I am angry at the mental health system for not doing more research on the meds and finding out what we can do to help these kids. I am angry that the only most parents only get the help after their child has done something so bad that the police and courts have had to be called. I want to through a feet stomping hands waving temper tantrum if i thought that it would help my Shelly I would do it in a heartbeat.

Sorry to rant but its been a hard year Shelly hasn’t been at home since Jan 6th when she was arrested for breaking her sisters foot. Her DCFS worker thinks she has found a RTC for her,. Her pdoc has told me to be prepared that Shelly will be there for about a yr.

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There were parent support groups available to us for Amy but we were just too exhausted emotionally and physically to take advantage of them.  It’s sad because I imagine that they could have been very helpful.  Unfortunately, when we were going through the toughest times during the first two years, we just couldn’t manage to make them.

We had way too much on our plates – dealing with her unpredictable emotions, driving every night to visit her when she was hospitalized, doctor and therapy appointments and just trying to deal with the rest of our lives made it impossible for us to even remember to put the meetings on our calendars, let alone get ourselves to them!

However, if you can at all arrange it, I would recommend checking them out.  Here’s a link to some national groups and you can search for meetings in your city:

National Alliance on Mental Health

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

I’ve discovered groups on yahoo as well but unfortunately I didn’t think to look for this until after Amy was well on her way to recovery.  You’ll find supportive parents going through the same problems whom you can commiserate, vent or question about your situation. The two groups I have found are Parents of Depressed Teens and BiPolar Parents.

If anyone knows of any other groups, please send me a comment and I’ll include them on the list.

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In the following article, MSN reports of a man who has saved at least 160 people from committing suicide at a tragically popular jumping spot in Australia.  As a result, Don Ritchie and his wife Mora have earned the 2010 Citizens of the Year award.

It’s interesting that Don merely starts his conversations with the potential jumpers with a simple, seven letter sentence: “would you like a cup of tea”?  This non-threatening, simple question has been effective 160 times!  The man is genius.

It got me thinking about how much easier it is for those not personally invested to approach our suicidal family members.  As Amy’s mood would drop, my fear increased.  I know she could hear it in my voice.  Maybe this is why her therapist can talk her down from the edge (figuratively) when I cannot.  Who knows?

One other random thought on this tea offer thing.  When my daughters were small, I would have them drink a glass of water to calm down after some trauma.  Skinned knee and crying uncontrollably always called for a glass of water from Dr Mom.  My kids joke that a glass of water will cure anything, including an amputation!  But really, I found that the act of drinking always got them to calm down, breathe more slowly and relax a little.  Maybe tea has the same effect…

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It is so hard – emotionally, financially and physically – to be a caregiver for
anyone who has an illness, regardless of the reason. We sacrifice so much. The
whole family is inconvenienced, the financial strain is great and effects
everyone. We take them to appointments, rearrange our lives and make their care
the center of our decisions. A simple thing like a family outing requires
considering the ill person’s needs as the first thought.  With Amy, we had to think about whether she would be overwhelmed by the event and freak out.  Or, would she be cranky and uncooperative and ruin the whole experience for us?

The second was usually “do we have any extra money” because so much of their care is out of pocket
and not covered by insurance. Amy’s therapist, at $95 a visit, wasn’t covered.  When you consider that she was going to those visits weekly, that adds up to $400 a month.  No wonder I drive a 15 year old car!
But, I think it’s even harder to be a caregiver for someone with mental illness because they are able-bodied.   When they physically can accomplish things, it’s hard to remember that the
illness is what makes them unwilling or unable to do things. They’re not being
lazy, the illness is making them unmotivated. Think about what a
monumental task it is for a depressed person  just to get out of bed in the
morning and continue for one more day in the hope that things will get better.

As the caregiver – it sucks!!! We have to put ourselves and our lives, hopes,
and dreams on hold but we do it because we love them. It’s a very long, slow
recovery process from mental illness and we all wish we had a magic wand that we
could wave to make it all go away. Amy has been stable for a year now and I
still have regrets about the opportunities I missed because she was sick.
However, she is alive, the suicide attempts were not successful and that makes
it all worthwhile.

Try to get some relief for yourself and get out and do something you enjoy. We
all have to find a way to get a break from them just so we can stay strong and
stay the course. We can’t help them if we’re not healthy. With my daughter, I
would do gardening. We were afraid to leave her with a family member so we
couldn’t leave the house.  We just couldn’t risk her making a suicide attempt when someone else was caring for her.  So,  I got out and worked in the yard. Since she was
depressed, she wasn’t interested in joining me in the project and she left me alone.  I
could enjoy a few blissful hours of quiet and create something beautiful that I
could look at and enjoy later.

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May 25, 2010 by

Amy learned during her first hospitalization to try doing enjoyable activities as a distraction when she started feeling overwhelmed.  These activities were called “copers” – something to help her cope with her anxiety.  She made a lengthy list which she would bring out and review as needed.  She would then choose one to do.  If that one didn’t work, she’d bring out the list and choose another until she found one to calm her down.

Some copers were typical – reading, singing to music, drawing, etc.  Some were just plain weird, like letting rice run through her fingers.  Yes, we honestly had a bag of “coper rice” which she would play with.  The tactile sensation was soothing to her.  The coper list went with her to school in her pencil bag, too, ready for when she needed it.  Of course, the coper rice had to stay home but there were plenty of other things on the list that she could do at school.

My point here is that if it works (and is legal, ethical, not destructive  and moral) then let them do it.  Whatever it takes.  Yes, it involves some getting used to but let them do it.  They need to find how to control their emotions on their own.

It kind of reminds me of Amy’s imaginary friends when she was three.  She had half a dozen of them.  We followed the drill; indulge them and eventually she’ll give them up.  So, when her imaginary friend Dorothy was staying for dinner, we set a place for her.

We did have to draw the line a few times, though.  I remember her older sister coming to me complaining that she couldn’t watch TV because all of Amy’s imaginary friends were sitting in the chairs.  We  told Amy that her friends had to go home at that point.  She smiled at me  and I started to suspect that the friends were becoming a matter of convenience.  Or in her sister’s case, inconvenience!

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Who knew our kids could have their own month?  Anyway, here are some helpful links for support:

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How many times has this gone through your head?  We’re all running through this mess, trying to keep our kids safe and bring them back to reality but we’re sailing in chartered waters.  There is no map or any similar personal experience to guide us.  We’re on our own and just doing the best we can.

Surprisingly, Showtime has captured the essence of living with a person with mental illness in their relatively new series United States of Tara.  The title character has multiple personalities but this is no ordinary Sybil-like program.  Instead, they also focus on the spouse, children and others who are affected by the character’s illness.

Hank and I found this program while Amy was away and it really opened up conversation about things that we just couldn’t deal with at the time.  For example, at one point the teenaged daughter declares that the family is f***ed.  Hank and I just started laughing knowingly for we understood all too well.

You know that having the hospital psych ward and your pharmacy’s phone numbers in the contacts directory of your cell phone is completed f***ed!  You know that having your child yell “Why won’t you let me kill myself?” is completely f***ed but what else can you do?

There were so many times we had to deal with things so far outside the scope of normal but never had the luxury to really evaluate our feelings about them.  Amy had enough emotion going on, we didn’t need to add ours to the mix so ours got put aside, on hold, until the day when we could start to let them out.

I highly recommend this program for parents of mentally ill children but only after your child is relatively stable.  I think it would have been too painful for us to watch two years ago when she was still so fragile and we were still so scared.  Let’s face it, the consequences of failing our child are dire and the pressure almost unbearable.

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