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Archive for May, 2010

Copers

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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Not long ago, a team of researchers watched a 1-year-old boy take justice into his own hands. The boy had just seen a puppet show in which one puppet played with a ball while interacting with two other puppets. The center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the right, who would pass it back. And the center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the left . . . who would run away with it. Then the two puppets on the ends were brought down from the stage and set before the toddler. Each was placed next to a pile of treats. At this point, the toddler was asked to take a treat away from one puppet. Like most children in this situation, the boy took it from the pile of the “naughty” one. But this punishment wasn’t enough — he then leaned over and smacked the puppet in the head.

This is the beginning of a fascinating article from the NYT http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/magazine/09babies-t.html

I have a bachelor’s degree in psych.  I’m fascinated by the whole nature/nurture debate in human behavior.  If the findings of these studies are correct, at what point and under what circumstances do people go from being cooperative and co-dependent beings?  What causes children to reject this and start to adopt bullying behaviors?

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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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