The Other Shoe

 

One of the lingering affects of going through the health crisis with my son is a periodic feeling that the other shoe is going to drop. If I’m honest about it, and why not be honest after all that is why I’m sharing, it appears to me that this fear of something bad looming just out of sight didn’t actually start with my son’s health crisis; that situation only served to escalate my feelings. As I look back over my childhood, it is apparent that this “other shoe” mentality was Read the rest of this entry »

***My hope is that this post will help parents and caregivers better understand the role that peer pressure can play in an adolescent’s mental health crisis***

One of the most startling experiences during my son’s mental health crisis was the realization that within his adolescent peer group, mental illness is often viewed as a type of “club”.

As I began to move through the beginning stages of my son’s crisis, the first treatment program he was admitted to was Partial Hospitalization. This program consisted of day treatments in a hospital setting and allowed my son to come home each night to sleep. During the course of the program, the patients participated in many therapies and programs including: DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) groups, family groups, and art projects. They were also able to complete their school assignments so that they did not slip behind in their course work.

Every morning, I’d drive my son to the Behavioral Health building at the local hospital and every afternoon I’d pick him up. Once or twice per week, we would have a treatment team meeting and review his progress, concerns or challenges and next steps for treatment.

There were rules in place at Partial for the safety of the adolescents participating in the program. There was to be no contact outside of Partial. No exchanging phone numbers, Facebook friending or other social media contact exchanges. And yet, within a day or so, my son was coming home with phone numbers written on his arms and hands. He also was accepting new “friend” requests on Facebook at a surprising pace, especially since he wasn’t an avid Facebook user up to this point. While it was alarming that the participants were so blatantly ignoring the rules, as my son justified the friendships, I wondered what the big deal really was.

Then I found a piece of paper folded up under the couch in our family room. Type written along the top of the page was “How to cut”. As I read on, I found that it was an instruction sheet on how to self harm by cutting including specific information on where to cut if one didn’t want to get caught, how deep to cut so as not to risk serious injury and what medical supplies should be stocked just in case the cutting went too deep or bled too much. What??? I was very alarmed. My head was spinning. I was confused. I could not figure out why someone from the program would be providing instructions on how to self-harm. In my naïve thought process, I assumed these teens would all have a vested interest in helping and supporting each other in a positive way. Boy was I wrong!

Over the next several weeks, the situation began to unfold at a rapid pace. Not only were the adolescents in the program (and eventually, “friends” made during inpatient as well) sharing self harming instructions but they were also, for lack of better definition, in a bit of a competition with each other. Comparing the proverbial “badges earned” based on the number of hospitalizations, types of medications, runaway escapades and even suicide attempts. In a way, encouraging each other to try harder to fit into the “club”.

Shortly after my son’s second inpatient hospitalization, I found that he was part of a closed/private Facebook Group dedicated to his “Hospital Family”. The intention of the group was to stay in touch with each other after discharge, to find out who was going back into the hospital, and to share and compare experiences without the watchful eyes of their parents or caregivers. It was also a place where normal teenage anxiety collided with mental health challenges and resulted in a shit storm of drama, police involvement and angst that only amplified the imbalance of an already challenging equilibrium.

Much of my son’s interaction with these peers ended shortly after his suicide attempt; at that point he was admitted into residential facilities for more than six months which resulted in lost contact with many “friends” in this group. I’m not certain if he tried to re-engage after his transition home but he was on a different path at that point and may have recognized the importance of continuing to focus on his wellness.

While this is not occurring in every instance, it is imperative for parents and caregivers to be aware and on the lookout for cases where peer pressure is influencing behaviors. Many teens who seek mental health treatment don’t feel that they fit in anywhere among the “standard” peer groups. Even though it’s very unhealthy, many of these teens are drawn to what feels like like-minded friends found within this alliance. Feeling as though they have finally found a place where they fit in, they’re unable to understand or see the risk or danger that this situation can put them in.

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Please feel free to email me your thoughts, comments or questions to farfromparadiseblog@gmail.com.

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The following post was originally published on the Childhood Bipolar Project site on June 28, 2014.

As you read, think about this… how often do we ignore that voice inside us that says something is not right, this doesn’t feel right to me or this doesn’t honor my needs? And why do we ignore? Food for thought, enjoy the post! 

As a parent, one of the most difficult things we can experience is watching our child struggle with an illness. In my case, I watched, somewhat helplessly, as my son plummeted into a mental health crisis. A few months before, I had noticed some changes in his behavior, withdrawal from school and friends but naïvely chalked it up to “normal” teenage doom and gloom.  Until the night, just before Christmas 2010, Read the rest of this entry »

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Over this past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a yoga conference in the mountains of Vermont. Perhaps, upon reading this, your mind went right to a visual of hippie flower children running around the mountainside Namaste-ing each other. And you know what? You’d be right on! Oh, but it was so much more than that! Just like the practice of yoga itself, this festival was such a deep, personal experience for me. I had the privilege of traveling and spending the weekend with four other amazing women; it was a unique, powerful and heart opening experience for each of us.

While I was truly excited about attending this festival, I was also feeling somewhat anxious about it. Over the past several months,

Read the rest of this entry »

On a recent morning, I was driving to an early meeting when I hit quite a bit of traffic. Living where I do, we can be anywhere from the suburbs to the city within 20 minutes; during normal “rush hour” it might take 27 minutes. But on this morning, traffic was stopped. I flipped on the radio just in time to hear of an accident on one of the adjoining highways and knew I was in for a bit of a challenge getting to my meeting on time. As I sat in stop and go traffic, the news reported that the situation was not actually an accident but instead a person had jumped out of a car, while it was moving, and had run off. The police were searching for the individual but the news reported that there was no need to worry.  My first reactions were disbelief and frustration. “Great” I thought, “some guy chooses this morning to jump out of a car”. I finally made my way to my meeting, but I kept thinking about the jumper, sensing that there was much more to the story.

Read the rest of this entry »

Last week, I had the honor and privilege to share an original essay on shattering stigma as part of the Stigma Fighters series on oldschoolnewschoolmom.com. Sarah Fader created Stigma Fighters as a safe place for people to share their stories about living with mental illness. Sarah not only has created this non-judgmental space for others to share, but she also shares her personal story as well.

Sarah is now looking to take Stigma Fighters out to a broader audience, including college campuses, where she will be speaking and arranging for community meet-ups for people living with mental health challenges. Read the rest of this entry »

Today, Far From Paradise’s latest post is being featured over at OldSchoolNewSchoolMom.com as part of their Stigma Fighters series – You can read it in full here. ****Head on over and show some love!

Stigma Fighters is a blog series where real people with mental health issues are sharing their stories in order to combat societal stigma. Human beings living with mental illness are fighting an invisible war. We are suffering but you cannot see our wounds.

Stigma Fighters helps to debunk myths about what it’s like to live with mental health issues. Participants are sharing 1000 word articles about their lives. I hope you will join us and share your journey.

You can also follow OldschoolNewSchoolMom.com on Twitter @osnsmom

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Please feel free to email me your thoughts, comments or questions to farfromparadiseblog@gmail.com.

If you like this blog post, please consider signing up to follow my posts via email

I’m also on Twitter @farfrmparadise

 

 

 

 

“Walking away has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength.  We walk away not because we want others to realize our worth and value but because we finally realize our own” – Robert Tew

In my last blog post, which was also a submission to the #iamsubject writing project (if you have not read it, you can read it here), I spoke at length about the times in my life where I was faced with situations that resulted in walking away from those things that no longer served me.

If you are like me, you’ve heard this advice before and thought, “What on earth does this really mean?” Walk away from that which no longer serves me. Sure, in concept, when we realize that something is not good for us or we are holding onto beliefs that are not our truth, we should walk away, right? Read the rest of this entry »

I am participating in Diane DeBella’s #iamsubject project http://www.iamsubject.com/the-iamsubject-project/. Here is my #iamsubject story.

 

“I want to see your brave, show me how big your brave is” – Sara Bareilles

At certain points in life we are all presented with opportunities to be brave. There are many ways to be brave but none tougher, in my opinion, than allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and look deeply into our own lives. Often we are presented with chances to shed the stories, beliefs and façades that we have created along the way as a form of protection or as a way to portray an outward appearance of the “perfect life”. These opportunities do not necessarily show up as a single experience but more Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Sons,

You may not know this but I didn’t become a mother on the day you were born. I became a mother the moment I found out that I was pregnant with you. From that very moment, I loved you. I didn’t even need time to fall in love with you because the love filled my heart and soul in a flash. I remember being so anxious to meet you, to see your faces and your fingers, hands, feet and toes. I felt like I knew you even before we met face-to-face and you knew me too. The years flew by; I couldn’t remember how I spent all of my time before you came into my life because I couldn’t imagine spending my time any other way, ever. I have loved every aspect of being your mother, the good, the bad and the ugly times. Never once did I wish for anything else. Never once did I want to be anything else. My entire identity was wrapped around being your mother and that was all right with me. The years continue to fly by. We are in a different place now. With miles and deep canyons between us – canyons created, from my perspective, out of anger, fear and misinformation. There are canyons nonetheless. On this day and every day, I send you love and blessings. I forgive myself for the times when I didn’t act in your highest and best. I forgive you for the times that you did not honor me with your words and your actions. I honor myself, today and everyday, as your mother. I honor you as my children. I am proud of you. I will always love you more.

Hugs and Kisses, Mom

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