Navigating life with a teenager….who happens to have bipolar disorder

Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Why Parents Should Watch 13 Reasons Why

I was going to be clever and write an article about 13 reasons why parents should be watching 13 reasons why, but I can’t. I can’t consciously give you 13 reasons to watch this show, I can only give you 1……because your kids are watching it.

That’s right, whether you know it or not, your kids are watching. Even if you told them not to, your kids are watching. It is the new trend, the new fad, the newest thing to do when they hang out. The difference is that this isn’t as harmless as making homemade slime or flipping water bottles. This could have lasting effects and you should know about it and discuss it.

For parents who don’t know, 13 Reasons Why is a Netflix series based on a book about a girl who commits suicide and leaves behind audio tapes to multiple people explaining the part they played in death. It is harmful. Not simply the actions of the characters prior to her death, but their actions toward each other after receiving the tapes.

I am sure you want to know why your kids are watching this. Well, because their friends are, is probably the main reason….because there is a highly publicized death scene, might be a reason….there are also multiple rape scenes……are you scared yet that this is what your kids are viewing? I was, too. I was especially afraid because I have a 17 year old with mental illness, who has a history of suicidal ideation.

I work in mental health education and I knew I should watch it for work purposes, but I also knew that if I watched it, it would pop up on my watch list. I didn’t want my son to see that……so I delayed for a couple of weeks, debating. Then, my son came to me. He said that he had been watching reaction videos about the show on YouTube and wanted to watch the series, but thought he should discuss it with me first. He and his friends had been discussing it and he knew of a friend’s parents who had forbidden their children from viewing it…..so of course their children were rebelling and watching at other friend’s homes.

My first thought was “Thank God we have open communication and he knew he could discuss this with me” my second thought was “Hell no, you can’t watch that”…….luckily, they were both in my head. We sat down and had a deep conversation about my concerns and came up with a plan. We would both watch it, with him starting after I finished the first episode. I ended up binge watching it in a day to get it over with. He planned on starting the next day, but after I gave him my review and heavily discussed the plotline, he didn’t feel the need to watch it. The good thing is, I’m prepared if he changes his mind and decides to.

My advice, be open with your kids. Don’t shut them down. Find out if they are watching this show  and discuss it. It is an important conversation to have. Bullying, LGBTQ issues, rape, suicide, and mental health challenges in general are all issues that are approached in this show and not represented in healthy ways. If they are watching it, you need to be able to let them know they can come to you with questions to get the right solutions to teen challenges…….because this show gives a lot of the wrong ones.  Until we can talk to our kids in an honest way about these things, they won’t trust us enough to come to us when they are happening in the real world……… instead of just on screen.

 

 

*My thoughts are not the thoughts of my employer Mental Health America of GA

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The Upside Down

Hello All.

I know it’s been ages, but I am back.  I am not promising that it will be continual, but I am going to try my best to make an effort on a more regular basis.

We have had a strange year where life got flipped upside down.  My kiddo CJ is the healthiest he has ever been.  HE made the decision to try life off of all of his meds, he worked it out with his doctor and stepped down in February/March.  Other than a bit of hoarding (which we are working on) and general energy mania, his bipolar is in check. No violent mania, no meltdowns or outbursts, no angry confrontations…..well, none that any other teenager wouldn’t have. So, now we need to make up for lost time in the schooling department and try to get him to catch up so he can graduate on time this year.  He is still homeschooling and in charge of his own ‘plan’ so we will see how well this year goes.  Our deal is, if he doesn’t hold his own by December, he enrolls in a GED course, since he is studying for that as well.

The upside down part was actually me.  The first thing I dealt with were some health challenges….a lump and biopsy (which turned out fine) and a neurological challenge (which is permanent, but treatable).  I don’t usually get political on this blog, but the election last year really messed me up. I have dealt with depression in the past and had been dealing with a bit of it since being laid off in 2015, but election season triggered something for me that I wasn’t expecting.  First the ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘locker room talk’ comments brought up a situation from my middle school years that directly caused me to have an eating disorder and self-esteem issues I have been battling for 30 years (I will probably write about that in another post)….but then election day itself….oh my.  I woke up on election day feeling energized, I went to sleep feeling numb…..like it wasn’t real.  I had to run errands the next day.  I found myself questioning everybody I saw, thinking “Did you do this?  Are you the reason this man is leading our country?”.  Thinking that way made me terribly sad.  I had many family and friends who did and I couldn’t feel that way.  I am a firm believer that this world is so great because we all have different opinions and thoughts.  I can’t walk through it wanting everybody to think like me……isn’t that the whole point of an election, so we have choices?  I kept trying to talk myself out of how sad it made me…..but it wouldn’t work.

On top of all this, I was still trying to find permanent work.  I had interviewed 3 times over the course of 8 months for a job I know I would have been amazing at.  Due to some very bizarre reasons I wouldn’t get the position….then it would come available again….they would bring me in to interview, again….then I wouldn’t get it…..again.  The last time they actually called me and said “If we open it back up, when would you be able to start?” but I still didn’t get it.  Prior to this job search experience, I had gotten every interview I had ever applied for…..and almost every job.  In the past year or so, I have applied for 60 jobs…..I have interviewed for 3.  I know that part of that has to do with the fact that we now live in the Atlanta area……but then I start to wonder…..is it just that???

After this last rejection I sunk into the deepest depression I have ever been in in my entire life.  I felt useless.  I couldn’t get a job….my son was healthy now and didn’t need me any more…..I wasn’t a productive member of my family or society……I was in a very dark place for a few weeks didn’t speak to the outside world, didn’t leave my house, barely left my bedroom…..and nobody knew.  I came to the realization that, over the years of my son’s illness, I have lost friends and became very reluctant at making new ones…..so I have few.  With our life having been a rollercoaster for so many years, friendships can be hard to maintain. So, I sat by myself in my room…….and my phone didn’t ring.  That made me even more sad, to realize that I literally could disappear and it wouldn’t change the outside world.  My husband was incredibly worried about me. Here was the girl who teaches other parents about self-care and mental health education, laying in bed all day, doing nothing.  I had to find a way to help myself.  I ended up starting another blog called Head Space and Heart Space.  This one was for me and my mental health,  if others happen to enjoy stuff that shows up on there, all the better.  It’s crafts, food and photography.

Having something to focus on got me out of bed.  It forced me to put my energy into a project.  A few weeks later, I got a call about a resume I had submitted to a mental health non-profit as an educator, something I am passionate about.  They wanted me to come in for an interview. After my previous experience, I was incredibly nervous.  The interview entailed me designing a class presentation on a mental health topic and presenting it as though to a class of parents.

I knew I did well at the interview.  I left feeling like I rocked it….but still, I second guessed my ability to get the job. My self-esteem had been stomped on and made me doubt myself. It only took them two days to call me and offer me the job.  I started this week.  I will be traveling all over the state educating teachers, mental health professionals, lawyers, social workers……and anybody else who is willing to listen. There is knowledge to be had from the people who live it everyday……and now I have the chance to do that.

One of the things I have realized in all of this is that, for 17 years, I have not only been a mom…..I have been a mom in crisis.  I don’t know how to live a life of exploration and independence for myself.  In the journey my son and I have taken, there were many things I had to give up to raise him in the best way I knew how.  I would do it again in a heartbeat…..but now, I have to find a way to regain a little bit of myself.  My new job is a part of that.  I will be traveling often, so it gives us the opportunity to cut the apron strings while he is still at home.  It will give CJ a chance to seize more responsibility for himself, I hope.  Maybe it will give us both the wings we need to move forward to the next stage of life.

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*My thoughts are not the thoughts of my employer, Mental Health America of GA

The Many Faces of Courage – this mom’s thoughts on Caitlyn Jenner

courage churchhillIn the past month or so, there have been so many news items that I have had strong opinions about…..but I try to keep this blog about our life coping with mental illness and not as a soap box for my personal views on the world, so I have forced myself to keep my mouth shut all the while sitting on my hands…..both here and on FB.  That was, until I saw a few posts on Facebook the past couple of days that made me release my hands and type away.  As I have said before, we all have our own truth, and this is mine.

Earlier in the week, the Vanity Fair cover came out with Caitlyn Jenner.  Originally, my FB feed was filled with support for her……until it was announced that she would be receiving an ESPY award for courage. Following that announcement, I started seeing more and more negative posts accompanied by pictures of military personnel with the heading “This is real courage”.

Now, I believe whole-heartedly that members of our military represent courage and bravery.  If it was not for our armed forces, we would all be living a much different life in a very different country. They put their lives on the line every day for our freedom and I thank them for that……but who says that courage can only come wrapped up in camouflage?

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I was raised by a single father in a time when it was a rarity.  Most men who were single parents during that era had become so due to circumstances beyond their control.  My dad chose it.  My parents married young and divorced young. At the age of 25, my dad took on the responsibility of 2 toddlers.  He had no outside financial support, and little to no emotional support from his parents. He raised us on his own and helped us become strong, capable women. He is my hero…..he represents courage and bravery to me.

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When I was 20, my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Having spent her life roller skating, my last image of my grandmother was on skates.  She was holding the wall as she circled the floor, but she was pushing forward.  In the face of death, she chose to live life…….she represents courage and bravery to me.

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I have a 15 year old son who is living with a mental illness.  His depression and anxiety can be overwhelming at times….for both of us. He has friends…..he goes to church……he goes to school…….he loves helping others.  When there are so many people with mental illnesses that choose to lock themselves away from the world, he faces it every day……..he represents courage and bravery to me.

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All of the parents that are raising special needs children, that are advocating for them to make sure they get to have the best life possible……they represent courage and bravery to me.

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All of the adoptive parents and foster parents that choose to love another’s child as their own regardless of the challenges they may face……they represent courage and bravery to me.

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All of the people who grew up facing adversity and used it as their driving force to create a better world……they represent courage and bravery to me.

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The teenagers who are true to themselves, whether it be something as complex as sexual orientation or choice of faith, to something as simple as choice of clothing or music…..those kids that choose what’s right for them instead of what’s popular…..they represent courage and bravery to me.

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Since becoming CJ’s mom, I have had to learn to open my mind to differences.  Differences in personality, differences in lifestyle, differences in opinion.  Because of that, I try to pay attention, especially when I think I will learn from a situation. When I saw that Bruce Jenner was doing an interview with Diane Sawyer, I made it a point to watch…..and to pay attention.  My overwhelming thought at the end of that interview was “Wow, I have a feeling he just saved somebody’s life”.

Bruce Jenner made a decision many months ago.  He could have hidden away and gone through this transition in private, but he chose not to.  He knew that his experience and his life could help educate others.  He used fluff entertainment, like The Kardashians, and turned it into a platform to help us understand the transgender community a little bit better.  I read another blog post about Caitlyn Jenner being fake.  Yes, it took multiple surgeries to get there, so physically she is augmented, but Caitlyn is Bruce’s truth….one that he had hidden for 65 years.   The fact that Bruce made the decision to introduce the world to Caitlyn and have her fulfill what he considered his life’s purpose in helping others……that represents courage and bravery to me.

Honestly, I know there are many people who don’t think that is heroic…..but then, maybe people don’t realize that the statistics of suicide are staggering.  It is quickly becoming one of our nations leading causes of death.  Bruce’s choices, that Caitlyn is carrying out will, quite possibly, save lives within the LGBTQ community.  To me, someone who has the ability to save another person’s life and chooses to do so in the face of adversity is a hero in my book.

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