All posts by Lisa Lambert

Five things that parents need you to say

There are memory moments you take out, hold up to the light and bask in for a minute or two.  They give you a little spark of brightness, a lift or bump of energy.  Those are moments you hoard and take out sparingly because you know you’ll need them again.  You don’t want them to lose their impact.

When my son was nine, I had such a moment.  It was a particularly tough time when nothing was going right.  He was diagnosed with depression but the succession of medications made him wired, rarely sleeping, acting on nearly every impulse that crossed his mind.  I was taught behavioral strategies which were pretty worthless and the word “no” reliably caused meltdowns or worse behavior. I was tired, discouraged, often near tears and holding on with a grit-my-teeth determination.

During an appointment with his psychiatrist, my son flipped through every mood, touched everything in the office and was headed for a major outburst.  I don’t remember what I did – talking, rubbing his shoulder, bribing or distracting but it worked for a few minutes.  The doctor looked at him, then at me.  He said, “You two are a very good fit.  Your son is lucky to have you.”

I replayed those words over and over again that day and would take that moment and those words out and relive them over the years.  I never doubted them and felt more confident.  They always lessened my discouragement (at least a little) and became a kind of touchstone.  Every parent raising a child with emotional, behavioral and mental health needs simply should have one of those moments.  Two or three, or even more would be even better.

Many appointments are focused only the child or youth and have little time for conversation, except for giving directions for follow up.  Sometimes parents call, email, facebook or contact someone for help and the entire exchange is focused on problem solving.  We are all thinking about the needs of the child, not the parent.  We give lip service to the notion that a parent is the most important part of a child’s life, but that’s about all.

Parents raising children and youth with mental health needs have learned to take a smidge of encouragement and run with it.  It’s usually in short supply.  Whenever there is a chance, it’s important for all of us to hear these five things.

1.  Your child is lucky to have you. Parents hang in there and do the best they can. We are blamed, judged and excluded regularly and many times don’t feel lucky at all.  Our efforts go unnoticed though we are the ones dealing with the aftermath of the latest meltdown or shopping for a rigid eater or anticipating the next crisis.  Without our advocacy for services and school supports or our willingness to live one day or one hour at a time, things would be a lot worse.  It’s really nice when someone notices that.

2. It’s not you, it’s the system. Our children don’t get approved for services or we have no idea what’s available.  A program or treatment is stopped too soon or we wait for it forever.  We do our damnedest to parent well, to keep our child on an even keel and then the system simply doesn’t work the way we are told it’s supposed to.  It feels personal.  It’s nice to hear it’s not.

3. I like the way you said that. Parents often have a unique way of looking at things and they coin their own phrases or create funny names for things.  My son and I made up names for our pointer dog and she was the stand in for a lot of family jokes.  Parents shouldn’t need to learn jargon or acronyms (though most of us do) and we often use words that make things sound less intimidating.  Instead of talking around us or “above” us, appreciating our point of view is worth a lot.

4. You’re doing everything right, even if you’re not seeing the results. Thomas Edison, they say, failed 1,000 times before creating a successful light bulb. All the diets, discipline and many treatments we try often don’t work.  We take the blame on ourselves too often or wish we were better at this. We are often doing it right but the results don’t point that way.  It’s nice to hear it said out loud once in a while.

5. You’re doing a good job. It’s a tough job, raising a child with emotional or behavioral issues. People are quick to judge (why can’t you control him?) or offer platitudes (it’s only a phase).  There is still a lot of stigma out there around mental health issues and many parents feel it’s not getting any better.  Even professionals who say they are strengths based in their approach only offer suggestions or new things to try without taking the time to notice our good work and herculean effort here and now.

Parents are great at detecting what’s authentic and what’s not.  One of the reasons it meant so much when my son’s psychiatrist said he was lucky was because he truly meant it.  If you say one (or more) of the five things, you’d better really believe it .  On the other hand, if you truly mean it, it might be one of those moments a parent like me takes out when the going gets tough to cherish and make their day a better one.

 

Silhouette of hands and the horizon

A Reflection After the Deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

Silhouette of hands and the horizonby Rachel LaBrie

Recently, we all got the news that both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain died by suicide.

I feel a certain emptiness right now. But I also feel like I would like to speak more about my experience with suicide and spread a message.

I lost my best friend to suicide. She was the kindest, gentlest person you could ever meet. I remember the day she died, it felt like there was a black hole encapsulating me. I could barely talk, my tears would not stop. How could they? Losing her was like losing a part of myself.

In my lifetime, especially after losing my best friend, I contemplated suicide. A lot. It’s all I could think about. But for some reason, I knew my friend would be heartbroken for me to be with her so soon. I knew she needed me to carry on her legacy. So I did.

I became a peer. I became a voice for those who found it hard to speak. So here is a message I want everyone who reads this to remember.

It is not as easy as saying “reach out for help if you need it.” Sometimes, depression makes you isolated. It makes you disappear into the background, fall to the ground, and you feel you cannot get up. In my experience, in times like that, I needed someone to reach out to me, because I was incapable, or at least I thought I was incapable, of reaching out.

Ask a friend today how they are feeling. If they say “fine” or “okay” try and find out the truth behind those words. Sometimes the saddest of hearts hide behind a smile and “I’m fine” passing through their mouth. Sometimes, they need you to show you truly are reading the messages they need you to hear.

Rest in Peace, Anthony and Kate. Your legacies will carry on forever. Thank you for all you have done.

Rachel LaBrie is a young adult who has a passion for advocacy. They are currently working on writing a book of poetry about mental health.

person

Anxious Mess: Thoughts of Someone with Social Anxiety

personI often think of what it would be like if I went to a party like a lot of young adults my age do.

In every scenario I can imagine in my head, I see myself crying in the corner, hands covering my ears because it was too loud in the house where the party was taking place. I see myself having panic attack after panic attack because there are people I don’t know, and my social anxiety can be crippling if I am not used to a situation.

Most people don’t really think I have any real social anxiety. I’ve had people tell me “You are so social. How can you possibly have social anxiety?” I suppose that is because I don’t really go to new places alone, and people don’t get to see me try tons of new things. I’m always at a familiar place with familiar faces that I know and feel comfortable around. It hurts me when people say the things they do. There are lots of people who are social but have social anxiety. I am simply good at hiding my anxiety at this point in my life. However, a person telling me I can’t possibly be socially anxious makes me upset, but also angry and annoyed.

People keep urging me to go new places and try new things. And I’m trying. I really am trying so hard. But I am scared to death of “new.”

What if I have a meltdown in public? What if I fall to the floor screaming because I am terrified of my surroundings? And walking in the city? Any city? Never, not me. What if someone talks to me on the street that I don’t know and something bad happens?

These are just a few of the questions that go through my head when thinking about going to experience new places and meet new people. The scenes that play out in my head are one of a horror movie in which a young girl finds herself bombarded with scary people who don’t understand. A movie where a young girl is hated by a whole new group of people.

Next time you think someone doesn’t have social anxiety, you may want to reconsider. Everyone has demons. Everyone has something that terrifies them. And for me, it’s social interaction, among others, and it’s real.

By: Rachel LaBrie

Rachel is a young adult who hopes to someday be a peer mentor or a peer specialist.  They are currently working on writing and publishing a book of poetry.

Wide Open: Opening Up About My Trauma

I hear my therapist ask me “what was it that brought these memories back up?”

I think about it for a minute. These repressed memories of sexual abuse were bound to pop up at some point now that I’m being open about my trauma. I knew the answer within a minute or so. “I was making a timeline of the emotional and verbal abuse he put me through, and then all of these repressed memories I’d tucked deep down kind of popped up as I was writing.

In my lifetime, I have been sexually assaulted, as well as emotionally,verbally, and sexually abused in a relationship. I hadn’t found the courage to talk about it until about August of 2017. It started with me in the car with one of my best friends. We were talking about my ex boyfriend and the words came flying out of my mouth, the words I hadn’t been brave enough to utter before then. “He was emotionally abusive towards me.” Back then, although I didn’t admit the other abuses, I still felt so free. I felt like I could start talking. My friend hugged me and said, “I’m glad you told me. It takes courage.”

My openness took a break in November of 2017, though, when I got a new therapist. She was extremely rude and had a serious lack of knowledge in trauma and abusive relationships. She asked the question therapists should know the answer to; “why didn’t you just leave?” I already had doubts about her, but this is why I stopped seeing her. If she couldn’t understand that concept, she wouldn’t understand anything about me.

I was hospitalized in January of 2018, and had to address a lot of the trauma I had endured. I had to work through challenges, including flashbacks and panic attacks, and I made it. I got out and am starting to thrive. I have two jobs, and am learning the most important two words I need to know and practice the most: self care.

Self care is the most important thing I do for myself. I write about my struggle. I talk to friends and others in my support network when I feel low. And, I’m learning that I have to stop blaming myself for what has been done to me. I am not the deeds that have been done to me. No, I am much kinder. I am a giving person, and I need to work more on realizing I am not at fault.

If you are, or have been, a victim of abuse, please realize you are not defined by your trauma. You are not to blame for what happened to you. There are people out there who understand. There are people who can and will support you through this. You are so strong, and I am so proud of you for how far you’ve come.

If anyone you love is, or has been, a victim of abuse, please realize there are some things you shouldn’t say. Pay attention to triggers. Ask them what is not acceptable to say, and what their specific triggers are. And most importantly, please respect their boundaries. If they tell you they are uncomfortable doing something or are uncomfortable with what you are doing or saying, respect it. It is extremely important.

Our young adult blogger chooses to remain anonymous. They like to sing and advocate for change.

flowers

Coming out of Hibernation

flowersWhat is your favorite part of winter? The snow? The skiing and snowboarding? The days off school?

My favorite part of winter is when it’s over. Winter feels like a punishment to me. I work so hard to get outside, exercise my arthritic joints, get that vitamin D doctors are always hassling me about, and just get out of the house in general (easier said than done). I feel like winter rips that away from me. I struggle with the shorter days and cold, bitter air freezing my lungs and joints.  I end up forcing myself out of bed in the morning, knowing full well that I will probably slither back under that fortress of blankets like a polar bear in her den. What’s the point of going out when I can hide in bed all day?

I long for that first day where I can hear the birds and walk outside without dreading the cold. My chronic physical illnesses on top of my mental health challenges make it really hard to get motivated and the snow is like a flashing neon sign telling me to give up before I’ve even gotten up. It bullies me into avoiding self-care and socialization. I try my best to fight that blanket of snow each morning, sometimes I win, sometimes I don’t.  What matters is that I try. Even if I end up back in bed, I know that I fought the winter blues. I’ll beat them some day.

Lucy is young adult that loves art, drawing and writing. Their favorite pet is their rats that help with anxiety. Lucy loves to help other youth and continue to advocate for system change.