Googling parents like us

Have you ever googled yourself?  After you weed through the other yous, the ones you never knew were out there, you might find of things you had forgotten about.  Maybe you have an old My Space page still up.  It could be there are pictures online you had all but forgotten.

If you self-google, you might also find the other people who share your name.  In my case, the “other Lisa Lamberts” include a murderer, a dog trainer, a composer, a small business owner, a tarot card reader, a bartender, a banker and someone with my name who parties a lot.  Some of those are scary.  Some of those are intriguing, like the Tarot card reader.  Do you think I could I get a free session based on our shared name?

There is actually a name for this online activity.  It’s called egosurfing.  Some people do it for entertainment, some to find others who share your name (guilty) and some to see what information is out there that’s all about you.   Mostly, this kind of information is easy to find and can be part of how people form impressions about us, whether we are aware of it or not.

Have you ever googled something like “parenting a child with mental health needs”?  I have, because that describes me too, maybe more than my name does.

Most people are familiar – a lot or a little – with the facts about children with mental health needs.  They might have heard that 1 in 5 children has a mental health condition.  They might have read somewhere that 50% of all lifetime instances of mental illness begin before age 14. They might have seen in the news that suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for children and young adults. Those are sobering and worrisome facts.

Not a lot of people stop to think that children live in families.  And that having a child with mental health problems has a huge impact on families.  They are the ones seeking help, dealing with the symptoms (behaviors) and worry, begging, advocating and persisting. The statistics about families are pretty compelling too.

Unlike when you egosurf, the facts and information about parents of children with mental health needs can be tough to find.  It’s not a subject that receives a lot of study and researchers aren’t elbowing each other out of the way to gather information and data.  But there are still some pretty compelling things to know.

Parents of children with emotional and mental health needs have the highest divorce rate of parents whose children have special needs.  Not really surprising is it?  We argue about whether to okay medication and what parenting strategies to try.  We spend so much time and energy just dealing with crises, schools, treatment and meltdowns that there’s not much left over at the end of the day.  We experience those stages of grief, anger, loss and denial at different rates and never in the same sequence as our partner.

The national survey of children with special health care needs reports that we are more likely to lose our jobs or live in poverty than other parents.  For many years, I used all my sick and vacation time to go to school and treatment meetings, visit my son when he was hospitalized and take him to the one pottery class that was willing to have him there.  I tried not to listen to other parents telling me about vacations that we wouldn’t be taking or how relaxing a three day weekend was. I remember one dad telling me they got an unexpected small inheritance from a great aunt. They had intended to set it aside for college, but ended up spending it on all the things insurance wouldn’t pay for.  Others give up promotions or stay in jobs they’ve outgrown because they need the flexibility and understanding their present job offers.

What does this mean?  A lot of us are single parenting and many don’t have the economic power we hoped would be ours.  It also means that parents are throwing most of the resources their family has – time, money, energy, other relationships – into the mix to see if it will make a difference for their child.

Googling doesn’t capture this at all. Search engines are wonderful for finding people, facts, images and so on, but not these particular facts or this specific information.  If you could google “parenting a child with mental health needs” and get a result saying, this is what your life probably looks like, it would probably surprise people.  Especially those other Lisa Lamberts next time they self-google.

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6 thoughts on “Googling parents like us

  1. Thank you. When my child first delevoped a severe mental
    Illness, I looked for books or articles that would help me navigate the many emotions that I and my family were experiencing. I couldn’t find anything useful. It’s a void that needs to be filled.

    1. Mary–I agree with you! And while I’m usually uncomfortable with any kind of self-promotion (even though I’m a writer and supposed to do it!) I’ll tell you that I’m currently at work on a “survival manual” for parents of kids with severe mental health challenges, which will be published in late 2018. I and my network off friends living this life saw the need, like you did, and as I’d already been publishing short essays on the subject I realized it was high time–and also, that a parent-to-parent, rather than clinician-to-parent book, could be of great help.

      I sure hope it will help others know they’re not alone, at the very least!

      <3 Deb

      1. Funny, I”ve started to review all my journals for our story with the thought it could turn into more. Not so much about finding your way through “the system” but, as you said, dealing with grief, hope, and acceptance. My child is technically an adult now, but the story started before age 14.

        1. I hope s/he is doing better now–and your whole family, of course! If you would be interested in sharing some aspect of your story for the book, I am incorporating other families’ experiences into it (with ALL identifying info changed). Still on the lookout for a few more. If interested (no pressure), my website is linked to my name here, and you could contact me that way.
          Take care!! .

  2. Lisa-Thank you SO much for this powerful post! You’re right: people (including clinicians, in my experience) rarely consider the impact of childhood mental illness on families. The first time a doctor (at the inpatient psych unit my son was in and out of between ages 9 and 12) talked about the rest of us, I wept. He said, “your son does not live in a vacuum. There’s a family here that needs help, too. And it’s OK to acknowledge that, and do something about it. In fact, it’s imperative.”

    That was a life-changing moment for me and my family–including my son. (But I won’t hijack your excellent post to go into it here.) There is so little out there for the family units caring for, and loving, our anguished kids. I’m so glad you pointed that out–and so amazed that you have the energy to have moved into the kind of advocacy you do! I am mostly a lurker on your blog and an infrequent attendee at PPAL events (because, hey–mental health parenting makes you unreliable. And tired!). But I will keep trying because I know you will keep doing!!

    <3 Deb

  3. I think it’s interesting that we all have had to learn to do such a thorough job of creating paper trails in order to get our family members access to what they need that collectively we most likely have enough information to put together a library full of books on the topic. Lisa you do a great job of making the time to put information out there in a way that connects & resonates with so many. Thank you for keeping us aware of the fact that we are not alone in this journey. 🙂

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