It strikes again. Mental illness

It has been a loooong time since I have posted. Unfortunately that demon Mental illness has been ruling my family, my kids, and our lives. Constant chaos it causes. Constant uncertainty. My daughter, now 15, recently fell victim to that hellish demon of depression with a most recent suicide attempt.

This is her, once home from the hospital, singing. I can’t even imagine this sweet voice being silenced:

At 15, she said her heart hurt so much, the disgust she has for herself, her body, her thoughts and finally a breakup by her boyfriends sent her spiraling downward. Down into that hole of darkness that she felt had no light at the end. Thankfully, so very thankfully I had an inkling something was amiss, checked on her and the EMS was called.

This child, this beautiful girl of  mine, to feel so hopeless and helpless that nothing more she could do was to leave.

Leave.

Go.

End it all.

Depression is such an evil monster, playing tricks on our minds, our hopes and our rational thinking. Lucky for us, she has another chance and is embracing that opportunity. Millions more, every day, make this fatal choice and succeed. Their families and loved ones left with a hole that will never be filled. An ache so profound it never goes away. Thankfully for us, her friends and those that love her, this was one task she failed at !!! Thank you !

Did you know that Depression is THE most prevalent mental health disorder?

Treatment for depression is effective 60-80% of the time.

Four times more men than women kill themselves; BUT three times more women than men attempt suicide.

Depression is treatable.

For more information on suicide, depression and help see American Association of Suicidology

My daughters Idol has been Demi Lovato, teen star, actress, singer. Demi has come out admitting her struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorder, and self esteem issues, and self harm. All of these evils my daughter also struggles with.

While in the hospital after her suicide attempt my daughter watched Demi videos, interviews and read a book by Demi constantly. She said Demi Lovato was her inspiration. I had already purchased tickets to take her to see Demi close to us, prior to this attempt, and the concert date was drawing near. Knowing how much my daughter loves her, and knowing that Demi could make a profound difference in my daughters life I had begun a  major attempt to arrange for us to get backstage to meet Demi Lovato. I called radio stations, newspapers, the arena where the concert was going to be, friends in media, and told them all my daughters story and how important this was. I called and emailed for  a month or two, but, no luck.

So, happy to be going to the concert, we packed up five days after her suicide attempt and had a road trip to Charlotte, NC to see Demi Lovato. As luck would have it (Or I prefer a God Thing) one of the managers of the Time Warner Arena that I had called, called me as we were in route. He said “I think I can help”

And he did.

He arranged us to be part of the “Meet and Greet” with Demi Lovato !! We got to be in on the sound check, and her answering questions and chatting with the small group, along with a few personal songs. Then, onto picture time. My daughter, and so  many other girls, all in tears, happily, thankfully, got to meet their idol too. Their life line. This, I will say, was my Best day ever !! Me, my girl, there, smiling, breathing, happy, thankful.

My daughter is now making changes, getting help and helping others. Reach out to her if you feel moved to @n0_boundaries

Me, Demi Lovato, my daughter, and her friend

Thank you Demi for being you, for saving so many girls, for sharing your story, for making my girl smile again !! Me, Demi Lovato, my daughter, and her friend

The Shriver Report. Loving a Child with Mental illness

Hix_K_Family Pic

Faith. Love. Hope.

These are words I heard all of my life but I did not really feel their true meaning until my son was born 18 years ago. Now, they are my motto that I try to live by every day.

What we did not know at the time of his birth, but soon began to realize, was that something was wrong. Over the years the depth of his complications and the challenges they would bring to him and our entire family would begin to unfold layers at a time. Bit by bit.

Almost immediately after he was born, we realized my son, Zack, was a very challenging baby. He did not cry; he screamed. He was incredibly difficult to take care of and soothe. The difficulties are too extensive to divulge here in this short post but can be read in depth on my blog.

As he became a toddler, he began to have lengthy rages sparked by the most minor incident. His unpredictable rages could, and would, last hours. They would begin in a flash and he would literally turn into an unrecognizable child. Then when they were over he would return to a sweet, loving, and remorseful little boy. He also began to focus on strange things. For example, all of the toilet seats in the home had to be put down. He would go around the house several times a day checking them. He would only drink from one cup and eat on one plate. These are typical behaviors of those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but I couldn’t help but wonder – so early?

My sweet son has been dealt quite a full deck of difficult and challenging “disorders,” classified as neuropsychiatric illness, better known as mental illness. Unfortunately, he is not alone. Millions face these same demons. For my son, it is believed there was some brain damage either in utero or at birth (most likely at birth since we know the birth itself was complicated) that led to these complications.

He was also a very sick baby with chronic ear and strep infections that at some point most likely brought out his OCD at an early age. This phenomenon is called PANDAS, or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections. The term is used to describe children who have OCD and/or tic disorders such as Tourette Syndrome, and in whom symptoms worsen, or appear almost overnight, following infections such as strep throat and Scarlet Fever.

Zack was officially diagnosed with PANDAS after he had another strep infection in the fifth grade that induced acute onset of tics that were severe and difficult to manage. He also struggles with some learning disabilities, anxiety, depression and has sustained three head traumas.

After years of chaos, destruction, tears, questions and uncertainty along with the constant search for help and answers, we finally were given some answers to his erratic, unpredictable behavior and mood swings. We finally connected with a wonderful specialist who has now been treating Zack for 14 years.

But the strain of raising a child such as mine is monumental on a marriage and family. Throughout the years, I spent countless hours reading, researching, and obsessing over finding out what was wrong. When he was a toddler I attended several parenting seminars led by specialists that I felt surely would have that magic answer for what was wrong and how to fix it all. How to make the raging stop, how to make him sleep, how to be…calm. I read book after book. I tried every sensible and outlandish suggestion they all had. Nothing helped and nothing worked.

I think even more frustrating was that my husband, though supportive, did not have the same passion as I did for finding an answer. I would leave books out with highlighted text or other documents with similar cases and ask him to read through it. He never did. I also tried to be the authoritarian, trying to set rules and limits, while my husband did not. We disagreed, argued and yelled.

Despite the constant chaos, I wanted another baby. I figured it was already difficult, so another baby could not be any worse. No baby could possibly be as difficult as Zack. After a year and half of trying, and loosing two babies, our beautiful daughter Kelsie was born. We did not find out with either child what the sex was. When she was born and they told me she was a girl I cried. I was so relieved it was not another boy because I was so afraid it would be like Zack. I knew I would not be able to handle that. Thankfully, she was a wonderful baby, easy to sooth and slept and napped easily. I think God knew I needed that because Zack was still so hard to manage.

“I have been fortunate enough to have the ability to be Zach’s main caregiver while working part time jobs (as a counselor, personal trainer and patient advocate) off and on when I am able to.  But being his ‘person’ is a huge responsibility.”

It is she, Kelsie, who I think has suffered the most, aside from Zack. We – his parents – love him, support him and wanted him. She was brought into this chaos by us. Her life has been greatly impacted by the constant needs that Zack places upon me and my time.  I have been fortunate enough to have the ability to be Zach’s main caregiver while working part time jobs (as a counselor, personal trainer and patient advocate) off and on when I am able to.  But being his “person” is a huge responsibility. At 18-years-old, he is still very needy and functions mentally about at the age of 14. He is very immature, very emotional, and very dependent despite our attempts to encourage him to become more independent.

Some days Zach is like most other kids his age, but most days he is not. It is those days – the days he is raging, screaming, yelling, crying, throwing things – that Kelsie cannot forget. The days her friends are not allowed to come over because her brother acts crazy. The vacations we could not go on because her brother was too unstable. The family outings ruined because of his poor functioning or rage that came from no where. She carries anger and resentment as a result of his many problems and illnesses and struggles with depression and self esteem issues because of this unpredictable, dysfunctional life we live. She feels that she always comes in second and caring for her brother comes first.

The damage done to a family while raising and loving a child with such complicated and chronic issues is unfortunate. Living in such a high stress, chaotic atmosphere affects everyone. We do not survive day by day, but minute by minute.

“Living in such a high stress, chaotic atmosphere affects everyone. We do not survive day by day, but minute by minute.”

Medications have not been very effective in helping him become stable or remain stable. He – or more accurately, we – have enjoyed some periods of stability which we learn to appreciate. Over the years Zack has made some great strides and progress but his future is uncertain.  Our hope is that he will eventually be able to be self-sufficient, which was part of the reason we have created his business – Good Boy Roy, an online store that sells merchandise with his drawings and characters. The dream is that it will enable him to do what he loves and be able to financially support himself someday.

Today, my husband and I continue to do the best we can for both of our children – Zack, who is now 18 and Kelsie, 14. I am told a marriage that has lasted as long as ours has (21 years) in the midst of this kind of circumstance is almost unheard of. Somehow we are able to laugh – a lot. At the end of the day, these are my children. My heart. My family.

Mental illness is not a choice.

Mental illness is not contagious.

Mental illness does not discriminate.

Knowledge IS Power.

From The Shriver Report

http://shriverreport.org/loving-a-child-with-mental-illness-kim-hinx/

Mental illness Destroys

I am torn.

Truly torn.

What is a parent to do?

There are no good options here for us trying to love 2 children, one with severe mental illness. I have 2 children. I love 2 children.

Mental illness destroys families.

It does it every day.

Mental illness kills dreams.

It does it every day.

Mental illness is NOT fair.

I see that every day.

Mental illness kills people

Every day

My son, now 18, legally and adult, has been plagued with multiple and untreatable mental illness all his life. That, in turn, means our family has lived in almost constant chaos, uncertainty and hell for that entire time as well.  As his parents, my husband and I know we have to care for him, and lovingly do so. When stable he is a sweet, loving, caring boy. Unfortunately the stability never lasts long. His mood swings are constant, his rages frequent, the stress and heartache it causes us all is never-ending. The thing is….it’s not his fault. He can’t help how he acts. And HE hates his behavior and actions worse than anyone.

He is tortured by himself.

We are at the point now that our daughter, his sister, is suffering. Suffering. Struggling. Angry. Resentful.

Angry she doesn’t have a normal brother.

Angry she doesn’t have a normal family.

Angry friends can’t come over because her brother is raging or unstable.

Angry at life.

Angry.

I don’t blame her.

She doesn’t deserve this either.

We are now faced with  “its him or me”

She says….” it’s him or me”

put him out, send him away, call the cops, or I am leaving, she’s had it, we all have.

I can’t blame her.

She deserves peace.

She can’t find it here.

But, where can we send him? He hasn’t broken any laws. He can’t support himself. He is still in school. He is unstable. The hospitals have no beds.

There is no good option.

He is our child, a lovely boy, the real boy is the most loving child you could ever meet. If we can just get him stable. If we can find the right mix of medication. If

If…If…..

But, when unstable,he is someone else. Someone no one likes. Someone who drives everyone away.

It’s not his fault. His mind is the enemy.

Mental illness kills, destroys, leaves a path of destruction.

It’s not fair

** I realize mental illness does not affect all victims this way, this is OUR experience. Many people with mental illness are treated successfully and enjoy life without complications.

The Misunderstood Child

I found this many years ago, and it simply made me cry. It was as if my Zack had written it himself. We, society can not understand behavior that they can not SEE manifesting in a brain. We see bad, unacceptable behavior and assume this is a bad child or a bad person, when sometimes that assumption can not be farther from the truth.

Me and my sweet, and misunderstood boy, Zack

Me and my sweet, and misunderstood boy, Zack

The Misunderstood Child

I am the child that looks healthy and fine.
I  was born with ten fingers and toes.
But something is different. somewhere in  my mind.
And what it is nobody knows.

I am the child that struggles  at school,
Though they say that I’m perfectly smart.
They tell me I’m  lazy-can learn if I try-
But I don’t seem to know where to start.

I  am the child that won’t wear the clothes
which hurt me or bother my feet.
I dread sudden noises, can’t handle most smells,
And tastes there are few  foods I will eat.

I am the child that can’t catch the ball
And runs  with an awkward gait.
I am the one chosen last on the team
And I cringe as  I stand there and wait.

I am the child with whom know one will play-
The one that gets bullied and teased.
I try to fit in and I want to be  liked,
But nothing I do seems to please.

I am the child that tantrums  and freaks
Over things that seem petty and trite.
You’ll never know how I  panic inside,
When I’m lost in my anger and fright.

I am the child  that fidgets and squirms
Though I’m told to sit still and be good.
Do you  think that I choose to be out of control?
Don’t you know that I would if I  could?

I am the child with the broken heart
Though I act like I don’t  really care.
Perhaps there’s a reason God made me this way-
Some message  he sent me to share.

For I am the child that needs to be loved
And  accepted and valued too.
I am the child that is misunderstood,
I am  different-but look just like you.

Author – Kathy Winters

My child is in the Psychiatric Hospital and no one cares

Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was speaking to a friend today whose child was recently in the hospital, the Psychiatric Hospital to be exact. This smart, educated, kind, soft-spoken mom I have gotten to know because we both love and raise children with mental illness.

She was asking how things were going, knowing the past few weeks have been incredibly difficult with my son being unstable. As we discussed the ups and downs of mental illness, the stability and instability roller coaster, we discussed how the Stigma associated with Mental illness is still so wide-spread and doesn’t seem to be making any headway with culture and society understanding this. She commented that when she had to hospitalize her little boy, who is diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, a few months ago, that no one acknowledged it. Unlike when someone is in the hospital for an illness, cancer, injury etc…neighbors usually rally to the family to offer support. Well meaning and kind neighbors bring casseroles and food by for the family to “help  out”, cards are sent to the family and/or person in the hospital. But, when you are in a metal hospital NONE of this happens. No cards came to her family or the child. No one asked if she needed help with anything. It was simply not mentioned.

Why?

Why is that?

Why is it that when you are in the hospital because your mind is “sick” that no one cares? Why is it different from your body being sick or broken? We understand Autism, and how that manifests itself in the childs behavior, actions, social functioning. Mental illness is no different, it can and does affect people the same way, in varying degrees. Is it because most people with a mental illness “look normal“?  You can’t see what their disability or challenges are? You can not see the sick mind?

I have been told that too. “Your son looks so normal. I would never know anything was wrong with him”

Well….ok. No, you can’t SEE OCD/Depression/Anxiety/Tourette’s or learning disabilities until and unless the symptoms of these are actively present in the person. But I can assure you, lack of any outward, visible “disability” does not lessen the severity.

Please, if you ever have a friend, a loved one that suffers from mental/emotional illness, hospitalized due to their illness, please don’t ignore them. Don’t pretend they aren’t really sick. Dont pretend they are there because they aren’t “strong” or can’t “handle things”.

They need help.

Help with a brain that has an illness, just like broken bones, diabetes, cancer, lupus, COPD and others.

Send a card. Bake a casserole. Offer a kind ear and understanding.