Those Scars On Your Arms Tell Your Truth; A letter to my Grace, things I wish I could say

Dear Grace,

I look at the skin that has grown up and around the wounds you have all along your arms and legs. I see your truth. I see your pain and those emotions you have expressed in your own way. Although who am I to say I know your truth when, for so many years, I buried mine in alcohol and antidepressants. I know this, my Grace, I have taught you to keep it all in. And as a result, your pain kept all deep inside of you has built up into tremendous heat. You have found a way to relieve yourself of this pain by taking those razors you hide under your bed or carefully placed in the books on your shelf  into your hand. You slash your arms and legs to let out the pain, to release the heat of all those emotions.

Saying sorry to you seems unjust, ugly and so little of me, but those are the words that slip from my mouth quietly moving quickly through these hands and onto this page.

I am sorry, I am so sorry. I am sorry for hurting you through my angry words. I wish I could do things differently. I thought I was. My reactions to act as a caring mother have led to unruly, unkempt expressions of  control and rage when all it really was – was fear, my fear, fear of losing you or fear of you getting hurt.

So today, my Grace, I am going to hit that pause button and listen, listen carefully to you and get out of your way. Today, I am going to honor your strength, to acknowledge that you have lived the toughest year of your life. I honor that you have found your own way of letting go of those emotions with those razors hidden under your bed. You have found your way to heal and your wounds that are more visible than most people’s. I will gaze at those scars with love and amazement because those scars tell me your truth. I trust in your path. Just stay alive, just live.

 

Hating Those Heated Moments

Anger:  Family rage outs. Family screaming matches. Family arguments. Accusations made by everyone. Teen vandalizes. Teen self-injures. Teen refuses to do chores. Teen is moody. Everyone is easily frustrated. Teen is easily aggravated.

Isolating: Teen texts all day. Teen Facebook’s all day. Teen stays home all night Friday. Teen sleeps till 3 in the afternoon on Saturday. Teen crawls into parents’ bed in middle of the night. Teen doesn’t see anyone on Sunday. Parents don’t see anyone because teen cannot be left alone.

Worry, Fear and Too Much Thinking: Parents worry. Parents wonder if their teenager has friends. Parents are tense. Parents are exhausted. Parents are short tempered. Parents blow up. Parents push buttons by stating, “clean your room,” or “you haven’t bathed in 7 days, take a bath,” or “do your laundry,” or “is your homework done,” or “get up for summer school,” or “clean the cat box.” Parents do not remain above the ‘proverbial’ fray and engage in fights. Parents lose control and yell and scream after the 8th request to remove the bowl of full of uneaten mushy Raisin Bran from the dining room table. Parents think too much and get caught up in the actions and statements that occur in the moment rather than listening, observing and interpreting the all of the signals.

If I could scream out for help it would be, “throw us a life boat, my family’s relationships are drowning!” Perhaps I’d yell out, “Danger! Family engaged in World War III” Or I might shout, “Enter our home at your own risk, relationships are imploding!”

Just the other day, our home became a war zone, a theater of soldiers battling about grades, chores and money. The screaming and crying that went on between the four of us made me want to run, run as fast as I could, as far away as possible from this family of mine. I wanted to cover my ears, shut my eyes and disappear. The yelling made me shake inside and all I could do was swear under my breath about how outrageous this argument was.

English: A hungry baby yelling and crying.

English: A hungry baby yelling and crying. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the height of this battle, there were four casualties. No one had any sense of self after what was said.  Doors slammed as we went off to our own rooms to lick our wounds. Grace cried herself into a deep nap and the tense silence that remained between my husband and me was nearly unbearable. What was it over? Shopping money so Grace could meet up with friends she hasn’t seen in three weeks, 2 weeks of laundry that remains all over her floor and studying for a summer school world history quiz. Grace has to repeat world history after a disastrous final and too many missing homework assignments.

The question that remains; what was this fight really about? There was the hook-some kind of statement that got her going. We put the bait out there – unknowingly.

Then there was the fact that Grace’s friend list has slimmed down considerably this year. Who wants to be friends with someone who they fear will commit suicide or cut themselves if you upset them? Was she frightened that they might not show up? Anxiety again.

How much of loser does my kid feel for flunking World History? Probably quite a bit. No kid wants to take a summer school repeat course. What a great way of covering up fear of flunking again. So why not refuse to study?  It is code for some other message I need to decode.

And what about that room full of stinky laundry? Screams classic teen to me. In this case, we could probably read more into it.

Why can’t I have this kind of  ‘Oprah aha’ moment when the heat begins to build at the beginning of a fight? Maybe if I did, I could at least do something else other than nag or yell or accuse or give dirty looks. BLAH!

What would I do differently anyways? Would I say, “Grace, you sound angry…worried…et cetera, et cetera…” Would it have worked? No reason in asking that question. What was it all about? Do I readdress this at some point?

 

 

 

A Story: A Person Writes About How They Stopped Self Injury

A Story: A Person Writes About How They Stopped Self Injury

Leaving no stone unturned! As a mom of a beautiful child who injures, I intend to continue researching ways that help my Grace.  Today I have decided, instead of looking to those “experts” who

Age-standardised disability-adjusted life year...

Age-standardised disability-adjusted life year (DALY) rates from Self-inflicted injuries by country (per 100,000 inhabitants). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

treat our children who mutilate their bodies, I am reading stories of hope and recovery. Therefore I will turn to those amazing experts who injured themselves and found ways to recover.

This article is just one of many telling the stories of strength, the ability to overcome depression and how self-injury was a tool that helped them fight their way through their depression. It is not a recommended form of practice from this mom. However, it is critical that I find ways of looking through my daughter’s lens. This article deepened my understanding and pushed me to ask; how is cutting a form of treatment when one in so deep inside their heads that they need to bleed themselves? What does my Grace get from this practice? Lastly, how did others find their way out of self-injury?

Baby Steps: Reflecting and Learning From Our Parenting Mistakes

As parents of our teen who suffers from depression and anxiety, we are constantly considering where our daughter is at emotionally and assessing and readjusting reasonable expectations for that day or that moment.

English: Butterfly, Vindula arsinoe. Français ...

English: Butterfly, Vindula arsinoe. Français : Vindula arsinoe, un papillon. Português: Vindula arsinoe, uma borboleta. Русский: Бабочка, vindula arsinoe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can we get her to go out with her parents, run an errand,  or do homework? Can we expect her to get to school or attend an extended family gathering? We have learned more about how to move forward with the day’s scheduled events by feeling out how much energy she has and whether her energy feels positive, stagnant or completely negative.

In the past, it has been difficult to gage how depression or anxiety has taken it’s grip on Grace.  As time goes on, we are able to read the underlying message based on her behavior and statements.

The Good:

When we are getting dressed for say, a family event, Grace will begin to get ready and then suddenly refuse to go based on the lack of having an appropriate outfit or whether her “favorite” cousins will be at her Auntie’s house.  This is her signal to us that she is probably anxious, nervous about seeing others.

"A neural circuit underlying risk for anx...

“A neural circuit underlying risk for anxiety and depression related to variation in the serotonin transporter gene, characterized by multimodal imaging and connectivity analysis.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have learned to slow down and let her express and then acknowledge her feelings by saying, “you seem anxious about whether you will have someone there for you.”  We assure her that we are there for her and my dear husband and I continue getting ready knowing we have a challenge ahead wondering if we will all get out of the door. We ask ourselves, has she gotten herself into a major anxiety mode where she has frozen up or blow up? Did our words of assurance and noting her anxiety help her get it together?  Success usually occurs when my husband and I are most calm and not freaking out about the fact we have to be somewhere in an hour.

When she slips into her room all alone on a Friday night to sit in front of her computer, we get that she is depressed and needs interaction and distraction. These nights turn into our Redbox nights. To our gal, she just feels tired and exhausted. She isolates herself from friends, barricades herself into her room and will sleep part of the night, watch YouTube or even worse – self injure. She has a difficult time saying, “Hey guys, I am depresssed.”

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bad

This was not always the case. In the past, my husband and I used get angry by what we thought was “silly.” You know the argument, “What do you mean you don’t have anything to wear???”  To make matters worse, I’d usually say, “You have tons of clothes!” And in chimed my husband, “You just can’t find anything because those clothes are all over the floor and not hanging up in your closet like they should be!”

As parents, we added so much to this lovely argument rather than just sitting back and reading the back story of her behavior.  This outcome of this direction usually left one parent at home with our daughter while the other family members show up and made excuses for those who bagged on the gathering.

The UGLY

Another way she present anxiety and depression is rage. We are talking full blown rage that occurs in the form of horrifying self injury,  a teenage tantrum that can lead to wrecking a room.

Rage is usually brought on by several things. When we, her parents,  discuss and lecture her at length about homework on an evening there was very little sleep the night before or very little food intake (depression can eliminate the feelings of hunger). Or when we get frustrated with a report card and begin to yell about her grades. Another is when I speak harshly about how she hasn’t cleaned up the mess she made in the kitchen. These are just a few antecedents that lead up to a rage session.

All of these interactions on our parental part, opens a very dangerous door-the door to a scary, ugly rage session. It’s so darn predictable. I begin to engage in negative talk . Rather than ACTING, I am REACTING. Duh!  I say lovely things that leads to an argument which leads to a full-blown rage out.

This is when I wish there was a parental red light button-you know it would be this huge button that would begin to emit a flashing red light when the words a parent uses is way out of line and unproductive. This red button flashes when those irritated feelings begin to grow. Those feelings that engulf you when you walk into your bathroom looking at a dirty sink full of make up, dirty clothes and wet towels all of floor just after your teen used your bathroom for the 5th time that week. This parental button could be pushed and create a real-time pause. I’d push that red button when I felt the urge to react.  I would remain on “pause” till that urge to react passed. I am not saying that I let my teen get away with this behavior. I am suggesting that I pause long enough so that I don’t react. I can feel until I am done and then I am able to act in a productive manner and get her stuff out of MY BATHROOM.

Have you ever been on a children’s psychiatric floor? There are those empty rooms where kids can go, where they can to cry, shout, sing, say anything, lay down-whatever it is they need and a grownup just stands there making certain the child is safe. This grownup says something now and then to reassure the child that they are safe and that the grown up is there for them. I wish I could do this-push that pause button and not take anything my teen spews at me personally, just like the professional who stands in the room or sits with the child who is in the middle of a tantrum.

Usually, its my interactions or statement that help move Grace into a rage episode. What I’d do to backtrack: I would stay calm and not take any of her words personally. I’d say all the right things like, “you are really angry now and I am going to just be here and let you have some time to feel your anger.”  Or, “your feelings of anger are very strong, just feel them and I am going to just sit outside of your room.” Perhaps I’d try,  “Those are some strong words, you must really hate me now.” Here is another statement, “You are full of rage because I really messed up and said some really hurtful things, I am sorry,” I would just let her talk and talk and then hopefully, some epiphany would hit me and I’d say something that she could hear and that deflated and redirected her energy. Her tantrums can go on for a while but it feels hours.  When we get to that point, I have yet to find an effective way of redirecting these moments.

Clinical research shows Buddhist mindfulness t...

Clinical research shows Buddhist mindfulness techniques can help alleviate anxiety , stress , and depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The key is not to get there, to be in control. Not really, you can’t control those feelings. The key is to feel those feelings, but not act on them, to be mindful, meditate and breathe through the wave and get into a better space. Right?

I am a parent of a challenging teen and remembering that I am the  grown up  is not always easy, is it?

A Mother Celebrates The Good Day All Day Long With Her Teenage Daughter

Depression presents itself differently in teens than it does in adults. Depression seems a bit different for most people though.  However in teens, depressions seems almost “normal” as teens are known for being defiant and moody. Their defiance is supposed to be “normal” as our teens search for their own identity. And we all know teens can sleep half of the day away. As for moodiness – that too, is what parents are told to expect.

So when are we supposed to know when our kids are depressed rather than one of those ‘stages’ they are just going through?

Well for some of us, our kids’ grades drop, they stay in bed and sleep till late afternoon on a Saturday. They wake up to only then listen to music while remaining on their computers in their bedrooms watching YouTube clips all night long. They may or may not bathe regularly and as for friends, they see them from time to time rather than all of the time. Some of our teens turn to self injury or attempt suicide.

Yesterday for us, was a very good day. The entire family made it to church. Yes, our teen woke up on her own well before 2 p.m., showered, dressed and went to church with her parents. She sat between her father and I during service, was at ease with her peers and spoke with the adult parishioners.

Thank goodness for Memorial Day weekend barbecues!   We were glad to be invited to a neighbor’s barbecue. We haven’t been very social as we are staying very close to our teen. That means we do not get out as much as we did in the past because we are never certain if we can get out.

When our teen is feeling down or overwhelmed, we know we are in for the night. It is a Redbox night, that is to say after running out to rent a film from Redbox, we know our biggest task is to convince our daughter to sit in the leather recliner and watch some films with us.  Redbox nights, I consider to be a big accomplishment because – as a parent, getting my teen out of her bedroom, away from her computer to watch a movie with the family is quite the challenge.

However, yesterday was not a Redbox night, it was far better than that. It was a night of interaction and fun! Our hosts prepared amazing food! Our neighbor, Anne, barbecued chicken  perfectly. The food was delicious, the weather was warm, the company of adults was so very needed. And then what made it a superb evening was watching my girl enjoy herself. She joined the rest of the kids and played basketball for most of the night. And when they weren’t playing basketball, they were jumping on the trampoline or swinging in the hammocks in pairs of two and three – just talking, laughing and swinging.

Yesterday was a good day all day long! Celebrating this good day the following morning just feels right. Seeing the happiness expressed in our daughter’s laughter is great cause for celebration. She had moments yesterday of pure joy. She so deserves these moments as it has been a rough handful of years. Pausing and remembering yesterday’s good times, the sound of my girl’s laughter, the sight of her smiles-these memories will be this mom’s medicine for the day. I am celebrating this with tremendous gratitude, I am so thankful she had a wonderful day. Our daughter, like yours, it our life, our light and we want for her the ability to move out of this depression and live the life she so deserves.

So this mom celebrates the good day I had with my daughter. It was a good day all day.

 

Psychologists – Our Children’s Therapists and Mistakes I Made

Have you ever visited your kid’s therapist and was told that you were not supposed to tell when your kid has injured his/herself because it goes against the psychodynamic theory they are experimenting on your kid?

You are told that your child and their therapist must develop a relationship of trust and it is up to the child to tell the therapist when they have injured.

You are told that if the injury is not life threatening, don’t mention it to your child’s therapist because this talk between your child’s therapist and you will damage their relationship.

Does this sound right to you?

Where was my head in all of this? I will tell you where…wrapped in so much worry and fear, looking to those who were strongly suggested to me by my kid’s pediatrician and  professors of child psychology from an esteemed university.

I did not see the big picture back then-nor was there the research there is today.

If any psychologist tells you not to tell them when your kid injures, it is my recommendation that you run away as fast as you can after you have told them they are full of it.

We did this therapy for far too long. We were told from our kid’s therapist that they had lively and engaging discussions. According to the therapist, her client-my kid-was fully engaged.

So what! Engaged in what? Why am I not able to ask the content or at least the topics addressed?

If your kid is like any other teen; afraid, easily embarrassed, keeping things secret, worried about what others think of them and a good conversationalist – then this is what could happen in an experimental psychological theory that is applied to these types of therapy sessions:  A time where a teen can talk about only those things she wants her therapist to know because she can do, act, say, flunk out of History, French and Biology whilst she is cutting up her wrists and NOT MENTION anything about what is honestly troubling her BECAUSE Dad cannot tell the therapist that this is what is really going on in his daughter’s life.

Get my point? The psychological damage that goes on when our family is dealing with this crisis is only furthered by this, “don’t tell” approach. Get those gatekeeper parents in check! We were told we cannot control our daughter’s life so get parent coaching and fix it on our end.

Be careful, beware and educate yourself as best as you can when it comes to teen depression and self injury.