Guest Post with Sierra

Happy Friday! I’m bringing in a post from Sierra. She’s with Basic Invite and she was amazing to work with! Thank you, Sierra.
I graduated from university recently, and while I’m grateful I got my degree, college was a very difficult experience for me.

In the middle of my college career, I had to go see a psychologist for anxiety disorder and depression.

Dealing with anxiety and depression at the same time was hard, but I learned a lot about myself from this experience.

One thing that really helped me deal with my feelings was making things. Every so often I would paint or do origami and it really helped relieve my stress and fear.

As graduation loomed closer, I knew I wanted to send out graduation announcements to my friends and family.

By this time I had my mental health problems better under control, although I usually still felt uneasy and prone to sadness more often than normal.

I was also really worried about finding a job after graduation, where I would live, and everything else that comes with leaving school and becoming an adult.

Despite my worries, I decided to knuckle down and find some cute graduation invitations to send to my loved ones.

I googled “graduation invitations” and stumbled upon Basic Invite.

I really liked their designs.

I went with their vibrant anemone graduation invitation, shown below since I love flowers.

Although I must say, all their floral graduation invitations are pretty awesome.

Their graduation brunch invitations are cute too.

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What I really liked about Basic Invite was that I was able to edit the font and colors for the card.

I changed the background of the vibrant anemone invite to a lighter shade of blue I liked better, although I kept the font the same.

Designing the invitations was really therapeutic for me, like origami or painting. It kept me from feeling stressed.

I was knocking something important off of my to-do list.

I told my friends about Basic Invite and how I got to design my invites, and a couple of them tried it out too.

One of my friends really liked their elegant graduation invitations and used their sophisticated swash graduation invitation, seen below.

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They also have colored envelopes, so I chose an envelope that matched the background of my invite.

I ordered a sample from their site to make sure I liked how everything turned out, and it was perfect.

I placed an order for all the invitations I wanted the same day.

Designing my graduation invite with Basic Invite was one of the best choices I made at the end of my college career.

It was super fun and relaxing, and I got to show off my work to all of my friends!

If you need graduation invitations, I hope you’ll give Basic Invite a shot. I hope you love their products as much as I do.

 

5 Powerful Ways to Discuss Depression With Your Teen

**Trigger warning: this post discusses suicide. Please read with caution.**

The Importance of Checking In

Cameron wanted to watch “13 Reasons Why” and while I’ve never watched it, I didn’t want to hold him back. I sat him down for a chat before I would allow him to watch. We discussed what it was about, how Hannah’s death impacted her friends and if Cameron thought it would upset him.

He said that he would be okay watching it, his friends had told him about it. He asked me if I wanted to watch it, and I told him thanks but no thanks. (My former therapist advised me to not watch it.) He watched it and was a bit sad but otherwise okay.

After Cameron finished the series, we talked again, only this time, we talked about suicide itself. I just wanted to see where he was. He said no, he had never thought about it or never been so depressed/angry that he thought about it. I was relieved.

He knows that he can come to me about anything, but I also know that many who consider suicide don’t always go to someone when considering it. I asked him if he knew anyone who might even be thinking about it or is hurting, and all I got was “Nope, I think everyone is good, Mom.”

I was relieved.

Thanks to my work with kids around Cameron’s age, I know this conversation doesn’t happen in every home and/or doesn’t go so well. I’ve seen teens angry as hell that their attempts were not successful.

There isn’t really a timeline on how often to check in, but I would go for it every once in a while. Just see what your child is thinking.

5 Things to Keep In Mind

  1. Listen, even when your teen is being quiet. Teens do have quiet moments. It happens. The time to worry is when they are being more quiet than usual. Are they stressed out? Did they just have a bad breakup? Chronic medical issues and/or severe chronic pain? Is there a family history of suicide? A history of substance use? Encourage your teen to not isolate but don’t push too far. Some kids like being alone.
  2. Lower demands of your teen. Teens are very busy these days. Life is full of stress from school, friends, even sports and jobs. All of this can snowball and when you feel you aren’t “good enough” it can be crushing. Try to help your teen when you can and break things down, even if that means quitting a sport or other activities. There is a reason I keep my kids underscheduled. I don’t want extremely stressed out kids. This may change once high school starts, but for right now, they aren’t bogged down with constant activities.
  3. Teens can be embarrassed to ask for help, just like adults. They might not want to ask for help because they don’t want to burden their parents, who are busy with work and other things. They don’t feel worthy of the help they need. We need to remind them that they are worthy.
  4. Some teens are resistant to help but may warm up later. Don’t expect immediate results. They may try to skip sessions, not speak, etc, but will eventually come around. Stick to the therapy and the results will be worth it.
  5. If your child mentions wanting to complete suicide or wanting to die, please seek help immediately. Remove anything that they can hurt themselves with, including firearms, immediately and get them to an ER. This cannot be brushed off and can end tragically if it is.

Sad

Getting the Help Your Child Needs

Admitting that your child needs psychological help is not an easy thing. I’ve had to do it. Taking Julian to a psychiatrist was one of the hardest things I have ever done as a mother, but it was well worth it. It will be worth it for you, your child and your family.

Your child may need in or outpatient help, or a combination of both. If your child needs medication, that is not terrible. Please consider the pros and cons before starting medications. There is no shame in doing either and please remember, it is not a reflection on you as a parent. It took me years to learn that.

Encouraging Empathy and Compassion

If your child seems fine, this is great. The talk you have can change gears into how they can help a friend that isn’t okay. Again, the world we live in can be overwhelming for some teens. They may need a friend like your child who can listen, offer a hug and maybe even a laugh or two. Laughter can go a long way with teens when they are not doing so well.

Compassion and empathy can go far when your child has a friend who is struggling through their days and need someone to remind them that it is okay to not be perfect. Everyone has difficult times and needs someone to reach out to. Your child can be that person to someone. This can end up being a good lesson.

Depression can hit at any age, for any reason, at any time. Please remember this when you speak to your teen about this issue. Handle the discussion carefully and don’t judge them. You may lose their trust if you do so. Please see my Resources page for more information on depression and suicide resources.

Information for this post from these resources:

healthy children

apa.org

Pics courtesy of unsplash

The Day Before

*Trigger warning: this post discusses suicide. Please read with this in mind.*

I wrote about “A Million Little Things” when it premiered and thanks to the 1/24/19 episode, it gets another blog post.

This episode discusses the day before John, the main character, completes suicide. His death baffles everyone around him. In the episode, he gets into an argument with one of his friends, Gary and promises his wife, Delilah, that they will have a long-needed talk.

John was freaked out about finances. The walls were closing in on him financially. He told his assistant, Ashley, to take the night off.

I’ll stop there with the spoilers, in case you want to catch up on the episode.

“Call Me Blind/But I Didn’t See it Coming”- P.O.D.

August 31, 2015, was my day before. I went to work at the job I loved- a mental health associate at a mental health facility. I worked on a unit for kids with autism and other developmental disabilities. I was days away from filing for divorce – Matthew and I were barely on speaking terms. Jake had been a bit quieter than usual, but I thought maybe he was just in a depressive episode.

Many people who knew about us have asked if I saw any signs, but I didn’t. I could see many things just by looking into Jake’s eyes. This wasn’t one of them. If I had even thought of him taking his own life, I would have done anything to stop it. It beats the hell out of losing him.

Jake and I texted like usual until he went to bed. He worked third shift and didn’t go to sleep before about 9 am. We made plans to hang out in a few days when our schedules would match up- I didn’t know then that those plans would never go through. I meant to text him later that day, but I got busy after work.

Early the next morning, September 1, 2015, I sent him a picture of Tails. He had blue ink all over him from Cameron picking him up the night before after a pen bled all over his hands. His very last text to me read: “Poor Tails”. He was still awake after not being able to sleep the night before. I had texted him on my way to work.

That was it.

Jake died later that day.

The Worst Phone Call

I’ll never forget the pain in Josh’s voice when he told me about Jake’s death. It is one of the worst phone calls I’ve ever had.

The aftermath of losing someone to suicide is.. shattering. It’s one of the few words I have been able to find to accurately describe how Jake’s loss affected me. This kind of loss will make you question a lot of things– I questioned who my friends really were, my strength and of course, my marriage.

Living without Jake has been difficult- but I am here, living the life he made me strong enough to live and having finished the work he started in 2013. I hope so much that he is proud of me, from wherever his caring spirit is.

There is a post about the day after, and you can find it here

Today’s PSA: If you love someone, tell them. You may lose that chance. The regret is hard to live with.

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

Resources:

AFSP

The College Mental Health Strain

College is a time of huge transformation- many freshmen have never lived away from home. If your child is going to a college/university far away from home, it can be an intense change. This is to be expected. Everyone looks forward to this move but not many anticipate the feelings that may appear when it happens.

I am years away from sending a kid to college, but Cameron starts high school in August. I AM NOT READY.

The Big Move

College does have its good points- so much freedom! You can pick the time of your classes (kinda), when you come in at night (let’s get real if you come in) and many other choices. I loved not having classes before 11 am.

This was fantastic until I transferred universities and the only classes left towards my major (Clinical Psychology) were all at 8 AM at the new university.

UGH. Throw in two toddlers and things get outrageously fun.

The Factors Add Up

However, things can get stressful. There’s a lot of pressure. Grades are a thing. Scholarships depend on grades, as does most of the financial aid. Many college students work. Working plus studying can create stress. If you have other factors adding to it- kids, issues with parents, etc, things can seem almost unbearable.

Another factor is coming into college with a mental health condition, either diagnosed or not. The extra stress can exacerbate these illnesses and contribute to “breaks”, in which someone loses touch with reality and almost always needs hospitalization. Many of those with severe mental illness (SMI) have the first break around college age. A break can also mean a severe depressive episode.

This is just a short list of mental health conditions that are seen in many college-age students:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-injury
  • ADHD
  • Addiction/other Substance Abuse Disorders

This information can be found at: Affordable Colleges Online

Colleges and Universities Have Options for Care

Your child has an option right on campus- may have an office for mental health care. It’s usually free or very low cost. Some take insurance, some don’t, depending on the school.

They are run by graduate-level psychology students and faculty. The major downside is that they can only offer so much help due to their limited training, hours and other factors. These offices can, however, refer patients out to local therapists or other locations like the ER in case of emergency.

Another option is a more difficult one- reducing hours or even taking a semester off. This can mean a loss of financial aid in many cases. Nobody wants that. Many don’t want to take time off, even a semester, especially not for mental health issues. It makes the condition come out in the spotlight.

Some colleges and universities are seeing the issue and doing more to help- therapy dogs during finals week, encouraging students to seek help earlier instead of waiting. They are also encouraging students to look out for their friends. This can be a huge help. Some are including self-care topics in their freshmen seminars.

From (Not So) Far Away

What can you do?

  • Talk to your child. Ask how things are really going. Let them know it’s okay to struggle a bit. It doesn’t have to be easy all the time.
  • Encourage your child to look out for their friends- not like they already don’t. This is a different kind of looking out.
  • Remind them they can come to you if they don’t feel okay. You’re here to help them.

College can be a great experience. It’s full of change, fun and sometimes really dumb things. Growth is scary. That’s why our baby birds need to know they can always come back to us.

Pictures courtesy of Pixels

Unsplash

For further reading: Learning and Performing Under Pressure

Have you had a child go off to college? How was it?

Twin Mummy and Daddy