Are You Okay?- A Conversation Starter

Three words can help a lot more than you realize.

“Are you okay?”

This question can start a potentially life-saving conversation or start a complete shut-down- but it’s worth trying.

If you’re asking someone this question, there’s likely a good reason, maybe more than one. Think carefully- has he/she been quieter than usual, or have you seen changes in their personality? Other changes?

If so, good move.

You may be on the right track.

The Infinite Struggle

Some people, however, are not good with expressing that they need help, or even talking about their feelings when they really should. These are the people you may want to be gentle with after asking if they’re okay.

I am one of these people. It’s a struggle. I worked on this in therapy and still, it’s a struggle. Let me explain- I know that I get stuck in my own brain, which is not a good thing. My thoughts can get pretty bad. I also know that I need to talk to someone about those thoughts. Don’t freak out, because I don’t have suicidal thoughts or anything like that, but stay with me.

I just freeze up when it’s probably time to reach out.

Why?

If we remember that horrible time in which I cried constantly and drank my pain away, I probably got on everyone’s nerves. That’s how I saw it. My former therapist explained (very patiently) that people were there for me because they wanted to be.

Okay, then.

She went on to say that if they were truly tired of all my crying and sadness, they would have left me alone at that point.

Once I felt a lot better about my life, I began to feel as if I didn’t really have a right to burden people with my problems anymore, because I’d run out of people’s patience. I have friends who will listen to me anytime I need them to, but I don’t always talk.

I really need to work on this.

The Next Steps

So what do you do if someone says, “No, I’m not okay?”

  • Listen. This might be the best thing you can do for them.
  • If they say they need some extra help, do what you can to help them get it. If they need emergency assistance, call 911 or take them to the nearest ER.
  • Ask “What can I do?” This might sound super simple, but you may be surprised at what might help someone during a rough time.
  • Don’t tell them that this will pass very soon, etc. Time can feel like it is slowing down during a depressive/manic/other episode, or even speeding up. Saying things like that can make the person feel trivialized or otherwise like a burden.

What if the person says “I’m good, thanks,” but you feel like they are not quite okay?

This is a hard one. As someone who falls into this area, all you can really do is wait it out. Give the person some space. We have our own reasons for not talking, and we may do so on our own time. Unless the person is an immediate danger to themselves and/or others, there’s not a lot you can do. Just watch out for the person as much as you can and give gentle reminders that you are there for them if needed. My best friends do this quite often.

If the person says “No, I’m fine” and becomes angry and/or aggressive:

Absolutely back up. I don’t advise taking this any further because someone can get hurt trying to push the conversation. Stop what you’re doing immediately and get to a safe location.

The Conversation Continues

Talking about our mental health isn’t a bad thing. We need to check in with ourselves and each other. Every day. Every week. Every month.

The stigma is still present while many of us fight the battle daily. We go to therapy, take meds, and do other things to make sure that we remain stable.

If you know someone is struggling, reach out to them. You may be helping them through the darkest hour of their lives. If you’re the one that’s struggling, you’re worth it. Take a minute and text someone you trust.

*picks up cell and texts bestie*

#SpeakNow #ForMySuperman

Do you struggle with talking about your feelings?

If so, BetterHelp can be a good place to start. This will help Georgia residents find a therapist, but can also lead others to what they need.

Photos courtesy of pexels

Talking About Pride

Coming Out of the Closet

I decided to use an actual definition for this one, because I understand that not everyone may be clear on this one. I also think it’s the respectful thing to do. I’ve got friends and family members in the community, so I’m very clear on what this term means. Planned Parenthood- Coming Out Definition

It’s a hard process. Some people choose to wait until a certain time, some never do. It’s an individual choice, and should be respected. If someone comes out to you, please respect that person’s decision to tell you, even if it isn’t within your own values. It takes a lot to say “I’m a lesbian” or “I like guys”, or however it is said.

There is a lot of fear in coming out, however. Many people fear these things:

  • not being accepted. If there is a history of hearing homophobic slurs throughout life, it’s going to be hard to go against that.
  • getting cut off financially/becoming homeless- especially in teens and college students. Some wait until after college for this reason.
  • anxiety, depression or other mental health issues worsening afterwards due to above issues.

There is so much more support these days for the LGBTQ+ community. I feel there is a long way to go in the legal world, but it’s coming.

Marriages were a huge issue a couple years ago and I shed tears when they became legal everywhere. I believe some states are still trying to fight that one. Macklemore had it right when he said in “Same Love”- “No freedom until we’re equal/ Damn right I support it”.

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Pride Events

Have you ever been to a Pride event? I have been to quite a few. Louisville is a big city and every June, there’s a huge Pride event. The event has lots of food (my main requirement for anything), music and a lot of other fun things.

I usually see a lot of friends while I’m there. It’s so much fun. If you’ve never been, and you’re comfortable going, go. If you aren’t sure if there is an event near you, try looking on Google “pride events” and your city or the nearest city to you. Not everyone lives in or near a big city.

These events began as a way for people to get together, have fun, be themselves, meet others and not fear being judged or getting hurt. Of course, this didn’t always go well but over the years, the events have become safer. There will always be those that oppose these events.

The Kid Version

I have a friend, Kate, that is happily raising a son, with her wife, Christy. Lucas just turned two, and he is the happiest toddler that I’ve seen in a long time.

I hope he stays that adorably happy. They got married in Hawaii a few years ago and the pictures were adorable. I know they have struggles like everyone else, but they’re one of the cutest couples I’ve ever known. Lucas is like every other toddler out there- he just has two loving moms.

I wrote a post not long ago, LGBTQ Kids: A Guide for those who need a bit of help figuring out how to navigate the waters of having a child that identifies as LGBTQ.

This is becoming more common than people realize and I wanted to bring that to your, my readers’, attention. If you know someone who could benefit from it, feel free to send them the link.

I think it could help parents who aren’t sure what to do. We don’t always know what to do as parents, or even aunts, uncles, and so on. That’s okay. That’s why we ask others for ideas and read up.

Kids are pretty smart. They can tell who accepts them and who doesn’t. They’ll stay closest to those that do. All kids, no matter their sexuality, need someone who loves and accepts them exactly for who they are. They don’t need or deserve ridicule for who they love. They have enough to worry about.

Mental Health Issues in The Community

Anxiety and depression are common in many people. When you are struggling with hiding who you are (or feeling like you have to), losing someone you love and having to start over in a small pool of people and not feeling fully accepted,things can get very hard.

Drugs, alcohol and self-harm are three coping skills that are used by this population. Sometimes it can be deadly. There are therapists that specialize in LGBTQ issues.

This may be a good time to look into how you can become an ally or otherwise support the LGBTQ people in your life. How can you be an ally?

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Another School Year Ends: Good, Bad and Graduations

Every school year so far has been interesting with my kids. One school year ended with Cameron in the hospital with a heart condition. Julian was diagnosed during his kindergarten year in 2011 (you can read Looking At the Bright Side for that story). Lily had difficulties learning to read but tackled it in the first grade.

The Big Moves

This year was a big one, however. Cameron graduated middle school and is now a high school freshman. This one hurts my soul a bit- I have no idea where the last almost 15 years have gone. He will be 15 in January and I didn’t think the time would fly so quickly!

In our district, your child has the option to choose middle and high schools based on programs they have- Cameron chose two high schools that had machine tool, medical tech, and auto collision programs.

The high school he got into is the one that Matthew and I met at in 1998. He chose the program with machine tool, CAD (Computer Aided Design) and another component. His elective is Spanish I because, as he put it, “It’s easy and I already know some anyway.”

Some of his friends from middle school are bilingual and he picked up some Spanish from them. He didn’t really like the other choices, so he went with something he was familiar with.

Off to high school he goes in August, and I might shed a tear. I’m still shocked I didn’t cry at his graduation.

Lily is out of elementary school. She’s the last one, so it was time to say goodbye to the school that we loved for nine years- starting with Cameron in 2010. Our kids went to a wonderful elementary school. I even loved the office staff! I did tear up during her graduation ceremony and watching her as a song leader during the class song.

The school does a “final walk” on the last day of school for the fifth graders, where they walk through the main hallway for the last time, while playing cheerful music and everyone claps and cheers. I took pics and almost cried…again.

Matthew, my mom and I missed the breakfast because we had to walk across the parking lot for Cameron’s graduation. (The elementary and middle schools that our kids attended share an entrance, but have different parking lots. Parking is awful during events.)

Wait…You’re Missing a Kid!

Nope. Julian didn’t have a huge ceremony for finishing seventh grade, but he wasn’t forgotten.

I had a last-minute check in with his counselor.

Julian was re-evaluated at the end of the year to see if he will need services for next year, and of course, he qualified. He has severe anxiety while speaking in front of others and this became a major issue this year.

I asked for modifications next year so that he will be able to do what he needs to but not affect him so badly. He will be able to complete these assignments in a different way, meaning he can go in a different room or a hallway to do presentations so that he isn’t so anxious. He will be able to effectively complete the assignment.

His counselor told me that he remains quiet and kind of “flies under the radar”. He’s always been quiet, so this is not surprising at all. We will be working on self-advocacy because that is something Julian needs to work on for the future.

I was a bit angry with Julian because we both thought that he had failed his math class and I know he can do a lot better. Turns out that he didn’t and has a B. Both of us were very happy to hear this.

Waiting for Next School Year

It appears as if we now have sixth, eighth, and ninth graders. These kids are growing faster than I can blink. I’m pretty sure Cameron will continue to need those naps after school. Lily has gone back and forth on being excited about middle school, but I think once she finds her friends from elementary school and a club or two to join, she will be okay. Julian will find eighth grade a challenge, but he needs one.

Me? It’s summer break and I intend to have all the fun I can have with these kids in the next couple of months.

What are your plans for the summer? How was the end of your kids’ school year?

LGBTQ Kids: A Guide

Parenting is full of challenges. We face them everyday- food allergies, mental and/or physical disabilities, bullying, and the list goes on.

There’s a point in life in which our kids decide to date and none of us are ever ready for that- it freaks us out. This happens as early as 12 or 13 or can be years later.

Most of us don’t blink an eye at who they will date, because we just assume they will date someone of the opposite sex, right?

What Happens When They Don’t?

I’ve already thought this one out. I don’t care. As long as my kids find someone that loves and supports them, I honestly don’t care who they date. Race isn’t an issue for obvious reason, and that’s not the topic of the post.

I just want my kids to be happy with whoever they love. That’s it. If Lily brings home a girl and they get married, then I get to watch them say yes to the dress or whatever they wear.

Lgbt flag, kids, parenting

Being a teen is hard enough as it is today. There’s so much pressure to get great grades, fit in, get into a good college, work, and so on.

When you’re a 16 year old girl who likes other girls, it gets a bit harder to be “normal”. You wonder if others would still like you, even your own family. You grew up hearing slurs about homosexuals and you know it’s not going to be great if you tell your parents.

Then there’s the boys who want to date you and you know they won’t stay away forever. All you want is to find a girl that likes you and that you like back, but how does that work? It’s confusing and scary. Bullying is a thing, and LGBTQ teens have it harder.

Stats hrc.org, kids, LGBTQ

Coming out is scary. It’s rough. The average age is 17, much younger than it used to be according to a British study found on Everyday Feminism

Teens are smart- they know the risks of telling their families something this big. Some families are accepting, and some families are ready to kick their kids right out of the house, which is a shame.

It’s heartbreaking to know that some kids feel they have to hide this part of themselves, because it can lead to drug and/or substance abuse issues, along with mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. A kid can only mask so much for so long. It does get better, time goes by, people do open their minds to new things.

Sometimes the people they think will have horrible reactions will have the opposite reaction. The negative messages are also an issue- they can send a message that a kid is a bad person, or is “going to hell”, etc. This can just add to already negative thoughts that a kid can have about themselves.

It gets better when LGBTQ kids find others like them- online, in school, through other friends, in other ways. It does help that many LGBTQ kids are out to their friends and classmates. Those friends and classmates, for the most part, are accepting, and can be a great source of support.

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What Can Parents Do?

  • Let them know you love them. I’m pretty sure this is the biggest part of accepting your child, no matter what. They need to know this. The scariest thing to many LGBTQ kids is coming out. Once they know they have parental support, there is a huge sense of relief. Be as open minded and present as you can be, even if you aren’t quite sure what to do.
  • Research. Parenting requires a lot of thinking and reading. We don’t always know what to do. That’s why the Internet exists. There are quite a few websites for parents of LGBTQ kids, including Hopkins Medicine
  • Talk about it. This doesn’t mean hound about their sex life, because that’s definitely awkward for everyone involved, but let them know you are there when they need you, if they have questions, etc.
  • Remember this is not a “phase”, there is no “cure”, and there is nobody to “blame”.
  • Watch out for bullying at school. It’s a reality that LGBTQ kids are bullied at school and other places. If you need to, get involved with the school. You can read Bullying: A Closer Look for more ideas and resources.
  • Talk to someone if you feel overwhelmed.

Female couple, acceptance

The world of teenage dating can get pretty complicated, this is just a different road. It’s possible to walk together with your child. Cheer them on!

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Statistics pics courtesy of hrc.org

Info can be found on:

Everyday Feminism

Hopkins Medicine