We Have to Stick Together

Parenting

I’ve read a lot about parenting.

I’ve been a mom for fourteen years- Cameron was born in January 2005. (Yikes.)

There’s a lot of moms out there that try their hardest to demonstrate that parenting is easy.

I don’t know what planet they live on, but this is not easy.

Unless you are lucky enough to have nannies or other in-home help, you’re not sleeping much for a while after you have a baby. They aren’t the greatest sleepers. Some babies gracefully sleep all night at an early age and at that point, you may want to build a shrine to the parenting gods.

I almost did when Lily slept through the night before I went to work after her birth. Her brothers wouldn’t have thought about this.

The toddler and preschool years?

You love your kid, but are also ready to list them for sale on Etsy about three minutes after they terrify the cat.

This is the time where they learn so much and repeat things they probably shouldn’t. Break out the phones for those moments.

When kindergarten hits, be ready for tears.

Elementary school is full of fun and adventure… Just wait for the middle school. I’m currently there and, wow, is it full of things I never saw.

Pets, Stinky Feet and Sancti-Mommies

We’ve had a few pets along the way. Tiger was with us for a few months and sadly, we had to say goodbye after a tumor ruptured on his leg.

It was bad enough to make that decision, but it was worse to have to tell the kids. I couldn’t fix Tiger’s leg and keep him with us.

Tails and Miss Purr, along with the turtles, Biggie Smalls and Lightning, complete our house. We love them- they are family members.

Tails

Stinky feet are everywhere at my house. These kids are gross. They shower all the time.

The preteen and teenage stage…

Double yikes.

There’s so many things to explain- drugs, alcohol, mean girls and boys, sex, and the list goes on. As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast.

He wasn’t kidding.

Then, there’s the moms that think their way is the best and that they are better than everyone else.

Whew….

They have tons to learn.

First of all, should they have a child with any kind of special needs, they are entirely screwed. Your mindset changes and throwing shade at other moms isn’t going to give you the support you are going to need.

Once these moms become known for their less-than-polite ways, who really wants to be within a mile of that?

I don’t.

As Ariana Grande says, thank you, next.

I’m all for research and opinions, but there are ways to express these respectfully. It’s possible to be nice and say what you think.

Parenting is the roughest job that many of us will ever have, unless you’re a first responder, logger, or something equally tough.

We need to stick together and remember all of us are doing the best we can. This goes for moms of newborns, elementary school-aged kids, even adults. It’s tough out there.

If you know a mom (or dad) who is struggling, try to help them out. It might be the best thing anyone does for them in a while.

Until next week, hang in there and try to laugh off your kid’s latest adventure.

Pics courtesy of pixels and pinterest

Book Review: “Girl, Interrupted”

This month’s book review is for another movie/book combo.

Feel free to comment or email me with your thoughts at wraemsanders@gmail.com.

I’m not sure which I like more- the book was intriguing, but the movie is a bit more in-depth. I guess it depends on whether you are more of a book or movie person.

**TRIGGER WARNING** This book review does briefly discuss suicidal thoughts, attempts, and similar topics. Please read at your own discretion.

Book cover

Title and why I chose this book:

“Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen

It’s not often that people tell their story of mental illness- at least not from the time frame that Susanna does. This book was based on her story in the 1960s when it wasn’t acceptable to tell anyone you had a mental illness, much less write a book about it. I think it’s interesting to look at a person’s story from another angle, even if it’s a different time.

Who do I think this book is intended for?

If you aren’t familiar with what it was like to be a patient in a mental health facility during this time period, Susanna’s story will give you a peek into it. Many of us are a bit curious about that, myself included. I think it’s because of my work in similar facilities. I’ve read quite a bit about facilities in the past and how patients were treated, and it wasn’t always positive.

What did I like about this book?

I like Susanna’s honesty. She breaks down her thoughts and the events that occur in the story so that the reader can understand exactly what is going on. Some of those events may be a little hard for us to comprehend because we weren’t there to witness them, but she tries her best.

What didn’t I like about this book?

I thought that the book could have been a little longer, I think it ended a bit abruptly. Everyone has their opinions on this, so maybe it’s just me. The tone of the book was a bit formal for me, but I had to remind myself of the time the book was set in.

Plot:

Susanna is hospitalized at McLean Hospital in 1967. Her hospital paperwork is actually included in the book, with some things blacked out. This wouldn’t have happened today, thanks to HIPAA. I’ve seen this in other books, but it still astounds me.

She is hospitalized following a suicide attempt- I won’t include details, but she does detail the attempt and events that follow it. She also discusses suicidal thoughts and means.

I had a laugh while reading her description of “maximum security” and McLean’s checks system. This is the way that mental health workers (“orderlies” in the book) are able to assess patients on a 1:1 (constant), 7.5, 15 or 30-minute basis for their safety. Try doing 7.5-minute checks while hugely pregnant. I did this while pregnant with Lily and it was a bit challenging.

Susanna signed herself in voluntarily and thought she would be there for two weeks- this became almost two years. She got along with her roommate and the other patients around her, and after her release, was able to find two of them. She was released after she was offered a proposal for marriage.

What was Susanna’s diagnosis? I won’t spoil that for you. It’s in her paperwork.

I’ll let you find it in the book.

Quote that I liked:

“Crazy isn’t being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me amplified.”

Just because you’re broken inside doesn’t mean you’re “crazy”. Everyone’s a little broken, right?

Come back next month for another book review!

Picture courtesy of Google

Raising and Celebrating Our Kids

Before having kids, I didn’t put much thought into personalities or what they would do with their lives.

Accepting your child for who they are and not who you want them yo be is so important. Our kids inherit some traits from us- for example, Cameron is the next generation of sarcasm and Lily loves arts and crafts like I do. Julian, much like his dad, is quiet and loves to help others. This is fun to watch.

If we don’t love our kids the way they are, they can’t love themselves.

Bottom line, period. That’s it.

Some parents go through a sort of grieving period when their child receives a life-changing diagnosis (medical, physical, and/or developmental). It’s normal. Processing the diagnosis, the changes and other thoughts may take a while.

There are ways you can still have fun and live a full life with a child that has special needs. It may take some serious adjustments, but it’s entirely possible.

My friend, Laura-Leigh, has a son with cerebral palsy. She makes sure Levi (along with his younger sister, Presley) lives his best life. He’s in a wheelchair, but it doesn’t seem to hold him back at all.

I realize that it isn’t always easy to make these adjustments. Kids with special needs run into many kinds of issues and support isn’t always available for parents. This can make life a bit harder but not impossible.

When Julian was diagnosed, I didn’t go through a grieving phase. I felt a lot of relief. As a family, we choose to adjust to his needs and celebrate him just the way he is. I don’t see the point of wishing he was “normal”, because he would be a completely different person.

Everyone in our house sees the world a bit differently because of him.

Accepting your child for who they are is a lifelong gift to him/her. Don’t hold that back from them.

Dealing With the Unexpected: Mental Health Hospitalization and Your Child

**Note: I am discussing children under the age of 18 in this post, not referring to adult children.**

Parenting is full of the unexpected: broken bones, bad grades, moving, breakups and more.

The life of a parent with a child with a mental illness is a bit more complicated. Watching for signs of self-injury, a meltdown that may require help from professionals, not knowing if your child will be “okay” the next day… it can be exhausting.

There is a point in which some of these parents have to make a decision to place their child in a mental health facility, for emergency short-term treatment or possibly long-term treatment. It’s heartbreaking and most don’t really want to. (Some do but that’s a whole different topic that I am not covering because it angers me so much. It would be more of a rant post.)

Thoughts From The Other Side

I’ve watched parents sign the paperwork in admitting while sobbing because they felt like they failed as a parent. Sometimes it’s the last option before something tragic happens to either the child, them and/or someone else, so no, it’s not exactly a failure as a parent. There is a point in which it is a parent issue that they just don’t want to face, but I digress. Those are the parents I’ve seen sign papers and walk out of the building without a second thought.

Some kids come in quietly, some fight the whole process from admitting to the unit. That is not pretty or fun for those involved in the physical managements. Kids don’t always understand why they are in these facilities. Parents are usually able to bring their children in, but some are brought in by ambulance due to the situation they are coming from. They might be coming from another facility, juvenile detention center or hospital.

Many of the kids I worked with stayed long term because of their complex issues- varying from mild to severe autism and other developmental disabilities. Before I went to that unit, I worked with kids with emotional and behavioral issues, so some of them had already been to foster care, juvenile detention, and other placements. The decision to come to this facility had been made for them, of course, based on several factors.

I met these kids after suicide attempts, crimes, fights and all sorts of things that you probably don’t want to think of, but yet, they still kept going, even on days that they just wanted to give up and shut down. We wouldn’t let that happen- thanks to a team of psychiatrists, nurses and of course, the mental health associates that the facility couldn’t function without.

If you’re super curious about what that job is like (it was literally the best job I’ve ever had and I still haven’t found another one I have liked nearly as much), please read Real Stories of a (Former) Mental Health Worker

There are some tips I will share if you ever have to take this step with your child:

  • Please label your child’s clothing and other belongings with their initials with a permanent marker. The staff will wash clothes at least every other day and this helps a ton. Laundry is usually done at night (kids are sleeping and there is more time) and it’s easier to sort if you know what clothes belong to who.
  • Psych nurses are angels.
  • Mental health associates, for the most part, have bachelor’s degrees, or some college hours, so please remember that when interacting with them. I have one and so did all of my co-workers, we were required. Many family members didn’t treat us as such, but please respect us for our work. It’s hard.
  • Please remember that the admissions office can only move so fast and that getting mad at the staff doesn’t help things, it just slows them down. There’s a lot that goes on in the background that you can’t see before your child goes to a unit/floor. It’s similar to a hospital.
  • We don’t control the food that is made in the cafeteria.
  • If you can, PLEASE make a list of likes/dislikes because this saves time and trials for everyone involved with your child. It helps even more if your child is non-verbal.
  • You are not a terrible parent for admitting your child and do not be ashamed. There are groups you can reach out to. Please ask for support for yourself when your child is admitted or ask their social worker/case manager. That’s what they are there for.
  • If your child has to be physically managed, please realize we don’t enjoy it. I absolutely hated having to be in managements. I can’t think of anyone who liked them. It is only allowed by a doctor’s order and has a ton of regulations and requirements behind them.

If you have questions or thoughts you want to get into, please email me! I’d love to discuss.

How Did We Get to This Point?

Everyone’s situation is different- I’ll just point this out before I get deep into the topic.

I’ve never had to think of hospitalizing Julian, thankfully. I can’t imagine a point in which he would need it. His meds are stable and his aggression levels went down a long time ago. I can’t remember the last time he got mad and turned a chair over.

Obviously, I’m going to recommend calling 911 immediately if things are life-threatening (someone has a weapon, actively hurting themselves, etc). There are some things that you can’t just wait in the ER for.

Otherwise, it may be a good idea to call your child’s mental health provider and/or go to an ER if:

  • Hallucinations/delusions
  • Extreme aggression/destruction
  • Extreme alcohol and/or drug use
  • Not eating/sleeping for a certain amount of time
  • Severe psychiatric symptoms that have not responded to outpatient treatment
  • Other issues that may be seen in your child that are more extreme than usual- self-injury, anxiety, etc.

Some of these may be bad reactions to medication, but it is still better to be checked out. I worked with a child that had hallucinations for two days before his mother took him to the ER. Turns out it was a bad reaction to his new anti-psychotic. He was taken off it immediately, then stayed a few days inpatient to stabilize on new medications.

The Hospitalization Process

Depending on the facility and many other factors, you and your child may have to wait a long time in the waiting room (also called admitting, if you’re at a private facility). You will have to stay with your child the whole time- filling out paperwork, dealing with insurance, and arranging the actual admission.

If you are in a hospital ER and your child is transferred, they will be taken by ambulance and you can follow or ride with them. Once your child is admitted, you will be given all the information you need on contacting your child. You will also be given a list on what your child can and cannot have, and believe me- if you try to give something to your child that is on the “Cannot have” list, it’s not getting to them. This is for your child’s safety, especially if your child has been hospitalized for suicide/self-harm reasons.

Shortly after admission (or in the morning, depending on the time), your child will be assigned a case manager/social worker. These people are fantastic and will do their best to help your child- contacting providers, making a discharge plan, among other tasks. This is the main contact person for you to contact about your child’s care. You can also talk to your child’s nurse.

Your child may or may not attend school while they are hospitalized- this depends on the length of their stay. Many private facilities have a school on the property. The facility I worked for had a K-12 school in the building and every child went throughout the school year, and a bit over the summer. If your child is there for a short stay, they may not attend. You may be asked to sign paperwork to allow for school records to be sent to the facility so your child can attend- they can’t go without it.

A treatment team consists of nurses, a psychiatrist, other staff and the social worker. They meet daily to talk about the progress of the patients on a unit, including your child. If your child needs something like medication changes, diet changes, etc., it’s discussed in this meeting.

Most parents feel guilty, relief, anxiety, sadness and maybe a mix of all these emotions while their child is hospitalized. This is okay. A mental health facility can be a bit intimidating, no matter how welcoming the staff is. Just remember that you can call at any time to check on your child, that you can visit and to take care of yourself. This is important. If you need help with other children and/or other tasks, ask for it. This is a rough time for the whole family.

The Path to Home

It may sound a little weird, but hospitals are required to start working on a discharge plan almost as soon as a patient is admitted. (I don’t run these places, I just worked in them.)

The planning includes information on medication, mental health treatment, placement (if needed), education, housing (if needed). You have to be a part of this process. If you think your child isn’t ready to be discharged, you can talk to the hospital’s complaint department.

When picking your child up, keep in mind that they have just been through a huge transition, whether this is their first or fifth time in treatment. Keep the first couple of days low-key so they can adjust to being home, in a quieter environment. Make appointments if needed and slowly adjust them back to the daily routine.

If you have questions, you can call the social worker that worked with your child and go from there. Don’t think you have to go at things alone.

Parenting can be a tough path- seek out help when you need it, support is always out there. Resources

Information courtesy of MD Coalition

Pics courtesy of Unsplash