Men and Mental Health

As kids, most boys were told not to cry. They were told to be tough, to be “real men”, and those men didn’t cry and show emotions. They hid their feelings, no matter the cost.

This piece of advice has had terrible consequences, leading to high substance abuse rates, violence against women and children (among others) and other issues. When you can’t let out your feelings in a healthy way, it tends to come out badly. It also leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety and lack of self-care.

Why Men Don’t Seek Help

Everyone needs to take care of themselves, physically and mentally. This is a well-known fact. Men have a harder time acknowledging this because of the stigma they face in doing so. This will be covered in a later post, so stay tuned, but here are a few examples of what many men fear when going for help:

  • Being labeled as “weak”, “sick”, or any number of labels.
  • Having to be vulnerable. I can say from personal experience that starting therapy is rough. You are opening up with some of your worst demons to someone you just met..many men (and women) are not having it.
  • Being judged by those who know that they are getting help.

This information is in The Stigma of Mental Illness

Untreated mental illness can also lead to suicide, which has a higher rate in men, and men usually use more lethal means.

This fact breaks my heart each time I read it. Suicide in itself is heartbreaking and has far-reaching consequences.

As a mom, I’m teaching my kids that it’s okay to cry. My sons know it’s okay to have emotions. In light of numerous teen suicides in the news and those that I have lost to suicide personally, I feel a huge responsibility to watch out for my kids’ mental health. It’s HARD to be a kid these days.

Cameron started taking daily naps when he started middle school, and at first, I thought it was a phase. Then I worried about his heart because his SVT is pretty severe and can tire him out easily.

He told me that he felt fine, that school was just tiring him out. My next question was if anything was bothering him, and thankfully, he said no. Cameron is a pretty chill kid, but you never know.

Julian is pretty quiet, but he knows where Mom is if he needs to talk. So does Lily, but she is NOT the quiet type. The point of this is, please talk to your kids, no matter how rough it may be. Just check in.

What can we do for the men in our lives?

  • Check in with them. Especially if something major has happened to them recently- a death in the family, job loss, etc.
  • Be gentle. Most men facing a mental health issue don’t want to be forced into talking. Matthew’s parents divorced a few years ago, and there was a lot of drama involved. He’s not a huge talker, so I had to let him talk about it at his own pace.
  • Encourage him through whatever he does, if anything. If he decides to seek help, he needs to know you’re behind him 100%.

Of course, if things are going downhill quickly, please seek immediate help. You can go to the nearest ER or call 911.
Resources:

AFSP

Psychology Today

NAMI

Teen pic

Drinking, Drugs and Your Teen: Tips for Discussion

I’ve been very open on this blog and in many other areas of my life about my struggles with drinking. My kids were center stage for some of the dumber things I did during that time, and I regret that so much. They finally stopped the barstool jokes, but it took a couple of years.

I took Julian to his 12 year checkup last week- his pediatrician talked to him about drugs and alcohol, if he had been asked to use anything. (He said no.) On the way home, we talked about this and then we talked about my drinking.

I told him that if he chooses to drink, that’s entirely his decision, but not to drive drunk. We also discussed a few other things, which you will see below.

He hates the idea of Uber/Lyft (“They might do something mean to me, Mom”) so I told him I would always come get him if he needed me. I’d prefer if he waited until he’s 21, but in the age of underage drinking, I know this might not happen. I’m also not sure of the interactions with his meds, but that may be something I need to look into.

Ritalin+Clonidine+alcohol=potential yikes.

tammy-gann-733599-unsplash.jpg

Drugs Are Bad, Mkay

I’ve watched too much “South Park”, but you get the idea. The talk that we need to have with our kids isn’t meant to be a funny one- I can’t figure out a way to make it funny or else I would. Matthew has decided to hand this talk over to me. I’ve worked as an addiction counselor and chemical dependency technician. When I was a mental health associate, I also got a lot of first-hand experience with people who had been using drugs and/or drinking. Let’s leave it at it’s not always pretty. I think I’m prepared?

A Few Tips on Talking to Your Kids about Drugs/Alcohol:

  • Bring up the topic calmly. The conversation I had with Julian was a pretty calm one, it just happened to follow his checkup. Let it happen naturally if you can. Sometimes these conversations don’t happen calmly, as in if your child is caught with a substance- many parents would be very angry.If you have to, let some time pass before speaking to your child. Nothing will get accomplished if both of you are angry. Ask them why they might want to use anything- boredom, wanting to fit in?
  • Discuss the dangers. In Cameron’s case, he can’t drink energy drinks. It may trigger an SVT episode, so he can forget the entire amphetamine category of drugs. His cardiologist had a very long discussion with him in the hospital about drug use, and I think it scared him. If kids know the dangers of what they’re trying out, they might be a little (or a lot, hopefully) less likely to try it again. Alcohol can lead to liver damage, and smoking can damage the lungs, throat and other areas, for example. Remind them how drugs and alcohol can affect their brains. This can affect their decision making and other skills in the future.
  • Remember that your influence matters. If you have had an drug/alcohol problem, it is up to you to decide whether to discuss it with your child- every situation is different. My kids saw some of the effects of my drinking and they remember it, so it’s not like we can skip over it. I don’t plan on discussing why I drank so heavily, because that goes into marriage issues. I plan on discussing the not-so-great things I did and what could have happened had I kept drinking. If you haven’t had this issue, you can discuss stories of people you know that have had issues- kids can relate to this pretty easily. Just be prepared for questions.
  • Provide support. Today’s teens go through a lot. Peer pressure is a bit different than it was 20 years ago. For more on this, you may want to read Why You Need to be Ready for Peer Pressure Our kids need to know we support and love them.

rawpixel-687081-unsplash.jpg

Looking for Signs

It can be troubling to worry about or even see signs that your child may be using drugs/alcohol, but it’s something to watch for.

Behavioral Changes:

  • changes in relationships with friends/family
  • breaking curfew
  • locking doors
  • has increased appetite (marijuana will cause this)
  • clumsy behaviors
  • disappears
  • changes in energy levels
  • stealing

Personality Changes:

  • mood changes
  • withdrawn/depressed
  • hostile/angry
  • lack of motivation
  • secretive
  • silent
  • deceitful

thought-catalog-545969-unsplash.jpg

If you do realize that your child is using drugs/alcohol, there is outpatient treatment for teens, but if it is a heavy problem, your child may need inpatient rehabilitation. Please try to treat your child with love, not confrontation, as hard as it may be. They may be angry with you, but inside they are struggling. You can reach out to a local mental health professional or treatment center.

Talking to teens can be hard, and everyone involved can feel awkward. This talk, however, can save lives. If you haven’t had this talk, it may be time.

FREEBIE: Talking to Kids

If you have found this post helpful, or know someone who can benefit from it, please share! Thanks!

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Information from: Phase 2 Parenting

Teen Alcohol Abuse

What You Need to Know About Teenage Dating

Teenage dating.

Yuck.

We have all been there- but these days it’s probably a bit different from when we were teens. There are cell phones and tricky little things called apps. As of now, my boys still don’t have cell phones. They are bugging me quite a bit, but I still don’t see the point, so they remain phone-less.

I’m 35. Matthew and I started dating 20 years ago. I’m actually writing this post on our 13th wedding anniversary, September 10, 2018. If you do the math, we were 15 when we started dating. If you keep going with the math, we were 22 when we got married and Cameron was 8 months old. We had to *gasp* call each other’s houses to talk to each other and there wasn’t Facebook Messenger, although that would have been great.

Welcome To The Future

Now, there’s Snapchat, Instagram and other apps that I don’t even know about yet. There’s something else that’s always been there but nobody really talked about a whole lot until recently- consent.

I’m all about consent. I’m not a very touchy-feely person, so if you try to hug me and I don’t know you very well, I’m most likely going to step back. I might break your hand if you even think about touching my hair. I have extremely curly hair, and you’d be amazed at how people have tried to touch it. That’s a whole different post.

Sexual consent? That’s a necessity. It’s a deal-breaker. If a person is drunk or otherwise unable to say “yes” or “no”, then step back and call it a night. “No” means “no”. That’s it. This goes for all three kids, and I don’t care who they date. Everyone deserves that much respect and I can only hope they get that back. Yeah, it sucks to get into the moment and have to stop, but it beats a charge. It also beats going to jail, really angry parents and other consequences. Also, Mom’s not bailing anyone out for this kind of stuff.

The Path To Respect

I think this starts with talking to your kids. Most teens just want to be accepted and liked, and sometimes this can push them into doing things they might not be quite ready for. Each kid has their own comfort zone and going out of it can be a bit scary. Some kids have issues with saying no.

Having a strong parent-teen relationship can help things. I know teens aren’t the best at talking sometimes, but checking in can really help. It can be super hard to discuss sexual things- for both you and your child, but it’s completely necessary. If your child feels they can talk to you, they will come to you a lot more than if you are harsher or close-minded. This can also increase the risk of making bad decisions.

Another way to keep a teen from making a mistake with consent is by teaching them healthy boundaries. If they have those boundaries, they will be less likely to push them with someone they care about. Ask your teen what their thoughts are on respecting others’ boundaries. Help them think through what happens if they don’t respect others’ boundaries- teens have issues seeing the consequences of his actions.

Learn your state’s laws on consent. My mom got a crash course in this when I was a freshman in high school. When I was 14, I dated a 17-year-old that turned 18 before I turned 15. For two months, my mom kept a VERY close eye on us, thanks to Kentucky’s laws on underage dating. (For the record, she absolutely couldn’t stand this kid for many reasons.) Knowing these laws can be very beneficial.

Knowledge is Power

Kids need to know more these days about dating. They’re growing faster than we did, almost as fast as we can blink. There are other things they need to know about besides respect and consent:

What is a healthy relationship?

Discuss with your child what makes a relationship healthy. This is important so that they know what to look for in their own.

Discuss what abuse looks like. Some people begin having patterns of being abusive or being abused in their teens. Stalking should also be discussed.

The difference between lust, infatuation and love. These are three very different things and kids may not be able to see the difference. They do need to learn the difference so that they can form healthy relationships.

Discuss sex and relationships realistically. This means the pros and cons of sex, birth control (if that’s your thing), and so on. Include consent in this discussion. Also discuss expectations and boundaries that you expect your child to go within dating- curfews, restrictions, etc. Of course, let your teen have input.

If needed, discuss sexual orientation and any questions about it. If your child needs to discuss their sexual orientation, be supportive as possible and seek outside assistance if needed. Please see my post LGBTQ Kids: A Guide if you need help on this topic.

Here’s to our kids dating, looking cute and making good choices.

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

Information courtesy of Respecting Physical Boundaries

Talking to Teens about Relationships

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Not Just the 3 of Us

Broken Wings Part 2: Divorce Preparations

Broken Wings, Part 2: Divorce Preparations for Your Special Needs Family

by Bonnie Harris Price & Wrae Meredith Sanders

Special needs and divorce; these two words shouldn’t be in the same sentence. Yet more and more families split up because the demands are overwhelming.

Counseling didn’t work. The long vacation meant to help your family reset didn’t work either. It may even seem like your prayers to reconcile went unanswered too.

Then, the inevitable happens. You and your significant other decide to divorce.

Ending your marriage is hard particularly if you have children. Yet when your child has special needs, the task is even more difficult.

The transition to a single parent household won’t be easy. There will be feelings of anger, doubt, fear, frustration, and even betrayal. After all, the two of you took vows to work things out.

But sometimes things don’t work out

It’s important that you know it’s not your fault. And your child’s disability isn’t to blame either. As Iyanla Vanzant says, it’s time to do the work to get your lives on track.

Going through a divorce is like going to war. You don’t want to show up for battle without your protective gear. Don’t confuse this post for a lesson to destroy your soon to be ex, instead, treat this as a blueprint to prepare you for the tough days ahead.

Divorce Action Plan

How much child support should you ask for? What if your child requires special care beyond the age of eighteen? Am I doing the right thing?

These are legitimate questions and at the same time, they don’t even scratch the surface of what’s involved in a special needs divorce case.

Here are some suggestions of what to do when preparing for divorce.

Special Needs Divorce Checklist

  • Find a divorce mediator
  • Find a special needs attorney or an attorney who specializes in family law
  • Bring your child’s records
  • Prepare an after divorce budget
  • Custody arrangements
  • Living arrangements
  • After the divorce

Mediator

In the heat of the moment you might want to run straight to an attorney, but first, try a mediator. A mediator can help you arrange an acceptable divorce agreement. A mediator should be experienced and willing to let an attorney sit in without any hassle.

Your mediator should remain neutral and help keep the peace. Mediators aren’t free but some will offer a free consultation. Check Yelp reviews or get a recommendation from a friend who’s been through a divorce.

Special needs attorney

Next, you want to find a divorce attorney who specializes in this area. Custody, insurance, medical and counseling appointments are areas that must be addressed as soon as possible. Efforts to continue your child’s care takes priority over who gets the house.

The goal is to prevent dumping the burden on one person. Lack of support probably plays a huge role in breakups. To make sure you don’t get overwhelmed after the divorce, address this issue first.

Records

If you haven’t already been doing it, document everything about your child including the relationship with the other parent. Family court is also known as the mother’s court, but fathers have rights too.

You want to record all interactions, including the not so good days. Again, this is not to make the other person look bad, but this is to show the court what the child needs. Documentation is especially helpful in abuse cases.

Budget

Your income will definitely change. Income for divorced women is a not so surprising fifty percent. Another ugly statistic shows men tend to get richer after divorce.

Either way, you must prepare your after our divorce budget now. You need to figure out what your expenses will be if you’re going to have any kind of future.

Some things to consider are:

Can you afford to keep the house once the divorce is final?

How much money will I have to make in case I don’t get the child support I need?

What services can my child do without if I need to make ends meet?

Custody and Visitation

Other than the divorce itself, this is the most painful process. What happens to the kids? In Texas and Tennessee, one parent gets custody and the other gets visitation.

If you’re lucky, the two of you can agree to co-parent. Sometimes this is just isn’t case. Worst-case scenario one parent ends up abandoned despite a court order for regular visits.

Understand the court will decide what’s in the best interest of the child. Mothers tend to have more rights than dads, but if you find yourself on the wrong side of the decision be prepared to fight. If you know in your heart you’re the better parent, don’t give up.

Living Arrangements

Once you have decided who and where please make sure the place is suitable for your child’s needs. New divorcees are plagued with the task of finding somewhere affordable, but it has to be right.

New homes should reasonably accommodate the child. If your child has physical limitations, the other parent should move to a place that is handicap accessible. You should also know if the neighborhood is child-friendly.

Another thing you want to consider is to make sure in your divorce decree that you have permission to move. For example, if there is a doctor or facility two hours away that would be beneficial for your child and you wanted to move closer, your ex could stop you if it isn’t in the paperwork.

You want to put that card on the table because as Dr. Phil said, the person you married is different from the person you divorce. For your child’s sake be prepared.

When It’s Over

The ink is dry. Maybe it was an amicable split. A new chapter for you and your child begins.

Ideally, it would be great if you could seek counseling during this trying time. Most people I know don’t seek counseling until years later. Don’t wait years, get help as soon as it’s over.

Don’t be under the impression that life is going to be grand because the pain is in the past. The pain doesn’t heal until you deal with it. It didn’t work out and you’re left to pick up the pieces.

But Guess What?

You got this. Your child is going to need you more than ever. Despite your child’s emotional and/or physical challenges, they are resilient.

And so are you. Thomas Edison failed over two-thousand times when he tried to invent the light bulb. When asked, he said he didn’t fail, he found over two thousand ways it wouldn’t work.

You will get through this. I have faith in you as a parent.

Comments

What’s your story? Are you going through a divorce and have special needs children? Leave a comment below.

bonnie@adhdhomeschooled.com

ADHDhomeschool@Pinterest

ADHDhomeschooled @Facebook

wraemeredithblogs.wordpress.com

5 Unhealthy Triggers

Many of us have certain things that just don’t work for us.

What can we do to fix the triggers that can worsen our mental health issues?

The Triggers

  1. Toxic people. I am not a fan of toxic people. My Facebook settings and block list reflect this in a very big way. In my last therapy session, Rachel said that she was very proud of how I have been able to kick a ton of people out of my life and leave them there. What do I mean by toxic people? People who are consistently negative (nobody is full of sunshine every day, but I’m talking people that are always unhappy and/or never happy for you, put you down, even if sneakily, etc.), spread rumors about you, aren’t there for you when you need them, and so on. If you look hard enough, there are most likely toxic people lurking somewhere in your life. Everyone has a person or two. When you find them- cut them out. It may not be easy, but it is sometimes necessary for your mental stability.
  2. Lack of support. This is a big one. When you don’t have supportive people in your life, you’re more likely to fall into a bad spot and/or stay there. This can mean a therapist, a friend or family member. It’s a lonely feeling to not have support because it is easy to feel that no one cares about you when that is far from the truth. This issue can be changed by reaching out for support when you are not in a bad situation- looking for a therapist, talking to a friend or someone else you trust about a plan for the next time you realize (or they do) that you may be having a problem.
  3. Lack of self-care. I can’t express enough how important it is to take care of yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually, if that is something you are into. If you don’t take care of yourself physically, it will show emotionally and the same the other way around. Taking care of yourself makes you feel better. When you feel good physically, you feel good on the inside. I like to walk outside when I can and even though it tires me out, I still feel good because my body needs it. When we stop taking care of ourselves, we can see the change in the mirror and feel it inside. Changes in self-care can be small at first, but well worth it.
    4. Drugs and/or alcohol. Either of these can really change how you think- in small or large doses. Alcohol certainly changed the way I thought, but that’s what I was seeking. I wanted to forget what I was thinking about. I wanted to be able to forget my pain. I had forgotten that the pain wouldn’t go away forever and that when the hangover went away, everything I was trying to get out of my mind would come back. It always did. Facing the pain of losing Jake and having to live the rest of my life without him was awful but it is something I was going to have to deal with. As of this post, I am 16 months sober. I have faced that pain, and am dealing much better with it. I will always have days in which I miss him terribly but that is something I have learned to accept and deal with. Excessive use of drugs and/or alcohol can lead to a lot of other things that a lot of people don’t want- jail, hospitalization, rehab, or a combo of all of these. These can also, in some cases, trigger episodes of psychiatric issues, or make them worse. Some substances can be stopped without professional assistance, like marijuana, but if you are heavily abusing substances like alcohol, opiates, or benzodiazepines, please go to a facility. Trying to detox yourself can be dangerous- you can die from the complications.

5. Lack of outlets for creativity or fun. Adulting is rough. Bills, work and kids can take up your time. Being creative or finding something to do with your spare time can be a way to tune the world out when you need a break. For example, Matthew and his brother have begun to flip houses- buying houses, fixing them up and reselling them. They get to do something they know how to do (they get help when needed) and get to hang out in the process. The money isn’t bad either. Weirdly, Matthew says it’s relaxing for him because he really likes doing it. When you don’t have anything to do that you enjoy, life can get really boring fast. That can drag you down. I think this is why adult kickball leagues have become so popular. It’s fun and brings back memories from childhood.

Not everyone has these triggers and others may have different ones. These are just a few that I’ve noticed.

What are the things that trigger your mental health issues? How do you change the path?

Pics are from Unsplash

Run Jump Scrap

**STAY TUNED FOR MY COLLAB WITH BONNIE, COMING IN JUNE**