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Meet the Critic

At my darkest and loneliest times, she is there. In the silence of the night, she is there. When I’m at my weakest, she is there. She is with me when I walk into an uncomfortable situation. After a heartbreak and in my grief, she never leaves me. When I’m on cloud nine, and hopeful she shows up. When I’m anxious and unsure, she is talking to me. When I’m hurt and angry, she supports my feelings. She validates my actions. She gives me the option to run away. She remembers everything I’ve ever said. She knows my past. She knows my weaknesses. She takes pictures, so I remember what we’ve done together and all of our experiences. She is the one who hasn’t ever abandoned me, and the one never stops showing up.

I’m sure you’re wondering who this is. Maybe a mother, a daughter, a sister, a lover, or a friend. She is none of these and all of these. She isn’t anything and she is everything. She is the voice inside my head that I fight to silence every day.

You may think that you know her, but let me explain. She isn’t there supporting me or empowering me to keep going. She wants me to stay this way so she can thrive while I struggle to merely survive.

Who Are You?

You won’t meet her, but im sure you know someone just like her. You can’t see her, but her voice is always there. You probably aren’t a fan if by chance you know her as intimately as I do. Consider this your proper introduction. However, I don’t know if you will understand.

She steals the spotlight, demands to be heard, and aims to hurt anyone who dares to silence her. She is the one who tells me that I’m never going to be enough. She shows me the worst parts of the people around me. She drives them away, then tells me “see they don’t love you. Otherwise, they would stay.” She manipulates my feelings and twists my words. She tells me the worst-case scenarios and keeps me fearful of my every move.

Where Did She Come From?

Sometimes, she sounds like my mother, telling me I will never be pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, good enough, or just enough. Other times, she sounds like my abusers who made me believe I was always to blame. In my head, she can make anyone sound like a hurt from my past. She has pictures and videos she can play to remind me of every hurt I’ve ever endured. She holds the buttons to my triggers. She is persistent and doesn’t care about the consequences.

I know she is made up of the broken pieces of my past. She is the child who felt unwanted. She is the teenager dying to fit in. She is the young mother looking for a way out. She is the abuse survivor. She is a traumatized woman. She is bleeding in the shower. High in the bathroom. A thief. A covert narcissist. An abandoned young adult. A lonely wife. The mother who was too scared to fight back and save her children. She is the addict. She is the worst part of me. That’s who she is. She is the version of myself I’m scared to become and equally terrified she is the real version I keep hiding from the world.

Change Her, Break Her, Abolish Her

I have tried to allow her visitation and then quickly see her out. However, she is relentless. At times, she is the only one who validates the unfairness of this life. She allows me to be not okay. It’s oddly comforting to be able to wallow and grieve a life I didn’t live. However, she aggravates those wounds I am trying so hard to heal. She breaks them back open and makes them bleed.

The past suddenly becomes present, and she revels in the power to overtake me. She feeds on my pain. It is as if my own mind is going to destroy me slowly. She holds me hostage. I struggle to break free. No matter how hard I try, I haven’t found a way to rid myself of her.

Fighting to be Free

You may think I’m just negative or that I’m weak. I’m the exact opposite. I am strong because I fight this voice that prays on my downfall each day. I’m successful in defeating her, but she knows when to strike. She pulls me to the darkness and holds me captive to her cruel onslaught of verbal blows.

I’m unsure if others fight off this toxic voice made up of their past. However, I know it’s lonely when it’s her and I. Maybe another person wont feel alone with no one who understands that the voice inside your head is sometimes hardest to silence. Even now, years into healing I still struggle to find my healthy escape from her torture.

Now you’ve had an introduction. If sometimes you see me cloaked in fear, paranoia, resentment, anger, or anxiety, please know I did not choose this for myself. I don’t need your attention, but meet me with compassion instead of judgment. I’m broken, and this is what repeated trauma has left behind for me.

It’s not easy. Sometimes, it’s the hardest battle I fight in a day. It is a battle of dismissing my past negative and limiting beliefs. I try now to remind myself of the 3 years of work I’ve put into my healing. However, I fight every day for the future I want, not to stay prisoner to the past, I escaped. I hope you, too, can find healing, and one day, I hope there is comfort in silence instead of her voice telling me how I will never fully overcome the trauma of my past. You and me, we’ve got this! ☮️ ❤️😊~M

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Stop the Insanity

I’m screaming. Why am I screaming? I know it’s not going to help. However, nothing I’ve done to this point has helped either. Here we are again. I’m sitting reading and re-reading the suicide note from my 14 year old daughter. Asking myself again, how we got here, what did I miss, and why she doesn’t want to be in this world anymore. I just want to stop the insanity.

Missing the Signs

I missed the Signs? AGAIN. She didn’t confide in me. AGAIN. I’m calling the crisis hot line.https://www.samhsa.gov › find-help
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline | SAMHSA I’m calling the psychiatrist. I’m calling out at work. She is bleeding. Inside and out. She is hoarding medication. Planning her suicide. AGAIN. She is deciphering if jumping off a cliff or overdosing would be a quicker way to end her existence. I’m lost. I’m confused. I’m angry.

Blame Game

I’m so incredibly angry. I’m not sure where to place my anger. Who can I blame? Why is this happening to her? To us? I choose to place blame on everyone, especially myself. I blame her, too, which isn’t fair. I bought the act. I handed her the weapon. I chose, yet again, to believe the pretty picture she had painted to cover her pain. I wanted so much to believe it. However, I should’ve known. Why didn’t I know? We’ve been through this before.

I Should’ve Known

I should’ve learned how to catch on quicker to the cover up. The first hospitalization in 2020 taught me to take it more seriously. The hospitalization in 2021, that lasted 18 weeks, should’ve been enough for me to understand the gravity of it all. After the hospitalizations earlier this year, I should’ve known that she would hide the hurt until it was nearly too late. Now, here I sit asking myself, what are we going to do this time?

What Now?

Another hospitalization, more medication changes, intensive therapy, inpatient, residential, intensive outpatient, or something else? There is no cure, that’s what she told me just last week. I know. I wish there was. In conclusion, I’m lost, but I’m thankful that I haven’t lost her to this battle.

Keep Fighting

Regardless, what the statistics say, I won’t stop fighting. No amount of money or time is going to stop me from finding her the treatment she needs. I’ll keep fighting her demons, and my own, for as long as I live. I’m not giving up. I’m never going to surrender even while I scream how unfair this is for us. My pain is no match to the pain she is living with. Pray for us all. Pray for #2. Pray for my threefold. Pray for this mom who is trying to mom mental illness. Together, we’ve got this. ☮️❤️😊~M

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Celebrate Today because Your Story Isn’t Over

Today, people of the world, is my daughter’s 14th birthday. The second born of my threefold. Once upon a time this daughter of mine was an emmanese speaking, toddling, blonde haired, blue eyed beauty. She is my little love, my mini me, in nearly every way. Momma’s little M&M. There are so many things I hope my threefold learns on their journey. Today, I hope she celebrates, because it means her story isn’t over yet.

This child that I love with my whole heart, made me wonder for the longest time if she embodied the entire curse of threefold that my mother bestowed on me before she died. After all, Ms. Thing, was the one I was pregnant with when the curse was issued and 53 days after my mother’s death I had this beautiful baby girl, the deuce of my trio. I have realized, that she though challenging and a fierce force is only a piece of my threefold. Yet, very much a key piece, a piece that makes me, me.

The Deuce

My M&M as I’ve called her since before she was born has changed from that little toddling, pint sized, sassy, and bright eyed baby into this amazingly inspiring young woman. Not only has she transformed her style {at least 5 times} but she has transformed in ways that I was once scared I might not see. Today we celebrate that growth, both in maturity and soul .

Just from a year ago, I’ve seen this young child begin to become a young woman. I’ve seen a fighter, a person with fierce determination, and with a heart that loves without limit. In addition, I’ve witnessed her overcome obstacles, stomp stigma surrounding her mental illness and gain a new perspective on the world around us. This has been beautiful to watch.

The Struggle is Real

If you have followed my threefold for a while, then you are familiar with our struggles and battles over the past year. We are stronger than yesterday, but we still have so much to learn. All of us. It hasn’t been an easy road, but nevertheless we are moving forward. Together.

I am truly proud of my threefold for how they have grown over this year. After six hospitalizations for #2 over nearly 30 weeks, year to date, I’d say celebration is called for. I fought for her, but the key in us overcoming these battles is her continual fight for herself.

Celebrate!

Celebrate each day! Every day you have with your family, friends, tribe or network of supporters is another day to celebrate. Be kind. You never know the struggles someone else is facing behind closed doors. Speak up against abuse, it’s not ok in any form. Finally, choose to keep moving forward, because this is just a bump. Somewhere you’ll find the message in the mess! You’ve got this! Stay positive! ☮️❤️😊~M

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Trauma Talk: Trauma Focused Therapy

Trauma is deeply personal. Furthermore, this is series will be a side of myself that I don’t allow the world around me to see. In this series, I will be sharing the raw and unfiltered inner workings of my mental illness and the affects trauma has had on my life. Maybe it is no different than everyone else’s struggles they have when talking about trauma. Then again, I feel like if I can share a part of my healing then someone can find a way to combat their trauma too.

Mental illness and trauma has changed my perspective and my perceptions of the world around me. The following questions are ones I was asked to complete recently by a trauma therapist. I haven’t had the mental capacity to work through these questions yet. I am supposed to do this trauma work with someone I trust, who understands my feelings and validates them, and who is supportive of my healing. I don’t do anything half ass, so I’ll just lay it out for the world at large. If nothing else, maybe it will help someone else to work through their mental mayhem while keeping me accountable to my own journey to healing.

Trauma

21 Therapeutic Questions

The following is the list of questions that I was told to answer honestly and not filter out the feelings. These are supposed to be self reflective and help me to understand my needs, my feelings, and promote healing. This is just the starting point as this is my first trauma focused therapy experience for myself.

  1. How do I feel responsible for the pain and trauma inflicted on me in the past?
  2. In what ways do I allow the past to negatively affect my present and my feelings about the future?
  3. Who do I need to forgive and why?
  4. What experiences have I had with others that I believe I am still suffering from?
  5. Who has hurt me and why?
  6. How can I help heal the hurt that I’ve caused others to experience?
  7. In what ways do I allow my past trauma to manifest in my current reality?
  8. What behaviors do I exhibit when I am experiencing triggered reactions of past trauma?
  9. Am I upset with God about something that has taken place in my life? Why?
  10. Who do I want to as my support system in my life? What’s stopping me from allowing these relationships to be safe?
  11. How can those around me be supportive?
  12. How can I establish trust and build a firm foundation in my current relationships?
  13. What are some things that I like about myself that others have been critical of in the past?
  14. What do I need help with? Who can I rely on to help when asked?
  15. If my abuser/perpetrator is still involved in my life what boundaries can I set to protect myself moving forward?
  16. How can I change my actions and current behaviors to aid in my healing and growth?
  17. In order to heal from my past what can I do to aid in my recovery?
  18. What are ten things that I love about myself?
  19. What are ten things I am good at?
  20. What do I hope to achieve through therapy?
  21. Write a letter to myself about everything I feel about myself and let someone close to me read it. Allow them to fact check my self beliefs.

Trauma To Healing

The list of questions that are given is a week’s worth of trauma work. Understanding the response we have to trauma is important. Uncovering the deep rooted affects that trauma has had on how we speak, think, and behave is paramount to reversing the patterns. If we can self reflect and find the facts in the lies and begin changing our thinking we can begin to heal the hurts that have been holding us captive.

Recovery is the goal, but there is no quick fix or magic potion that we can take that will take away what has happened. I’m prepared to work with my trauma therapist to uncover how my own thought and behavior patterns are allowing the past to cling to my present. Grab a journal and join along or just watch the journey of healing. In the meantime, stay positive! We’ve got this! ☮️❤️😊~M follow My Threefold on Facebook

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Being at Odds with a Child with O.D.D.

Oppositional defiance disorder is an often misunderstood mental disorder. it is perceived to be a child being a brat because they didn’t get their way. I get that, but there is always more to these fits and it’s all about a child’s inability to regulate, filter through and communicate their feelings. YES! O.D.D. Is selfish just like most mental disorders and illnesses are. These kids do act like brats and as parents we are pulling our hair out to figure out the fix to the problem.

If you have ever dealt with a child having an outburst and sat as they screamed at you ‘I wish you weren’t my mom!’ Then you might understand this illness more than you think. If you’ve ever been cussed out by a ten year old as they slam their fists into the wall then I feel your frustration. If you’ve ever sat and cried wondering what you did wrong to end up with a child acting this way then I know your pain. I too have sat silently biting my tongue as I wanted to throw a fit that matched the ferocity of my child. I also have looked in her eyes as she stared blankly at me as she told me that she wished I was dead. I’ve cried the tears of hurt from those words and fought against my feelings of anger towards my child for being so spiteful and disrespectful. I’ve also held the child as she cried after and loved her through the crash of the comedown. It’s not fair.

As a mom to my threefold who all suffer from mental disorders and illnesses, I know the pain, fear, challenge, and chaos that comes from Mommin’ mental illness. It ain’t easy! You are THAT mom. Being THAT mom means you deal with the judgment, scrutiny, and guilt that results from your child’s illness. You are also THAT mom who is willing to try just about whatever to take away the pain your child experiences and find a path to peace for all of you. Being THAT mom means going above and beyond for your child, advocating for them, seeking help, and learning about the issues they are experiencing and how to mom mental illness better.

Oppositional defiance disorder is just one disorder that two of my threefold suffer from. It also may be one of the most difficult that I manage. Due to its aggressive and volatile nature and the violent behaviors that come with the uncontrollable anger it is often difficult to find the right way to parent this problem. At the end of the day I always try to find solutions that will help us shorten the outbursts and maintain safety during these situations. If I can pass along advice to other parents who are trying to find a way to manage mental illness by telling our story I will. The following will hopefully shed a little light on what oppositional defiance disorder is and how you can manage the meltdowns.

Understanding & Parenting Tips for Oppositional Defiance Disorder

What is O.D.D.?

Oppositional Defiance Disorder is a mental health disorder in which children are unable to regulate their emotions properly and display those behaviors through outbursts. These outbursts are often aggressive, violent, destructive and are marked by angry and vindictive actions. The behavior displayed is usually seemingly disproportionate to the situation that triggered the reaction and their age.

Oppositional Defiance Disorder is a disorder that affects roughly 16% of school aged children according to NAMI. Oppositional Defiance Disorder ranges in severity from mild to severe and the severity is dependent upon how many areas of life are affected. These different areas are family, social, and school environments. The severity is also determined by the frequency and intensity of the outbursts.

Diagnosis

Determining if your child has O.D.D. requires a diagnosis from a mental health professional after an assessment of their behavior and a thorough history of the behavior from parents, teachers, and if possible the child exhibiting the behaviors. Usually a history of one or more outbursts per week that are not age or situation appropriate is the largest determining factor in a O.D.D. diagnosis.

A thorough family history of mental health disorders and illnesses along with any other behaviors or symptoms the child may display can help the evaluation to find the proper diagnosis for your child. O.D.D. is often linked to others disorders and illnesses that need treatment and to be addressed in addition to the anger. Childhood trauma, parenting, stress, bullying and lack of control of environmental factors can also be found to be root issues that have your child unable to express or comprehend the complex emotions they are having. Mental illnesses such as mood disorders, ADHD, anxiety, and PTSD are also linked to oppositional defiance disorder. Therefore an evaluation would bring more understanding as a parent to what factors are playing into your child’s behavior.

What is an Outburst?

If you don’t know what an anger outburst is then you probably don’t have a child with O.D.D. A child with O.D.D. can get irrationally angry and aggressive when a parent denies the child’s request for candy before dinner. They could react in a violent manner when asked to complete simple tasks. Disrespectful and vindictive behavior can be shown when a teacher redirects the child from continuing talking out of turn. A rage fueled argument could arise with a friend of when the child feels that the friend is not following their interpretation of the rules. This emotional ineptitude is expected in children younger than five, but beyond that age they should have began to filter their emotions and communicate them in a healthier way.

If you think of a toddler who throws a tantrum when you remove a toy from their hand or say no that would be similar to how a child reacts who has O.D.D. ‘Don’t take candy from a baby’ comes to mind as the type of fit a small child has. While it’s understandable that a two year old throws themselves on the floor, hits, screams or cries in response, it is not acceptable for a ten year old to throw a fit like that in response to a similar undesirable outcome. ‘Don’t cry over spilled milk’ would be a good example of the triggered response of a child with O.D.D. has to unwanted outcomes and minor inconveniences.

Outbursts consistent with those seen in oppositional defiance disorder often involve the following characteristics:

  • Extreme anger out of proportion to the situation.
  • Yelling, screaming, and crying.
  • Destruction of property
  • Cursing or other obscene language
  • Hitting and kicking objects or others in their space.
  • Throwing objects at others or in the vicinity.
  • Berating the person who has redirected, reprimanded or refused the child.
  • Manipulative, spiteful, and vindictive behavoids exhibited.
  • Self harm or threats of suicide.
  • Lack of care of consequences given or stated.

Parenting the Problem and Seeking Support

I know how challenging parenting any child can be at times, but it’s a completely different ballgame when you have a child who suffers from any form of mental health disorder or illness. An explosive and potentially violent or aggressive child is anxiety inducing for everyone involved and can feel hopeless for a parent who is trying to handle this behavior. It’s important that you are aware of the possible triggers, the surroundings for safety and how you can help to deescalate the outburst quickly and effectively.

As a mom to two children who were diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder at the age of eight and nine, I am going to give you my do’s and don’ts for managing the meltdowns that come with oppositional defiance disorder. These are merely my experiences, my understanding, and the suggestions I was given from articles, books, therapists, and parenting coaches.

What DIDN’T Work

I would’ve tried just about anything to stop the spiral that consumed my daughters and I multiple times each week. I didn’t want to feel like the failing mom who couldn’t control her kids. I would’ve paid anyone to step in and just ‘fix’ the issue. I was tired and nothing seemed to be working. I tried to find the fix, but everything I was doing seemed to trigger my child. I would beg for a quiet day and walk on eggshells in my own home to keep the peace at home. Many of the things I tried didn’t help but instead only intensified or lengthened the outburst. I felt like I had a tiny tyrant in my home who was holding my family and I hostage. She expected us to all bend to her will. I don’t recommend the following actions when trying to overcome the outbursts of O.D.D. :

  • DON’T give in! Don’t give your child what they want to avoid the outburst. Doing so will only cause them to use these outbursts to get their desired outcome quicker.
  • DON’T threaten without follow through! Do not threaten to ground them from electronics for a month knowing that’s a consequence you won’t uphold. Threats are empty and lead to lack of consideration of consequences.
  • DON’T scream or yell back. Do not engage in an argument. Do not match their behavior. Doing so will likely not only throw fuel on the fire but it will also demonstrate the behaviors you are trying to deter.
  • DON’T take it personally. Do not allow the spiteful words of your child become your truth. Your child doesn’t hate you or wish you weren’t their mom. They just want you to hurt as bad as they are in that moment.
  • DON’T leave your child unsupervised or with someone unprepared for the possibility of an outburst. Do not allow others who are uneducated about your child’s disorder to care for your child. Do not leave them unattended for lengthy amounts of time {more than 30 minutes} and not at all when experiencing an outburst.
  • DON’T react with aggression or physical punishment. I don’t disagree that you can protect your child from himself but don’t use corporal punishment to have the child comply with your commands during an outburst.
  • DON’T give them the attention for acting badly. Do not react or respond to their every distorted reaction, aggressive advance or their requests for you to do or stop doing whatever they are demanding of you in the moment. Giving attention to the negative behaviors will give them a sense of control over you. Attention whether positive or negative is still rewarding to a child with O.D.D.

What DID Work

Now that we have discussed what we shouldn’t do we can move on to the tips that may help you calm your child while having an outburst from O.D.D. I’ve tried these and although we haven’t completely eliminated the outbursts, I can say my ability to control myself and my reactions and understand the root cause has been extremely beneficial in managing the meltdown when it arises. I’m not going to pretend that O.D.D. is cured in my threefold, but it’s makes Mommin’ this mental illness a little more manageable than it was previously.

  • DO give your child consequences that you plan to uphold. When giving consequences make sure to speak to your child after the situation has calmed down. Ask your child ‘what consequences do you think you should get for acting this way?’ Take into consideration their age and the root cause and be firm that this is unacceptable behavior.
  • DO make sure to let them know that you love them. You don’t have to like their behavior, but you always love them.
  • DO let them know when they have hurt you. If they said something particularly nasty during the height of their anger then tell them later. You will most often hear them say they didn’t mean it. This will help them to see their behavior hurts you, but also their response can ease the sting of the words they said to hurt you.
  • DO attempt to keep the child away from other members of the family during the outburst. Safety is key for not only your child but anyone who could be impacted intentionally or unintentionally by the outburst. Keep other children in an area out of sight and earshot of the child having the outburst. One triggered child is enough, adding another could intensify the outburst making it even harder to manage.
  • DO cut yourself some slack. You’re there, trying to support them and help them through this. It takes a lot of patience and love to be the parent they feel safe to express the good, bad and ugly emotions to. It’s hard being the safe parent sometimes.
  • DO encourage open communication instead of acting out. Brainstorm ways you and your child can deescalate the situation together. Ask your child how you can help them best during their outbursts and if you can’t oblige offer an alternative.
  • DO promote healthy coping mechanisms for when these big feeling arise. What can your child do to calm down when they feel tgat they are becoming agitated?
  • DO hug your child and comfort them after they have calmed down. You don’t have to understand the behavior to offer compassion. They are still just a child who needs your comfort, because the guilt will be heavy for their behavior and they need to know you are going to love them through the hard parts.
  • DO tell your child what they did that was unacceptable and how you don’t reward bad behavior. Come up with ideas together of rewards for positive behaviors and talk about ways to earn those rewards.
  • DO set routines that your child can adhere to. Chores, homework, bedtime, and other obligations the child has should be scheduled along with the free time. Once the child becomes accustomed to a routine then they can mentally prepare for what they are supposed to do and when. This structure will allow your child to feel like they know what to expect as well as what is expected of them.
  • DO seek support from teachers and therapists, partners and siblings as you navigate. Communicate warning signs and solutions that work well for calming your child.
  • DO seek therapy as a way to help your child learn to better process and communicate their emotions. A therapist can help give you insight into the child’s behavior and also act as a safe place for your child to release troublesome emotions. The therapist can also help your child to develop coping mechanisms that they can use when they have intense emotions.

It’s important to understand that Mommin mental illness isn’t a one size fits all parenting style. You are the person who knows your child best. I would love to hear your tips and tricks for taming down the tiny tyrant who is terrorizing your home too! Share in the comments or send me an email at mythreefold@gmail.com

Mommin’ mental illness ain’t easy! Finding the balance between permissive parenting and authoritative parenting while maintaining awareness of mental illness is difficult to fine tune. Trauma informed parenting teaches us to be mindful of our children’s mental health and their current stressors while maintaining an authoritative approach. As a trauma drama bipolar momma bear I am uniquely familiar with how mental disorders like O.D.D. can make home sweet home leave a bitter taste in your mouth. It’s not going away, but staying consistent with your child is key. Stay patient and stay positive. You’ve got this! ☮️❤️😊~M

Resources:

  • NAMI.org
  • AACAP.org
  • Childmind.org