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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
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Destination Unknown

I’m unsure where I’m headed. I’m on the path I’ve been going down for a while, but suddenly there is this huge fork is in the road. A decision is there waiting for me to make up my mind. Which way? Both paths have darkness, obstacles, warnings and mysterious circumstances that look daunting. Both look scary as hell from here, but whether or not one will lead me to where I want to end up, I’m unsure. I can’t see what is beyond where I am in this moment. I just know my decision is one I not only have to make for myself, but for my threefold too. I’m the only person that can make this choice.

I am tired of asking for directions from people who have never been where I am now or don’t understand the struggles we face trying to find a better way. Everyone seems to think they know best, but no one has walked in these shoes or been inside my mind. It’s not as easy as ‘choosing to be happy’ mental illness isn’t a choice and it’s not an excuse. I apologize when I do wrong, I don’t blame my illness for my every move.

If I get angry I apologize and I recognize that I’m at fault. If I’m stressed I may be irritated but I can reset and refocus. I don’t let every single life stress melt me down into a puddle of pity. I do buck up and get back on the horse and jump the damn hurdle. I give myself pep talks and positive affirmations. I meditate, I journal, and I work in my therapy. I do try. It’s not always the quick or easy response people expect, but I get back on track. It’s not without effort.

Right now, I’m not in a good place. I know that is a fact. My thoughts betray me faster than I can counteract them. I can be laughing and ignoring all of my problems one minute and the next be in emotional distress holding back the tears. I’m trying. I fall apart more often. I’ve isolated myself a lot more than I know is healthy, but it’s not because I want to be alone. It’s because I don’t want to be told I’m moping or sulking or enjoying a pity party. I’m m not trying to be negative. I just am not seeing the silver linings of my current situation. I don’t need toxic positivity. I need the validation that this is a shitty time and that I am allowed to not be ok. I need that support. Not some grass is greener and rainbows come after bad storms bullshit. I know it gets better. But damn it, right now it’s not even close to that better.

I know I’m a badass and I’m tough. I know I’ll get through this and get to my desired destination eventually. I know my threefold is going to be ok. I know that I’ll ride the struggle bus until I can make my way back to the fuck yea freight train. I know.

Right now, I also know this is not fair. I know that this is not what I wanted, needed or even expected to be happening in our lives. I need a little less heartache, hard time, and headache. I need more help to understand why this is happening and how I can avoid it again. Who can honestly say they have admitted and discharged a child from a hospital, admitted another child back into the hospital all while dealing with a narcissistic, drug addicted ex, still worked 70 hours, signed settlement papers and managed to keep a fairly level head all in the same week? If I can’t have some rough days and a hard time smiling after that week, then damn, I’m sorry. Im exhausted. I am completely drained emotionally, physically and mentally. If I knew I would not lose everything I’d worked for I’d probably say I’m entitled to have my breakdown now. I won’t let myself have that breakdown. However, my depressed and anxious mood shouldn’t be just understandable but acceptable after all of that.

I’m not going to curl up in a ball and rock back and forth. I am going to have my feelings. I can’t always mask them and I won’t shove them inside so I change into someone else’s version of me. I’m aware I am a fighter, but I won’t pretend everything is ok and that I am just up against an obstacle. I may not be entitled to a breakdown, but damn it, I AM entitled to be upset, stressed out, and straight up mad that this all is occurring. I’m not going to let it be all consuming, but I will let the emotions out in the safety of my home or my car or in a public bathroom if necessary. I won’t apologize for that.

The depression will lift and I will figure out which road to take. Whether I take the right or the left, face more challenges or find myself lost in the big unknowns I ALWAYS find a way to head back in the right direction. I’m not walking on crutches, I’m not making excuses for my darkness. Not today. I have a reason to have my feelings right now and if anyone wants to tell me to suck it up and keep going because it’s bothering them to see me ‘give up’. Then my response will now be that my life is not a spectator sport. I’m not currently accepting any applications for life coaches. Opinions aren’t needed and the facts are I’m allowed to feel like this or to have any other feelings. You have no clue the amount of strength it takes to deal with what I do inside my head let alone my threefold and all of the trauma, lack of sleep, anxiety, work and constant pressure. When you get your hell week participation award I will then be more open to listen to how you would feel, do, behave and react to my current situation. If you can’t support that then I suggest you shut up with your buck it up bullshit. Today is not the day, and my dear, I am definitely not the one you need to preach the ‘live, laugh, love’ or ‘fake it til you make it’ bullshit to. You can peddle that toxic positivity to people crying over their kid not making honor roll and getting caught smoking pot. Those are high class problems. Mine are life altering issues that have longer lasting effects than those things. I’m trying to stay positive. I’ve still got this. ☮️❤️😊~M

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Learning to Let Go

Yes, I know, hard to believe. Nonetheless, here I am at a loss for words. I’ve been quiet this week. I’ve been trying to figure out how to let go. I’ve been trying to find a way to teach my threefold to let go. Yet, I’m finding the actual process of letting go is hard, however it’s critical to find healing and to move forward. I’m writing this still unsure how to proceed. It’s imperative that we find a way to let go of the past so we can move forward into the future.

It’s been a long and emotionally exhausting week, yet again. I was excited for things to get better as I was discharging #3 from the hospital and signed my final marital dissolution agreement after two long years. I just knew that was going to take so much of the weight of worry off of my life and off of my threefold. I was right, it did. I however wasn’t expecting that weight to be thrown back on me mere hours later. I was speechless.

I was sitting in the therapist’s office for my threefold and waiting for the discussion about #2’s relapse. I could see the anxiety in my daughter’s face as the therapist and I looked at her wondering why we had been called to meet. I was sick. My stomach was in my throat as my body tensed. #2 had been having increased intense thoughts of suicide, with a plan, and the means to complete the plan. I couldn’t breathe. It was only a couple of hours before that I had picked up #3 after her 2 week hospitalization. #2 hadn’t said anything to me. Why didn’t she tell me? Sooner?! I was unsure of what to do. I knew that her being suicidal and with a recent self harm relapse, I was most likely going to have to seek a higher level of care for her. That’s not anything like how I thought this day would go. I was stunned.

I’m not sure why we didn’t follow the safety plan. I did my part, I thought I was doing everything right. I locked up the meds, I gave her support, we talked and checked in often, I was doing skin checks, she was never without supervision for longer than a few hours, but never left alone. I couldn’t figure it out. We were doing good. She was doing so good. Why. Why?! I got angry and I was scared. I was scared for her, for my threefold and also for myself. Why wouldn’t she have talked to me.

My anger met fear, and my hurt saw her pain. I couldn’t understand in that moment, but I understand much more than I care to admit now. It’s not weakness, it’s not attention, or a pity party for ourselves. It’s the past scaring us out of our future. Over the next few days, my own thoughts would betray me. I too am vulnerable to my own darkness. I wanted to quit. I wanted to stop fighting my own battle. I hate to say that I thought about it, I thought about it too much. What if it was all my fault. I needed to blame someone and that person needed to be me, because I couldn’t blame her. She is only a child with an illness and more pain than is fair. She was my responsibility therefore I was to blame.

It’s hard enough managing mental illness in yourself as an adult. I can’t fathom what it’s like to have the trauma, stress, and all of your darkness swirling at the same time and during such a pivotal time in their lives. I truly wish I could take their pain and destroy it or give it back to myself. They don’t deserve to have life be this hard, this young.

I’ve found we all are still allowing our past lives to hold so much power over us. We’ve suffered from that pain. When will we let it go and move into a future that isn’t controlled by our past experiences? I know that’s the only way we find our way forward. It’s so much easier said than done. I’ve been trying to let go of the past, but I know it’s so much more difficult when the other people in your life are working on healing too. We can trigger and influence each other. We validate the past, but when can it stop taking our future?

This is my journey, this is our journey. I’m not perfect and some days I’m barely holding on. Some weeks I question everything. I am just as damaged as my threefold or anyone else in the world. We’ve all been damaged, but some of us can’t find our way to fix it. I want to fix it. I want to fix it for my threefold. Now I must figure out how. This process may take time, but it’s time to move on.

I’ll figure it out. We’ll find a way. We always do. For now, I wait for the #2’s discharge. I distract myself from my guilt and fear. I keep running away from my own darkness. I keep fighting. For all of us. Even when they stop, I won’t. As scared as I am that my threefold and I will let the past steal our future, I know we have the strength to overcome the fear and move forward. I will be hopeful and lead us to a future that frees us from that past. We can do this. I’m positive. We’ve got this! ☮️❤️😊~M

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Don’t Shame Me for Seeking Help

🚩⚠️ Trigger Warning⚠️🚩

This is my Threefold. This is my threefold. That’s the resounding thought in my head as I sit scared out of my mind because # 3 of my threefold {my youngest daughter age 10} is currently alone in a strange bed. She was admitted early yesterday morning to the psychiatric children’s wing. I am beside myself with anxiety. She is only 10. I can’t be with my baby. This is too surreal. This can’t be happening…again. I’m not ready and she is too little. She’s just a child. She is my baby.

If you have been following for a while you’ll recall my post regarding #2 🚩⚠️ My Child is NOT Attention Seeking. My Child is Seeking Help 🚩⚠️ trigger warning ⚠️🚩 {please do not click this link if you are triggered by self harm or content pertaining to suicide.} this post described my experience with admitting #2 of my threefold {my middle daughter, 13} to a crisis intervention center. Here I am again speaking about the same content and a different kid. I am dealing with the same situation. I guess this is just another day in the life of the trauma drama bipolar momma bear. I am Mommin’ mental illness. I’m here to tell you, this job is hard. I’m not prepared or I’m overly prepared. Either way, this is the really hard part about being a mom. Getting help when you start realizing that you are not able to give your own child the help they need. The worst part is watching them suffer through the pain of their mental illness. They are too young to understand what is happening.

#3 has had a really rough time trying to adapt to my divorce. She is the youngest of my girls and was only 8 when I left her dad. She had begun acting out more prior to the separation. She was running away, displaying anger and struggling dealing with the pandemic. Virtual schooling, lack of interaction with peers and isolation only compounded the underlying issues that were left untreated. I’m sure this is true for a lot of children. I attributed many of her symptoms to the ‘Covid Crazy’ diagnosis. {My personal term for what we were all experiencing during the shutdown}

I was wrong. Her grades fell dramatically with virtual school. I left my husband. I couldn’t continue watching my threefold and I suffer from the actions and inactions of my ex. I needed to get out of that toxic cycle and show my threefold another way. Pro tip: don’t marry a narcissist and if you’re already in that relationship…LEAVE.

#3 had no help with school and with untreated ADHD it was nearly impossible to keep her in her room or in the living room with a laptop listening to some teacher talk about things that were of no interest to her. It was torture for all of my threefold, but she was in 2nd grade and lacked any self-discipline. It was obvious she was missing fundamental learning. It wasn’t until later I would realize that her education had been hijacked and her foundation building years of reading, comprehension, writing and math were stolen from her when her education went virtual during 2nd and 3rd grade.

When I left my ex, I sought therapy for my children and I. I was aware that my divorce would have a massive impact on their mental health {no diagnoses for my threefold yet other than #2, who was diagnosed with ODD and ADHD at the time which was untreated} I knew I would also need a sounding board myself to vent my frustrations and work through my personal feelings on leaving that relationship and the implications that decision would have on my threefold. We have maintained that therapy throughout these past couple of years. This led to psychiatric evaluations and medication therapies to help my threefold and I balance out our brain chemistry.

My threefold did deteriorate more post separation, but for reasons that I didn’t expect. I was right. They had needed treatment and therapy earlier, but due to my own untreated mental illness and the psychological abuse we endured, we swept our issues under the rug. They had needed help for years, but we all were too scared to ask for it. We knew how that conversation would end. A dad-diagnosis and more hell to deal with. It wasn’t until I got them help and they were safe to express how they always had felt that the trauma begun to unravel and the symptoms became more prevalent. They had been forcing themselves to cover the mental illness as a way to keep the peace in our unstable lives. I will forever have guilt over not seeking help and leaving sooner.

Currently, #3 is diagnosed as having depression, ADHD and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. I am familiar with the nuances of these diagnoses. I’m sure ODD will change into disruptive mood dysregulation disorder {DMDD} but what I don’t know for sure is if she will be saddled with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder that her sisters and I have been told we suffer from. At her age, that is unlikely even if she is presenting at this age just as #2 did. Same diagnoses and same behaviors. I should’ve known this would happen. I was in denial that all of my threefold would be cursed with my genetics. what I hadn’t prepared for was how difficult it would be to see my threefold spiral into periods of depression that make them feel like they need to hurt or even delete themselves to fix their problems. Life isn’t supposed to be this hard at ten, thirteen or seventeen.

#3 is a spunky girl who loves riding her bike, playing outside, jumping rope, TikTok, martial arts, doing crafts and stitch {from the Disney movie.} She has a hard time with making friends, because she is extremely bossy and territorial. She isn’t scared of a fight. She is pretty aggressive when she is upset and angry. Punching, hitting, kicking, throwing and screaming are her go to behavior when she gets upset. She is destructive when she is angry. These reactions and outbursts are mostly disproportionate to the situation. A simple request for her to go to bed, take medication, clean a mess or her room, and going to school can spiral into a knock down drag out fight from #3. Then after the aggression is the comedown. Tears, guilt, shame and regret mark the feelings from the fallout. It’s hard to parent, but I can only imagine it’s harder for her to understand what is happening inside her brain. She ends up feeling like she is just a bad kid, that this is just how she will always feel, she can’t be helped, and that she would be better off if she was no longer here.

These past couple of years have been quite the ride on the bipolar express. From #2’s struggles for nearly a year to help her get back on recovery road. A lot of issues with #1. More therapy hours than I can count and a million other issues that have come up 2021 was a hell of a ride. I was looking forward to a bit of peace and to be swimming in calmer waters. Instead I’m back to drowning.

I guess because I knew what to expect after the inpatient treatments that #2 underwent that I would be better equipped to handle #3’s admission. It’s strange, but this time it’s worse than before. Before I didn’t know how difficult that road to recovery would be. I didn’t know what I was up against. I was forced to take the uncertainty and roll with it. Sometimes it rolled over me, but I made it. More importantly #2 made it. This time is different.

I am more anxious now knowing what happens when your child goes to inpatient care. I know now that it’s a long and hard process. I know now that quick fixes don’t exist. I know this next week or two will not be the only time we need a higher level of care. I am uniquely familiar with the amount of time and energy that will be needed to make sure we are getting help. More than anything else, I know the toll it will take on my threefold and I as we walk this path again. I know that we could have the domino effect that results in relapse. This all makes me even more scared.

Before you go to judging my child and I let me tell you some facts. ADHD and ODD are marked by impulsive behavior and an inability to regulate emotions properly. My daughter doesn’t need to have ‘her ass beat’ or ‘taught a lesson’. She doesn’t need to be told, nor I that she is ‘a brat’, ‘a terrorist’, ‘spoiled’, or that she is ‘attention seeking’. She is not going to get better by being told how bad she is. I’m not going to parent better because I’m told that I’m screwing it up or how this is my fault. I am perfectly capable of beating myself up, I definitely don’t need the outside help with that.

I am sure there are a million things that I could do differently, but the fact that my child will suffer from mental illness won’t change. Fun fact. My parenting didn’t cause my child to have a mental illness, my genetics did. I’m positive that my actions and reactions can exacerbate her symptoms if I don’t handle it properly. I will be the first to admit that I have mishandled and missed the mark on occasion while mommin’ mental illness. After all, my handbook on the rules of parenting was just as nonexistent as yours.

I have sat patiently and responded with calmness while being screamed at by my own child about how much she hates me and wished I was dead. I’ve been cursed at, kicked, hit at, and had things thrown at me. I’ve questioned my own parenting skills and abilities to manage my threefold’s mental illness. I’ve held my child after her outburst and told her it would be ok as she cried and apologized. I’ve taken tv’s, tablets, social outings, and the millions of other things she enjoys. She doesn’t care. She will tell you herself that those consequences don’t phase her or make her want to try to better. I get notes home from school about behavior and lack of effort. She doesn’t care. She has been in therapy for 18 months but I can’t make her participate or use the skills. It doesn’t work for her. Not when she is emotional and can’t regulate those emotions. She just does, without thoughts of how it will work out later. If you remind her of the consequences she will scream that she doesn’t care. So you can tell me I’m not hard enough on her. What do you do when hard doesn’t work, soft doesn’t work, and suddenly it’s like a ticking time bomb you know could go off at any time and you can’t change it?

I’ve tried everything from attention to ignoring, rewards and consequences, behavior charts, parenting coaches, family sessions and a million other things. I’m not sitting back just hoping this phase of life is just that, a phase. I need to find a solution but I need help. I can admit that. I can see this is beyond my own abilities. I don’t offer the help she needs. It’s time for drastic measures. Even if that wasn’t what I wanted to admit. Even if I tried amongst the recommended higher level of care. I just didn’t want this for her, not this young.

For those that are thinking I couldn’t handle my child and dropped her off at a facility to allow someone else to fix this problem for me. Think again. I was told she would need to be assessed before she could return to school after she had an outburst in class because she was frustrated with feelings of not doing an assignment correctly. It wasn’t by choice that I was in that same waiting room with #3 as I had been with #2 only 15 months prior shortly after this whole journey began. It was not my intention to to have my daughter admitted for defiant behaviors followed by suicidal ideation. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate based on age, it only presents differently. I knew she needed help, but I didn’t expect that they would be admitting her to the children’s unit of the psychiatric facility that my middle daughter had been a patient of during her first admission.

This battle of bedtime, cleaning up messes and reasons I couldn’t understand that seemed like nothing at all, resulted in these explosive outbursts. The behaviors have been increasing since she was 8. What once happened only a couple times per year has now been a couple of times per week for months. I didn’t throw my hands up and decide I couldn’t deal with her behavior anymore. Though believe me I’m not going to lie and say it hadn’t crossed my mind to do this or something else sooner.

I could write for hours and spit statistics at everyone and bore them with the details of the diagnoses from the clinical perspective. I don’t do that not because those facts don’t matter, but because it’s more personal and real than the statistics will give. Instead I share my personal story, the stories of my threefold. I don’t share for sympathy or for attention. I don’t share because I want people to feel sorry for us. I share our lives and our experiences because we have lived in the shadows for too long. I share because the stigma surrounding mental illnesses is that we are weak, lazy, attention seeking, and use our diagnoses as excuses. I share not to make myself or my threefold vulnerable to that type of scrutiny. I share this for the other parents caring for children suffering from mental illness who feel like they are alone in the fight. I share for the people who suffer. The isolation and the hiding our struggles doesn’t make this journey easier. I don’t want to feel like I’m not allowed to seek help for my threefold when they need it because people around me will judge me. There are too many parents who have the shame of this stigma surrounding their lives that their children are suffering silently. That shame will not make us more likely to seek help. I can only hope that sharing our story and struggles can help stomp out the stigma. We can’t keep silencing those that suffer. The stakes of that silence are too high.

Stay positive. We’ve got this ☮️❤️😊~M