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Our Mental Illness Saga

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I remember this saying and it is oh so true. Counseling Today states that a child is twice as likely to develop a severe mental illness if their parent has a severe mental illness. My threefold and I did not win the genetic lottery by any means. We have all the illnesses and sometimes the list gets excessive and explaining them to others is exhausting!

Personally I struggle with major depressive disorder, general anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder, and complex post traumatic stress disorder. If that isn’t enough for one person, then imagine a 17 year old (1) with the same disorders. Better yet imagine a 13 year old (2) that has all of these plus disruptive mood disregulation disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, social anxiety, and manic episodes. Although we are pretty sure the mania, major depression and ADHD will eventually morph into one diagnosis of bipolar II sooner or later. At least that’s what the doctors tell me. We have a combined total of 5 psychiatric hospitalizations to date. 4 of which were for my middle daughter (2) and 1 for myself. I am by no means a qualified mental health professional, but from personal experience and experience with my threefold I have highly educated myself on mental illness and all of our very complex diagnoses.

With me personally I know I have to be careful with my stress level, my medication, communication, conflict, sleep and a billion other things. As an adult I am very aware of my triggers. Though my C-PTSD can be uncovered as I am working through my trauma. Sometimes though I’m just in the wrong state of mind that I will intentionally put myself into a triggering situation. I guess my thought is to face the fear or I am looking for a reason to fight. I need it. That’s such a crappy thing to admit, but it’s true. Sometimes I need to scream at someone so I will do whatever it takes to make it happen. I get all “bish, I wish you would, I’ll burn your mother loving clothes!” Real talk. Maybe I’m alone in that sometimes I just need to let it all out, no filter, but with all the apologies afterwards. I need to have someone reel me back in and make me see that my disorders are on the fritz. Other times I’m honestly triggered and it comes at the worst times. I get highly emotional when I’m frustrated and can’t see my way to a solution. I close off. I shut down and sometimes it takes a shit ton of love to knock these walls down that I build. I shake and want to run in confrontation and my voice cracks. My easy confidence I am usually carrying bolts and sometimes I bolt with it. That’s all the C-PTSD and anxiety. I ignore problems and hope for the best. That works, at times, other times it’s stored in my bomb kit waiting for me to push the “blow up shit” button.

My depression is managed with medication mostly. I am thankful for that. It’s been a while since I’ve had a major depressive episode and wow those are not pretty. They look like calling in days upon days or finding an “excuse” to go home. They consist of days without showering and numbing out the pain with sleep; an excessive amount more than what is required. Closed doors, dark rooms, what I eat is in bed and there isn’t much that will move me out of it. Those episodes make me look like a bad parent, because in those moments I don’t care. God, I hate to admit that, but the only thing I want is peace and I can’t find it. I can be totally honest that I have been known to try to find it in the bottom of a bottle. That’s not recommended because it will give you an escape but it leads right back to where you started. It’s not there, I’ve looked in several at different times in my life. I’ve questioned my purpose, my place and tested my will to live on more than one occasion. That’s not normal. If you know how you would…if you did…and seriously contemplate doing it. GET. HELP. Suicide is no joke and it is not a temporary fix for your current pain. No matter how bad it gets! I mean that with all of my soul. The only thing that has kept me alive in those darkest of times was the thought of my children wondering what they did wrong or my family questioning how they could’ve prevented it. Nothing is permanent. Not your feelings. Not your situation. Not your circumstances. I say that from a place of love, because I know all too well the depths depression drags you to when you’re in the dark place. Its hard. I promise it will get better. You hold the cards, play the hand you’ve got and then get a new deal, that’s all we can do. It’s a carousel and it never stops spinning. We can’t be ashamed to speak up and tell the people around us what it looks like when we are in the dark place. That’s how we get help. That’s when we need help.

Having mental illness is one thing parenting mental illness while coping with your own mental illness is another. I can’t say what it is like for those that don’t have mental illness, I’m not sure, but I imagine it is still difficult to parent. My threefold has their own unique triggers and mental illness presents differently in everyone. Just because my kid that has 8 diagnoses, or the one who has 4 diagnoses acts a certain way does not mean their symptoms, triggers, or treatments will be similar to mine or anyone else’s. Sure, we’ll have some similarities, but there is no cookie cutter medicine or therapy that works for everyone. It’s honestly all trial and error. I never thought that any of us had mood disorders. Turns out we all do! What I believed to be “mild” depression was actually major depressive disorder or MDD. MDD is in fact a mood disorder. I never knew that until I researched it and began digging into the disease after I was told that by my psychiatrist, then 1 and 2’s psychiatrist also said it. I thought depression was depression and I had that “run of the mill” typical blah, yuck depression and have had it since I was 14. Who thinks that’s normal? Me. I thought it was a phase or situational for 1, and she “managed” on her own fairly well. I thought 2 would grow out of it, or that she just had severe ADHD and depression- not “mood swings” or hypomanic and depressive episodes. What’s that? I thought 2 was the only person suffering with attention issues, nope turns out that MANY people get attention issues accompanied by major anxiety as added perks of C-PTSD. We are ALL very different but we ended up very much the same.

Mental health has so much to do with how much you truly want to get better. It has more to do with perspective and willingness to commit to your betterment. Medication IS a commitment. Therapy IS a commitment. Working on yourself IS a commitment. It’s costly of time, sweat, money, tears, and sometimes you take two steps forward to go ten steps back. It’s perseverance as much as anything else. My therapist poses a pertinent question. “How is _______ serving me?” How does my anxiety serve me? How does depression serve me? What benefits do I get? It’s really a deep question. How does it serve me? I benefit by feeling I can use it as a reason to not want to do something or to get out of commitments occasionally. An excuse for bad behavior or acting irrationally. To guilt someone to do something I don’t want to do or feel I can’t do. To receive sympathy or attention when I don’t feel like I’m getting what I need. It can become very toxic and definitely come off as disregarding of others and that it’s always about me. However, I am aware that other people have feelings and cannot constantly allow myself to be controlled by my mental disorders. It’s a different power to take ownership of your own behaviors and not constantly say “I’m sorry I flipped out on you I have _______ and it triggered a bad reaction.” No. This is more accurate: “I said it, I didn’t mean it, I’m aware that I probably hurt your feelings please forgive me. I will work on it.” I have to take ownership for what I am doing and quit allowing myself to give the power over to mental illness.

I think I am able to better parent and be more understanding about mental illness because at 14/15/16 I was a “cutter”. I have MDD so I know what to look for and although I blinded myself for years to the reality of it I now can see clearly. I can pinpoint the onset of a depressive episode for any of us now. My threefold talks to me and is open with me about their struggles, their triggers and their warning signs which is helpful. I still get irritated when we can’t participate in certain things, but I know and have an understanding that C-PTSD and their own severe anxiety are better left at bay when they’re not pushed too far past their comfort zone. I know now that mania is not a “good” day. It’s being egotistical, self centered, hyper focused for small bits of time, starting but never finishing, having grandiose sense of self and abilities, and acting incredibly impulsively. There are so many more signs of these disorders, but the list would just go on and on. You’re strong. Remember tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it yet! ☮️❤️🙂

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Missing Pieces: Update

**Possible Trigger Warning**

***if you haven’t read this post on what has been happening this next one will likely make little sense! Start HERE***graphic content please proceed with caution.

I would be lying if I didn’t say the past few weeks have been extremely difficult. I’m not going to sugarcoat how excruciatingly painful having one of my threefold away from me has been. Having such limited contact, and very little information on how they are doing is by far one of the most difficult challenges I have faced as a mom to my threefold. Even though I know 2 is safe and being cared for, it’s hard to not worry and feel like I should somehow be able to do more. I want to hug her and comfort her. I want to see her smile and I want to hear her laugh. Hell, I want to hear the whining and be pestered about going and doing. I want all the things I took for granted while she was here with me. I miss the late night talks and the good night hugs. I miss the drowsy I love you’s and the death glares. I didn’t think it was possible to miss anyone this much. It’s an ache that is only stifled by the less than 75 minutes per week I get to speak to her. The rest of the week I am focusing on trying to busy my thoughts and my mind as not to dwell on everything. I’m seeking out the good in hopes it will outweigh the bad, some days I win that game others I struggle to find the positive. I’m sure of one thing that in this moment she is safe. They all are. That is the only thing that keeps my eyes from drowning in the tears and allows me to surrender to the exhaustion and submit to a few hours of sleep.

I’m not sure if this will get easier as the length of time just means it has been even longer since I hugged her. I can only equate this feeling to a sense of grief or loss. I’m not sure I can imagine the loss of a child completely and I truly hope that particular nightmare is never a reality I have to endure in this lifetime. I am fearful of it though. I am fearful of mental illness weighing too heavy and trauma crawling out from the depths of my threefold and stealing one of them from me. That’s after all, how we got to where we are now. Thankfully this time we sought help before it was too late but not before it ravaged 2’s mind, body and spirit.

Right now I am living for Tuesday’s five minute phone call, Wednesday’s hour long family therapy session, and Thursday’s twenty minute visitation with 2. It’s been hell on earth. Sometimes when I call to check on her as I do daily I want to scream at the nurse because I don’t want to hear “no changes from a nursing standpoint” one more time! I know they are just doing their job, but that’s my kid! I need to know if she is sleeping ok. I want to know if she ate that day. I want to know what chapter she is on in her Twilight book so I know when to ship the new one to her. I need her to know that I called. I need her to know I love her. I need to hear it too. I want to tuck her in and kiss her forehead while she sleeps when I check on her. I need to know if she is making friends and make sure she is being my sweet girl. I need her to tell me about her day and laugh as she does impressions of her group therapy counselor or cry as she tells me that one girl is so mean to her. I need more information about my kid than the clinical check mark of “no change.” I get one update weekly from the therapist on how she is doing mentally, on Tuesdays before family therapy. I have no timeline for length of stay. I have very little information other than a day to day schedule of activities and therapies. I feel completely in the dark and it is frustrating. There isn’t anything I can do. I can only hope that this care will bring her home to me and that when she returns she is better able to live life with a new appreciation of her many blessings. I pray that she finds a semblance of peace with her mental illness and is able to live life with mental illness instead of mental illness living her life for her.

I need 2 here with us. Life isn’t the same without her here. 2 is the missing piece to my puzzle, she is meant to be with me. She makes everything right. They all do, I need all of them for the balance to be right. I’m not sure how to make this work without her. She is just as important as 1 and 3, PPP and BK. The world is off kilter when any piece is not around. I honestly wonder how parents don’t see their kids. Maybe it takes being told you can’t and losing access before you can appreciate it although I’m not sure who would choose this. Then again, I guess in a way I did choose this. I allowed it. We’ve been through hospitalizations but for some reason this hurts more. Maybe it’s the not knowing. Maybe it’s the realization that there is no time frame for this type of care. Maybe it’s the reality that people with mood disorders make up nearly half the patients needing inpatient psychiatric care. It could be the knowledge that more than half the patients admitted to inpatient care are readmitted within 3-12 months of discharge. Mental illness is the leading cause of hospitalization in adolescents. I’m afraid to my core when I am told that 2 is more than 50% more likely with a mood disorder to make a plan and complete suicide. Then with her LGBTQ factor of identifying in that community increases those odds to a shocking 70%. She is also more likely to suffer from a substance abuse problem trying to escape her own feelings and self medicate or during an extreme manic episode when risky behavior is more likely. Her team feeds me these bits of information in doses so I can swallow them down easier and reflect on them. You research a little too much when you are trying to understand a new diagnosis as well. It’s all so heavy. It’s all so scary. It’s all too real.

I have to learn to rely on doctors and therapists to help me identify behavior patterns that are subject to re-admission. I have to learn mood charting and how to watch for certain signs of mania and depressive episodes. My daughter, my 2, has to be medicated and this changes her presentation it softens some of the hard edges and dims some of the fire. Learning that your kid isn’t just “spunky” or “opinionated” or that the good moods you enjoyed so much were actually symptoms of manic episodes is so hard. I don’t know who 2 is without a mood disorder. The days she thought she was on top of the world, invincible, active, talking 90mph, impulsive, expressing massive self confidence and argumentative were not good days. The days where she was numb, barely able to express the emotions, cutting at her legs to take back a grasp on her reality, crying for what seemed like the smallest things, and shutting herself away those were depressive episodes. I knew that much. I just didn’t know where the medium was. I didn’t know which kid I was getting from one day to the next and I didn’t understand the fluctuations. I’m guilty for not seeing this sooner. I’m her mother. How did I not know that 2 was presenting with clinical symptoms of a mood disorder like DMDD, bipolar, and MDD? How did I miss this?

Mood disorders aren’t like mood swings, well they are but much more intense shifts and longer periods of depression can mask the manic episodes. Knowing they have been struggling with a deep dark depression makes you thankful for those seemingly good days. Even if it means they do 100 things they never finish at least they are doing something. Even if they talk 90mph about 90 different things in 5 minutes flat, you are thankful that they are talking. Even if the extreme self confidence and the invincible outlook is outlandish and exaggerated at least they are being and speaking positivity into themselves. It’s different in kids than adults. It’s not all delusions or total psychosis like we sometimes see in adults with mood disorders. 2 is not going to present like another person even of the same age. Mood disorders have varying degrees of severity and affect their victims differently. It’s a struggle to understand it. 2 doesn’t decide when to cycle in and out of depressive and manic episodes. She isn’t in control of it, she is experiencing an onslaught of emotions and feelings that for a 13 year old are not only difficult to understand but also she is unable to regulate them appropriately, express them in ways that are healthy, or communicate them to the people around her. This is why she is in residential care. To help her recognize her cycles of mood, recognize triggers, recognize the signs that she is about to cycle, and come up with strategies to help her cope when she is cycling. I am also needing to learn. I am researching relentlessly what signs could be that she is about to enter a depressive or manic episode. I am researching what tools we can use at home to help her. I am looking into the best treatments and ways to give her all the support and love I can as she faces an uphill battle that is likely to be life-long.

I am trying to allow the reality and gravity of the situation to sink in. Explaining it to others is difficult especially when you can barely grasp all of the information yourself. It’s imperative that others can notice the signs and symptoms of episodic cycling so that the people around her can help her to work through it. It’s going to be difficult for two to explain to peers, teachers, family and friends but it will have to be done in order to keep her as safe as possible. Unfortunately not everyone will be compassionate or sympathetic. Some won’t think it’s worth the effort and some might decide to make their exit. Hopefully 2 will understand that this is when we find out who truly wants what is best for her and who her true “ride or die” people are. I pray daily that she gets all the support and love of the people who say they care, but I know in reality there will be people who thinks she is “drama” or that this is done intentionally for attention or is a phase. There will be those that want to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do, how O should parent it, what treatments we need, and that judge us both for her symptoms. There is always someone. We, 2 and I both, have to learn that not every person will understand or educate themselves. Some will leave. And that’s ok. We don’t need the fair weathered support of those who only stand by us in the good. Some people are brought into our lives so we can learn to accept what we need and decide what we deserve. Some people are lessons. What matters is that we recognize the ones who are blessings.

Today is Thursday. I will be anticipating anxiously my twenty minute visitation where I can see her face via video chat and talk to her about “normal” things instead digging deep into diagnosis, trauma, and coping like in therapy or the rushed “I love you’s, I miss you’s” of our five minute phone call once per week. I’m anxious to make sure she is ok, especially this week as she learned Tuesday that her grandmother passed away, the last bit of family she was close to on her dad’s side. She was devastated and I had to tell her over a video chat four days after it had happened because we needed to make sure she had the support team accessible and they weren’t her team over the weekend shift. I had to make arrangements for her to attend the service virtually in hopes that would offer some closure while not being able to physically attend. I can’t describe the intense emotions and desire to hold her, hug her, comfort her in any way and not being able to. To see the amount of grief and pain she was in and not be able to put my arms around her was by far the hardest part of this so far. Then to worry incessantly about how she is doing and not being able to check in and get anything but the clinical updates is near torture. I don’t know how to parent like this, but I am doing my best. She is safe. Right now that thought is the only one that gives me comfort. We will make it through this and maybe 2 will be the exception to the mood disorder, but I have to prepare to fight the battle with her. Mental illness sucks! It’s a beast. It’s unrelenting. We are strong and we will keep fighting because what other option is there? We don’t quit. It’s not in our DNA, we keep going in faith. We choose faith. It’s bigger than any struggle we will ever face. We know what we are capable of and we know that we are going through this particular journey because it is meant to serve a higher purpose. Even if we don’t know what that higher purpose is and even on the days we can’t quite find the good, we know that this is all happening for a reason. One day that purpose and reason will become visible. For now we keep the faith.

Sources of statistics and information regarding mood disorder can be found at the following:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2636594/

https://nyulangone.org/conditions/mood-disorders-in-children/types

https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/external/2020/11/10-surprising-mental-health-statistics-from-2020/

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Do You Really Want My Answer?

The million dollar question for the week is “How are YOU doing?” I’ve struggled with this question. Not just this week, but for as long as I can remember. I would ask myself “do they really want to know?” Most of the time I would come to the conclusion that they don’t really care, it’s just what you say. So I have my blanket responses “I’m making it” “Im fine.” “Another day in paradise” “Lovely, how are you?” I have always struggled being truthful with myself. If you go into a long answer about how life is shitty and you feel like every day is a damn fight to see if you can survive the most relentless onslaught of issues thrown your way people tend to get uncomfortable. That’s not what they want to hear. They want to hear the funny answer the “well darlin’ if I was doing any better I’d be twins but I’m pretty sure you couldn’t handle to of me could ya?” Spoken in the southern accent that makes you seem almost sincere. A wink and a smile and leaving them trying to formulate a response. A lot of times it’s such a formality to ask “how are you?” that they don’t even actually wait for a response before they move on to tell you what they want or need. It’s pretty confusing for me and triggers me to overthink. What a basic question to overthink about.

With everything going on right now I have to ask myself often if they really want my true answer. Is it concern? Is it lack of knowing what to say? Is it formal? If I answer with the truth how will that answer be received? Do I want these people to know that I’m somewhere between a laugh and a cry and that at any moment I could fall apart and make this whole situation super awkward for everyone? Do they know just them asking that question could make me reach my breaking point if I have been actively trying to hold myself together all day? So most of the time I don’t answer with anything but my one line and hope that is enough for them to move on. I hope the person on the other end of the question accepts my answer without another question or doubt and moves on because I honestly haven’t thought about it and don’t want to. It’s a loaded question and I’m not sure the answer will be what you want to hear. I’m just going to say “fine” or “I’m ok” and move along with my day.

I need to answer this very seemingly simple question. I need to answer it for me. I need to check in with myself and quit lying to myself about how I’m doing. So here it goes…it’s definitely not pretty! How am I doing? How am I doing? I’m pretty much living moment to moment. I can’t look too far ahead and I try not to look too far back. I’m a mess. I’m barely holding it all together. I’m stuck in fear and this paralyzing guilt that I’m not doing enough. However, I can’t seem to function. I can’t breathe. I can’t relax. I am currently living off of caffeine, chaos, cuss words and this bit of creativity that’s is keeping me from going completely crazy. I feel like that character in the cartoons or at the circus that does the balancing plate act. You know the one? They have the plates like a bunch of them on sticks and their spinning all of these plates, balancing them and continuously adding more and more and more. I feel like that. I feel like I am deciding which ones I can allow to fall and hit the ground, crashing, so that the rest of them stay up. I feel like dropping them all and screaming “f^€|< this sh!+! I don’t want to do this anymore!” Like a child who just lost a game and throws a tantrum because “it’s not fair!” I feel like throwing things. I feel like hitting something. I am angry at everything and everyone that played a part in this very intense situation we are in. I feel like I am out of control of everything. I feel unable to focus and unable to keep going. I’m exhausted in every single way. I am so tired but unable to sleep. I want to take my mind off of this but I can’t find anything that doesn’t make me think of her. I want my dad. I want to fix it. I feel like sitting and waiting until I get the call that says I can come get her. I feel like I’m failing everyone because I am so wrapped up in this. I feel like I can’t keep going. I feel like at any moment I will be packing up to take up permanent residence in the dark place. I feel like the next person that tells me how strong I am or that I need to take care of myself might get stabbed in the eye with a pen. I feel like every muscle in my body aches with stress, fear and worry. I’m so tense. I feel absolutely powerless. I am trying so hard to stay strong. My every second consists of me forcing smiles and trying to laugh and pretend like I’m ok even as I boil and breakdown just beneath the surface. I feel like I’m faking every interaction. I feel like I’m not allowed to fall apart because then I’m not being the mom my kids need me to be or the partner that I’m expected to be. I need a vacation from reality, decisions, stress, life and just to be able to take a full breath, but I know that destination doesn’t exist. I feel like I am making this about me. This isn’t about me. I feel like I can’t have feelings or be in a bad mood. I am not allowed to be anxious or irritable. I’ve got to pick up the pieces and figure out how to keep living while one of my pieces is gone. It’s really the most difficult part, the moving forward. I just want to go to sleep and wake up from my nightmare and not have to ever, ever go through this again. Now tell me, did you really want the truth? That’s what I thought. I will stay with my standard answers and be as convincing as possible so I don’t worry you with my feelings and problems. I’m making it. Thanks for asking!

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My Child is NOT Attention Seeking. My Child is Seeking Help.

I’ve struggled with how to write this. I’ve struggled with if I should write about it all. I’ve got about four drafts of this same blog saved. Some with more facts, some with more humor, some with more personal antidotes, some with more anger, some with more guilt. Either way I go would be honest to the struggle that my family is currently finding itself in. One of my threefold struggles with a lot of mental illness. She has been diagnosed to date with Bipolar I, General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, ADHD-combined type, Complex PTSD, and exhibits self-harm behaviors as a coping mechanism for physical, psychological and sexual trauma and has suicidal ideation with a plan, and attempts. Another of my threefold suffers from Bipolar II, General Anxiety Disorder, ADHD-attentive type, and also has Complex PTSD from physical, psychological, and sexual trauma. The youngest has diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – Combined Type Severe. Personally, I also suffer from Bipolar II {yep the genetic link is me!} General Anxiety Disorder, ADHD-attentive type, and Complex PTSD from abuse. We are complicated and have lots of feelings and lots of triggers and loads of trauma. We are tough girls. We are strong and we are beautifully broken. This is just the story of our current struggle with mental illnesses.

Photo Credit-#2 of my threefold

I write this to educate you, so in turn you can educate your own children about the signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis. I relate this to your basic “Call 911 in an emergency” That can save someone’s life. Being aware and knowing to speak up when you are worried someone is in crisis can also save a life. To assume someone is “attention seeking” is a grave assumption that could result in life threatening consequences. Whether it’s for attention or a cry for help is NOT a determination you or our children are qualified to make. If you see a post on social media or get a text message or get spoken to directly about self harm or suicide don’t scroll past, don’t encourage their behavior, don’t try to be the hero, SEEK HELP! I ask this for my threefold, for myself and for all people that struggle with mental illness. We aren’t “fine”, we don’t “figure it out ”, regardless of how many times we say “I’m handling it, it was a bad day” or “forget it, I will be ok” or “please don’t say anything to anyone” or “it’s not as bad as it looks” or “I swear I won’t do it again” or “I can’t ask for help because I don’t want to hurt my family.” There are a million different ways we will manipulate, trick, and convince you that it’s manageable and that we don’t need anything else. The truth is we do. When we can’t admit we desperately need help that’s usually when we are at our worst. If there is a doubt, call them out! Why do I say this? This year has been a intense time for the world in general. As a mom who struggles with her own mental illnesses as an adult and seeing my threefold struggle it has been extremely difficult to handle the climate of change in any situation. Add in isolation, virtual school, pandemic mania, divorce, trauma and our combined mental illnesses and you have what is a recipe for possible catastrophe. Yes. I am about to momsplain mental illness. Buckle up, this a long one.

Background photo credit- #2

I am asking that you educate yourself. I am in no way certified, licensed or otherwise qualified to give advice on seeking treatment for mental health or for diagnosing a crisis situation. I am however uniquely informed with personal experience of what mental health crisis looks like in myself and my threefold. I have participated in and sought treatment for myself and my threefold on numerous occasions for minor symptoms to the most severe of clinical presentation. However, I do believe people present differently and encourage you to be in tune with your own personal behaviors in crisis and the actions, expressions, habits and words of those closest to you. I pray that this helps someone out there to recognize the signs and seek whatever level of care is appropriate to get the optimal level of care for yourself, a loved one, or a child.

As I write this very long post about mental health, diagnosis, warning signs, treatment and my personal experiences I am waiting for a phone call. I am waiting for a phone call from the crisis intervention center that is treating my 13 year old daughter for her fore mentioned extremely complicated diagnoses. She is in crisis. I am awaiting to hear from her treatment team about the length of stay initially recommended. I am waiting to hear what their plan is. I am awaiting to hear what I can do other than worry myself into my own crisis and how I can be the best support person on the planet for my kid while simultaneously taking care of my other two girls, working, and managing everything in my life that is spinning faster than the running to do list in my head. I am awaiting to hear where I have went wrong. I am waiting for knowledge that my daughter is ok, she is safe, that she knows that she is loved, and for them to tell me that she is going to get the help she desperately needs. It’s the most helpless and powerless feeling to know that you have signed over your child to be cared for by strangers at the recommendation of a doctor who has only known your child for 6 weeks. My daughter, one of three daughters is in an inpatient residential hospitalization program for at least the next 30 days, but it could be a much longer road. I am putting all of my faith in people that I pray are not just there to check off the I went to work today box and that want to see my child succeed and be healthy. It’s a faith and hopelessness that I wish on no parent. It’s no contact for days, it’s answering the same questions repeatedly, it’s phone calls, missed work, increased anxiety, loss of income, lost sleep and trying to be strong for everyone else around you especially your children. Its stealing away sleep as you cry and try not to let the people you love see you fall apart. It holding everything together with dollar store scotch tape. It’s living on a prayer and that you don’t find your child on a bathroom floor covered in blood ever again. It’s a hard road to recovery but I have to say that if the stigma was less negative and awareness was increased it could be a little less of scary and lonely road. I don’t have people that understand or even those that would attempt to walk this road with me. I have no one to discuss this with that actually gets it. I’m required to face this battle alone, without friends or family nearby to lift me up. I’ve got myself. I’ve got my threefold. I’ve got a good man that watches me struggle and picks up the pieces of my broken heart day in and day out. Who unfortunately regardless of not being their father shows up for them out of love and genuine interest in seeing them succeed and be happy. He allows me to take out my pain on him, he lets me fall apart, he pulls me back from the edge when I feel I might fall into the dark places where my mental illness waits for me. There are no meal trains for mental illness. There are no viral “go fund me” pages for psychiatric care. There are no flowers or “get well soon” cards for those facing mental illness. No one knows what to say to me. It’s not an easy thing to talk about it. I don’t want to expose my daughter’s deepest darkest secrets and struggles. I don’t need or want your pity or your attention. Believe me when I say it’s hard enough to explain it to the people who know her personally, a treatment team, and I don’t have the energy to run through the history for 15th time today and how we got here. It’s rarely met with offers of love and support. It’s judgment and a lot of insensitivity to mental health. If we educate ourselves and our children we could be helping our family and friends recognize the signs of crisis and get help for the people who are struggling before the meal trains and funeral flowers are delivered. That’s a hard truth, but a truth that literally scares me every second of everyday. That my kid could lose this battle against herself. I am determined to keep her alive and safe. I can’t do it on my own so judge me if you must but I am willing to admit I can’t wish upon shooting stars and hope for miracles or pray this away. I have to move the mountains. It’s just me. It’s my job to protect her and regardless of your opinions, that is exactly what I am doing.

Taken from my daughter’s social media. A post I was excluded from along with other family members and any friends that may have been able to help.

I was shocked at the social media posts I found that were targeted to exclude the people that would be able to get help for my daughter, myself included. I was even more shocked to see that these posts were responded to by “friends” of my daughter. These so called “friends” in her social media circle were some I knew, some I didn’t know. They were quick to validate her, tell her “whatever you need, we all deal with pain differently”. They were encouraging her self harm behaviors in some of the responses. I was gutted. These “friends” told her what she could use once the safety plan was enforced that would be normal household items that you and I don’t see as threats. One kid said “if you need an outlet break a pencil sharpener and get the blade. Screws, nails, if you’ve got a garage I bet there are tools in there. I’ve used spiral notebooks and jewelry.” Another told her “are you ever going to actually go through with it? You aren’t getting better, why wait?” And yet another, a friend I knew said “treatment never works, they’ll try to change you and they’ll fail youll end up more f’ed up with more reasons than you had before so why even try” Who are these kids? They’re supposed to be “friends”! Why is it that these kids are ok with my daughter hurting herself or worse. Why is it that not one single child that claims to love and support my daughter once told me or her older sister? Why did they not know that this is serious? How could they not see that having 500 cuts on her leg wasn’t for “attention” but that she didn’t know how to ask for help. She felt safe in the knowledge that these kids wouldn’t “snitch” that she was having thoughts of self harm and suicidal ideation. I get that you have to trust your circle, but to me this circle doesn’t value your life or your well-being. If they are encouraging your unhealthy behavior and feeding into your negative self-talk. You have a toxic circle. Then I thought, they don’t know. This is equally as disturbing if true. They think it’s “a game” “a show” “untrue”. They don’t know she is doing these things. She isn’t posting pictures of her bloodied body after she decides enough is enough and that she “can’t deal” anymore. She bears the scars and wears them. Wearing shorts is fine around the house, but in public she has just became comfortable with her healing enough to wear dresses again. They don’t clean the cuts, see the blood in the sheets, see the towels soaked in blood, the scars her body is forced to bear from this pain, and they don’t know that cutting isn’t a scratch for her to “see what it’s like”, it’s more than 500 deep cuts that cause her to lose blood so she gets an intense head rush sensation that forces her body into “fight or flight”. It’s a rush of adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine. It’s an addiction. It’s a disease. What they see is the mania her mind is in after the cuts. She is happy. On top of the world. She is confident. She is fun and loud. She is inappropriate and funny. She is boisterous. She sees her beauty and feels good again. It’s the closest thing she has to what happiness feels like. She is feeling herself. Then within days, is the crash. The darkness swoops back in and takes hold of my sweet baby girl. She becomes lethargic, isolated, emotional, angry, and unable to handle the pain and guilt of her actions. She is in true, deep physical and emotional pain. I had to sit with my thoughts for some time after becoming so angry at her social media, at her posts, at her words, her feelings, and her behavior. I had to remind myself of many, many things. For a very brief moment I thought about all the people who had said “she only does this for attention.” I thought what if they are right? I was floored. What if? Then I thought about her trauma, her descriptions of how she feels. I thought about what a fine line we have between needing validation, support, a semblance of not being alone in this, and what inadvertently asking for help looks like at 13. Maybe she did on some subconscious level seek out the approval of someone. Maybe she purposefully excluded the people she knew would tell someone because she desperately needed someone to tell her it was ok to do this. She needed someone to tell her that her trauma was her problem. She needed someone to feed her with approval so she wouldn’t feel so much like a failure to herself. I remembered her diagnoses and her mood disorder is known for self harm, extreme highs and lows. I kind of wish it was for the attention. That would be maybe easier to treat than the mood disorder. People that are “attention seeking” don’t go to the extremes she does. They don’t actually want to die. They dabble in self harm {no amount is ok} they don’t use it to cope with depression, anxiety, emotional overwhelm or a total lack of emotions. She hates being in treatment. No phone. No electronics. No family. No good food. No caffeine. No friends. No partner. No connection. All she can do there is work on trauma. If it was attention seeking, she wouldn’t be in her 4th program and cry and beg to not go, reasoning with me, bribing me, promising better outcomes when she needs to be admitted. She wouldn’t eventually accept it and choose to work through her issues and try to get better. If it was all for the attention she wouldn’t have major issues that required this level of care. You don’t see the pain. You don’t see the guilt, the shame, or her overwhelming sense of failure when she relapses. You don’t see the extent of the damage. This is the reality of self-harm. This is what it looks like, at least for us. ***TRIGGER WARNING***Skip the following picture if you don’t want to see what self harm entails. If you are in active treatment or in recovery the following image could be disturbing. Please understand it’s not the intention to trigger, it’s only to give a reality check to those who may have a underestimated view of what self harm looks like, especially for us.

****TRIGGER WARNING****

Yes. This is my child. This after clean up, after 24 hours. She is still bleeding from disinfecting wounds in the shower as it reopens the cuts. One of my threefold. It’s edited for privacy and anonymity.
This was never taken with the intention to share, but because it’s a reference picture when doing skin checks. When you have this many cuts it’s hard to identify if there are new ones without an original to look back on where you began and understand the stages of healing.
I only share so others can realize the gravity and reality of the situation. Not intended to shame or trigger, just so we can see how much this problem exists and the extensive damage inflicted.

I don’t want this life for my daughter. I don’t want her to feel so much intense pain and have so much unresolved trauma that she feels this is the only outlet for her very survival and that this is “better than suicide” because at least she is still alive…today. Breathe into it. Look and stare and judge me as a mother and her siblings, our family and her close friends who knew. Blame us, blame her, tell us all the nasty things we tell ourselves each and every day. Don’t blame an illness when this is a behavior issue. Beat it out of her. You should’ve known. You should’ve done more. She needs more help than you can give her. Thank God she is getting some help. My kids would never. You’re supposed to protect her from this. How did you let it get this bad? This is for attention. She is over dramatic. She can’t be in that much pain. You knew she did this? She shouldn’t be allowed to go out in her condition. Go figure it’s always about her. Why do kids feel the need to label themselves? You failed her. She must have issues. My kids can’t have that kind of influence around them. I don’t want my kids to think this is ok or normal. What kind of mother are you? How is this ok? I can’t believe you took those photos. She is definitely a child that needs a good butt whooping and a reality check because it’s never as bad as it seems. Your kids ARE drama. They run that house you don’t. She needs to choose to be happy. Her “breakdowns” are always timed with someone else needing something. She is obviously your problem child. I’m glad my kid doesn’t do THAT. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. She is a liar, she will lie and go to extremes to get you to do what she wants. This isn’t a real problem it’s not a sickness, it’s all about the attention she isn’t getting from it. Youre not the parent you just pay the bills. You made them like this. If it wasn’t for your past they wouldn’t be this way. You put up with her getting abused and didn’t stand up for her. You’ve been emotionally unavailable for her for too long. You’ve been the one making this acceptable by allowing them to get attention because they act out. She doesn’t know REAL abuse. Daddy issues resurfacing again? Give them the space and they will take advantage of it. She is so over dramatic. Social media is the culprit. I will never understand or even try to why she would do this to herself. She is always the victim. She can’t even tell you why. What is the point? You’ve given her the life she said she wanted and bent over backwards and she is doing this. She is disrespectful. She has too much time on her hands. She just wants a label. You’re horrible to expose her like this. You should be ashamed and worried what people will think. Aren’t you worried about people staring? I can’t believe they let you keep your children after that. You are a horrible mother. You’re divorce is the cause. If you are thinking it right now, believe me, I’ve already told myself that a million times. I’ve asked myself the same questions. I’ve told myself the same hurtful things. I’ve been there. I’ve looked at it rationally, irrationally, I’ve made myself the perpetrator in her story, the victim, the one handing her the blade, I’ve honestly questioned if I am the best parent for her. I’m complicit. I’m neglectful. I’m awful. If I haven’t said it to myself then I can almost guarantee that someone has said it to me. I’ve lost friends because I stand up for myself and my threefold. I’ve lost people I never thought would walk away because “they are drama” I’ve been forced to confront parents with their children’s blatant encouraging and caused my daughter’s circle to grow smaller. I’m not blaming anyone. I hold the ultimate amount of mom guilt for how bad this is for my daughter. I will be forever trying to make up for the mistakes and missteps I’ve made in parenting and forever holding myself to higher standards in the future. I won’t stop fighting this fight for my threefold. It’s not ok for them to be blamed when they are sick. It’s not ok and doesn’t serve them or my mental health to take on the amount of blame I do. I will probably never know the exact moment things went wrong. I may never know when I should’ve been more aware, all along I guess. This is why I urge you to talk to your kids. Mental illness isn’t contagious. It’s controversial and complicated. It’s not all in your face all the time, but it’s not hidden as well as we like to think it is. Quit telling my kids and I to just suck it up, push it down, and move on. We’ve been doing that. It makes us worse and doesn’t benefit our mental health. It only benefits your skewed attitude towards what mental illness is. You don’t understand if shoving it down and keeping it in were possible and not detrimental to us then we would’ve continued to do that. Mental illness isn’t a convenient excuse to not fix dinner, go to a social event, or fix our problems. It wasn’t a choice. It’s not a label we gave ourselves. This isn’t Web-MD telling us our various diagnoses. You can’t see the pain and struggle. You don’t wipe their tears. You don’t clean their blood off the floor. You don’t do the skin checks that are humiliating. You haven’t done a safety sweep. You haven’t had to lock everything that could possibly cause harm. You haven’t read the suicide notes. The journal entries of how hard they are trying. You don’t see the intense amount of energy we have to expel to be “okay” or how drained we are by day’s end because we’ve plastered on that mask and it is beginning to slip as the emotional and mental exhaustion sets in. You don’t see the intense need and desire we have to be your version of “normal”. We aim to meet your standards because that’s what is required of us. We rarely have a safe place to let our guard down and we don’t have near enough support. When can we decide it’s ok to not be ok without fear of the judgment that comes with being unable to hold it all together all the time? I’m only one mom. Thery are only three kids. We are a family of millions of others who struggle with mental illness.

You don’t see the intense amount of energy we have to expel to be “okay” or how drained we are by day’s end because we’ve plastered on that mask and it is beginning to slip as the emotional and mental exhaustion sets in. You don’t see the intense need and desire we have to be your version of “normal”.

-mythreefold

If you’re still reading I hope that means you care enough to know what to look for and how to help someone. Please continue reading this next bit of information could possibly get someone the help they need before it’s too late.


What is a MHC? How Can I know? How Can I Help?

The National Alliance of Mental Illness defines a mental health crisis as any situation in which a person’s behavior puts them at risk of hurting themselves or others. A crisis can also mean that an individual is unable to care for themselves or function.

A mental health crisis can take many forms:

  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychosis (loss of reality)
  • Reckless behavior, such as getting in trouble with the law

Recognizing a and symptoms before the onset of crisis and seeking treatment is sometimes not easy. Every person is different, however with children, we as parents know their “normal” baseline attitude, moods, behaviors, and patterns. Unfortunately, sometimes the change is so gradual you don’t begin putting the pieces together until you are in a situation that makes you see the full picture. Other times you can have a sudden onset and a spiraling that seems to have come out of no where. Even if you are proactive and plan your crisis plan with the knowledge of mental illness and red flags for yourself or your child you may not always want to believe you need help or you want to trust that person when they say “I’m ok. It was just a bad day. I’m working on it. I’ll do better.” Go with your gut instinct. It’s better safe than sorry. We’ve heard that saying and said it a million times I’m sure in our lives, but just because it’s overused doesn’t make it less true. I would rather make an emergency session with our therapist or make a phone call to our psychiatrist and get a phone evaluation, a tele-health session, an in person appointment, something to get someone else IN the medical field’s opinion of the current situation. I would rather sit in an acute psychiatric facility waiting room for six hours waiting on an evaluation than to risk the chance that this time could be the time she goes through with it successfully.

Signs can include but are not limited to:
  • Increased isolation
  • Decreased interest in activities including hygiene and self care routines
  • Sudden and ongoing changes in mood
  • Increased anger and irritability, lashing out or having disproportionate reactions to situations, feelings, or physical stimulus.
  • Intense shifts in mood with changes from extreme highs to extreme lows
  • Sleep disruption. This can involve not sleeping enough or sleeping too much.
  • Increased stress from friends, family, relationships, school, work, or other stressors.
  • Sudden change in circumstances resulting in major changes to normal routine such as divorce, relocation, death, global pandemic or trauma.
  • Increased anxiety with or without panic attacks.
  • Obsessive behaviors such as picking skin or nails, scratching, pulling hair, pinching, biting, hitting, or doing other harm to themselves in stressful situations.
  • Self harm
  • Suicidal ideation with or without a plan, with or without attempts.
  • Expressing opinions that they are “worthless” “a burden” “too much” or that “it would be easier”
  • Sudden changes in appetite and weight
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Hallucinations visual or auditory

Did you know according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults struggle with mental illness, 1 in 20 have a major mental illness diagnosis? That rate is 1 in 6 for kids between 6-17 years old who have an treatable mental illness. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death between 11-34 year olds in the United States. Over 90% of those suicides were people who displayed one or more of the symptoms of mental health crisis before committing suicide. Over 45% have an actual mental illness diagnosed that may or may not have been actively being treated for.


How Can You Help?

The first thing you can do is STOP judging mental illness. Stop increasing the negative stigma. Stop believing the untruthful and unsubstantiated snap prejudices about mental illness. Quit judging people for struggling with an invisible illness. Mental illness isn’t a choice. We didn’t label ourselves or decide to be depressed or to have anxiety. We don’t assign symptoms. I promise we aren’t talented enough to fake the symptoms of mood disorders or an anxiety attacks. We didn’t want to be given these struggles. It’s not an excuse. It’s not for attention. It’s not because we don’t want to be happy. It’s not because we are lazy. It’s because we are too scared to accept help or seek treatment because YOU can’t educate yourself. You won’t educate yourself yet you want to dictate how I should handle my diagnoses, my children’s diagnoses? In what way is this ok? Your kid having ADHD and doing a nondairy, gluten free, sugar free, vegan meal plan and supplement ting with vitamins and a low dose non stimulant medication for them to manage their symptoms is ABSOLUTELY your choice. My choice for behavioral therapy combined with medication is my choice. AND THAT’S OK! It doesn’t make you better than me. It doesn’t mean you are more vigilant about treating your child’s diagnosis. It means we parent differently. You are allowed your way and I’m allowed mine. Neither way is harming our kids and neither way affects anyone else’s ability to seek treatment and care for their kid. So it doesn’t matter. Your child might make straight A’s and mine might struggle to pass. That’s ok too. As long as they are doing the their best, then that’s all we can do. No amount of spanking, grounding, restrictions, bribery, or sugar coated fantasies is going to make us better. Please quit acting like it’s a discipline issue. Please stop telling me how to parent a child with mental illness. Please redirect your thoughts and words to a more open minded and accepting view point. It’s getting tiring having to defend my kid to everyone who thinks because their mom’s cousin’s daughter had a psychotic break in 1996 that they can somehow relate their hand me down account of outdated information to what we are currently dealing with. You don’t know unless you know. And even then you aren’t me, your kid is not my kid, your decisions and mine don’t have to match. We have different mental health care teams, resources, and strategies to deal with things. There is no right way. There is only trial and error and more trial until you find the fit for you and your family. It’s ok. We don’t need to argue our perspective we only need to support one another and encourage each other.

Second, you can educate your kids. Please. If a child made another kid promise not to tell anyone that they are cutting themselves to cope with their feelings and explained it in detail about how they had been abused, were scared to cost their family any more money, time or resources getting them help. How they are not going to do it again and just had a rough few days, weeks, months, but they are ok. How they are scared of disappointing their family, scared of having to go to a doctor or hospital, scared of what will happen if their family finds out. If they said “I’m so tired of feeling this way. I don’t know how much longer I can keep living like this. Nothing helps. I’m tired of trying. I’m not sure how much more I can take.” Should the child keep the secret and trust of their friend or tell someone what is happening? Are they more scared their friend will be mad at them or are they more scared that they will lose their friend keeping their secrets? Is your child the friend keeping the secret or is your child the one with the secret? Honestly, chances are that the kid doesn’t know how to react, respond, who to tell, how they can help, or what the consequences will be if they remain quiet. It’s not a fair situation to be put in, but this secret isn’t one to keep quiet about. Please inform your children that it’s extremely important to tell someone. Call their friend’s parent, call their friend’s sibling, tell you so you can take it out of their hands, tell a teacher, coach, counselor, but tell someone. This is one case where it’s perfectly acceptable and necessary for them to be the “snitch”. It sucks having to be that friend and they might get a little bit of push back because their friend is upset, but I promise that hurt would be minuscule in comparison to the hurt and guilt they would feel if their friend hurt themselves or followed through with their suicide plan. It’s not worth risking losing the friend or the trauma endured by the one who kept the secret. Please if you want to help these kids you have to make your kids aware that they should always, always speak up if they know someone who is threatening suicide, self harming or in an abusive or dangerous relationship or situation. It’s not betrayal, it’s because you want your friend to be ok. Please don’t assume your kid is the one who already knows how to handle this situation. Believe me when I say that what we want our kids to be like and how they actually react in these situation are vastly different. Don’t think because your kid knows right from wrong that they can’t be persuaded into keeping secrets for their circle of friends. Don’t think that your kid is going to seek help for someone because it’s the right thing to do. Understand that they are struggling to understand and they are not sure how to handle it. They are scared. Talk to them. It could save a life.

Lastly, I simply think we should all be more aware of the people around us. Especially our kids. As they travel through the many stages of life from infancy to adulthood they change so much. Their style changes, their attitude changes, their interests change, their friends change, and their views change. Notice those things and keep an accounting of what’s pretty much their normal. Any variation from that should be honed in on and if possible have a fact driven explanation as to the change. If there are multiple changes, make sure you are checking in and don’t take “fine” as the cop-out answer that’s acceptable. Be proactive. If you need help, get help. Be the parent that fights for them and advocates for them. Stop holding your kids and mine to a higher standard than you hold yourself to. They are kids. They aren’t perfect. They are as human and flawed as we are. Normalize asking for help. Telling them that you will always be their biggest fan and in their corner regardless of the struggle can give them comfort if they ever do need help. If you’re struggling, please know you’re not alone. If you’re kid is struggling, you’re not alone. I’m struggling, I’m fighting, I’m advocating, and I’m speaking out for all families who struggle with mental illness. Our voices are stronger together and one month of awareness will never be enough time for awareness of the 200 different variations of mental illnesses and disorders that are currently being diagnosed and treated. If you are or someone you love is suffering from mental illness or is in crisis please seek help from a licensed medical professional or facility, call 911, or contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.