Thursday, December 12, 2013

Shame is never OK -- especially when dealing with Mental llness

Well, I haven't blogged in a long time, but after three losses in three weeks I wanted to share some strong feelings I have about shame and mental illness. There are people in my life that I love who suffer from chemical imbalance.  Starting with my grandmother.  I have always responded to various types of mental illness as an illness and I have been fortunate to be someone that people struggling with bi-polar, anxiety, and depression have been willing to come talk to about their illness.

Often people want to talk about whether to get help from a doctor or to just try and cope with their chemical imbalance on their own.  I always equate mental illness to diabetes.  You would never NOT get help because you didn't  have the correct balance of insulin, and therefore it is appropriate to get medication to supply what is needed to balance your brain chemistry.

This approach may seem simplistic but we know there is shame associated with mental illness.  Shame is telling someone that they are not right, that somehow their character is defective.  This is of the devil.  Seriously, he is the accuser of the brethren and if someone is accusing someone of not being enough then this is evil.  You can correct someone without shaming them. It's the difference between 'you are bad' and 'your behavior is bad and could harm you or me.'

There is also a feeling that 'if I just think right, I'll get over it.'  Someone who is subject to their illness is not capable of functioning fully.  This is true of every illness.  We don't shame an individual for their illness.  You would never shame my son for his autistic behaviors.  Because he HAS autism.  I would correct inappropriate or unhealthy behavior, but always without shaming his character. You would never shame someone with epilepsy for having a seizure.  You would help her and get her on medication.  You might yell at her for not taking her medicine but you would not shame her for having epilepsy.  Because this is not an illness that she chose. You would not shame someone for not being able to control their body if he had Parkinson's, because he can not control his disease.

If you or someone you love is in the throes of mental illness then shame is not an appropriate tool.  A person experiencing depression is not capable of feeling better.  Their brain is not functioning in a way that would allow appropriate feelings.  They did not choose to be depressed, they are not continuing to choose it, and they can not control it. The only way to get out of depression as a result of mental illness is to change the brain chemistry.  Which can be done with medication, sleep, exercise, and other therapies.  Unfortunately, the brain chemistry can also be changed by alcohol, drugs, and too much sleep and lead further into mental illness.  Getting your brain chemistry balanced takes a lot of work.  And it is work that the patient must do and that is where your help comes in.  You guide, you ask, you instruct, you tell them what is  appropriate.  Just as  you would be frustrated with someone for not eating properly if they have diabetes, you can be frustrated with someone who is not getting help for mental illness.  But frustrated is different than shaming.

Because it is hard work to balance the brain and to manage your mental health, here's another thing you must never do.  You must never shame yourself.  A family member, a loved one, or a friend could not have done more or said more to fix someone.  If you knew CPR and someone was having a heart attack and you performed CPR you would feel glad that you tried to help, no matter the outcome. If that person survived you would not feel that you had saved them, you would feel that you had done what you needed to do and that miraculously, they lived.  If they did not survive, you would not shame yourself for not doing enough.  You did all you could.

So it is with the loved ones of someone who suffers from mental illness.  If a person dies because of their illness, if they can not come through the fog of depression and they take their own life, you must not shame yourself.  You must not shame the memory of that person.  All of you did the best that you could to overcome a deadly illness.  You did what you knew to do.  You loved as much as you could love.  You gave them as much help and you could.   If you are not a brain surgeon, you would not try to perform brain surgery on someone having a stroke and you would not feel shame that you did not know how to fix a stroke. There is no shame in giving all that you could give.  Even when sometimes what you need to give to a person with mental illness is a boundary.  Or when you need to tell them that you have to step away from them until they get help.  This is often CPR to a person with mental illness.  The outcome of your applying that CPR is not your burden.  If there was more to do you would have done it.

If you need help wrestling with suicidal thoughts, get help.  Those thoughts are not yours.  They are your illness controlling you.  If you need help wrestling through the loss of someone you love through suicide, you can start with Pastor Dan's words at Northland's Blog.

Rest in peace sparkling Stacey.  Rest in peace brilliant Isaac.  You fought the good fight and the battle is done.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Have yourself a Merry

 What a year of joyous events.  Amazing time with beautiful, big hearted friends.

 Henry went to a new school -- a high school!

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's okay, it's okay.

I am having a restoration week, which for me always involves going through old journals to see where I've been and what I may need to be restored in.

I found this story from September 24, 2001. Henry was 5..

Carrying Henry to bed and in his sleep he patted my back and said,"its okay, its okay." This is the day I know that he values me and my impact is felt. Henry and I have spent every afternoon fighting for the last week or so. He has been in my face disobedient, which is actually encouraging-- he knows what he is doing and he is using more appropriate language. He's getting mad at me because he wants his way. When we get to the point of no return (he slaps me or is blatantly disobedient) and I say enough he falls into my arms sobbing then says: "crying, scared" or " crying, mad" or even "impatient". And then I pat his back and say " it's okay, it's okay. I love you. That's why I can not let you disobey.".
He is something else.

I am amazed several things -- first at Henry's incredible character. What a human he is and I'm so fortunate to be the one mothering him. It's stunning how much of life he understands, real life. It has taken me until this past year to see life as cleanly as he always has.
And I'm amazed at how much I've been through -- slapped daily for several years! Others have told me they don't know how I've done it but I always thought I hadn't really done enough. I feared that it would never change but it has. He doesn't slap or bite or scream. He's quite self sufficient and as involved as a teenager would be (he's refusing to go to the movies to see The Muppets with me preferring to stay home and play video games.) but I am tired, I am in need of restoration. We made cookies and played wheel of fortune. Then I lounged in the couch and he got his own lunch.
It's okay, it's okay.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Napping House

The Napping House was a favorite book of Henry's when he was little. I don't generally like naps, unless the weather is in Florida as it is right now. Warm sun and cool breeze. The perfect napping time is mid afternoon, around three. The windows need to be open and the wind flipping the curtains and clearing out the house of winter tightness. You need to lay on top of the bed, not in it. Across the bed in some angle you never can use in regular sleep makes it even more decadent. To fall asleep you have to read a magazine. A book will not do at all. A book implies commitment and a nap is fleeting. A magazine that is all pictures and fashion won't cut it either. Some Vanity Fair or O magazine or essay in Real Simple is what you want. A little bit of substance, but just a little bit. The glossy pages will fall from your hand and your eyes will gently close and the air will push over you and the busy and the to-do and the just one more thing all will turn into the napping house.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Past

It may be that Henry had a breakthrough this week. On Friday morning we went for a walk with our neighbors the Connolly's. Giles, Henry's school chum, and he were walking and flapping and Julia, Giles' mom, and I were walking and talking. I was telling Julia how Henry had been having my mother and I play Wheel of Fortune and the clue was
And I couldn't get it! Thank goodness for Mimi who figured it out.
As I was telling the story, Henry dropped back and said, "Yesterday."
That's right, yesterday we were playing that game with Mimi.
Henry continued, "The Jackpot round, Mimi and Mom won the clue Boston Red Sox!"

Henry has not, to my knowledge, had a conversation in the past tense. All the past from today's breakfast to when he was four years old, are past. Asking Henry what he did in school today means nothing to him. He doesn't know how to answer. Friday's school events are in a big bucket of 'past events' jumbled together with every time he's ever been to school. Who could tell what you did today if all of your past events were one big event?
We've worked on this, made it part of his IEP, and tried to talk about events that happened earlier today, yesterday or last week.
As usual, Henry applies information in his own unique way and his own unique time.
Not only did he talk about what happened the day before, he dropped in to a conversation that was going on about that event. He joined in the telling of a story.
Life is so consistently beautiful. When things come easily it is easy to miss how consistently beautiful life is.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wrap party

Wrapping up the old year is hard for me -- I'm not ready, I haven't thought it through enough, I didn't accomplish the 'thing', the mysterious 'thing' that will make the year worthwhile.
Which is why it is important to do a year in review no matter what. Just pick up a pen and write down what did happen, what you are glad that happened this year. Suddenly, you'll see the 'thing' buried in the list, showing you what the year has really been about.
I'm so glad for:
- meeting Ivan for the first time.
- seeing Bonnie & Clyde in performance.
- meeting Akshay Shah in the delta sky club in Orlando on my way to Egypt.
- traveling to Alexandria, Cairo, and Ain Soukhna, Egypt.
- working with Greg and Claudia of GW Nunn Adventures.
- working with Connie Rainwater and Nathan Clark at Northland Church.
- working with Storyville Coffee's employees on audience training.
- Henry's teacher Ms. Bender and our amazing Mr. Watkins who is creating a new Middle/High School for our kids.
- Henry's hair curling up and turning dark brown.
- time in Idaho with my Dad and Henry.
- evenings with my Mom.
- my sister's new, exciting job.
- doing Yoga with my cousin Elizabeth on the porch in the morning.
- my yoga teacher Deborah.
- editing JJ Ruscella's beautiful novel Kris
- working with Bobbi Barber on her book about working with your adolescent with Autsim.
- working on Kevin Weaver's book ReOrient.
- my old/new friend Julia moving to College Park.
- studying Arabic.
- speaking French.
- Kareem's amazing hotel connections.
- writing e-newsletters every other week.
- walking with Elizabeth Dean and our neighbors.
- our amazing SAK girls and our gatherings, individually and as a group.
- falling in love.
- girls night with the ladies of Northland.
- tea with TMac.
- brunch with Clare.
- Angela Angel's persistance.
- performing and singing at Capone's.
- Dr. Bob Pierson and his family and their work with Leadership Nexus and getting to be part of it.
- having weekends off.
- performing at Epcot, even on weekends.
- Byron Katie's The Work.
- provision for Henry's education from the government program.
- taking Henry to see his Dad play Papa Noel at Epcot.
- Time with Sarah Lee, Karin & Lisa. Watching each of us make it through such a challenging year.
- sitting in the audience watching my friends perform: Laura Hodos, Sarah Lee, Lisa, Karin, Phran, Di, Cami, Angela, Russell, Phil.
- Lisa and Mark Daniel and their support in getting me to the Idol guest casting bench. What a cool experience.
- walking around the lake with Julia or Morgan or Di or by myself.
- good nights sleeps.
- taking risks.
- finding out I don't love taking risks.
- watching Henry become a man.
- my brother's first home.
- leading seminars on core values and vision statements.
- for being an uninvited wedding guest with Tim Goodwin.
- gathering people magically with Adam, Art or Phil.
- knowing my cousin Margarette in Australia and her amazing prayer life.
- Time with the great guys in my girls lives: Kevin Brune, Dave Ross, Doug Dobbs. Wow, those are some fine men folk.
- Driving 3 giant man-boys from school to Special Olympics Basketball practice for OCA.
- for Silvia Haas and all people with vision who also take action.