Tag Archives: Mental health

Remember her pain

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I was brought to tears by the story of a 37 year old woman in America who drowned her 4 year old autistic son in the bath in late December last year. There is very little information available online about this case, other than the newsworthy facts. She held him underwater in the bath until he died, she may or may not have tried to kill herself, she got in her car and drove to the police station.

There are disturbingly insidious statements to be found in most online articles. She wanted more time to herself. She was sick of caring for her autistic son. Her husband saw no signs of mental illness. All her time was taken up with this high needs boy. All of this to suggest that she was selfish, a monster, heartless.

When she appeared in court for her sentencing, it was reported that she was so emotionally distraught that court proceedings had to be stopped so that she could compose herself enough to hear the judgement. I’m quite sure that this is not the first time she has been a complete emotional wreck.

I wanted to know so much more about her. I wanted to know her family history, her education level, her support networks (or lack of). I wanted to know what she knew about parenting and who taught her. I wanted to know what she knew about autism and who taught her. I wanted to know who, out of her and the father of the child, shouldered the lion’s share of the work. I wanted to know how much time in a day, a week, a month did she have just for herself. There is so much more I want to know about her.

I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that this woman will live every moment of every day for the rest of her life. I don’t hate her, blame her, pity her or judge her. I’m not her but I too have had dark thoughts in very dark moments. It’s only a matter of degrees. It’s only a matter of one or two slight differences in circumstance, support, resilience…who knows which? I’m not her because I have something she didn’t, a resource of some kind, material, personal, spiritual, environmental, something that held me back from the awful black that she slipped hopelessly into. Another mother, in pain, afraid to talk about her true feelings. Another festering secret of not coping with being a mother. It is an unspeakable tragedy.

Read the story here.

Annus mirabilis

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I won’t be sorry to see the back end of 2012. Every mother has heard the well meaning comment ‘it all goes by so quickly’. I thought it myself the other day when I saw a twin mother-in-arms who I hadn’t seen for a while and marvelled at the miraculous growth of her two treasures. She rolled her eyes at me and I qualified: when it’s someone else’s babies it goes fast, when it’s your own it’s like grain by grain of sand through the hourglass. For my own experience, it does not go by fast at all. Growth is in millimetres, progress is incremental, life is dilatory.

I feel like celebrating while at the same time I feel like I have been flattened by a steamroller. Cots are gone. High chairs are gone. Pram is almost gone. They are feeding themselves. They sleep 11 uninterrupted hours per night. No bottles, no dummies, no bibs. We can walk from the car to the door of day care without an exploratory sprint though the suburb. They talk. They ask to use the toilet (although we don’t do much when we are there, at least we are interested). I looked at year old photos yesterday and was struck by the babyness of them 12 months ago. I have no babies now (HOORAY!). I am on the cusp of turning my little toddlers into little boys. I can look a year ahead and know that this will be the last Christmas where I have to gate doorways, monitor windows, check the oven for teddies before I turn it on, wipe yoghurt off the walls after breakfast and generate my own body weight in nappy landfill on a daily basis. Oh sweet underpants, surely you will soon be mine.

But what a cost. I’m getting to be a better mother, but it’s been no easy ride. My mental health, physical health, relationship health and budget health have taken big hits over the past few years. 2013 is our year of recovery. It’s our year to get the hell out of the house, kids and all, screw the hassle. It’s our year for weekends away with and without the kids. It’s our year to have conversations with each other, be just a family, not a family struggling to raise baby twins. 2013 is the year when we become a little more normal, one grain of sand at a time.

Check out ABC Radio 612 on Tuesday the 18th of December at 10am (QLD time), I’ll be chatting with some other Mums about Mum stuff.

Winning, working and worrying

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The cliche about life being a roller coaster could not be more true for me this year. One week I am black as black in my head, crying whilst reading bedtime stories to my boys, laying awake at night sleepless, imagining running away forever, even imagining what it would feel like to scratch myself up (at the darkest moments). The next week, that would be this week, I am seriously considering nominating myself for mother of the year (Delusions of grandeur see? Bipolar Disorder! See Mental Illness and Parenting). I can’t explain it, maybe it is that cycle of life stuff, hopefully nothing more sinister.

This week I have handled all tantrums with a) humour, b) tactical ignoring or c) mindfulness. I parented like a BOSS. I didn’t shout once. I didn’t worry about them not eating. I didn’t worry about mess. I feel like that elusive kind of mother I keep trying to be. I’ve touched, stroked, patted, snuggled and cuddled as often as I could. I’ve made a real effort to be there, when I am there. My husband and I took a night, turned off the TV, lay on the couch and just talked for a couple of hours. It was truly refreshing. My rejuvenation may also have had something to do with the fact that I did actually escape for two nights to Sydney with a girlfriend last week.  We shopped, drank wine, talked and generally just enjoyed going out with one small handbag and no kids.

I also started working full time this term. That’s up from 4 days per week all of this year. Of course this brings up the mother guilt that we females often have to deal with but males never seem to. It’s not ever really considered whether my husband should or should not work, but for some reason there is always a question as to whether I should. My husband is encouraging and proud of my work, but he did admit that there was a part of him that wanted me to want to stay at home more. He gives and takes as much as I do when it comes to getting kids ready and to and from day care during the working week. In every respect we are equal partners in chaos. But that question always comes up, possibly more in my mind than his even. People very frequently say to me that they don’t know how I do it, that is, work and raise twins plus one. My response is usually that I couldn’t (do it) if I didn’t work. I worry every single day and half the hours of the day that my kids need me and I am not there. I worry about the number of hours I am way from them in the day. I worry that I’ll regret working. Of course I worry.

At almost 40, I know myself very well. I know what I need to keep my life balanced and I know when it is tipping off in one direction. Work is an important part of my mental health. It gives me so much satisfaction, I can’t imagine not doing it. Getting away is also so important. Giving ourselves those little treats and refusing to entertain guilty thoughts such as I am putting my own needs before those of my kids. Well of course. What my kids need first and foremost, is a stable base. That means firstly, that their mother and father are healthy and whole individuals. Secondly it means that their mother and father are a secure unit together. If those two things are on shaky ground, then everything’s on shaky ground. Taking time to put myself first, taking time to put my relationship with my husband first has a very direct benefit to my kids.

The truth about the hiatus

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This blog has really dropped off in the past few months. It started because I got sick but then it continued because I got disorganised. I used to pride myself on my organisational abilities. It was one of those things I’d write about in job applications; I am an excellent time manager. I’ve turned into a pretty shit manager of time these days. I used to reply to your email in no more than two days and text replies would be within the hour. Now I find weeks old messages that have gone unnoticed and it horrifies me. I’m now that person about whom people say yeah she’s pretty crap at getting back to people. Not only this, I have also lost the will to organise any social event. Previously, if I had planned to have people over for dinner I’d have reviewed my recipe books, written a list and pottered about for a few hours preparing. Last weekend, with 4 adults coming over at 5, I headed to the supermarket at 4 and threw some corn chips in a bowl at 4:30. Noice.

I’ve had heaps of things I’ve wanted to write about in the past few months and they stay in my head no longer than the time it takes me to wipe another snotty nose. By the time I sit down to write, it’s all gone and all I can do is drool and stare at the blank screen like the recently lobotomised. I think I said earlier this year that we thought this year would be the hardest yet and by golly we were right. I keep reminding myself, thirty percent, as I fail to get through another day without yelling, fail to devote adequate play time to Mr almost 5, fail to ensure a single vegetable passes their lips, fail to avoid the television as a backup parent and fail to not tell myself of all my failings.

Despite my disorganisation and failings, it seems that people still read my blog even on days when I don’t post. I am immensely curious (and chuffed) about this and would love to know more about people who read this, especially those who don’t know me and those who are from far flung places (ie not Australia). In the past 30 days, I’ve had visitors from Croatia, Poland, Lebanon, Spain, Russia and the Philippines. Unless these are all the places where the spam comes from…If you are reading and you are real and you have a minute, please write me a quick comment to tell me where you are from and maybe how you came across this blog. I’d love to hear who you are and why you read!

Mental Illness and Parenting

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Recently I saw a Facebook meme that said, before you diagnose yourself as depressed or with low self-esteem, first make sure you are not just surrounded by assholes. It struck a chord with me because I have thought at various times in my life that I surely must have every mental illness known to man. But maybe it’s the world that is crazy and not me. That’s possible right?

So I thought I’d review some mental illnesses and blame it all on parenting twins. Here we go.

Bi-Polar Disorder

Obviously this unfortunate affliction is attributable to the highs and lows of parenting twins. Or even just parenting. One minute you have delusions of grandeur, thinking that you are the best parent that ever lived because you got through an entire day without rocking in a dark corner with a double shot of whiskey, the next you are rocking in a dark corner with a double shot of whiskey because you are clearly the worst parent that ever lived.

Depression

Well of course. It’s twins. You are in house lock down because you can’t be bothered packing the small trailer load of crap that is required for a trip to the local park, plus you can’t imagine yourself running toward the river and the road at the same time to save both twins from certain death. You haven’t dressed yourself since last Tuesday, you showered sometime recently and the thought of never getting out of bed again sounds like heaven.

Anxiety

If I don’t get the laundry done today, calamity will follow because the twins will have no clothes left by mid-week. If I don’t prep six dinners now, calamity will follow because I’ll never cope with the week’s work schedule AND getting home to cook dinner by 5. If I actually attend that get together in the park I’ve been invited to, calamity will follow because I will spend the whole time chasing twins and not get to speak to any adults. Panic attacks? Blame it on the twins.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

When I hear the sound of newborn babies cry, I get a tense feeling inside. I am hypervigilant. I can be in the deepest of sleep and yet still hear the swish of a twin’s foot brush the sheet in his bed as he rolls over. Suddenly I am alert. I go to bed on edge, waiting for that tell-tale sound, that type of cry that means my night of rest is done.

Psychosis

Well I definitely have this and it’s definitely related to having twins. I know this because as I write this, at home on the first day of school holidays, in a gloriously empty and quiet house, with all three kids in day care (I know this because I dropped them off), I just heard twin one upstairs. No kidding, I just heard him. I hear voices. Babies crying and twins muttering. They are everywhere.

So before you Dr Google yourself as seriously messed up in the head, just check that you are not surrounded by twins.

Introducing the broken kid

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I’ve been working on a new blog in the past week or so, my first foray into fictional writing. I have so many stories stewing away that are painfuly inspired by my experiences working with broken children in the past 18 months. I do have a responsibility to completely remove anything I write about from any real person or situation. What I write about in my new blog, Diary of a Broken Kid, is very much inspired by real people and real experiences, but you won’t find any story that really happened or person who really exists. The stories are totally plausible; the life of the Broken Kid is a life that many kids lead every day. And although I am no expert in these things, the stories are also inspired by my readings and professional development experiences into disordered attachment, trauma, mental illness and poverty.

So many of these kids I have worked with face not only a life of confusion, pain and brokenness, but they are judged and sidelined by a world that doesn’t know how to deal with them. They are difficult kids, that’s for sure, many headed for an intimate relationship with the justice system. Through this new project, I wanted to express a plea from the Broken Kid to please try and understand him a little, please think before you call him a delinquent. I also wanted to celebrate the heart and back breaking work of those who foster, teach, case manage or work with the broken kids in many different ways. Some of these kids get labelled the million dollar kids. That is, the ones who are so complex they require one on one 24 hour supervision in residential homes, they have Child Safety Officers, psychologists, respite carers, foster carers, lawyers, youth workers, school based case managers, senior education representatives and so on. I have been to ‘stakeholder’ meetings where there are as many as 15 people round the table just for one child.

It’s amazing the heart and soul that goes into trying desperately and sometimes in vain to bring these kids back from the brink. The story of the boy with no name is just a little mirror, held up to the face of hope. Yes it’s depressing at times (very) but there’s got to be some hope, otherwise what’s the point?

The cost and benefit

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*big dramatic sigh*

When I was pregnant, I often thought that it was worse having just that very small glass of wine rather than none at all, because I’d just want more. So too with last weekend’s brief escape. My parents came up for the weekend and stayed at our house with the kids while my husband and I hightailed it outta there. Pretty much exactly 48 hours we were away and it felt like about 48 minutes. As we drove into the driveway, arriving home, I turned to my husband and said, did we even go?

It was lovely, of course. Just the simple matter of not having to plan, prepare, anticipate, pack, organise, negotiate or mediate. No thinking, pretty much, at all. We didn’t even think much about where or when to eat. We had no plan, and that, was heaven. I was blissed out just doing nothing, reading, laying around, drinking wine at 3 in the afternoon. Because I could. My husband had a little more trouble with doing nothing. He got a bit bored but I think that was for want of a good book. Mental note: next time make sure husband has good books.

We missed the kids, of course, kind of, well actually…I didn’t. I missed them in that I wanted to return to them (at some point), and in that I didn’t want them to be someone else’s kids, but no, I didn’t actually miss them. I had the post holiday blues before I even got home and I wanted another day. It has actually taken me a few days to write about this because I was feeling so down when we came back. I felt like the life got sucked right out of me again. Kids take more than they give there’s no doubt about that. It’s this inexplicable, altruistic, parental love that keeps pulling us back in. That and the cute way they look at you when they know they’ve done something naughty.

I remarked to my husband sometime about 24 hours in that not a single tense word had been spoken between the two of us. There was no shouting to be heard above the din, no snippy comments about whose turn it was to change the nappy bomb and no stress in our tired bodies to drain away any desire for conversation. Within an hour of arriving home, I could feel the tension creeping back in my body, my sentences shortening, my tone hardening and my head packing full again with no space for anything so luxurious as communicating.

It’s hard. Sometimes it’s just hard.

My first blogger award!

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Thanks to http://living4bliss.wordpress.com/ for the kind nomination for the Inspiring Blogger Award! I’m new to WordPress so I didn’t know that these lovely little acknowledgements make the rounds among users. Rules of the award require me to:

1. Thank the person who nomiated me.

2. Write 7 things about myself.

3. Nominate 7 other blogs.

The title of the blog where my nomination came from is Mental Health Food. She writes honestly and from the heart. My personal favourite is ‘Out of Darkness‘ and although I may not fully agree, there is the the brutally honest and funny ‘5 Common Parental Delusions‘. Many thanks to Ms Bliss for sharing the love.

7 things about myself

1. Going to the movies alone is one of my favourite things.

2. I hate writing things about myself, which is ironic because I love writing my blog.

3. I’m devastated about last night’s election results and have real concerns about the future of public education for the poorest, most marginalised, most traumatised and those with mental illnesses.

4. No mater how hard I try, I cannot cook steak or salmon. ALWAYS under or over cooked.

5. I am just starting to learn that even though I have a great deal to learn and I am, essentially, a rookie, I am really good at my job.

6. I am a bit jealous of journalists and secretly wish I was one.

7. The idea of entering politics has entered my head many times over the years. But I’m scared they’ll find out about that time I smoked pot in my teens AND inhaled.

My nomiations

Most of my nominations come from my followers, some parenting blogs and a few who are also bloggers about their lives with twins. I find these blogs inspiring because I can see others doing it with a smile, making it through with flying colours and it reminds me that yes, they grow up, get toilet trained and it gets funner and funner.

Twodaloo

Twin Adventures

The Parent Consultancy

Debut Dad

Adventures of a Twin Mummy

Seana Smith

Dishes Can Wait (hope it’s OK to nominate a non WordPress blog?)

Bone tired, bones aching, heart breaking

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Not sure if it’s work or kids, or both.

My work calendar has blown out to insane proportions. I had to reschedule a meeting and, looking through the whole week next week, was dismayed to find out that I had two, one hour spots left in the whole week. Here is a snap shot of the last month of my working life. One kid on his 15th school (he’s 13), one kid who has 15 “stakeholders” at his monthly review meetings, one kid who smashed 15 holes in our whiteboard with a chair, one kid plays Call of Duty for 15 hours straight and then turns up to school sculling Red Bull and one kid who sneaks away from home down to the local swimming hole (a disused open cut mine filled with skanky water) to leap off a 15 meter cliff into the murky unknown below.

There is a bit of a theme with these kids. I almost never meet Dad. Sometimes I do, yes, I must be honest, but mostly not. And when I meet Mum, it’s either a wild, desperate fire cracker who has been horribly judged as a Mum, mistreated and disrespected all her life, or a half empty shell of a woman, so tired, traumatised and hopeless that she doesn’t even raise an eyebrow when she sees the classroom that her 9 year old son has just destroyed. When I start getting to know her, chatting over a coffee, asking the right (but very unpleasant) questions, here is what I find: she’s alone, she’s disconnected from her family, she probably had post natal depression and nobody noticed (not even her), she had personal or family trauma to deal with while being pregnant and/or while the child was a baby and drugs, alcohol, crime or violence were involved by someone significant, somewhere along the line (it is usually not her). She’s also surrounded by equally desperate, equally sad friends, if she has any, and more often than not, she doesn’t go out anywhere as a family because she’s afraid of the behaviour of her child and the judging stares of others.

Oh and there’s poverty. Not just material poverty, but emotional, mental and spiritual poverty. The lack of such resources as language, knowledge of hidden social rules, support systems and good health. Dr Ruby Payne describes poverty as a lack of such resources to the extent that you are precluded from participating in life and accessing services at the same level as those around you who do not lack those resources. So this Mum, lacking in the language and knowledge of social rules required to navigate the mental health care system, lacking in money and motivational support, lacking in a car, health and energy has a kid who desperately needs to see a paediatrician, or a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, or a speech pathologist, or an OT…..where does she even start? She hears that there’s a two year waiting list for a public paediatrician, so why bother. So she doesn’t. And the cycle continues.

And then I hear a story in the news. About a kid. He’s done something. Then comes the vitriol. Where are the bloody parents? Why are the bloody kids allowed out at that hour of the night? Fine the parents! Take away their dole check! Lock ’em up! Bring back the cane! Let’s all get our pitchforks and placards. Becuse chucking these kids in Juvy is really going to solve the problem.

Ugh. End of rant.

Dumb things I’ve done lately

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One of the reasons I went to talk to my GP about my state of mental health a few weeks ago is that I have been doing things that are arguably out of character. At the time you tend to think what the hell is wrong with me? But now with a little distance between me and those things (although the best one was only last night) I feel I can look upon them fondly as one might look upon a giddy, slightly crazy Great Aunt.

It was whilst driving that I had my first concerns about my flakiness. I’d be cruising along and think, was that light red? Or, am I supposed to have any of the children with me? I began to worry that I’d forget a child one of these days. As silly as it may seem, my husband and I always do a kid count when we leave anywhere and I always check the back seat when I get out of the car.

Then there is the classic going to the supermarket for milk and coming back with $150 worth of groceries and no milk. In my own defence though, I reckon everyone does this, kids or not. It’s that blasted Gruen Transfer.

As for work, I have not yet forgotten any appointments, but I am playing a dangerous game of having two calendars – computer and paper. Its only a matter of time. Remembering to take my lunch is a daily challenge, remembering to eat it is another. Still on work, I have hung up the phone from conversations and opened my case notes to write the details down and for the life of me, 5 minutes later, I can’t remember who I just spoke to. Scary.

Two days ago I fell down the stairs at home. Carrying too much, looking one way, thinking of six other things and it was all too much for my poor feet, who had nowhere near as much of my brain attending to them as they needed at the time. No injuries other than my dignity.

Which brings me to the best, and most embarrassing. I like to consider myself a good, sensible, safe driver. And in another life, I was, I am. So let me preface this by saying it was almost 1 in the morning, I was tired, I’d been babysitting for a friend, and she has one of those really skinny streets where you can’t park on both sides of the road. And a letter box that is really hard to see in the dark. OK so I thought I’d just gone over the gutter and scraped the underside of the car. But no. I ran down my friend’s letterbox like a feral teenager. I don’t know how I managed this without so much as a scratch on our car, or even feeling it, but there you go. I am a vandal.