How I explained my mental health condition to my kids

Should I talk to my child about my mental illness?

Many parents who experience living with a mental health condition will often wonder if they should open up and talk to their children about mental illness. I know, because I was one of them. Perhaps you’re one of those parents as well.

I believe it is common for parents to question whether or not they should open up and discuss such a taboo subject to their little ones. They may view it as, “bad” or “wrong”. But, I’m here to tell you that it’s not. My first thought when deciding to open up about my condition was, “they are not going to view their mother as being a strong woman, they will see this “sickness” as a “weakness.” However, through recovery I learned that having an illness does not make us weak. In fact, managing and expressing our emotions or episodes in a healthy way makes us remarkably strong. I want my children to understand that. I want them to see my resiliency. So I decided to open up about my mental health condition.

Communication is the utmost important thing, and I find it extremely difficult to live with mild to severe symptoms around my kids and NOT tell them why or what is going on. Although, I believe it is not a bad thing to be open about our struggles, it is still very important to understand HOW to explain those struggles and condition to our children. I’ve always said, emotions are never bad or wrong, but how you express those emotions can be determined as good or bad. The same applies here. Our struggles are neither, right or wrong – good or bad, but how our children view our reactions to these struggles can be determined as good or bad.

If you are a parent, then you already know how curious little ones can be. They will continuously ask “Why?” until they feel they have the information they need – but sometimes it still doesn’t stop there. I admire curiosity and encourage my kids to always ask “Why?”, when it is appropriate, of course. With that said, I had to be mentally prepared for a million questions when opening up to my oldest child about my condition. Not only that, but be completely educated on the subject of my condition as well. Below I list an example of several questions my kids asked me when I opened up to them about my mood disorder, this may give some people an idea of what to expect.

The first thing I openly discuss with my children is our emotions. I truly believe that our emotions drive our behavior. It helps to explain these more complex topics to children when an example can be made that will relate to them. For example, there is a popular Disney movie that my kids love called Inside Out. This movie emphasizes our emotions and how our mind works at a level our children can understand. Therefore, I often reference scenes from the movie to help explain my situation a little better. I’m allowing myself to get on their level to help them better understand the minds like ours.

My oldest is nine years old. She also struggles with her emotions like I do. After discussing the importance of emotions and how it drives our behaviors, she brilliantly decided to come up with a code word for the both of us to use when we are struggling. I let her pick the word – “Congruent”. With the understanding that when this code word is said, we would stop what we are doing and take a deep breath. Collect our thoughts and emotions for a moment, then calmly discuss our feelings with one another before things escalate. For me, an example would be – receiving a triggering email from someone. Instead of having a breakdown or start screaming at my computer over it – I take a deep breath, look at my kids and simply explain the following: Mommy just received a rough email regarding something I need to work on and it has upset me a little. I am going to put my headphones in for a moment and take a few minutes to myself to collect my thoughts. This usually results with a response from my daughter, “Okay mommy, we’ve turned the TV down a bit so you can focus. It will be okay. I love you.” (Best.Kid.Ever, right?!)

The second thing I openly discuss with my children is the frequency and inconsistency of my mood swings and what I do to help myself through difficult times. My kids know that I attend therapy and take medications to help regulate my emotions, they may not understand the full extent of these things but they don’t need to at this age, in my opinion. With our code word in place, I explained that using the code word will help me tremendously, thus giving her the understanding that she plays a huge role in helping me feel better. I lightly discuss my coping skills such as putting my headphones in, listening to music, going for a walk, writing, or just having cuddles in bed with them. With this, they can see that I’m handling my intense emotions in a healthy way.

Inclusion is important. I want my kids to feel as though they are apart of something that I know will be helpful for them. After I openly discuss my mood disorder, I ask my kids if they have any questions. I encourage them to open up to me about what they are thinking and how they are feeling on the topic while reassuring them that they are in a safe space with no judgements. After answering any questions they may have for me, I turn the conversation around a bit and ask them what I, “Mommy”, can do for them when they are going through a tough time. This allows me to understand their needs as well. It goes both ways and it’s extremely important to understand that as a parent.

For me personally, I tried to answer their questions to the best of my ability. I think it’s important to not overload their brains with too much information regarding a complex subject. Here are a few questions my children asked me when I opened up to them about my mental health condition:

Questions

My personal responses
Why do you feel sad though? Sometimes I feel sad when I see something that brings up a bad memory. Or when someone says something that hurts my feelings.
Why are you not happy when you’re around us – don’t we cheer you up? You absolutely do cheer me up and make me very happy. Sometimes things on TV or my phone can put me in a bad mood and that doesn’t have anything to do with you. Spending time with you and cuddling up with you is very helpful for me.
What kind of things do you talk about in therapy? I talk about emotions, work, school and set some personal goals for myself. My therapist likes to help me achieve these goals.
Being alone is lonely, can’t we just all play together? Being alone and being lonely are two completely different things. I enjoy being alone. It helps me to collect my thoughts and think clearly. I rarely ever feel lonely. After I collect my thoughts, I would absolutely love to play a game together.
Do we stress you out? Being a parent has its stressful moments but in general, no – you do not stress me out. If anything, you help me in many ways you don’t ever realize.
Do I have a mental illness? I don’t believe so, no. Not everyone has a mental illness.
Should I go to therapy too? I don’t see the need for you to go, however if that’s something you would like to look into then I will fully support that decision.
Daddy gets sad sometimes, should he go to therapy too? Therapy doesn’t work for everyone. If daddy has a great support system (which it sounds like he does) then he may not want or need to go to therapy and that’s perfectly OK.
Is this a secret? Do other people know about this? It’s absolutely not a secret. The people I am closest with do know about my mood swings. I prefer to discuss it with people if it’s necessary but i’m not ashamed of the struggles I face.
Are you getting better? With my friends, family, support systems like therapy, and YOU – I am getting better.
Why do you have to take medicine for it? I don’t have to take medicine for it, but I choose to because it helps make my moods or emotions less intense. Medicine doesn’t make my emotions go away but they are just there to help keep me a little balanced.

Since explaining my mental health condition with my kids, I have noticed an increase in comfortability when discussing their emotions and feelings with me. I’m surprised by their new level of emotional intelligence and how well they are handling this condition I live with. Overall, it definitely brought us closer together as a family.

100 Things I Learned In Recovery

Here are 100 things I learned in recovery 

  1. My passion for Mental Health
  2. Mental illness doesn’t define us
  3. Self-Reliance
  4. It’s okay to not be okay
  5. There are no good or bad emotions, but there are good and bad ways of expressing emotions.
  6. Resiliency
  7. Self-Compassion is a priority
  8. Self-Awareness is key
  9. Coping skills that best work for me
  10. We don’t owe anyone an explanation for self-care.
  11. Beauty lives in our differences
  12. Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  13. Mindfulness
  14. The more I loved myself – the more I fell in love with my kids
  15. Not to feel guilty for self-care
  16. Patience and understanding for othersLove Yourself
  17. Recovery comes first
  18. How to stand up for myself and fight against stigma
  19. Things will always work out – do not give up
  20. We are not broken, weak or worthless
  21. It’s never too late to become the person you want to be
  22. The present moment is all you ever have
  23. Who my true friends are
  24. My story has helped make a difference
  25. Internal vs. external Locus of Control
  26. I found myself more at peace
  27. I am Brave
  28. Courageousness
  29. I’m an introvert and value my alone time
  30. To let go of my past mistakes; they do not define me
  31. I am emotionally intelligent
  32. Gained more self-esteem
  33. Judgments are a confession of character
  34. Happiness is found within
  35. Self-Confidence is the best outfit; fucking own it
  36. Mental Illness is nothing to be ashamed of
  37. Self-love is the most important love
  38. I am a stronger and healthier mother to my two kids
  39. Without the dark and stormy days, we can’t learn to appreciate the good days
  40. The Minds Like Ours are beautiful
  41. Our feelings are valid; don’t justify them or seek approval – they are YOUR feelings.
  42. Our behavior is driven by our emotions
  43. Helping others makes me feel good – we rise by lifting others
  44. Your worth is not defined by someone loving or not loving you
  45. My worst days in recovery are by far better than the best days in my manic episodes
  46. A bad day doesn’t equal a bad life
  47. The words, “Fuck it” do come in handy every once in a while.
  48. You are not a burden
  49. You have to learn to love yourself before you can fully love someone else.
  50. Do not be afraid to walk away from toxic relationships/friendships
  51. Embrace the sadness
  52. It’s okay to be different
  53. Be patient with yourself
  54. Recovery isn’t strictly about being “happy”, it is about learning to become whole.
  55. The bad things people say about you are actually reflections of what they think of themselves, not you.
  56. I am unique
  57. Ultimately it’s only your opinion of yourself that matters. Do what makes YOU happy.
  58. The art of meaningful conversations
  59. Stigma’s three components are: Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination
  60. EMDR therapy
  61. Step outside your comfort zone – you might actually have fun
  62. You are worth much more than you think
  63. It all starts with willingness
  64. I am a fighter, survivor and a warrior – so are you
  65. Be acutely aware of your thoughts
  66. No, we can’t just fucking “Get over it”
  67. Good things take timerecovery123
  68. Expect nothing – appreciate everything
  69. How beautiful it is to be alive
  70. How to live less out of habit and more out of intent
  71. We are the directors of our own mindset
  72. Strength
  73. Life’s a bitch sometimes
  74. Mental illness is not a choice, but RECOVERY is
  75. If you make friends with yourself, you will never be alone
  76. I no longer want to compete with anyone but myself – I hope we all make it
  77. Hold on to hope
  78. Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do
  79. How not to lose myself in the process of loving someone else
  80. How to magnify your strengths, not your weaknesses
  81. We can’t fix ourselves by breaking someone else
  82. My appreciation for music
  83. We are exactly where we need to be
  84. BREATHEEEE!
  85. Protect yourself with ADA
  86. How to maintain a balanced life – parenting, career and education
  87. I am emotionally sensitive- my emotions are more intense than the average person and that’s ok
  88. Face your fears – It’s fucking liberating!
  89. Be gentle with yourself
  90. Your time is important – spend it on things you are passionate about
  91. Make time for yourself
  92. The part you play is sacred – you are priceless
  93. How to manage impulsiveness
  94. See the value in our stories
  95. Trust your intuition
  96. Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle; start a conversation
  97. Your speed in recovery doesn’t matter; forward is forward
  98. Life gives you challenges that you can overcome; be strong
  99. Emotional awareness means recognizing, respecting and accepting your feelings as they happen.
  100. How to discover who I truly am; gained a huge sense of self.

“I Jumped Off the Golden Gate Bridge”

I found this amazing story about a man, named Kevin Hines, that shared his story with mental illness and a suicide attempt. He was one of few survivors to have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and lived to tell his story.

I love how he made a point to say he felt like a burden. I don’t think that people who don’t have a mental illness understand that piece of it. Recovery is possible and this man is living proof.

13 Things To Remember When Life Gets Rough | Article

13 Things to Remember When Life Gets Rough

on 26 July, 2014 at 19:32

https://i0.wp.com/themindunleashed.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/remember.jpg

By: Carol Morgan, Life hack | We’ve all gone through hard times. And we all get through them. However, some get through them better than others. So what is their secret? Most of it has to do with attitude. Here are 13 things to remember when life gets rough:

1. What is, is. Buddha’s famous saying tells us: “It is your resistance to ‘what is’ that causes your suffering.” Think about that for a minute. It means that our suffering only occurs when we resist how things are. If you can change something, then take action! Change it! But if you can’t change it, then you have two choices: (1) either accept it and let go of the negativity, or (2) make yourself miserable by obsessing over it.

2. It’s only a problem if you think it’s a problem. Many times, we are our own worst enemy. Happiness is really dependent on perspective. If you think something is a problem, then your thoughts and emotions will be negative. But if you think it’s something you can learn from, then suddenly, it’s not a problem anymore.

3. If you want things to change, you need to start with changing yourself. Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. Don’t you know people whose lives are chaotic and stressful? And isn’t that largely because they feel chaotic inside? Yes, it is. We like to think that changing our circumstances will change us. But we have it backwards—we need to change ourselves first before our circumstances will change.

4. There is no such thing as failure—only learning opportunities. You should just wipe the word “failure” right out of your vocabulary. All great people who have ever achieved anything have “failed” over and over. In fact, I think it was Thomas Edison who said something like, “I did not fail at inventing the light bulb, I just first found 99 ways that it didn’t work.” Take your so-called “failures” and learn something from them. Learn how to do it better next time.

5. If you don’t get something you want, it just means something better is coming. That’s hard to believe sometimes, I know. But it’s true. Usually, when you look back at your life, you will be able to see why it was actually a good thing that something didn’t work out. Maybe the job you didn’t get would have made you spend more time away from your family, but the job you did get was more flexible. Just have faith that everything happens exactly the way it’s supposed to.

6. Appreciate the present moment. This moment will never come again. And there is always something precious about every moment. So don’t let it pass you by! Soon it will just be a memory. Even moments that don’t seem happy can be looked upon as something that you might miss someday. As the country song by Trace Adkins says, “You’re gonna miss this…you’re gonna want this back. You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast….you may not know this now, but you’re gonna miss this…”

7. Let go of desire. Most people live with “attached mind.” What this means is that they attach themselves to a desire, and when they don’t get it, their emotions plummet into negativity. Instead, try to practice “detached mind.” That means that when you want something, you will still be happy whether you get it or not. Your emotions remain happy or neutral.

8. Understand and be grateful for your fears. Fear can be a great teacher. And overcoming fears can also make you feel victorious. For example, when I was in college, I feared public speaking (one of the top 3 fears of all humans). So I find it humorous now that not only do I speak in front of a group every day by being a college professor, I also teach public speaking! Overcoming fears just takes practice. Fear is really just an illusion. It’s optional.

9. Allow yourself to experience joy. Believe it or not, I know way too many people who don’t allow themselves to have fun. And they don’t even know how to be happy. Some people are actually addicted to their problems and the chaos in them so much that they wouldn’t even know who they are without them. So try to allow yourself to be happy! Even if it’s just for a small moment, it’s important to focus on joy, not your hardships.

10. Don’t compare yourself to other people. But if you do compare yourself, compare yourself with people who have it worse than you. Unemployed? Be grateful that you live in a country that gives unemployment compensation, because most people in the world live on less that $750 a year. So you don’t look like Angelina Jolie? Well, I bet there are more people who don’t than do. And you are probably way better looking than than you think. Focus on that.

11. You are not a victim. You need to get out of your own way. You are only a “victim” of your own thoughts, words and actions. No one “does” something to you. You are the creator of your own experience. Take personal responsibility and realize that you can get out of your hard times. You just need to start with changing your thoughts and actions. Abandon your victim mentality and become victorious. From victim to VICTOR!

12. Things can—and do—change. “And this too shall pass” is one of my favorite sayings. When we are stuck in a bad situation, we think that there is no way out. We think nothing will ever change. But guess what? It will! Nothing is permanent except death. So get out of the habit of thinking that things will always be this way. They won’t. But you do need to take some sort of action for things to change. It won’t magically happen all on its own.

13. Anything is possible. Miracles happen every day. Really—they do. I wish I had enough space to write about all the miraculous things that have happened to people I know—from healing stage 4 cancer naturally to having their soul mate appear out of nowhere. Trust me: it happens all the time. You just need to believe it does. Once you do, you have won the battle.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University. She is also the host of ‘A Walk on the WOO Side’ radio show, a motivational expert on the TV show ‘Living Dayton,’ video expert for eHow.com, keynote speaker, and a member of Inspiyr.com’s Expert Network. You can subscribe to her blog, get some life/relationship coaching from her, and check out her books at http://www.drcarolmorgan.com.

World Suicide Prevention Day

WELCOME TO MIDNIGHT. WELCOME TO WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY.

Posted on: 9 September 2014
By: Jamie Tworkowski

“Welcome to Midnight. That’s what we say when the ball drops and a new year begins. I like that moment because beyond the fireworks and resolutions, beyond the kisses and celebration, is the quiet hope that something can be new. That it’s possible to leave the past behind and start again. There’s nothing extra special on television tonight, no clapping crowd in Times Square, no parade scheduled for the morning. But this midnight means World Suicide Prevention Day, and we would like to think this day can be significant. Not because the world needs another holiday, and not because we need a stage to stand on. We believe in World Suicide Prevention Day for the same reasons we love New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Because perhaps it’s possible to change. Perhaps it’s possible to start again. Perhaps it’s possible for things to be new. We know that change takes more than a moment, and we aren’t saying it will be easy, but we’re saying that it’s worth it. This life. This night. Your story. Your pain. Your hope. It matters. All of it matters. You’re loved. You matter to this world and you matter to the people who love you. So stay. Please stay. No one else can play your part.”

TWLOHA

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

SELF-CARE ISN’T SELFISH

  • Posted on: 25 August 2014
  • By: Tiffany Keesey

“You know those moments where someone perfectly puts words to something you’ve been feeling but haven’t named?

That moment happened for me when I was sitting in the conference room at Invisible Children three years ago and a guest speaker was talking about insecurity. It wasn’t even his main point, but I will never forget when he off-handedly said, “You can’t invest in others if you don’t invest in yourself.”

It struck me. It felt as if he had just given me permission to embrace something that I had felt stirring within me. At that point, I had been working for the organization for 5 years, and I was exhausted. I loved my job and the organization, believed in the mission, and was surrounded by the most incredible community, but I was worn down. I couldn’t understand why I felt continually tired and overwhelmed when I knew I was doing the job I was supposed to be doing.

And here’s what it came down to: I was putting myself last. The tendency in the nonprofit world is to always put the cause above ourselves. It’s easy to forget to prioritize self-care when you are doing something you feel is more important. I had been working crazy hours and pouring most of my energy into my job, and I was doing it without putting much thought into what was fueling me.

I know this is not just true in the nonprofit world. My friends that are new parents struggle to find any time for themselves when their kids demand all their attention, and students are taught to achieve in order to get into college or to land a good job, often forgetting to take care of themselves. Somehow, as a culture, we’ve come to view rest as weakness and self-care as selfish and unnecessary.

None of that is wrong. Working for a cause, working hard in school, and being there for your child are all wonderful things. But I believe it is time for a shift in our mentality. When we take time for ourselves, when we prioritize balance, and when we cultivate other interests, we are better for it.

Studies show that we are 20 percent more productive when we work from a happy state of mind, as opposed to a negative, stressed, or even neutral state. When we are energized, we are equipped to tackle the game-changing tasks instead of just checking our inbox. We’re better prepared to solve problems, to overcome obstacles, to make the hard decisions, and to innovate.

Every now and then, let’s trade practicality for play and work for balance. Think of it as preparation for the next season in life where your life or your family or your job demands a lot from you. You need to be your best in those times. You need to show up. So, for now, let’s free ourselves of the guilt of having to always be busy because busyness just masquerades as productivity.

It doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Here’s where you can start:

1. Go back to the basics. Feed your mind and body with nutritious food. Stay hydrated and get enough sleep. Get outside for a few minutes if you’re stuck in an office all day. Be active, even if that just means choosing the stairs over the elevator.

2. Incorporate a daily ritual. We all can find an extra 15 minutes a day to invest into ourselves, whether that means waking up a little earlier, cutting out some wasted time at work, or getting off Instagram for a little bit. Begin or end your day with something that energizes you – maybe it’s journaling, taking a brisk walk, reading poetry, practicing yoga, or just making coffee and letting your mind be still.

3. Find time to cultivate larger interests outside of work. If you don’t know where to start, go back to what you loved when you were young. If you were a bookworm like me, join a book club. If you miss sports, join a kickball league. These activities remind us who we are.

4. Learn how to say no. This was the hardest thing for me, as a recovering people pleaser living with FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I challenge you to think of your time to recharge as sacred. Put it on your calendar if you need to, and don’t allow it to get pushed to the bottom of your priority list.

Repeat after me: I will be a better [student / friend / leader / spouse / professional / parent] if I take care of myself.

Great. Now go be amazing.”

To Write Love On Her Arms

twloha.com

RI Week #2: Life Consists of Trivialities

untitled

“Life consists of trivialities and very little else. If you think of what you worry about, it’s trivialities. Whether you should buy a certain item or not. Whether you should buy it now or wait until the price goes down.  Should you spend money on unnecessary things  or should you save the money? These are trivialities, average happenings.

The average person deals constantly with average happenings, with trivialities. You eat, you sleep, you walk, you go to school, you see friends, you talk on the phone.  That takes up 90 percent of your day, if not 98 percent. Life consists of trivialities mainly. How often does a father die? Once in a lifetime. That’s not a common, average, trivial event. How often does somebody in the family get married, or somebody get born? How often does your house burn down? Whatever you call a big item happens rarely.

These trivialities of everyday life create responses in you. You either don’t notice them because they don’t interest you, or they cheer you because they please you, or they anger you, or scare you. Even the simplest triviality can scare or anger you. In the life of a parent, the fact that a baby cries is a triviality. A thousand things that the baby does are trivialities, but a mother may work herself up over each of these trivialities. The closer a relation is, the more trivialities can irritate, frustrate, anger and scare you.

Trivialities crowd your life, but any one of them may arouse your anger, your fear, your disgust, or your terror. I want you to learn how to deal with trivialities, not to get upset by trivialities. You must learn to handle the trivialities of daily life without temper. If you wish to be trained in this system, be prepared to listen to nothing but trivialities. That’s life.

Life is to get angry at a person who doesn’t look at you, or a person who stares at you, a person who talks too much, or a person who doesn’t talk at all. That’s life. It is also to eat a bad meal or a good meal. If you eat a bad meal, you feel anger. If you eat a good meal, they you feel enjoyment. That’s life. Utterly trivial. ”

 

Wow- If I hear the word trivialities one more time…. haha. To be honest, I get so worked up over the simplest things in everyday life. Being late for work, rushing home to pick up the kids, get upset at the kids for thrashing the house, getting upset with myself if I don’t get the dishes done after dinner. All of these things, ten years from now, I probably wont even remember. So why get worked up over it? Think about it. Lets gain some grateful perspective and enjoy everyday life. 🙂

 

Good group today, it was nice to hear and share stories. Until next week…