formal

Year 10 Formal, Meet Anxiety and PTSD

formalYear 10 Formal. What was hoped to be a special night for Jessie, ended up being memorable for all the wrong reasons sadly. She looked absolutely gorgeous and had been so excited. My heart sank when I got the first text an hour in, and I knew where it was going. I hadn’t been home an hour after already doing the 2 hour round trip to drop them off before I was doing it over again…

For $90 per head to attend formal, we knew there was a three course sit down dinner, DJ, photographer and photo booth. What we didn’t know was that the girls hadn’t put their table request in so wouldn’t all be seated together. Or that the DJ would be playing so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think, from the start of the night. I felt for the teachers, but that’s how I loved my music many years ago, and all the girls had fantastic night. But for Jessie, her anxiety and PTSD were triggered, she lost her confidence and it was all over red rover.

I was angry. Screw you universe for allowing this to happen to Jessie. Fuck you for giving her this shitty plot in life that stops her from being a normal teen. I was angry that I had all the driving, when I’d been SO needing time out. I was angry that neither of our nights were what we’d hoped for. Jessie had been looking forward to the formal for so long. She’d paid off her own dress with weekly payments. It was a big deal for her, I wanted it to be a night with her friends she’d always remember. For me – I wanted to feel like I assume most parents feel thinking of their teen out having an awesome time. I don’t know what that’s like, Jessie’s been unwell since age 8.

formalJessie’s aware her mental illness isn’t taken seriously, and formal night really cemented that for her. She’d obviously gotten the feeling from friends on the night that she needed to say sorry, and did so the next day. I think she needed reassurance, but instead was thanked by her best friend for apologising. For what I don’t know. She didn’t create a big scene, she managed herself really well, just sat and waited for me. But as we talked about with Jessie’s counsellor, mental illness is invisible, and people don’t understand. If she’d had a physical illness, no doubt her friends would have instead looked after her. And certainly wouldn’t have expected an apology.

Sadly people don’t understand mental illness. The notion is thoughtlessly thrown out there that sufferers should be able to control their symptoms. Yet you’d be a real a-hole to expect someone to control their asthma symptoms, or to walk on a broken leg. But the reality is that I think many mental illnesses are seen as a choice, and can therefore be controlled. If not controlled, the mind must be weak. Weak is definitely not a word I’d use to describe my Jessie, in any way, shape or form!

But that’s life. And as disappointing as it can be, if Jessie can learn how to get on regardless now, she’ll have strong foundations for life.

She loves her friends. And her need for friends is the same as everyone else’s.

They’re all learning – they’re teenagers, all trying to work out how and where they fit in this world.

formal

 
 

imperfections

Catastrophic Imperfections – Or So I Thought

imperfectionsI’m not one to make excuses for myself nor one to blow my own trumpet. This post could be seen as doing both those things. However my purpose for writing is to help me to be less judgemental of my imperfections. I’m hoping it will also help keep things in perspective for me.

In my previous post I was really upset with myself and worried about the repercussions of not being on top of things. After walking out of Jessie’s previous session I’d been asked to come back in to talk with her counsellor. I was convinced of a catastrophic outcome after previous experiences. Before Jessie was diagnosed I was told by a DoCs worker that her issues were due to my bad parenting. Despite that not being the case, that judgement has always stuck with me.

So after chatting about Jessie and things she had brought up, it turns out that ultimately she’s worried about me. I’ve been getting angry and my patience levels aren’t what they had been. The counsellor was concerned too, as I’ve never walked out of a session before, and we’ve dealt with some pretty full-on things over the 6 years we’ve known her. The expectation of hearing if I didn’t do xyz Jessie would be taken, was getting to me. I had to ask if there was any threat of me losing Jessie. The counsellors reaction was something I want to record as a reminder to my critical self.

She gently told me that if I was waiting to hear those words I would’ve been waiting forever as they were never going to be spoken. I was told the only time she’s ever rung DoCs was when I was sitting in her office many years ago, desperate for help. I burst into tears and she told me how sorry she was I’d had that fear hanging over me. She said she’s never had a concern for the safety or wellbeing of Jessie with me, ever. With Jessie having been sectioned so many times we became well known by the ER staff and the CYMHS team. I was reassured that there has never been a imperfectionsconcern by anyone, at any time.

We talked a little about me not coping. I told her I’m angry with myself because I know the parenting stuff yet I’m struggling to get it right lately. I was also upset because I’ve had so much counselling over my lifetime, yet I can still get to this low point. Counselling was supposed to ‘fix’ you I’d believed. So wtf was wrong with me? Again the counsellor’s reaction was not what I’d expected! I thought she’d remind of what I needed to work on. Instead she talked about the effects of trauma and why I’m feeling so overwhelmed. Instead of my imperfections being highlighted, I was heard and validated. What was highlighted were the positive changes in Jessie over the years which she put down to my parenting and love. Thankfully it’s allowed me to stop judging myself so harshly.

Apparently I’m doing really well, even when I feel I’m not. The counsellor told me that there are families there who aren’t coping with things quite small in regards to what I deal with and on my own. She reminded me that our lot is very far from the norm – we’re dealing with some very difficult and stressful realities. There are things about it which are triggering for me, bringing me to ‘why aren’t I fixed?’

The explanation was so rational it could’ve only been blocked out by my delusions of a tune up and off you go, good as new. All of our experiences stay with us. They go towards making up who we are. Counselling helps us process emotions and thoughts in the hope we can move on. But it doesn’t erase the experience, dammit, and the side effects can be triggered by any number of things, at any time.

imperfectionsJessie’s educated via distance ed and doesn’t have a social life unless friends come here. As the counsellor said, we live in a small space where there’s nowhere to get away, no yard to escape to. It’s not normal to live in such close confines with someone 24/7. Being mum, I’m on call 24/7 as well, no respite. What’s normal in that situation is to become frustrated and less tolerant with each other. I do have a tough egg here, and Jessie’s been home consistently for 2 years now. Having regained perspective, we’ve done pretty okay really! She drives me crazy but I love her to absolute bits! It’s gotta be that bond that gets us through, imperfections and all…

Solution?

A solution…that’s a bit like ‘being fixed’ isn’t it?! We’ll see.

I’d had an idea about creating a roster type thing that would give me uninterrupted time to study, write and do my volunteering stuff. The counsellor thought it was a fantastic idea so I’ve written up a trial timetable. The hours might change, it needs to be practical, but Jessie’s on board which is a positive start.

• We’re also going to see the counsellor each fortnight for a while, plus I can see her on my own whenever I need.

• I’ll also read this if ever I have any doubts about my parenting. I won’t doubt a counsellor who’s known us for 6 years. I also need to listen to those who love me instead of those who don’t.

 

imperfections

 

 

future

The Future is Starting to Glimmer and Shine

futureDuring the week Jessie came with me to TAFE to return and borrow library books. I’ve finally completed my Cert IV in Bookkeeping and onto my second cluster of subjects in a Cert IV in Mental Health. The Diploma in Mental Health is next, as my future plan is to find paid work in the field. Currently I’m volunteering which I really love. I’ve also been recommended to be on the Board for Kathleen York House, a drug and alcohol treatment centre run by the Alcohol Drug Foundation NSW. Hopefully I’ll be meeting up with them this coming week. All great experience and good for my resume!

But l’m already off track. This post was intended to be about Jessie, and the epiphany she had as we were leaving TAFE. So diverting back – this visit unexpectedly sparked a shift and an excited buzz in Jessie around her future studies. She started reminiscing about school and talking about the things she missed. In general these were the learning environment, friends and being part of something. Music to my ears.

I suggested she should find out what courses are run at our local tafe. She was pumped and did just that the minute we got home. There are times a rocket can’t shift this kid, but when she’s motivated, don’t get in her way. Either she’ll take you out in her haste, or I’ll take you out for stopping her (I write in humour, having a little chuckle to myself – before realising there may just be a little truth in it!). I don’t care what she choses to futuredo or in which direction she goes. I just want her to find her direction and kick its arse. Or just follow it. Or anything in between!

With a uni application already under her belt, she’s now favouring the pathway through TAFE. Personally I think she’s made the right decision for herself, if for nothing more than the fact it’s going to be a big change from what she’s doing now. So the wait now is for her to finish Year 10 so she can apply for her chosen course, and hope to god she gets in.

After all these years of worrying about what Jessie’s future might look like, this excitement in her passed through to me. I allowed myself to feel the relief and imagine seeing Jessie grow up to have a happy life. What a luxury!! And something I’d always taken for granted before things went haywire. She may very well have just taken an alternate route to get to where she was always going. Fingers crossed…

“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”

future

 


 
 

pets

Pets Provide the Best Therapy

petsWe love our pets. We have two cats, Meisha and Ji. They’re members of our family – even though they can be naughty. Sometimes very naughty! But life wouldn’t be the same without them. It’s really lovely, Jessie and I each have our own special connections with them both. I feed them and clean the kitty litter, so they know who looks after them. However Jessie likes to play with them and pick them up for cuddles. Meisha usually likes to interact on her terms, but doesn’t mind a quick hug from Jessie.

Meisha is our tortioseshell, and she’ll be 6 next month. A long story short, Jessie refused to hand this little kitten back to the girl at the pet shop, and refused to leave the store without her. (Two weeks prior they’d sold the kitten we were supposed to be getting.) She ended up costing a fortune! It petswas just before Chirstmas and I had an expensive present stolen from my trolley in the commotion that I had to buy again as well. Anyway, Meisha believes she is queen of the house and claims everything as her own. I’m sure she believes we’re actually her pets, and not the other way around.

She’s a cat cat, who despite having lived indoors her whole life, prefers to dig in my pot plants rather than use the kitty litter, and shows all the typical hunting behaviours when birds sit on the balcony railing – or she sees an insect.

Ji is our tuxedo cat who looks very smart in his suit indeed. He’ll be 5 next month, and is finally starting to grow up…a little. He’s a wuss cat, and attempts to imitate Meisha’s hunting prowess which is incredibly funny. He studies her for ages. She has really taught him how to cat. He was only 5 weeks old when we took in these three little petsorphans. We chose to keep Ji because he started purring whenever you even looked at him. At 8 weeks of age his brother and sister were old enough and went off to their new homes. Meisha used to clean him all the time, but he’s pretty much on his own now. Which I think he prefers because she always ends up chastising him by biting his neck or ears! She has become a disgruntled mother, and her patience with him wears thin.

Meisha’s my hot water bottle at night, always snuggled up next to me, no matter which way I move. Quite often I’m woken by her wet nose touching mine, or her stare from up close and personal, willing me to wake up and pat her before she goes back to sleep again. There are times however when Jessie’s really upset that she’ll sleep on Jessie’s bed. Meisha’s very in tune with Jessie’s mood fluctuations and knows when to hide and when to keep her company.

petsPets seem to love unconditionally, and Meisha and Ji are no exception. And although cats are very independent and can seem quite aloof, I realise that ours more often than not follow me if I change rooms and settle down to sleep again, or just hang out with me.

Pets bring joy, purpose and love into our lives. They provide us with the best therapy, being company that is loyal, always happy to see us, and always happy to listen. The conservative notion that poor or homeless people shouldn’t have pets due to the expense is one I’m glad the RSPCA is providing a solution for with their Living Ruff Program. The RSPCA recognises the ‘mental, emotional and physical benefits’ of owning a pet, providing free food, worming and flea treaments, and access to vet services through this fantastic program. Being a not-for-profit, community based organisation they are always in need of donations which, if you like, can be generously made on their site here.

♥ Pets are family too ♥

pets

teenagers

Teenagers, Parties and Alcohol

teenagersDay Before the Party:  I was unexpectedly asked the dreaded question this afternoon – “Mum am I allowed to have a drink at the party?”.  I was a little taken aback.  This all seems to be happening so quickly.  For me anyway! Teenagers and drinking – it doesn’t bring pretty pictures to mind.  But I must remember that my teenager’s not me at the same age.  That’s a massive consolation, and I’d love for it to stay that way.

Today Jessie met up with her old friends from school which was a lovely surprise.  She was anticipating only knowing one friend in the group that was going, and was super excited about, so having them all made her day.  They went into the city to play laser tag, and she was gone for the entire day.  I’d started getting worried by the afternoon.  She normally texts me regularly and sends me photos on the occasions she does go somewhere without me.  But nothing…until she needed me, haha.  She was too busy enjoying herself thankfully, and didn’t need the contact with me.  I’m so happy for her!  They’re responsible, really lovely girls who I trust, and trust with Jessie.

teenagersAfter leaving the house at 9:20 this morning, she rang at 4:30 asking could she go with the girls to a party tomorrow night.  Omg this is awesome!!!  Socialising with her old gang!!  Having a life outside of her bedroom!!  Seeing Jessie so genuinely happy and feeling like she really belongs is elating for me.  Even a couple of months ago I doubt she would’ve wanted to go out today, let alone go to a party.

Such feelings of elation aren’t evoked by the details of this party though.  There are lots of girls from her old school going.  Which immediately told me drugs and lots of drinking, by some anyway.  That’s a concern. But again, my teenager is not me at that age.  She is way more sensible and switched on!

teenagersMy decision comes down to a choice really.  I either trust in Jessie’s sensibilities, or I not allow her to go, at a time when these friendships have a chance to bond again.  That’s how I see it anyway.  And being her only parent, that is my perogative.  Jessie’s socialisation has taken a real hit over the last couple of years, so I’ve chosen to let her go.  Intertwined with my anxieties about it was real excitement for her.  A glimmer of normality for her was so relieving for me.  It’s brought me out of a deep rut I was in about our dysfunctional reality.

My next decision was around alcohol.  Two of the parents are allowing one drink, however there are such strongly divided sides to this amongst mums and dads. My thoughts go back to my adolescence, and to things our much loved caseworker had said a few years ago.  It was time for me to now make up my own mind as a parent.

teenagersThere are two irrefutable facts:

1. alcohol is damaging to teenagers maturing brains and,

2. teenagers who want to drink are going to drink.

 

Jessie knows more about the damaging effects than I do as it turns out.  Good job school!  We discussed the possible side effects of alcohol with her medication and the concerns with her bipolar.  On this she was well researched and I was impressed with her knowledge and understanding.  She can be so mature – I see glimpses of her grown up self. She’s so funny, I was giving her a few excuses to use if she was pressured to have more to drink. She looked at me like I was mad and said “why would I have to lie? I’d tell them straight out I don’t want another drink.” And I have no doubt she would too!

My preferrence would be she didn’t drink at all, however I think it’s safest to discuss and negotiate together.  That way we’re both heard and respected. I’ve learnt that teenagers have a greater chance of sticking to an agreement they’ve had a say in putting together.  With a close relationship comes a respect and trust they really don’t want to break.  But if Jessie was to slip up or find herself in trouble, I’d rather be the first one she calls.

She and her friends are sensible girls, and Jessie acknowledged the trust I was placing in her.  Still, I hope I’ve made the right call…

*I trust in myself that I have *

teenagers

 

violent teens

Handling Aggressive or Violent Teens

violent teensParenting a teenager is a whole new life experience. Particularly for parents who face aggressive or violent teens when they are disappointed or challenged. If you are one of these parents, believe me, you are not alone. There are many mums and dads struggling, faced with the same behaviours in their teens. It’s an issue that affects families from all walks of life and economic backgrounds. Coming to know these truths prompted me to write this blog. The following paragraph from this article in the SMH explains so perfectly what often happens:

“The first act of violence, parents are so shocked and taken aback they don’t know how to respond,” Ms Howard said. “It escalates to the point where parents are too intimidated and scared to stop the behaviour.”

violent teensThe article says that psychologists and researchers have found this behaviour linked to a sense of entitlement and ‘cotton wool parenting’. While I don’t disagree with that, many other factors can play a role as well. For many, mental health issues and the inability to cope with thoughts and emotions are the cause. I’m writing from the latter angle.

In our case, my daughter, Jessie, went from being a confident, happy kid, to being volatile and unpredictable. Her friendships were becoming fractured. Her tolerance for disappointment or discipline was no longer existent. It was extremely shocking and confronting! I couldn’t understand why my violent teenparenting methods were no longer working. Neither did I understand why her reactions were so intense. I was living on eggshells, afraid to parent and at a loss. Jessie was ruling the roost with anger and violence. (No pun intended!) Things needed to change because it wasn’t any way to live for either of us. With support and learning though, homelife is way more peaceful and connected these days.

As a loving and responsible parent, safety for everyone must be paramount. Our boundaries around safety in the home need to be made clear to our teens. Consequences also need to be made clear, and we must be consistent in upholding them. Physical violence and destruction of property need a no tolerance attitude. Police should be called if your teen is acting out in a way that poses a serious risk to themselves or others. As harsh as that may sound, the fact is that violence and physical abuse isn’t acceptable behaviour, or appropriate coping mechanisms. Those are rules of life. Better our kids learn that before adult consequences come into play.

While we are standing firm on the no violence rule, we need to give another outlet. My daughter punched her pillows and screamed into them. If you’ve got violent teenspace, hang up a punching bag that your teen can take their rage out on.

As parents we can do a lot to help as well. By modelling the behaviour we want to see, we show them how it’s done, as well as demonstrating that we are strong and capable of dealing with whatever they bring our way. Teens feel safer knowing we are their rock.

Communication plays a huge role in dealing with aggressive and violent teens. Effective use of it can de-escalate the situation before things become out of control and police are required. Read my article here about communication holding the power for attaining peace. Like changing any habits, it takes practice before it comes second nature, but the pay-offs are well worth it.

What teens are throwing out to us, mirrors what is happening with them. If we can remember that they’re hurting and/or really not liking themselves, and try not to take things to heart, we can provide the best support. I think it’s important we tell them how their words or action affect us, so they learn about others emotions. However it’s most effective to stay calm and don’t react in the same ways they are.

Try and see humour whenever you can, to give you a giggle on the inside. A couple of weeks ago Jessie came home annoyed and yelling at me. When I told her it upset me when she spoke to me that way, and she replied “well I’m sorry you’re the only one here for me to take it out on!!” I burst out laughing (NOT in the good parenting book), so had to take myself off to the bathroom. I still find it amusing. The apitome of teenage thinking!

If you need help:

ReachOut.com Australia runs a FREE, flexible coaching course for parents to help us help our teens, with whatever the issues are. You need a computer and a phone, and 90 minutes for the first session. You can however make use of up to an additional three, one hour sessions. Click here for more info or to register.

ReachOut.com also runs a forum which is a supportive community of parents needing assistance or offering advice, learned from experience. If you’re feeling isolated, you will find others going through similar things, which can be therapeutic in itself. You can check out the forum here.

violent teens

inspired

An Inspired Jessie Is Hard To Stop

inspiredSeeing Jessie’s comfort zone expand this year is something I’m loving. I’m equally loving the person she’s discovering herself to be. She’s been inspired being in Year 10, and as such her motivation levels have increased. The effort she is putting into her schoolwork is paying off with encouraging grades ranging between 83 and 100 percent. Her English teacher rang last week to ask if Jessie’s poetry could be published in the end of year book. Jessie gave her permissions with a smile. *Proud Mum*

Being strong willed, determined and switched on can be positive traits when used constructively. Jessie is all those things in abundance. For her to catch that pendulum on the constructive side, and hang on to it all term, is a celebratory feat. Being inspired is bringing out her best.

She is making plans for her future and looking at how she can get there. Initially she had decided to do the extra assessment tasks to receive her ROSA. Having completed all but one section of one, she is rethinking that now unfortunately. We need to talk to her career advisor and check what her best study pathway is, as there are many these days. As long as she is motivated and enthusiastic, I’ll be happy with whatever she decides to do. Most of her schoolwork bores her, so she will thrive if she can find something she’s interested in.

Full-time enrolment at her distance ed high school has now been applied for by Jessie’s home school. It was never expected that Jessie would return there, however temporary enrolment was the administrative rule. Being so impressed with her efforts, distance ed are more than happy to grant her upgrade! I’m told that for kids similar to Jessie, her consistency and standard of work isn’t usual.

inspiredThis year has also seen Jessie reconnect with those few who have proven to be her closest friends. Seeing and hearing her relating, sharing, caring, having fun and belly laughing again is heartwarming. There are so many things we take for granted when our kids aren’t struggling! I think I enjoy her friends staying over nearly as much as Jessie does. She has great taste in homosapiens, being a special one herself, and having that energy bouncing around is lovely.

This year has also seen Jessie inspired and return to tennis lessons which is a big move. She has not missed a lesson and it’s a sport she looks forward to each week. The coach tells me that she’s formed new friendships over the term. He’s also impressed with her ‘wicked’ forehand! She’s been playing on and off with this coach for many years now, and I’m so glad it is safe place that she is comfortable returning to.

Despite the fact that she still spends the majority of her time in her room, the changes in her suggest a growing sense of confidence. She’s slowly widening her world again as she’s feeling more like a friend to herself than an enemy.

inspired

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there”

– Theodore Roosevelt

 

little steps

The Little Steps That Mean Big Things

little stepsWe’ve had a surprisingly positive start to the year. The little steps Jessie has decided to take, mean so much more than just the actions themselves. To read that Jessie had finished her first day of schoolwork, on the first day of school, before I got home at lunchtime that day, doesn’t sound huge. But for us, it is. And we’ve had a few of them.

Getting Jessie to complete all schoolwork – and with some effort – was a bit of a battle towards the end of last year. With only being required to complete 12 weeks work, I had expected that. As contradictory as I know that sounds, it’s strangely not. Over the Christmas holidays she kept saying she didn’t care about school. So I was dreading the start of Year 10. It was such a massive relief to get home and see work completed on day one. I was SO proud of Jessie. Each days work has continued to be completed and I’m loving her sharing what she is learning with me.

little stepsEducation was something we’d talked about a lot on different occasions, for which I was ‘finger waggled’ by Jessie’s counsellor. I have to work out my own boundaries though. I’d explained to Jessie how important Year 10 is to her future. Without it she would find it hard to go to TAFE, which she wants to do next year. But I went on to say that she is the only one who can achieve what she wants out of life. I can’t force her to study, I can’t force her to do the best she can – she is the only one that can make that choice.

Sometimes Jessie needs a reality check. I’m happy with the balance I’ve found with her however it can be a fine line at times. Naturally I want her to have a better life than the life I’ve been able to provide her, opportunity wise. Plus I’d love her not to meet her future partner in the queue at the dole office!

She is busily planning her future in education though, so something got through. The current goal is to do nursing. She’s put a lot of effort into researching how she can achieve her goal, and is communicating with the Career Advisor from school. That’s another little step meaning big things. Last year she refused to communicate at all with her teachers. This contact is via email, but still, it’s contact! So at this stage she wants to do a Diploma of Nursing at TAFE next year. Apparently she needs to be 16 to attend uni, so will apply to uni the following year. She has it all thought out. Here it comes again – the mum happy dance with disco moves!!

Back tracking a little to the start of the school holidays. I’d accepted the fact that we were having Christmas without Jessie. It wasn’t a good sign as to where she was at. I saw it that way anyway. I’d begun to worry that her isolation might go on for years as it does with Hikikomori. In my eyes that would be disastrous.

little stepsBut the first little steps were made early on this year. And they have continued. Jessie had a couple of friends stay over in the holidays. She ventured up to the shops, they went swimming, we went to the beach. She’s even come with a close friend to her Nanna and Pop’s a couple of times. They went swimming there and another time played tennis. It’s the most time she’s spent outdoors in over 12 months.

Jessie is back at tennis, which she is really enjoying and looks forward to each week. I’ve always asked if she’d like to go back at the start of each term, and her response this time was unexpected and definite.

She’s coming out of her room more and more to talk to me. I’m loving her communicating her trust and faith in me. It’s pretty special that my girl, who can be quite unwell at times, puts me on a pedestal. She’s chosen to re-engage with her mental health care team and is proactive in her own daily management of her issues.

Jessie’s growing up and I’m seeing the strong foundations of an incredibly aware, balanced and empathetic young woman building. I couldn’t ask for more.

This has taught me to always have hope – you never know what’s next.

Little steps, one foot in front of the other… 

little steps

raising

Life Raising A Bipolar Child/Teen

raisingI’ve been asked to write an article on what it’s like raising a child with bipolar. With so many complexities involved I’m having trouble deciding where to start.

It’s been seven years since Jessie first began experiencing overwhelming emotions and raging tempers. Those years have been a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s been exhausting, distressing, trying, heartbreaking, intense, humorous, enlightening, complicated, stressful and confronting.

raisingI like this meme. It’s true! But on a bad day it makes me laugh, even if it’s a just a chuckle on the inside. I’m getting better and better at this negotiation with swinging moods and thought processes, however there are still times when I go on strike. Well I try.

Unfortunately there’s no-one to take over, so even on strike, I’m always on high alert. That speaks a lot about my personality though. I worry too much about the what-ifs. Worrying is not only counter-productive, it chews up much needed energy. Despite knowing this, it’s my number one barrier to a peaceful mind. Accepting the fact that I no longer have control is something I’ve struggled with. Having to let go and realise that Jessie’s life is actually hers now, is hard! I want to fix everything, I wish I could. But I can’t. Jessie needs to find her own way, and learn to work things out for herself. Being so protective, it can be upsetting for me to take that step back at times.

raisingJessie’s aggression and verbal abuse was incredibly difficult to cope with in the first few years. The work I’ve put in to learning about what is happening for Jessie, along with teaching her new skills, has seen that aggression almost dissipate. She is now 14 and it’s been three years since I’ve required Police assistance. It’s been three years since she has been sectioned by Police under the Mental Health Act.

Communication is now our strength instead of being our downfall. It has taken time, but I have no doubt it has enabled us to move on in a positive direction from such tumultuous times.

With growing maturity Jessie is also taking responsibility for herself. We’ve both learnt the importance of repair after an argument. A big part of that is forgiveness – forgiveness for self and the other party. With Jessie now feeling safe with her emotions, she is able to apologise if she has been rude or has snapped at me. She also has an acute sense of empathy which she is becoming more and more comfortable showing. Taking blame out of picture changes the whole dynamic, it’s amazing.

Raising a child with bipolar has been life changing. I have learnt so much about myself and so much about how to be the best parent I can be. Jessie is a quirky kid and has expanded my mind with her thoughts and experiences. As much as times can still be difficult, I actually think most of that comes from societies perception that our life is not ‘normal’. These labels apply pressure to get your child back into a ‘normal’ life – but who is to say what is normal?

Perfection is not a requirement for love in my heart.

raising

realisation

Realisation and the Burden it Brings

realisationSometimes I want to lock myself in the boot!! Maybe I could hide from life in there for a little while? Realisation is a positive thing, especially in relation to ourselves. Being self aware gives us the opportunity to learn and grow and improve things about ourselves that we’d like to. Although sometimes I find it a huge burden.

I recently did a one day meditation course with Kelsang Lhachog about the art of forgiveness and letting go of anger. I learnt that there is no place for anger. Ever. It achieves nothing. Anger prevents us from really letting go and is detrimental to our wellbeing. It was suggested that we set time-frames in which our goal was to not get angry. On a good day, if I didn’t drive anywhere, I can manage well. On a bad day, left to myself, I am such an angry person!! I am so mean and impatient with myself. And it’s been eye opening being aware of how many things frustrate, irritate, annoy and anger me!

This realisation has been really powerful. Mainly because now I am fully aware that things only annoy me because of me. And why do we get angry? Lhachog’s teaching was perfect – because we haven’t got what we wanted, or because things haven’t turned out the way we wanted. We are reacting the same way as a 2 year old throwing a tantrum because they can’t get their own way. And it’s true, dammit! I think about why I’ve become frustrated or angry, and if I’m honest, it’s always for either of those reasons. So…I’m an adult toddler!! Woohoo!

realisationThe positive is that I am now aware of my choices – to either be reactive and continue to behave like a toddler, or to be proactive and do something about it. Being proactive brings me two options – change what I can, or accept what I have no control over and let it go. Much easier said than done. It’s a constant thought process and sometimes I’m looking for a boot to lock myself in. Sometimes I need a break from the realisation that there is so much improvement still required in myself!

I’m also aware of how much I worry about things that are out of my control. I’m so worried about Jessie and dreading the coming school year. My anxiety around Jessie’s schooling is heightened by the news that she is actually only on a temporary enrolment with Sydney Distance Ed High School. In addition to the first three weeks work for this year, I also received a letter from them advising me that Jessie’s enrolment will be terminated if she doesn’t complete all work with effort. I’ve organised tutoring for Jessie which she is not happy about, so that’s going to be interesting. Selfishly, I just want these last three years of school over with.

Jessie’s schooling –  ANXIETY GENERATOR #1!! 

realisationI know it’s pointless worrying. Things are going to turn out the way they do whether I worry or not. But what if Jessie doesn’t complete Year 10? No Rosa which she needs if she wants to go to TAFE at any stage. She only had 13 weeks of Year 9. To me, this year is vital. My heart sinks to think she’ll throw away this year of schooling. My concern for Jessie’s future is overwhelming sometimes. Battling to keep my mind in the day, planning for the future is on hold.

My trek to becoming the person I want to be means hard work.

I have to be aware of my behaviours, be honest about my motives, and admit my shortcomings. There are so many! Some days I just want a break to be content with who I am. I do like who I am, but it can be very difficult being me! My goal is to find it easy to be me – to have a peaceful mind.

realisation

 

 

 

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