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

 

 

composed

Eventually The Composed Face Falters

Disclosure: Course language  

composureRemaining composed as a parent is like my Nirvana of parenting. It’s what we hear and preach – stay calm, don’t shout, listen, don’t argue, be strong, be patient, be kind. I’m exhausted just writing that!! I know I’m stressed and I’m forever tired, even when I’m not sleepy. So this perfect parenting thing isn’t going so well. Actually it’s going even worse than I’d thought.

Jessie had her appointment with her counsellor earlier in the week that had me unhappy before we even went in. I copped an attitude that’s not unfamiliar, but after a lot of seemingly little things put together, it got to me. Things only went downhill from there. The session launched with a vitriolic tirade about how I had forced Jessie to take her job back despite her having another job interview and despite her hating her current job. We’d had a conversation about her resigning months ago and weighed up the pros and cons. Then it was her choice. This was completely unexpected as she’d been complaining about not having enough shifts this week. And she was hating on me, no holes barred! Way too much, and I got up and walked out. The tears started flowing and didn’t stop for the next hour.

It’s the first time I’ve ever done that, in all these years of some pretty heavy times. Composed? Ha, fuck no! And even though I HATE crying in public I’m hopeless at holding back the tears. I didn’t want them interfering with Jessie’s time, and she should be able to have a place where she can unload about me. I just don’t feel I need to be there. However her counsellor says she can only go so far with Jessie without me there, which I find confusing. I know of other kids whose parents aren’t allowed in, let alone be privy to all that’s discussed.composed

The appointments are for Jessie to help her with her challenges. I’ve always gone in because of Jessie’s age, then more recently to bring up things she forgets to. Her counsellor said she had to stop Jessie talking because the time had run out which was a first. Jessie’s usually keen to get going! We both found that pleasingly amusing. So I actually think it might be good for Jessie to have her own space to talk. She’s told me that there are things she needs to talk about but doesn’t want to worry me. That kinda sux but if she’s happy to discuss stuff with her counsellor, that’s a positive.

So what now?

I have an appointment in the morning to discuss Jessie’s session and to make another appointment with her psychiatrist. No doubt we’ll also discuss my abrupt departure – brought on by not one thing in particular, but lots of little things tied together as I’ve said before. All these little things say mountains about me if you know what to listen for. But once it’s got to this point, it’s like opening up a can of worms. The worms all start piling out and you can’t deal with them all at once like this so you push them all back in and put the lid back composedon. You keep your hand pressed on the lid for a few seconds to make sure that fucker’s on tightly.

The next time, you suit up, ready for battle. You bravely open up that lid again, just enough to peek in and let one worm out. But voomp, there they all are – squished together in an unsightly mass trying to get out through that tiny space. Nup. Lid’s back on. Fuck it!! FUCK!!!!

All this makes life difficult because it’s little things now that are making me annoyed. Angry!! Which then makes me really upset and I bag myself for losing control and letting myself get angry. Swinging… Sounds fun. But it’s really not! I feel quite suffocated and the effort it’s taking to not shutdown into myself is not sustainable. The worst thing is having so much knowledge and knowing the tools to use, because it makes me acutely aware of when I’m fucking up. And when my tank is so low, fucking up is the best I can do. Thankfully I’m assured my level of ‘fuckinguptivity’ doesn’t rank too highly in eyes other than mine, but that’s for my next blog.

 

composed

 
 

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

extreme

An Exasperatingly Extreme Exhausting Existence

teenagersI’m exhausted.  The cause – me and my extreme existence.  I should stop there because that sounds as if my life is full of adventure and excitement!  It has moments of both, but it feels more extreme in it’s stresses.  I’m hoping by writing what’s in my head, I’ll become untangled from it.

There is so much going on that I feel trapped with.  The feeling throughout my body is ‘I hate my life’.  I hate my life.  But that’s a secret.  One I wish had been kept from me too.  But no, everything’s got to be laid out on the table and psycho-fucking-analysed.  Not much is allowed slip by.  No-one is perfect but how many live under such extreme self scrutiny?  Surely it’s not meant to be so intense?

 crazy eyes GIF

It’s the very basic things that I’m fed up with.  Combined with all the little things playing ‘pile on’, I get to feeling like I might explode into a billion pieces.  And I see little peace from life in the near future.

I love Jessie, my family, and all the people in my life, and I enjoy my volunteering and study.  These things give me temporary relief, but as I said, it’s the basic things I’m hating.  Like where I live and the attitude from our community housing provider I have to live with.  I have to suck it up that we live in a place that is not maintained, or cleaned properly.  I reported the extreme stench of our bins, and the fact that the garbage rooms are never cleaned.  The place is only mopped about once a month, leaving the floors smelling worse then the bins.  But I’m told it’s all of an ‘acceptable’ standard.  I wish I could get paid enough to buy a brand new BMW by doing an ‘acceptable’ job.  Or work in the office of Link Housing – they don’t even reach that standard!!

I can never get hold of our housing manager, and she has returned my calls on extremeone occassion only.  Emails I’ve been sending in about a car parked in our driveway adding to the safety hazard – ignored for the last two months.  The last time I was on holidays up north, I’d rung after a leak in the roof had damaged my wall making the paint bubble and peel and the carpet discolour. My request to have it repaired had gone ignored and I was chasing it up.  How dare I!  I was asked by the staff member in a holier than thou tone, “Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have electricty? Do you have water?”!  I made a formal complaint about her.  Didn’t ever hear back.

We have dead gardens and the grassy areas are nothing but weeds.  I told them the gardeners rarely come, and all they do is mow when they do come.  But I’m told we have the same gardeners as another block where the gardens are beautiful, and that they come every two weeks to tend our gardens.  I was the second tenant to move in here, but hey, what do I know?!  I only live here!  We are the newest block in the street, and the most dishevelled after only six years. It’s embarrassing.  But the attitude is that we’re all shitkickers, not entitled to anything better than acceptable, or entitled to a voice – the very thing I can’t stand!!

What amazes and angers me is that it’s so often those claiming to be caring and advocating for those in need, that treat those they advocate for with such disdain and discrimination.  And because I do have a voice, I’ve earned myself a bad extremename at Link.  I could easily write a book with all the stories from living here over the years!  But in keeping with the integrity of Link Housing, when I asked the CEO who their governing body was, he told me the it was their ‘skills based Board’ and provided me the Chairpersons email.  My query as to how they can be governed by themselves has gone unanswered.  I would’ve thought that if a tenant asks, they’d be obliged to give a truthful answer.  I really can’t stand being treated like an idiot, but it comes with living in my world unfortunately.

The chief assets manager did call me yesterday and she’s coming out to meet with me on Thursday with the assets manager and the CEO.  She tells me that it is their responsibility to keep on top of everything here, and they plan to improve their processes, but I’ve heard the second part of that sentence before. We’ll see…

I’m also struggling with accepting events of the past.  The position Jessie’s in is a extremeconsequence of my choice in men. I know all the positive thinking tools. And I know I need to be compassionate and forgiving towards myself to be able to move forward.  However I feel like I’ve gone full circle, and am back at the point of knowing my choices are the reason Jessie has so many problems.  In reality, how can anyone really forgive themselves for their child being sexually assaulted by an ex?  If I was healthier in my mind, she wouldn’t have been assaulted because I wouldn’t have chosen him.

Seeing Jessie so happy after her social get togethers last week, did create a spark in my heart and did give me some relief.  Unfortunately the day to day picture quickly put that spark out.  Our normal is so far off most people’s and I’m finding myself wishing for a different existence.  I feel like I’ve lived in some kind of dysfunction for most of my life.  Things were supposed to settle as I got older, but that hasn’t been the case.

Jessie’s a very intelligent girl, but today she dropped her electives, so is only doing core subjects in middle school.  This leaves her ineligible to go on to Yrs 11 & 12, although she plans on going to TAFE next year.  I’m really worried she’ll struggle with a full workload, as she’s not used to it.  My fear is if she doesn’t want to put the effort in she’ll give it up, and then we’re in trouble.  I know there’s no point worrying about the future, but it’s much easier said than done.

I’ve brought a child into the world who is constantly telling and showing me how much she hates herself.  She doesn’t have much care about her cleanliness or appearance.  Her room is disgusting. She’s blamed me, having shouted at me that I shouldn’t have fucked her father.  What do you say to that?!

As her mum I’ve failed to keep her safe and I know I’ll only be able to forgive myself if she has a contented life.

Then there are the ‘pile ons’

I’m owed over $27 000 in child support arrears, and this financial year owed a paltry $8 per week to contribute to Jessie’s upbringing.  It’s insulting. I’d rather not get anything.

extremeI want out of city living, but I know I’ll never be able to afford to move to the country.  That has to remain just a dream.  I want out of Link Housing, but I can’t afford full rents.

People are not my favourite species.  I’m sick of most people.  So many are arrogant, self centred, unkind, cruel and rude.

It’s been two and a half months since I quit smoking but I’m still having the vivid, extreme dreams.  I wake up feeling like I’m ready for bed.

I could go on but it’s all just whingeing.  So many things are aggravating me that I’m deep breathing so much I’m making myself dizzy.  I fear my head’s likely to explode.  Or I could quite possibly go mad…that sounds more fun.

extreme

 

self worth

Being True to Your Self Worth

self worthAfter 46 years I am so glad to finally be aware of my self worth. I seem to be magnet for the takers, manipulators, and users in this world. I’d always blamed myself. I believed that others opinions or treatment of me determined my value. Now I determine my own self worth.

I’m aware of my faults and my shortcomings. There are still aspects of me I’ll continue to improve on. However this no longer diminishes me as a worthy or worthwhile person. If anything, being self aware and able to own my faults with the willingness to change those which I believe will make me a better person, are qualities I respect and admire in others. And so I appreciate them in myself as well.

self worthAlthough acceptance by others is nice, I no longer require it. Having others turn nasty when they can no longer take advantage of me is something I still struggle with though. It’s a personality type, as I’ve mentioned before, that I attract. Thankfully I now understand that they can only use or hurt me if I give them the opportunity. I am becoming quite adept at recognising the red flags, but I still need to work on my timeframe for getting away. To prevent the anger caused by the actions of such self serving humans, the first red flag needs to be my exit point at this stage.

To be able to simply cut off from these situations is my goal. Whether my personality type is capable of that in all cases, only time will tell I guess. I’m not a wallflower by any means, so maybe it will be a case of finding that balance between speaking up and moving on. People’s arrogance and expectation that I value them more than myself, astounds and angers me.

My self worth came slapping me ’round the head recently. I stopped volunteering for a passive aggressive woman who seemed to think her little venture should now be my top priority. Moderating a brand new group and accepting any new members 5 days a week, and make some edits, was what I agreed to do. Easy. But every day, messages or group chats with her other volunteer, which took way more time out of every day. A drama was made out of everything, it was pointless and draining! I was meant to have undisturbed days away at Mollymook, but had a long message my first morning there. That was the last straw for me.

self worthUnfortunately she had no respect for anything else her volunteers had going on in their lives. Before I went away she wanted me to call her. I said I would if I had time but I was quite busy. That was unacceptable so she got her other volunteer to ask could I contact her instead. When I first started she got me to do the same when someone who hadn’t even begun volunteering with her yet, wasn’t responding to her messages. I’m happy to help those who are helping themselves. I find it arrogant and egotistical to want things and then expect others to volunteer their time do the all the work because you refuse to learn the things you don’t know, or claim not to ‘have time’. But people like this are unable to look at themselves, and always place blame elsewhere!

I used to believe I was cursed, and these people were put in my life as punishment. This surely had to mean I wasn’t a worthy person. Now I’m kinda looking forward to the next one to try out the lesson I just learned. And that is to trust in that first alarm bell and act on it.

Each of us has our own story to tell. They’re all different, even the same ones. People’s perceptions vary. So when deciding on our own self worth, our perception is the only one that truly matters.

self worth

communication

Communication Holds The Power For Peace

communicationWe use communication on a daily basis to interact with others and it comes in many forms. We couldn’t survive without it, but few of us really know how to use it effectively. Fewer of us are probably even aware of that fact. Communication is a learned skill.  Therefore until we become aware of the way we use our words and our motives for choosing those words, we go with what we know. Quite often we’re left wondering why the conversation didn’t go so well!

Emotions in general, ego and fear play a big role in our communication delivery. Being human, the influence of these three factors is difficult to overcome. This is especially true when we are hurt, angry or upset. Our faulty thinking becomes detrimental to ourselves and our conversations.

communicationHow many times have you said you’re ‘fine’, when you’re actually not? Someone told me long ago that ‘fine’ actually means ‘fucked up, insecure, neurotic and emotional’. Now think back again to the times you said you were fine. Does that meaning make you smile because that’s a bit of how you really felt? …why yes it does! And did that ever fulfill your need/s? …why no! And thank you for asking. Not surprisingly as none of us are mind readers. Being silent about our needs and verbal about our dissatisfaction can only cause discord in our relationships.

The definition of insanity is to repeatedly do the same thing expecting a different result. We’re all mad then – or at least have bouts of insanity along the way, until we change our unproductive ways of communicating.

We get better results if we can converse calmly and clearly, without blame, and while owning our own role. This holds true no matter who we are talking with. If we can teach our kids these skills they’ll have a head start in this big world from the get go.

I’ve learnt some invaluable skills over the last few years which I use with Jessie. They have helped reduce friction and misunderstanding, and have allowed for us both to be heard, which is what we are all wanting. I want to expand that and have those skills as part of my default method of interaction. Raw emotion and fear need to take a back seat to emotional intelligence for me to achieve this. Gulp.

As with learning any new skill, it takes practice and effort. I have a template on my computer that I use with Jessie. It’s helping me express myself positively, and hopefully teaching Jessie the same. The prompts are;

I feel/felt… e.g. embarrassed
when… e.g. you yelled and swore at me
because… e.g. my friend felt uncomfortable and left
and I would like… e.g. for you to have said ‘mum, I need you for a moment.’

It can be re-written until you are satisfied the wording is calm, non- confrontational, and clear.

communicationAnother one to remember, particularly useful when talking with our kids, is to use the word ‘and’, instead of ‘but’. For example, ‘I hear that you’re upset and you still need to get your jobs done.’ If ‘and’ is replaced with ‘but’, any recognition given is instantly taken back. Tying in, a saying I heard recently was “anything after but is bullshit.” Such a simple thing can be the difference between lighting the fuse or diffusing a potential bomb.

Listening without agenda is a learned skill as well. Also a vital part of peaceful communication. Repeating back what you have heard allows for clarification of any misunderstandings. Most importantly it shows you want to understand and you respect the other’s point of view, even if you don’t agree.

My goal is to achieve proficiency in these skills. It starts with thinking before I speak and listening with a quiet mind.

10% of conflict is due to difference of opinion and 90% is due to delivery and tone of voice.

 

volatile

Our Volatile Years After Bipolar Diagnosis

volatileAs I read and learn more and more about bipolar disorder, I realise that Jessie has been textbook. The volatile behaviour in children with bipolar is extreme and common. Physical violence and verbal abuse is not short lived as it is with ADHD. Whereas rages in ADHD children usually last 30-40 minutes, they can last for hours with bipolar kids.

Jessie was typical in that she experienced the rage and aggression, and rarely the euphoria or elation. Discipline was fought, and she couldn’t deal with disappointment at all. She would fly into violent rages, smashing my things. Foul language and screaming abuse at the top of her lungs became Jessie’s way of communicating. I used to wonder if she’d just become a spoilt brat. Her behaviour was so out of character, and so extreme. In fact, she was actually behaving as kids with bipolar do. And understandably so – kids don’t have the understanding or maturity to cope with emotions bigger than themselves.

volatile

I was parenting the way I always had, but Jessie stood up to all discipline and raged at any disappointment. Life was incredibly tumultuous in our house, and at that time I felt like I was between a rock and a hard place. Any parts of me left exposed were being squished between other rocks and hard places!

The abuse and destruction were what I found the hardest to cope with. I don’t stay in abusive relationships. But, you can’t leave your child. And she was no more than a child – she was just triggering things in me. Therefore I was hearing her as if I was listening to an adult. I had no control though and there’s nowhere to escape to to get away. Jessie would relentlessly follow me around the house, wherever I went – literally! She’d be in a rage, calling me every name under the sun, throwing things, smashing things and damaging my things. She was a baby the last time she saw her father, but I couldn’t get over their behavioural similarities and ways of thinking.

volatileBeing on a first name basis with many of our local police was just how it was for a couple of years. Jessie’s experiences were undoubtedly traumatic for a 10-11 year old. Calling 000 became a necessary safety measure for us both. It came to the point where I’d ask for an ambulance and the police would turn up. Every time. I only just realised why as I’m writing this – maybe only the police can section someone under the Mental Health Act, not paramedics? Police drove Jessie to hospital a couple of times, but due to self harm or talk of suicide, she usually travelled by ambulance. This could happen up to 3 times a week.

On two of those occasions she went against her will – carried out by police with wrists and ankles cuffed with the plastic tie-like cuffs they sometimes use. I’ll never forget it. At 11 she was carried out this way after being put down on the lounge with a knee pinning her head down until she settled enough to cuff her. Jessie was spitting at the officer, trying to bite her, fighting to free herself and swearing at and abusing the officer. The officer tried to get Jessie to settle, but she was out of control. She had got to that point where the brain flips and reason can no longer be seen. It was so distressing, I was in tears. And by the end so was Jessie. volatile

Police applied for an AVO for me against Jessie when she was just 11.  She’d chased me with a big knife, but fortunately my bedroom door came between us! It still has 8-10 stab marks in it. Police would arrive to what looked like the aftermath of a cyclone! Jessie had destroyed so many of my things, and the unit was being damaged. With the strength that comes with such rage, Jessie was a danger to herself and to me.  We’d had the Sergeant come a few times to say something had to change. Well no shit sherlock, but an AVO wasn’t the answer! Thankfully the court agreed. Jessie needed help. Psychiatric care was what she needed, but her aggression and volatility, along with her young age,  made her ineligible for any of the many programs we applied to.

It was such a horrible time. And there was no respite. Our caseworker, Stella, from The Benevolent Society was truly our saving grace. There were times when I said to her that I couldn’t do this anymore. I’d had enough, Jessie needed to go into care where she could have good parents. For so long I seemed to get more wrong than I did right with Jessie. Consequently my confidence in parenting plummeted. I didn’t know this young person. How to deal with her was something that actually felt impossible at times.

volatile
Jessie decided my wardrobe’s face needed rearranging…

Stella would remain calm and talk to me. Not once did she accept my parenting resignation, neither did she ever actually refuse my request for a better home for Jessie. She didn’t need to. She listened, she heard me and acknowledged where I was at and why. During  our conversation she would teach me about Jessie’s behaviour, and remind me that I’m a good mum. By the end she would ask me if I still wanted her to make some calls. Of course not! I always felt empowered and determined after these visits where my frame of mind was so defeatist at the start.

I completed the Circle of Security parenting course with Stella. Doing one on one I was able to do that one in a lot of depth,  relating it to specific situations I encountered. It’s a BRILLIANT course that every expectant parent would benefit from. It gives parents the opportunity to learn what babies need emotionally to grow into confident, resilient, well balanced people. The principles apply to children of all ages though, and I found it invaluable. It is all about positive, calm engagement, and recognising, understanding and attending to children’s emotional needs and behaviours. This is the parents’ manual we all wish we had!! It should be way more widely promoted!

Another brilliant course is the Triple P Positive Parenting course for parents of teens. The principles are very similar as Circle of Security, but you learn about the teenage brain and what changes it is going through. Positive communication skills are also taught along with practical example responses. There is a Triple P parenting course for parents with kids aged 3-8 as well, for anyone who is interested.

It’s been 3 years since I’ve needed to call 000 and home life is very different now. We have other challenges we are currently faced with, but the highly volatile days are in the past. These days Jessie apologises to me if she speaks to me in an angry tone, or storms off slamming her bedroom door. She’ll then talk to me about what upset her and why. Our bond is strong and has proven to be enduring which I really love.

volatile

Remain calm.

Listen to hear.

Respond to acknowledge.

 

 

psychosis

Psychosis and What It Looks Like for Jessie

psychosis

Finally Jessie agreed she needed to see her mental health care team, and we had our appointment this morning. Her psychosis has been getting worse over the last 6 months, with the last 8 weeks being the worst. She’s had a couple of quite frightening experiences. Hence my relief Jessie attended the appointment.

I was so proud of her. She talked openly and honestly for the best part of 45 minutes before clamming up and wanting to leave. They’re not experiences she likes talking about twice. For them to stop is what she’d like. Jessie’s psychiatrist is concerned – I had a phone call an hour later asking us to come back in. An appointment has been made for just after we return from  our annual pilgrimage up north.

psychosisJessie has aural and visual hallucinations, or the feeling of being in a distorted reality. She hears people talking around her, although they’re not actually talking to her. The voices don’t tell her to hurt herself or do bad things, which is apparently a differentiating factor from schizophrenia. Tapping, high pitched beeping or buzzing, and scratching noises are other things she hears. She often asks me if I can hear the sounds too, but there are no sounds.

Figures moving quickly in her peripheral vision, faces appearing in front of her, a woman dressed in early 20th century outfits walking into my room, and a little boy are all apparitions she see’s. Nightmares had been haunting her, and lingering until the afternoon. Jessie has salt next to her bed, and I was given a small bag of white sage last week. I put some in her pillowcase and she hasn’t had a nightmare since. Either it works in warding off bad spirits, or it’s psychosomatic, deep in that curious and amazing brain of hers.

Less recently were  delusions of magical abilities, although they may have gone underground! Her fire controlling ability wasn’t working the day she and a friend decided to try and control burning wax and tissues in a baking tray in her room. My initial reaction was, naturally “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING??!!!”! It just came yelling out of my mouth – hence the word ‘reaction’! It’s pretty hard to backtrack from that, but with Jessie now freaking out, holding this tray with liquid wax ablaze and unstable in her trembling hands, I had to  goddamn try!! First thing – DEEP breath. Second thing – solution. Suffice to say it ended safely with the only victim being my baking tray. Easily replaceable!

Jessie has called me into her room on a couple of occasions. She has been lying psychosisthere motionless, frightened, and feeling strange. My voice was too loud, she needed quiet. She couldn’t handle being touched, she just needed me to be with her until it passed. Afterwards she has no clear memory of it. Being epileptic myself, those symptoms are very familiar, so we need to find out what’s going on.

A visit to our lovely GP is the next step. Jessie’s psychiatrist has already spoken with him and faxed a 2 page letter bringing him up to speed. She needs a full medical to rule out environmental factors, which includes a blood test. A few negative experiences having bloods done has lead to her fearing and so refusing them. Now’s the time she needs to be proactive and push through her anxiety. I’ve bought Emla patches which will anaesthetise the area, and I’ll get her to listen to her music. We’ll see if that helps.

We need to get referrals to have an EEG and and MRI done to look at brain activity. I don’t think any of us believe she has epilepsy, but best to cover all bases.

Another possibility is that she can see and hear the spirits around us. Not that I can say that to medical and psychological professions! Whatever the reason, she’s too young to deal with this yet. She needs to be a teenager.

So what for now, dealing with psychosis?

Jessie will be put back on an antipsychotic medication in January With any luck that will minimise or stop her symptoms either way. She just wants it all to stop, so hopefully she’ll continue to do what she needs to do to help herself, as we all want to help her. Until our appointment next month, we keep dealing with it like we have been. Jessie’s a trooper!

psychosis

 

 

think

Do You Know What Your Kids Really Think of You?

I do. My daughter and I are very close (most of the time) and she loves sharing her thoughts with me. She is also very honest and can’t be bothered with false niceties. It can be very enlightening listening to her thoughts. Communication is the only way we know how and what our kids think. I love having those lines open with Jessie.

Jessie is either silent or she talks without drawing breath. She can literally talk under water. Literally! This morning she felt like talking to me while I was in the shower. Something she hasn’t done in a very long time. She was telling me about her favourite shows, and then got into how much her tastes have changed as she’s gotten older.

She’s used to like The Vampire Diaries, but thinks it’s so lame now. She said she cringes to think that she once loved it. Then she said “it’s like when old people think they’re cool but they’re not.” There was silence. I wiped the steam off the shower screen and I looked at her. She looked at me. We started laughing and I asked her if she was talking about me. Silence again!! Hilarious! Then – “yeah Mum. Sorry, but you’re not cool.” I tried to convince her that I am actually very cool, but apparently my generation can’t be cool. She just doesn’t understand the real meaning of what it is to be ‘cool’!

ThinkI used to be a punk for christ sake, with my spiked hair and my hardcore skeleton buckle boots! I’m cool goddamn it!! The eyes nearly rolled out of her head. Imagine how embarrassed she would be if I still looked like that. It’s so funny that I’m just seen as Mum, not as a whole person who’s had a life before motherhood.

So on she goes with her conversation. I’m hearing all about her shows and who she ‘ships’ and why – something I wouldn’t understand she tells me. I started laughing again and said “oh my god, so I’m uncool and stupid?” Thankfully I was corrected – no not stupid…just cringy. Cringy!! I’m not to take it personally though, because most of my generation is cringy, with the mum jokes and the dad jokes and the general embarrassment we can’t help bestowing on our kids. So phew, that’s a relief. She was kind enough to acknowledge that her kids will no doubt be embarrassed of her at some time too. She’s very thoughtful like that!

I’m out of the shower by now, getting dressed in my room and she was looking at a photo of a pregnant me that I have on the wall. She says to me “you were so pretty when you were younger Mum. Not boasting but I think I’ll be pretty when I’m older. I’m just worried about when I’m 50 and ugly.” I’m 46… Getting close to the end of that timeline and that ugly stick’s going to be coming after me! I guess 60 = fugly? 70 = fuglyas? 80 = fuuugly? 90 = hopefully in my grave.

thinksThis afternoon I had my first impromptu lesson in Why Mum’s NOT Cool. Jessie asked me why I did something, I can’t remember what, and I said “coz that’s just how I roll.” She immediately said, in a flat tone, “And there it is – cringy”, before disappearing into the smelly depths of her cave. Snap.

Luckily I know she loves me more than everything else she loves put together. She makes me laugh hard. Today was a good day.

Evolution

Evolution of the Carer

I’m interested in the evolution of the carer. I was curious to know the definition of the term, I guess to compare it to my own reality as a carer. I wondered if the definition has changed at all over the years, so began my research with my 1964 Concise Oxford Dictionary (‘of Current English’ it says on the first page – amusing to me in 2016.) Interesting – no such term. Of course, it has the word ‘care’ – “feel concern or interest for or about; provide food, attendance, etc, for children, invalids, etc).” Care/taker was there, but that is defined as “a person hired to take charge’ esp. of house in owner’s absence”.

My second resource was Google. Definition of carer: “a family member or paid worker who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person.” This seems a bit muddy- I assume the family member looking after a child is not one of the parents…otherwise all parents would be carers. However we are not – there is a difference between the two.

Next I find the Carer Recognition Act 2010 Guidelines on the DSS website. Under this Act, I find carers defined as “…people who provide personal care, support and assistance to another individual in need of support due to disability, medical condition, including terminal or chronic illness, mental illness or is frail and aged.” I relate to this definition as it specifies mental illness, and I am carer in this field.

So when did the term ‘carer’ evolve? It’s something I’ve never considered before. But being a carer was something I hadn’t ever envisaged for myself either.

My story ‘officially’ began in 2013. I had an 11 year old daughter, Jessie, with a diagnosis of Acute Mood Dysregulation Disorder (pre-cursor to Bipolar), PTSD – chronic and complex, and acute anxiety, who refused to go to school. She suffered trauma in 2010, which triggered her anxiety and apparently her latent mental health disorders. She had become volatile. Violent. Angry. Aggressive. Abusive. I was yelling and shouting, trying to assert my authority and gain control. It wasn’t working, to say the least!

I was working part time as a P.A. to a financial advisor, also a very understanding boss. I worked alone in the office two out my three days. That meant, depending on Jessie’s mood, I could take her to work with me. Unfortunately those days were not often, and as it approached tax time and the busy period, I resigned. It was horrible being so unreliable, and so a huge stress lifted when that worry was eliminated. There was enough to worry about at home. I do have a lovely picture she drew me one day, of me sitting at my desk working. I learnt to hang on to those little treasures, when most of the time I was faced with hate and abuse.

She was like a little raging bull that grew into size in her episodes – just like her father. Unlike an abusive partner though, you can’t leave your abusive child. I remember thinking that a lot back then. Luckily the love for my child is stronger than any love I’ve ever experienced in my life travels!

We became very well known by our local Police. Each time I called the ambulance when my daughter was in a full blown episode, we’d have at least two Police vehicles arrive first. This was occurring at least 3 times a week, resulting in my girl being taken by ambulance and sectioned by Police each time. We would sit for hours at the hospital waiting for her to be assessed by a member of the mental health care team, then they would send her back home until the next visit. This went on for around 3 years, but I could not get her admitted anywhere. It was an absolute farce.

On 2 occasions I refused to take her home – she needed help, I needed some respite. I was exhausted. Worried to the core about my baby, scared of her, so sick of cleaning up a smashed up house, wishing I could fix it all and make her happy and confident again. It was such a roller coaster and I felt like I was failing dismally as a mother. I know nothing can give back what Jessie’s abuser took from her. And it was too late to be considering the suitability of her father for fatherhood. These things were already part of my daughter’s life tapestry – sadly hindsight cannot change the past.

As life is, change is certain. With the help of fantastic psychiatrists, counsellors, and in particular one brilliant caseworker, we haven’t had Police here since January 2014. I’ve learned about my daughter’s issues and how to deal with her differently. Jessie’s  learned ways of coping with her big emotions, both the ups and the downs, so her aggression is no longer a concern. I’m happy to say she is down to only one tablet a day. Unfortunately though she has refused school had this year home from school. It has been a huge backward step, but comparatively she’s progressed hugely.

evolutionI’ve found being a carer for a child with mental health issues to very isolating, which I’ve come to understand. We cannot imagine what others go through unless we have had similar experiences. Our homosapien primal instincts of self preservation still show as judgement and fear unfortunately.

 

 

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