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

 


 
 

mondayitis

Every Day’s Been Giving Me Mondayitis…

mondayitisMondayitis – this is really knocking me around lately. Nearly every day’s feeling like a Monday; with that strong urge to call in to life sick. I’m sliding through the days with the same amount of effort and enthusiasm as the cat on those stairs.

Time is passing in strange increments. It’s been four days since I was in the city, although it feels like a couple of weeks ago. Thirty minutes can drag on for what seems like hours. Hours can pass in mondayitisminutes. I’ve had splitting headaches and my body feels like it does after a seizure, although I’m having 4-5 aura’s a day. My muscles feel fatigued as if I’ve done a tough workout. My brain is hazy and I cannot trust that what I see is what is there. What is a dream and what is reality is not entirely clear. And no – I am not taking drugs!

Last week was spent managing nerves and anxiety before a TV interview Thursday morning. I had a couple of panicked moments over the preceding days, but was able to get it under control before it all went pear shaped. (No offence to pears. I love pears.) The first pounding headache came Thursday night. My mood took a nosedive and all I wanted was bed. The next morning I woke with that mondayitis feeling, along with an aching head that has stubbornly persisted.

mondayitisMy mind was fighting old thought patterns again. I question everything and get down on myself for whatever is happening to me. My neck and back were so sore, and I’m sure the cause of my headaches. I went to the gym on Tuesday thinking I could work it out. It wasn’t to be, although I did feel the shift of energy and faintly felt my strength scrambling to free itself from under that heavy, dark blanket. Happy hormones 🙂

By yesterday afternoon I could’ve chopped my own head off, so went and had a remedial massage. I’d say 45 out of the 55 minutes were pure agony, dished out by a tiny, softly spoken asian woman. I came home and crashed on the lounge. The soup I’d started cooking earlier would have to wait.

Today my muscles are sore from the massage but the headache is finally gone. The pain is so worth the reward. I’ve only had one aura today. I feel human again! So I know that I haven’t been well. I’m not really sure what happened, but it’s an awesome feeling having the fog clearing.

mondayitis

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

hikikomori

Hikikomori – Could Jessie Be Part of This Anti-social Society?

Can you imagine a life confined to your bedroom?

hikikiomoriHikikomori is the term for what was traditionally considered a Japanese phenomenon of social isolation. I’ve done a lot of reading about it after Jessie’s psychiatrist put it forward as a possible explanation for Jessie’s withdrawal from life. Hikikomori describes the occurrence itself as well as those who isolate themselves.

The term Hikikomori was first created by Japanese psychologist, Tamaki Saito*. He is considered around the world as the leading Hikikomori expert. 20 odd years ago he defined hikikomori as “a state that has become a problem by the late twenties, that involves cooping oneself up in one’s own home and not participating in society for six months or longer, but that does not seem to have another psychological problem as its principal source.” *(previous link)

20% of Japan’s males are believed to be hikikomori. Interestingly though, with Japan having a very high suicide rate amongst young men, the suicide rate in hikikomori is low. Maybe allowing them to live within their own boundaries, no matter how strange they may seem, takes the unbearable pressures away. Usually coming from middle class families, parents can afford to support their children through these times. Some people are stuck in it for decades and reaching their 30’s. This group call themselves NEET – Not in Education, Employment or Training. Oddly this term comes from England, so it seems to be borrowed terminology. Or is it simply that it has been seen in other countries with the same or similar variables?

I remember reading that distance education programs were setup in Japan in an attempt to accommodate those NEET. We are so lucky in Australia to have such a fantastic distance education scheme. Support is given to all it’s students.

In more recent times, researchers have come up with six affects required to diagnose hikikomori.

These are:

  • spending most of nearly every day confined to home,
  • noticeable and ongoing avoidance of social situations,
  • symptoms interfere significantly with the normal routine, work or school, or social activities and relationships,
  • perceiving the withdrawal as egosyntonic,
  • duration of six months or more,
  • no other mental disorder that accounts for the social isolation and avoidance.

The causes are not well known, but what seems to me contradictory to the last identifying factor of hikikomori, is that it is hypothesised to be on the autism and Asperger’s spectrum. Similarities have also been drawn to PTSD, avoidance personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder or social anxiety disorder.

Other hypothesised causes are social stresses, bullying and parental pressure for scholastic or financial success. In Japan these expectations are placed heavily on the shoulders of the first born son or the only child.

hikikomori

I’ve been unable to locate reliable statistics for recorded numbers of hikikomori in Australia. However I did come across this recent article by Bren Carruthers, member of the UMSU. He talks to an Australian reformed hikikomori and provides thought provoking content, well worth a read. I’d also be curious to hear about a longer term recluse and find out what helped them reform.

Jessie has been confined to her room for nearly 12 months, apart from our trips up north. Occasionally I can get her to come shopping with me, although she is usually in her room. She won’t come to her grandparent’s or uncle’s to visit, and hasn’t done all year.  Her love for them hasn’t changed, Jessie just doesn’t want to be too far from the darkness of her room. Even the things she used to love, like the pool and the beach, cannot entice her out.

She really has isolated from most everything that requires personal interaction. Jessie is lucky in that she has one friend with which she communicates daily. Most of all they are very close and very supportive of each other. They catch up for a sleepover here whenever they can. Jessie has her two subject lessons per day to complete.  However she also researches her bipolar and has an incredible awareness now of what’s going on with her. Some days she watches movies or her favourite TV series.  She also writes a lot, and has a good following on tumblr apparently. Her mind isn’t idle!

The signs are there for hikikomori. However Jessie’s pre-existing conditions could be linked to her societal isolation. Thankfully she hasn’t cut off from me and I hope she never will. We communicate openly which makes a strong bond. And if Nanna needs help with her website Jessie will come out to sit and help. Her self imposed isolation is quite extreme though, and sadly she doesn’t even want to celebrate Christmas this year. As a result it’s not going to feel the same without her.

These teenage years are difficult ones with many changes occurring in the brain. Consequently I can only hope for Jessie that as time goes on she will find enough peace to re-engage with society.

hikikomori

Each day is a new day, in which anything can happen!

 

education

The Clash Between Mental Health & Education

education

Education and Jessie’s mental health have not gone well together well for us. The education system isn’t setup for kids like mine. Teachers simply don’t have the training needed to help these kids successfully get through. It’s a very rigid and structured system that cannot accommodate kids who simply don’t fit into square holes.

I received my first letter from Dept of Education when Jessie was in Year 5. Threats of court and an $11 000 fine for not sending my child to school. It’s pretty intimidating, especially when the times I did drag Jessie to school, I was asked to take her home again. When she didn’t want to be there, nobody could settle her.

Finally in the second half of Year 6, the school was granted funding for resources for Jessie. I was told that they would be employing an aide 5 days per week for 3 hours daily. I was to stay with them until Jessie was happy to stay on her own. As it turned out they employed a lovely lady, but she could only do 3 days as she worked in other positions within the school. She then moved overseas, so Jessie hung around with another teacher’s aide when she wasn’t busy. That fizzled out pretty quickly and I was asked to keep her home. I have no school photos or school reports for Year 6, and sadly Jessie missed the graduation celebrations.

educationShe transitioned really well into Year 7 to everyone’s surprise. She had a few issues but a plan was put in place for her, which worked really well once the teachers understood. Jessie can’t stand a big fuss when she’s not coping so I suggested that when she puts her head on the desk, that she be left alone, and the teacher just continue on with the class. This worked perfectly, and her teachers reported she was able to regulate and get back involved with the class quite quickly.

Her peers were her greatest problem. She used to get bullied because of her emotional outbursts. She’d tell the girls her diagnosis I think in an attempt to ask for mercy, but naturally it only gave the girls more ammunition. She still can’t understand that that’s just the way it works with bullies.

Year 8 started well. Jessie didn’t miss a day all first term. Then it all started going downhill. She had some clashes with a couple of her teachers and the usual problems with friends. At the parent teacher night I realised that none of her teachers were aware of Jessie’s issues, or the de-escalation plan for her. She had been getting into trouble for putting her head on the desk. When I raised this with Jessie’s year advisor, I was told that I was incorrect and that all of her teachers had been informed. Strange that they would all forget such a big thing about one of their students. That was one of many important discrepancies I battled to remedy with the school last year. Very different to Year 7.education

 

Jessie started refusing to get up on time, so was late nearly every day. Homework was not being completed and she was doing the bare minimum in class. Seemingly she has no interest in her education. She was given after school detention for kicking over a garbage bin and refusing to pick up the rubbish, and seemed to get herself lunchtime detentions regularly for back chatting teachers, challenging their instruction and authority.

At the end of October of that year, after contacting her father she decided she wanted to meet him for the first time. That meeting didn’t make her feel the way she hoped it would, and she had her first two full weeks off school after he left. The rest of the year didn’t see regular school attendance, and that was when I first discussed distance education with Jessie’s psychiatrist and counsellor. education

We are currently (July) waiting to hear the outcome of an application for distance education for Jessie who is now in Year 9. It’s where we’ve ended up after nearly 6 years of very rocky schooling. It’s been very challenging, incredibly frustrating, and it’s not over yet.

I was waiting for the outcome of the hearing in week 8 of second term. By the Friday of that week I rang the school counsellor to see if they had heard anything. Jessie was ready, I’d put a lot of work in sweetening this up so she would take the opportunity. The counsellor had no idea what I was talking about. He couldn’t see anything on Jessie’s file, and he told me he’d have to have a look into it. I felt sick in the stomach, my eyes were stinging. I was so angry and upset we’d been let down yet again by the school. Jessie’s education didn’t seem something her school was particularly concerned with!

I rang Jessie’s counsellor from CYMHS when I’d calmed down. She was as unimpressed as I was, and was going to call the school. No more than 30 minutes later I had the deputy principal from school call me, asking me to come down straight away and sign the application. (I’ve learned to use my resources when needed!)

It was the last day of second term. No apology. I was just told that the counsellor who had initiated the application had left and it was still sitting in the system. The school had two counsellors. Bryan works three days , Colleen (who left), worked two days each week. I’ve dealt with both counsellors since Jessie started, and Bryan I’d met a couple of times previously in regards to Jessie’s transition into high school after having missed basically all of Year 6. Why there was no communication between them I have no idea. Jessie was meant to be on their radar.

Despite our previous dealings with Dept of Education and the local home school liaison officer, and Jessie only attending the first two Monday’s of the year (sports days), somehow we are going into week 4 of term 3 with no outcome. I  was assured that the forms would be sent in as a priority application and we would not have to wait until the usual 4 week hearing dates.

The application has now been received. The deputy principal rang me a couple of weeks ago asking me to provide a letter from my doctor stating whether or not educationhe thought I was capable of overseeing Jessie’s work. A letter had been provided by Jenni, Jessie’s counsellor, but I was told that they required more. It seemed strange as our doctor sees us for physical medical reasons,  not mental health reasons. He’s aware of Jessie’s issues as she has stormed out of his surgery, foul mouthed, after being called out on an imaginary injury a couple of years ago!

The next day the deputy rang me back to advise me I didn’t need the letter from the doctor after all. They found the letter from Jenni that provided what they needed. The whole thing has been like watching a kindergarten play where none of the kids have any idea what’s going on!

Meanwhile I’m sent a text every day in case I’ve forgotten that Jessie isn’t at school. I’m required to respond with a reason for her absence otherwise they are recorded as Unjustified.

I’m so bewildered and frustrated with the incompetence of the people who are in charge of educating our kids. And I find it even more frustrating that nobody ever apologises. I am just given excuses – and lame ones at that. It also leaves me feeling like they just don’t give a shit about Jessie. Jessie feels the same, and I’m worried that it’ll change her attitude towards the work, as it has before. She’s 14 and doesn’t get that she’s only hurting herself by rebelling in that way. It’s up to the adults to get it right.

I’d had a meeting at the school at the beginning of 2016. In attendance were Jessie’s counsellor, the school counsellor, the year advisor, and Kay, the home school liaison officer. I had dealt with Kay whilst Jessie was at primary school. She was very familiar with our situation.

educationAt the meeting, because of Jessie’s self imposed isolation and refusal to attend school, it was decided that trying to get her back there was off the table. Kay gave me info about a course for Jessie called Links to Learning. It was held locally one day per week, starting in May 2016 and running until the end of term 3. The school was also to have class work for Jessie to collect from school each Tuesday and return each Friday.

The following Tuesday morning we went in to get the schoolwork. The year advisor had assured me it would be left at the front office for collection. 45 minutes later we left with a pile of maths (her most hated subject) and a history assignment. There was no learning material, as not a single teacher had prepared anything. I couldn’t believe it. I managed to get my daughter there, which no-one expected. As I expected after the wait, I wasn’t able to get Jessie there again though. They didn’t keep their side of the agreement and for Jessie that’s a deal breaker. She can be so unforgiving! And that was the end of that.

Links to Learning was refused by Jessie as well. After missing so much of Years 4 and 5 and the majority of Year 6, Year 9 is quickly slipping by too. I continue to be told that Jessie’s really smart and will catch up. How can she catch up when she continues to miss so much?

My faith in the Department of Education is lost. I rang today, and I will continue to call and leave messages until I get a result. Education should be considered a priority for every child, no matter what their circumstances.

education

 

(Redraft of article first published on 9 August 2016)

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