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

 
 

challenges

My Challenges to Conquer as a Parent

challengesAs parents I guess many of us face challenges we want to conquer in order to be the best role models for our kids. Our job is to teach our kids so they grow to reach their full potential, whatever that may be. Rationale tells me that to achieve this, the parent must be adept at life skills themselves in order to be able to teach. Agreed? So what do we do when we question our own skills?

A recent situation with Jessie has really made me think about my boundaries and whether they’re right for Jessie. She had been really hurt and upset about a text message from a close friend. She didn’t know how to respond, and became really down on herself and her value to her friends. My suggestion was to let her friend know how the message made her feel. Jessie read her text to me before sending it and I thought it was great. It wasn’t accusatory or mean spirited, just explained how she felt and why. Whether Jessie reading it to me gave me the added benefit of her tone I don’t know, but it wasn’t received well.

The reply Jessie received in return had her in tears and feeling suicidal. This was not okay and I felt the need to intervene. Not a way any friendship should ever leave you feeling. I was told that Jessie was the cause of so much pain and pressure to others and caused other emotional scars. That statement really stood out to me and I wondered what the hell had been going on. My heart broke. What was it Jessie had done and how can I help her to have better friendships? And how awful to have friends who thought of me that way. So therein lie my challenges…

Firstly, at what age do parents stop getting involved? For what things do parents remain involved for kids with social issues like mine – if any? The goal posts keep moving and sometimes I’m not sure where they are! Maybe at 15 all I can do is support her from my end with whatever comes her way. I realise Jessie has to learn to work through friendship problems and create her own values. Which leads to my second challenge…

challengesIf you were to ask me, I’d tell you I’m happy with my set of values around friendships. However I do wonder if they’re too black and white for modelling to Jessie. I become very protective when she’s hurting and feeling so worthless to the world. She’s been through so much and I wish I could shield her from any further anguish. My ‘shark music’ takes over and emotion challenges my reasoning. But that is my baggage, and I need to remember that Jessie’s on the ball. She does have good boundaries around what she feels is and isn’t a good friend. I need to let her forge her own way, learn from life in her own way, and only share my thoughts when she asks for them. She’s got this. She needs me to love her and support her through her experiences.

I don’t ever remember evaluating friendships at Jessie’s age – not until I was much older. I was lucky with my group of friends – and I didn’t have social issues then which probably helped. We didn’t have mobile phones and internet like we do these days, which probably helped as well!

Maybe questioning the sincerity behind our fellow humans is something that can happen after our core feeling of trust and safety’s been damaged by another? Or is it that I’ve lost faith in my own ability to make good choices in who I allow to get close? Maybe it’s that I feel when anyone gets to know me and sees my flaws and weaknesses, they’ll not want to know me any longer? It could be my rates of forgiveness are no longer favourable? No doubt it’s a combination of all of the above that has contributed to independence in my own life. Where’s that line between being teaching awareness and teaching our own fears, if that makes sense?

I don’t like seeing Jessie so distraught, but maybe it’s not my job to fix it anymore? It can be difficult letting go…an only child is the first and the last out of the nest. I wonder if it’s going to get easier…

“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had…

…and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.”

– Linda Wooten

challenges

 

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

 

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