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

 
 

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.

 

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