silver linings

Maybe Clouds Do Have Silver Linings…

silver liningsUniverse…I hope you’re listening – I’m putting it out there. 2018 is going to be our year. And strangely enough, it’s going to be our toughest battles that have given us our current goals.  Jessie’s times in hospital have inspired her to start her pathway to becoming a registered nurse this year. For me, I went through a period where I didn’t believe I was a good enough mum for Jessie, or able to cope with what we were facing. However last week I had an interview for a position supporting a forum for parents of teens going through hardships. I’m thinking these may be the silver linings to these last seven/eight years?

What’s amazing to me, is that it was my website, 14 months ago, that began my first real connection with my potential employers. I provided a link for their parent support services in one of my initial blogs and had an email back thanking me. So I logged back into the site, and to cut what I could make a detailed story very short, I’ve been part of the community since. The last 6 months I’ve been there as a volunteer and been lucky enough to meet some really amazing friends. I enjoy what I do and it’s been really positive for me. It’s also rewarding being able to give back after all the wonderful support I’ve received over the years.

I’ll stay on volunteering if I’m unsuccessful with this job, and continue on with my studies. To get to the final interview stage is pretty inspiring and tells me I’m on the right path. With no formal qualifications in this field as yet, only life experience, I’m proud to get this far. There will be other doors that open.

My goal had been to finish the Cert IV in Mental Health, then do the Diploma before I looked for work. That way I’d still be around for Jessie if she had any issues. However 3 hours each day with 2 shifts worked from home, is workable. The office isn’t far from TAFE where Jessie will be either, so it all feels right. But then again, so does staying where I am. My role would change and I do like what I currently do. My involvement to date in the forum has provided silver linings to what have previously felt like hopeless situations in my parenting/life. I’ll be happy with whatever the outcome. I’m trusting your choices universe – and I’m trusting you not to let me fuck up!!

silver liningsNext week sees Jessie start her studies at TAFE. She’s nervous about first starting, but really excited and keen to study. Last week saw her back to sit a competancy test for a Cert IV course because they were so impressed with her results from the Cert III test. This kid blows me away!! Since Year 4 school attendance has been hugely problematic – she would’ve missed more than 2 years overall. And yet she can impress TAFE teachers. The maths was her downfall as she wasn’t allowed a calculator, so she’s staying with the Cert III, but she’s going to smash it!

She’s bought herself a new bag and pencil case and is packed and ready to go. I’m so happy, nervous, excited for her!! She’s stepping back out into the world to embark on her future. It’s a big move after a couple of years living in the darkness of her bedroom. Tennis was her first step, putting her feelers out there. And then she started a casual job which, with its ups and downs, has been a positive in many ways. Not only has it helped her widen her scope of resilience, she’s enjoying the social aspect of it and realising she is likeable just the way she is. The money is naturally Jessie’s motivation and she’s not without purpose! (⇐ Also a good thing…purpose is a very successful motivator.)

We have high hopes for you 2018. Day by day we’ll live you and it’ll be interesting to look back in 12 months time and see where we’re at and where you’ve taken us 🙂

“Every cloud has a silver lining – sometimes you just have to find it”

silver linings



Meandering Along the Road Less Travelled


“Taking the road less travelled”. I’ve been thinking about this saying a lot lately. For some reason it has sparked my interest after a conversation during the week about Jessie. The person said that they often found those who had taken the road less travelled to be the most amazing people. The saying made me step back and have a look at us. Jessie’s been meandering along the road less travelled for a while now. And after stepping back, from that distanced view I could see her story forming. I had a glimpse of her retelling the tale of how she became a nurse. I wonder of the future hurdles she’ll have overcome, and how beautifully multi-layered all these experiences will make her.

I’ve been staying in the day to day, not allowing myself to daydream too much about the future in any context. However there’s been a basal shift in Jessie that’s enabling her to push through her nerves and negative thoughts and get back into life. She has goals she wants to achieve, which is giving her direction and real purpose.

With Jessie at TAFE this year I’d been thinking that our lives are becoming more normal again. From our perspective they are – Jessie’s back to attending classes in a couple of weeks. To most I realise it still isn’t normal – kids Jessie’s age are studying Years 11 & 12; mine is in adult education. It’s funny how we perceive things differently depending on our own experiences. And I’ve spent way too much time worrying about not living a normal life. But what is normal anyway?? And who gets to judge?! Humans don’t generally welcome those who are ‘different’. Sadly mental illness remains judged without being understood. But that will be part of her story, and a part I don’t doubt she will continue to grow resilient against.

Jessie’s meandering road has taken her to some pretty dark places. They’ve broken her, but she’s rebuilding with an amazing capacity for compassion. The last two years in her room has been spent putting herself back together. Being determined and strong willed by nature, she’s worked so hard to be at a place where she’s really excited about the acting training, studying away from home, and making a future for herself. Being very self aware, she’s learned to manage her symptoms so much better. She’s developing a sense of self, which I’m enjoying see happen. I’d so love to see that general confidence she used to have, back as well. Give it time…having purpose does wonders for so many things.

“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations” – auther unknown





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”





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.


“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


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.






The Clash Between Mental Health & 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


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.



(Redraft of article first published on 9 August 2016)


Sydney Distance Education High School Enrolment

schoolMy daughter, Jessie, was finally enrolled at Sydney Distance Education High School at the end of term 3 this year.

Initially we were sent a starter pack of 3 weeks work to be completed. With it came an information booklet with templates for timetables and record keeping which is great. Prepaid, labelled envelopes are provided making returning completed work hassle free and straightforward.

The campus is located in Woolloomooloo and the students are encouraged to attend the events they have. They really want the kids to feel like they’re still part of a schooling community. Students are welcome to visit at anytime to see their teachers or have a look around. We are going to the Presentation Day in early December. It will be good to put faces to names and voices.

It’s been a rocky start with the schoolwork, mainly due to motivation, or lack of actually. Jessie completed week 1 and some of week two’s work. She then cracked it and tore the rest up all over her bedroom floor. She was yelling and swearing – “they can’t make me do this shit. Fuck this, I’m never going to do any work, I don’t give a fuck” and it went on. Teachers are fucked, they need to respect her, they treat students like shit, that kind of thing. I let her finish her rant, acknowledged I could see she was angry about teachers and feeling like she is being forced to do school work. And the raging beast is tamed once again.

Jessie’s roll call teacher was called and I explained the situation. I expressed to her I was a bit worried that I wasn’t going to be able to get Jessie to do anymore work. She was so unphased by my news, it was extremely reassuring. I was told not to worry, to leave Jessie’s schooling responsibilities to them.

Jessie’s story was nothing new to them, and her reluctance wasn’t a shock in the slightest. From our conversation I think it would’ve been a shock to them if Jessie had slotted straight back in! Re-engaging kids with school is something each teacher I’ve spoken with seems completely skilled for.

As for the torn up work, meh, also something they are used to. Jessie’s next lot of work after the starter pack was sent out. Another 3 weeks work to be started after the school holidays.

These school holidays meant a trip to visit my second cousins who live in the country where I grew up. I packed a week’s work hoping Jessie might make a start up there. Being two retired teachers she would have plenty of knowledgeable help from them. Not that it’s help with the work she needs, it’s enthusiasm she lacks, not intelligence. When I talked with her about her motivation one time she said to me “I’m highly motivated – highly motivated to do nothing!”. I still find it amusing – not the lack of motivation, the phrase!

Our trip nearly had the plug pulled on it. Late on the night we were meant to be leaving there was a serious loss of control. All over school work. It was the closest I’d come to needing to call the Police in nearly 3 years. (There are lots of 3’s in this I’ve just realised.) On the bedroom floor was 2 whole weeks work, her music subject cd, my record sheet, my entire diary (?!). She quite proudly returned the cover to me. I was angry at the time but it’s really very funny reliving that short scene.

The school, again something they do all the time, re-issued the destroyed work. It just hit me why I’m loving this school. At Jessie’s previous school, she was different and misunderstood. Her issues created a lot of concern. With SDEHS, she is not a problem, nothing’s a concern, they have it all under control. Kids like Jessie make up 60% of their students. They’ve been dealing with kids like this for years and know what they’re

We had a very successful home visit from Robert O’Brien from SDEHS last week. It was a positive start to the morning. Jessie got out of bed, had a shower and got dressed. I was so relieved. Robert was able to engage Jessie from the moment he got there which is a testament to him in itself. They chatted about what she likes to do with her time. She impressed him as she has still been learning about things she’s interested in. He talked openly about how much time she had missed, and how that can make it harder getting back into doing school work. But he went through timetable templates and explained to Jessie the goal of getting at least 2 subjects done a day. We were also given the goal to aim for for the rest of the year as far as completion of work.

My record keeping was checked and a gold star to me. Robert was curious as to what position I held in my last job – something requiring great organisational skills he thought! Apparently 1 in 6 parents don’t bother at all with the paperwork, and most new parents wait until the first visit. I was given a detailed printout of all of Jessie’s teachers names. Included were their emails and telephone numbers, and we were both encouraged to call them anytime for help. Fabulous!

Robert got Jessie to bring out her laptop and showed her how to login to the school website. She was shown how to check her messages, and access the e-learning site for her online work. He’d advised Jessie earlier that he was going to get her to do a booklet of work while he was there.

After looking over the website asked her which was her least favourite subject. Maths was the confident and immediate reply. Just as confidently and immediately Robert said ‘Great! We’ll do maths then’. That was met with a groan and the rolling of eyes she is famous for, but no further resistance.

I had to admit that I hadn’t bought a new calculator after her last one met with foul play. He smiled and said to Tayah ‘did you break it?’. She clearly picked up on his amusement and complete lack of negative judgement. She smiled back and openly admitted that she threw it against the wall. He chuckled and asked where she threw it, so she showed him which wall she threw it at. He wanted to know if it smashed into pieces or not, so Tayah told him all about it. And that was a bit of therapy for her right there.

Today we received a new calculator Robert sent her for free. I laughed, the note with it read ‘Tayah and Kat, here is your new (modern) calculator.’ Tayah had had to use my old scientific calculator I still have from high school!

We were told about tutoring that’s held each Tuesday and Wednesday in our local area. Tayah said she wouldn’t feel comfortable because of the other kids there. The time was taken to explain to Tayah about the kids that attend. Robert told her that all the kids are exactly like her. They are really nervous meeting new kids because of their issues too.

SchoolHe told her of the immense struggle it has been for some to even show up. Some don’t stay all day, one boy sits in a small room by himself because he just can’t deal with being around the others. He kept assuring Tayah that she didn’t have to talk to anyone of she didn’t want to. The other option with tutoring is that one of the tutors will come to our home. All opportunities are provided and I feel so supported.

SDEHS was running a 3 day adventure camp this week that was offered to Tayah. Unfortunately it was declined, but I have a feeling she will be keen next time. Department of Sport & Rec run adventure camps and she has been to 6 camps before turning 12.  Activities include abseiling, rock climbing, a big bungy swing etc – she loves it. She was given encouragement and reassurance again that all the kids are just like her, and she didn’t have to talk to anyone if she didn’t want to. I think that she will gain confidence knowing she won’t be forced into anything.

Knowing that the staff there can handle things positively factor into it as well. Her last Dept Sport & Rec camp didn’t end so well and I know that has stuck with her. Two girls were bullying Tayah and she shut down because the adults weren’t listening. I was called to come and pick her up on the second last day. When I rang the next day to find out what happened, the truth had come out. One girl was banned from the camps forever.  Other girls revealed they had been telling Tayah to go kill herself, amongst other things. We received a huge apology, but the damage was done for Tayah. A new experience will change that for her.

Something I didn’t know but am grateful it was discussed with me, was our eligibility for Centrelink’s Assistance for Isolated Students Payment. I had seen it in the information booklet, but living in Sydney hadn’t considered us isolated. But under the definition we are eligible as Tayah is isolated from normal schooling due to her mental health issues.

The payment of a little over $4000 p.a. and in my circumstance is paid at the beginning of each term. It’s primarily to help pay for internet, computer maintenance, phone, school items etc. If the schoolwork isn’t completed consistently, the money can be recovered which could be a downfall. I’ve already used it as a bargaining tool with Tayah! The payment is tax free and doesn’t affect any benefits being received already. Payment is backdated to date of student enrolment.

We just need to get a few more weeks work in to show consistency and then I can apply. It’s a nice amount of money, but no amount of money makes the fact that your child is broken any easier to bear.

After our first visit I have absolutely no doubts about the competency of the staff in being able to manage Tayah. Tayah has also said that she now feels motivated. Knowing that so many of the other kids are just like her, with her same fears and insecurities, was reassuring. She said it made her feel more normal. All last week’s work was completed and returned, and I have this week’s work completed already (it’s Wednesday), and ready to send off tomorrow. Brilliant!

schoolI’m so, so proud of Tayah. All work was completed due to her own motivation, and she’s put in effort and done all the work well. I’m so relieved, I really started to think Tayah was going to refuse any further education. Just goes to show kids just need the right environment. The public school system was not it for her.

How awesome would it be if all kids could be nurtured in their learning like this?Overall results would improve greatly, I have no doubt. After all, every kid needs to be nurtured, not just our ‘different’ ones.

self harm

Why Do Kids Self Harm and What is the Payoff?

The term ‘self harm’ has many definitions. It is usually defined as the intentional causing of injury to oneself. Self harm includes cutting, hitting or burning oneself, binge-eating or starvation, or repeatedly putting oneself in dangerous situations.

So what makes our kids want to self harm? I used to think the driving cause was self loathing and the motivation – attention seeking. But it is usually a way of coping with big emotions, and is often done in secrecy, with every effort made to try and hide the behaviour. And the pay off? Short term release from suffocating emotions in most cases.

self harm

My daughter, Jessie, started cutting around the age of 12. It’s such a frightening thing as a mum being confronted with self inflicted bloodied arms needing cleaning and care. Worse when it started being hidden from me, and I’d have the school call me to come and pick her up if she’d taken her jumper off and been reported.

School rules are that all cuts must be covered to discourage other girls copying. Self harm is very much a taboo subject in the school environment. I ended up leaving bandages and tubigrip with the year advisor so she could stay at school. Jessie hated the whole thing, and I agree with her – she felt the bandages only made it more obvious and girls would ask her what happened. I do understand the school’s theory as well, and I don’t think there’s a perfect solution.

I would search every inch of Jessie’s room looking for sharps. She was not allowed scissors, not even at school. The teachers were informed and would lend her scissors if she needed them. I had to take the protractor out of her geometry kit. All my knives and all sharp or pointy kitchen utensils had to be hidden away. She would always find something though, it’s amazing how resourceful she can be. One of her favourites was pulling pencil sharpeners apart and using the blade. This one took me a while to work out as they can be put back together. Her hiding places became more of a challenge to find.

Initially she would become violent towards me and out of control. Police would come, and even if  Jessie settled, they would call an ambulance because of her wounds. She would be treated without empathy by the staff in ER. One time we were sent home without a nurse even looking at her cuts, let alone cleaning down her arm. I was disgusted, and made a formal complaint, and that didn’t ever happen again.

It then became a silent battle of wills I guess you could call it. I would search her room and confiscate anything sharp I found or any new pencil sharpeners. She wouldn’t say anything – so no Police enforced trips to hospital – she would just find or make new tools.

Jessie’s counsellor from Child and Youth Mental Health Services (CYMHS) suggested she wear an elastic band around her wrist, and flick it again her skin when she needed to. Another suggestion was ice cubes on the skin. Neither of these things gave Jessie the outlet she needed. As it was explained to me, there is actually a physiological reaction that occurs with self-harm, that briefly increases serotonin levels, giving a feeling of release.

Self harm behaviours have been found to be more prevalent in teenagers who have excessively strong emotions and trouble regulating those emotions and impulse control. Lots of articles I’ve read also state that it is believed that borderline personality disorders are caused by the inability to manage emotions.

self harm

These kids are hurting and overwhelmed by the intensity of their feelings. With Jessie we started off with a sealed jar of water with lots of glitter in it – her Glitter Jar. When she felt herself becoming really anxious or uptight, she would shake the jar and say to me “my glitter is all over the place” before storming off. I was always amazed the Glitter Jar didn’t ever get smashed along with so many other things. Little tornado she can be! Get in her way and she’ll take you down! Shows how much she appreciated having it, and what an important communication tool it was for her.

That then progressed to using emotion cards to identify her emotion. (Bear cards are awesome if you can find them. Each card is a bear showing a different feeling, and the kids can choose a card whenever they feel the need to.) Giving her language helped diffuse the extremity of the feeling and make the feeling more manageable. We were also given a card with The Four Rooms of Change. It’s kept on the fridge, and we both have our own magnet and use it to let each know what sort of mood we’re in.

self harm Australia website provides useful information and links to related articles. The website also gives details for eheadspace, Kids Helpline and Lifeline. They can be contacted by phone or via online  chat.


distance ed

Distance Ed – “the struggle is real”

Finally I at least know that Jessie has been accepted into Distance Ed. Haven’t received the letter from the Dept of Education despite being told on Monday that it was in the mail. I rang Talavera Road again this morning, because my messages hadn’t been returned all week. I was asked to leave another message which I did – a very long one. The poor woman. I just said that it’s gotten me nowhere being being patient and nice about it, and I’m frustrated to the core.  My daughter’s had 2 days at school this year, the school hasn’t followed through with anything. This application was meant to be heard by the board in week 8 of last term, but I didn’t keep on top of it and the school forgot! I like Jessie’s saying – “the struggle is real.”

And so I waited for a callback from the DET, and was pleased I didn’t need to wait too long. The acceptance letter had been mailed only that morning. I needed to agree to the enrolment, sign the form and return it within 7 days. I was then able to call Heather from Sydney Distance Education High School, who has sent out 3 weeks work for Jessie. Finally! I’m so relieved!!

I was directed to the website and need to fill out and return the required enrolment forms (40 pages in total), along with Jessie’s birth certificate and our family court orders. Jessie will be assigned a teacher in the next week.

Heather rang me first thing this morning to let me know she had received all the documentation from DET.

It had been emailed to her and she offered to forward it to me so I could sign the acceptance form and get it back to DET. Then Jessie’s high school can be informed and get the process underway. So that is all done and emailed back. It’ll be nice to no longer receive a text message every day informing me that Jessie is absent from school and a reason for her absence is required! It is a good system for absentees, but when it is a daily occurrence it becomes a bit tiresome!

I’ve just had a parcel delivered. I haven’t bought anything, but it’s my birthday tomorrow so thought I had a pressie. But even better, Jessie’s school work has arrived. So I’m off, I want to check out what we have!

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