meandering

Meandering Along the Road Less Travelled

meandering
Images.com/Corbis

“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

meandering

 

 

mental

Jessie vs Mental Illness – To the Victor Go the Spoils

mentalMental illness has been such a destructive force for Jessie, that has seen her life stripped back to the bare bones. She became unable to cope with human contact and attending school became altogether too much for her. Living in the dark of her bedroom, she came out only for food or the bathroom. She shut right down and pretty much closed herself off to the world for close on 12 months.

Her re-emergence has been a slow and gradual process, but she’s been able to do it in her own time. Because of this, she’s been able to create strong foundations for herself. No-one has built them for her, she’s put in all the hard work, making them pretty sturdy. Her time’s been well spent researching all about bipolar and anxiety as well as positive coping techniques. Jessie’s level of insight into herself and others is amazing and is continuing to grow.

♥ After refusing professional help for many years, appointments are now requested, willingly attended and well utilised.

♥ After being fired from a job at 14 because she was too quiet and shy, she’s now making new friends where she works in customer service. She has to deal with all types of pesky people, some of them quite rude. Just the other night we we’re talking about how resilient it’s helping her become.

♥ After missing probably half of her education since Year 4, being educated at home has allowed Jessie to get back into her studies. She plodded along for the most part but I’ve spoken with 2 teachers who have both said how much things have changed over the last 6 months.

mentalI’d been contacted a few weeks ago as Jessie had won a Principal’s award for her mockumentary she made for English. I was also told that her gothic poem has been printed in the Year Book! That was a good day, made even better seeing Jessie really happy as well. I haven’t seen her outwardly care about her results like that for a long time.

Last week I had a call and a letter to say Jessie was getting another award and could we attend Presentation Day so she can “be presented with her ‘portfolio’ of awards”, whatever that means. It sounds impressive but we joked it could be a plastic sleeve folder with one award. …’To be added to’!

The icing on the cake for Jessie was being accepted into a talent academy. It’s such an awesome opportunity for her and who knows what doors it could open. This will give her training and exposure to agents, and she’s really excited but keeping her feet firmly on the ground. I’ve been receiving emails from Star Now for a few years. The interest’s been there, just not the self esteem.

I’m so rapt that she finally has the confidence to be moving out of her comfort zone. It shows that mental illness no longer holds the monopoly. It hasn’t gone away, but Jessie knows her triggers and symptoms and has a good grasp of her emotions. She’s learning to control the symptoms of her mental illness, instead of them controlling her. And she so deserves these outcomes.

She’s said to me that she’s waiting for it all to fall apart because things don’t go this well for her. Luck has had nothing to do with her academic achievements I reassured her  – they have come from her decision to put the effort in. Her acceptance into the talent academy was due to her creativity and the immediate impression she made at the audition. Jessie has her own green screen and has starred in her own short movies for years. She has earned loads of merit awards throughout  her school years for her stories and poetry. Writing is something she has always enjoyed, even when not engaged in school.

I’m so proud of the person she is becoming. I’m feeling more and more confident that she’s not only going to be okay, she’s going to be awesome. Even during her last full on manic episode where she didn’t sleep for two days, she decided to use it to her benefit. She washed all her bedding, did a big clear out of her wardrobe and drawers, tidied and cleaned her room and did a week’s worth of schoolwork. She was so productive which I think helped her keep it together. By having tasks to focus on, her energy was directed instead of being scattered.

It takes great courage, determination and inner strength to overcome the challenges Jessie has faced in her young life. Like an iceberg, people only see what’s above the surface. However what’s unseen is the largest part of the equation. People like to make judgement on what they see, presuming they understand and are therefore entitled to do so. Jessie’s learning to recognise her worth and not allow others to undermine her achievements. Unlike her mum, others opinions no longer affect her so negatively and this is going to help her immensely in life.

The harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.

mental

 

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

 
 

sex culture

Society’s Abysmal Sex Culture

sex cultureThe motivation for this article on sex culture comes after watching a USA documentary called ‘Audrey and Daisy’. It tells the separate stories of two young teenage girls who were raped and filmed by their male ‘friends’ while passed out, intoxicated. The footage was then shared around. These poor girls were vilified by their peers and on social media. Audrey committed suicide at 15. Daisy survived her many suicide attempts and now advocates for other survivors. This heartbreaking story really made me think about our society’s sex culture and the major flaws in our legal system.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 21 380 victims of sexual assault, including rape, recorded by police in 2015. This was a 3 percent increase since 2014. 93 percent of victims are female. In 2013, NSW alone saw 3,951 sexual assaults reported to police. In the same year 715 people were charged and 315 were found guilty – a 52 percent conviction rate. Out of those 315 found guilty, only 168 received a full time custodial sentence. That equals 4 percent of assaults originally reported to police.

sex cultureThe United Nations report Australia as having one of the highest rates of reported sexual assault in the world. 92 out of 100,000 people are sexually assaulted. However it’s estimated that 70 percent of assaults go unreported. This is most likely due to the fact the burden of proof has extensive requirements to be met. Additionally, court can be a lengthy and harrowing experience for victims. With such a low conviction rate, it’s understandable why so many keep quiet.

Being raped is a soul destroying experience. It strips you of your sense of self and erodes your feeling of worth. You feel shame and guilt for someone else’s crime. You’re tormented with flashbacks and riddled with confusion.

sex cultureIt was after I was first raped that I also lost my trust and faith in the human race. I was raped in broad daylight with people walking by. Not a single one did anything to help me, even after the perpetrator had gone. Feeling the overwhelming need to crawl out of my own skin, and my sickening instant despise for people, I walked all the way home. The bus wasn’t an option. I felt so dirty but showers weren’t cleaning me, no matter how long they were or how hard I scrubbed. Soap and water can’t clean a stained soul. I didn’t report the rape for two weeks due to shame and the unfounded feeling of guilt I carried, that I have since learned is common amongst survivors.

Sexual assault and rape are about power over another individual. Nine times out of ten the offender/s are known to their victims. Not ever is it the victim’s fault. No means no at whatever stage of the interlude. No definitely means no when one person is in no state to give consent. Sadly, abusers and rapists are part of society’s fabric. They don’t stand out as the people their labels describe them to be. Instead they are family members, friends, or co-workers, and often covert nice people.

sex cultureRape and sexual abuse is not a new phenomenon by any means. But the laws around it need a complete overhaul. As the figures show, too many offenders are held unaccountable while too many victims go without justice. Current laws give too much protection to the perpetrators of these abysmal crimes. Humanity needs to grow a stronger backbone and stop being afraid to stand up and help protect our fellow human beings from these crimes. Silence brings with it culpability – we need to teach this to our kids so they grow into adults who understand this.

This disturbing sex culture is more than alive and well amongst our teens. Asking girls for ‘nudes’ seems to be standard practice for the boys. Education is around teaching our girls the dangers of sending such photos, placing the onus on females to be wary of the consequences. I don’t see responsibility or consequences for the boys asking for these pornographic images of minors.

My daughter hopped in the car after tennis a few weeks ago quite upset. One of the boys in her group had been talking ‘rape talk’ she said. She stood up and told him not to talk like that, that it wasn’t okay. He then apparently said ‘aww you don’t like rape talk? Well you better get used to it.’ She told him she didn’t have to. It’s brave to speak up when nobody else does and I’m so proud of her. It’s disgusting that some boys still believe that sort of talk is ‘their right’, and concerning the lack of respect for females. The whole thinking pattern is faulty. And the sort of mindset that we need to change.

DON’T GET RAPED

 

raising

Life Raising A Bipolar Child/Teen

raisingI’ve been asked to write an article on what it’s like raising a child with bipolar. With so many complexities involved I’m having trouble deciding where to start.

It’s been seven years since Jessie first began experiencing overwhelming emotions and raging tempers. Those years have been a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s been exhausting, distressing, trying, heartbreaking, intense, humorous, enlightening, complicated, stressful and confronting.

raisingI like this meme. It’s true! But on a bad day it makes me laugh, even if it’s a just a chuckle on the inside. I’m getting better and better at this negotiation with swinging moods and thought processes, however there are still times when I go on strike. Well I try.

Unfortunately there’s no-one to take over, so even on strike, I’m always on high alert. That speaks a lot about my personality though. I worry too much about the what-ifs. Worrying is not only counter-productive, it chews up much needed energy. Despite knowing this, it’s my number one barrier to a peaceful mind. Accepting the fact that I no longer have control is something I’ve struggled with. Having to let go and realise that Jessie’s life is actually hers now, is hard! I want to fix everything, I wish I could. But I can’t. Jessie needs to find her own way, and learn to work things out for herself. Being so protective, it can be upsetting for me to take that step back at times.

raisingJessie’s aggression and verbal abuse was incredibly difficult to cope with in the first few years. The work I’ve put in to learning about what is happening for Jessie, along with teaching her new skills, has seen that aggression almost dissipate. She is now 14 and it’s been three years since I’ve required Police assistance. It’s been three years since she has been sectioned by Police under the Mental Health Act.

Communication is now our strength instead of being our downfall. It has taken time, but I have no doubt it has enabled us to move on in a positive direction from such tumultuous times.

With growing maturity Jessie is also taking responsibility for herself. We’ve both learnt the importance of repair after an argument. A big part of that is forgiveness – forgiveness for self and the other party. With Jessie now feeling safe with her emotions, she is able to apologise if she has been rude or has snapped at me. She also has an acute sense of empathy which she is becoming more and more comfortable showing. Taking blame out of picture changes the whole dynamic, it’s amazing.

Raising a child with bipolar has been life changing. I have learnt so much about myself and so much about how to be the best parent I can be. Jessie is a quirky kid and has expanded my mind with her thoughts and experiences. As much as times can still be difficult, I actually think most of that comes from societies perception that our life is not ‘normal’. These labels apply pressure to get your child back into a ‘normal’ life – but who is to say what is normal?

Perfection is not a requirement for love in my heart.

raising

mental health

Mental Illness and Society’s Stigma Around It

 

mental illness

Mental illness is still so misunderstood by society, despite attempts at raising awareness. People really just don’t care unless it is someone they love. That is one reason why it will never be accepted like cancer or other severe, life threatening diseases. I think the issue is that society is made up of people and people do not understand, even if you try to explain.

mental illness

I have depression, and at times it can be quite severe. Negative thoughts take over and some of those thoughts are communicated. I was told ‘Blame yourself, not something someone has defined you as having. Your mental power could have just refrained from abusing me.’ My mind has been played with (gaslighting), and it has cracked me. I’ve been told I need to just suck it up. It’s a bit hard when you are physically and emotionally unable to function. It is viewed as weakness. It’s not understood that at those times you are actually fighting with all you have to get through. Without strength and determination, any human would succumb. It does just show that mental illness is looked upon as purely a weakness of mind and something that can be controlled if only we tried hard enough.

mental illness

People need to be educated on the brain function that causes mental illness before we can hope to destigmatise it. Mental illness is not a choice.  Recovery is, and that takes time. Mental illness also has nothing to do with intelligence, nor is it weakness. The brain is an amazing and complex organ. My research over the years has given me insight as to how intricate the neurological pathways are and how easily brain function can be altered, triggered by trauma, accidents and even hormonal changes in the body.

The different illnesses see different parts of the brain affected. The one thing they all have in common though is an impairment of the chemical neurotransmitters or abnormalities in particular brain circuit function. Researchers are also studying the effects of changes in size or shape of certain areas of the brain, which they believe may be responsible for causing some mental illnesses.mental illness

My daughter had a friend at school who knew about her bipolar. She used to say nasty things and provoke her, then she’d stand back laughing when Jessie snapped. Rumours would then be spread, making fun of Jessie’s outburst. The friend tried it while she was having a sleepover here one night and was pulled up pretty quickly. It’s a cruel way some people use to boost their ego I think, particularly with kids and teenagers.

Thought is not given to the impact of constant provocation. Although what is shown outwardly may seem erratic and angry, sufferers are crying and going through hell on the inside. Everyone has their breaking point, and it’s so easy to place entire blame on the one who has the emotional outbursts. No-one need look at their part in it all then, no-one need look at themselves. Blame is such an easy and cowardly out.

I take responsibility for my actions. Depression and PTSD are no excuse for how we communicate. I’ve been teaching Jessie this, so I must lead by example. For her and I though, it’s how we repair that is important. I have tried to explain recently to someone, but it means nothing. ‘You and your backwards 180 emotional instability’ is the name for it. Apologising and making people aware of what’s going on with you, is not worth the price. I am hated. And being hated for your illness is horrible but I have to wear it and continue on with my treatment.mental illness

I have made plenty mistakes, and not let go of relationships when I knew I needed to. I listened to words, and didn’t follow my gut feelings. My thoughts and emotions have been all over the place and emotion takes over. I’ve tried so hard. My mental illness splits my mind.

Fear of judgement, shame and embarrassment are just 3 reasons why sufferers don’t reach out for help. Consequently there are too many people struggling on their own, leading to suicides that could be otherwise prevented.

mental illness

Learning to look after yourself is imperative. As is learning to be kind and forgiving towards yourself. Mental illness is torture enough. There are plenty of people out there to be cruel, you have to treat yourself better than you would your best friend. If you love yourself you will heal faster from the times you don’t behave your best.

Famous People Who Suffer/ed from Mental Illness

Albert Einstein, creator of The Theory of Evolution – Dyslexia
Leonardo Da Vinci, artist, mathematician, engineer, inventor & writer – Dyslexia
Isaac Newton, scientist who explained gravity, and had the Laws of Motion named after him – Bipolar
Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb – Dyslexia
Lewis Carroll, author, mathematician, logician and photographer – Borderline Personality Disorder
Charles Darwin, creator of The Theory of Evolution – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the USA – Depression & Anxiety attacks
Beethoven, composer – Bipolar & Depression
Robin Williams, actor & comedian – Depression
Stephen Fry, actor & comedian – Bipolar

mental illness

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