I rarely talk about this topic on the blog, but my son and I discussed it this morning so it’s probably a good time to mention it again.
First, a bit of background: I have a family history of mental illness and have struggled with depression off and on for much of my life. Severe depression runs in both sides of my family, leading to the suicide of several members, drug and alcohol addictions, hallucinations, disappearances and hospitalizations.
I didn’t personally have to deal with any of the aforementioned issues, but that’s only because of my cousin reached out to me when I needed it most and I sought help with her encouragement. But I often think how my life might have been different if I was given the help I needed when my symptoms first started around junior high.
Given my history and my family’s history, I am a HUGE proponent of education and awareness of all types of mental illness. And I believe you can and should start talking about mental illness with your kids when they are young - so they can seek help if they need it and be alert if they see it in their friends. No one should have to suffer in silence.
Me: Do you know what a mental illness is?
My 8-year-old son: Umm…no.
Me: Do you know what an illness is?
My son: Duh. Getting sick. Like the flu or a cold or a rash.
Me: Right. So you know your body can get sick - you can get a stuffy nose or a fever or a rash. But your brain can get sick as well. And when your brain is sick, it’s called a mental illness.
My son: Okay…
Me: You have chemicals in your brain - good chemicals that can make you feel happy, give you a burst of energy to run really fast, calm you down when you’re upset, or make you fall in love. In a healthy brain, those chemicals are balanced - you get happy and excited, but you don’t stay that way for weeks with no reason. You get sad when something bad happens, but then you get happy again. You with me so far?
My son: Yup.
Me: If your brain stops producing enough of one of the chemicals, or produces too much of another one, you can get sick - you can get a mental illness. If you have depression, for example, your brain doesn’t make enough of the chemicals that make you happy. So you’re sad. All the time. Even if there are fun things going on all around you, like you’re getting presents and you get to have friends over, you just don’t have enough of the right chemicals in your brain to feel happy. You might cry. You might just want to stay in bed and sleep. You won’t want to do things you used to think were fun because you just can’t get happy. It’s impossible, because you don’t have enough of the chemicals.
My son: So how do you fix the chemicals?
Me: That’s a great question. Everyone is a little bit different, but there are almost always things you can do to help balance out those chemicals. It’s just like when your body is sick… you can help your brain by eating healthier foods, exercising, even just going outside more.
My son: Is that why you make me go outside every day?
Me: Yes, partly! Let’s go back to depression. Let’s pretend your brain doesn’t have enough of the chemicals that make you happy. You tried all the things we just talked about, but you still feel sad all the time. What do we do?
My son: …..?
Me: What do we do if our body is sick and not getting better?
My son: Oh! Go to the doctor!
Me: Right. If we don’t get better on our own, sometimes we need to go to a doctor to get a medicine that will help us get better. And there are medicines that can help balance out those chemicals in our brains.
My son: Cool!
Me: It is! So I’m telling you all this right now for two reasons: 1) I want you to know what a mental illness is, of course, and 2) I want you to know that there are medicines for them. Because a lot of kids don’t know anything about the chemicals in their brain… so if they get sick, all they know is that they feel horribly sad all the time and they will do anything to feel better. So maybe they’ll try drugs or alcohol to see if that helps.
My son: Like [name withheld]?
Me: Exactly. And you know, drugs and alcohol DO change the chemicals in your brain. So that kid might actually feel better for awhile. But then the effect will wear off and he will feel terrible again. So then he’ll try drugs again and again hoping he’ll feel better.
My son: And get addicted.
Me: Right. And maybe get addicted. AND still have the mental illness, so now he has two problems that need to be fixed. But if he had known about the brain chemicals, he could have gone to the doctor and gotten help right away and started feeling better.
My son: Will I get a mental illness?
Me: I hope you never get any type of illness! But you could have a mental illness someday, yes. Or one of your friends. Or one of your friend’s parents. I have the one called depression, which is why I take medicine every morning. Some people have one for a while and then get better again. Some people have them their entire lives and have to take medicine all the time.
My son: Okay. Mom?
My son: I love you.
Me: I love you too! That was kinda a weird transition though…?
My son: I’m just glad you tell me stuff like this.
Me: Oh! Anytime, kiddo. ~JJ
It’s a give-each-other-marker-tattoos kind of morning.
SO PROUD of my state today!!! YAAAAAAYYYYY!!!!!!
(Source: questionall, via wanderthenwonder)
Good Boy Scouts don't need God: Column -
Tom Krattenmaker, a speaker at the AHA’s upcoming annual conference, has an article in USA TODAY undercutting the idea touted by the Boy Scouts of America that morality and religion is a required connection.
(For information on the AHA’s annual conference, May 30-June 2, click here: http://conference.americanhumanist.org/)
My son would love to be a Boy Scout. Many of the activities they do fall right in line with his interests and getting him involved in a nationally recognized group would be great.
But in order for him to join, he would have to lie about his religious beliefs… which, I’m pretty sure, is frowned upon. (Wrote about that HERE if you’re interested.)
I sincerely do hope the organization continues to evolve and the focus will eventually be solely on the qualities that make a good Scout rather than who they love or whether or not they were indoctrinated into a religion as a child.
Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful,
Friendly, Courteous, Kind,
Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty,
Brave, Clean, Reverent
Good stuff there…except maybe the obedient part. I personally like my kiddos a little feisty. :-)
(Source: 4wk-z, via skepticalavenger)
Say you’re walking down the sidewalk on a beautiful day. Someone who has internalized an outsider’s perspective of herself will often spend more time adjusting her clothing or hair, wondering what other people are thinking of her, judging the shape of her shadow or reflection in a window, etc. She will picture herself walking – she literally turns herself into an object of vision – instead of enjoying the sunny weather….
… Women are constantly being looked at. Even when we’re not, we’re so hyperaware of the possibility of being looked at that it can rule even our most private lives. Including in front of our mirrors, alone. —
Excerpt via Beauty Redefined ”To BE or to be LOOKED at?” (via fitvillains)
This is also why it’s not “just a compliment!” when you get whistled or hollered at while walking down the sidewalk. Because women do not exist for your viewing pleasure. ~JJ
compligaytions asked: Happy Mother's Day!!
When I came out of the bedroom this morning (got to sleep in! yay me!), my kids both looked up and shouted “NOOOOOooOOOOO!!” Apparently the surprise was not finished yet and I “RUUUUINNNED EVERRRRRYYYYTHINGGGGGG!”
A reminder from a marriage and family therapist:
Mother’s Day can be a highly charged day for many. So many emotions can be experienced, and often it can be very difficult to sit with these intense feelings. Taking a look at every TV commercial, internet and radio ad, the side of every bus or even listening to people talk, it can start to feel like every person on the planet has a healthy, happy and loving relationship with their mother.It can feel very isolating to be experiencing feelings such as anger, loss, regret, grief, remorse, sadness, conflict, rejection, pain, confusion, and loneliness, amongst others on Mother’s day.Please know that you are not alone. Many people have conflicting emotions around their relationships with their parents. Hallmark just has not caught on and released the “Mom, thanks for running away with the Milkman” card yet.
Freedom from religion: gay marriage edition
I chose A! Yay me?
Also, adding Leviticus 14 to my list of favorite Bible passages - especially the part about using the blood of birds, cedar wood and scarlet string to purify a house after a mold situation. Helpful stuff.
I didn’t expect to hear a long, bigoted anti-gay rant at church this morning. It was a Mother’s Day breakfast event. I thought, “Well this won’t be too bad.” I was wrong.
As soon as the guest preacher mentioned homosexuality, I knew she was going to say something vile and ignorant. I did not anticipate a 15-minute long rant. Her argument was: Lack of Biblical values and a broken home create homosexuality. Meanwhile, here I am… Raised with Christian values, went to church practically every week of my life, studied the Bible, with healthy married parents, living in a stable home… and gay.
Fortunately, I know the truth. The Christian mothers at this event don’t, however. Around 120 women, now brainwashed in anti-gay rhetoric… That it’s a choice, an addiction like alcoholism, caused by sexual abuse and absent parents, and that it must not be tolerated. All this served with a side of “Christian love” and “family values”.
To all my followers: If you ever have the extreme misfortune of being forced to listen to the bullshit PK had to this morning, please please PLEASE don’t think, even for a second, any of it is accurate.
If you are a boy that likes boys, there is nothing wrong with you. If you are a girl that likes girls, there is nothing wrong with you.
I don’t have to know anything about your parents, your values, your beliefs or your home to tell you there is nothing wrong with being gay. Just like there is nothing wrong with having black, blonde, brown, red, gray or rainbow colored hair. Big feet or small feet. Ears that stick out or lie flat. Gay or straight or bisexual or asexual. There is nothing wrong with you being you.
The only “family values” that are important… keep your promises, share, use kind words, laugh, think of others, tell the truth, love each other. ~JJ