Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Where's Mom? Dad? Anyone?


Diagnoses of mental health conditions are the topic of the month. Linea is writing about her own diagnosis and provided many resources on her blog for others who may be facing a new diagnosis. As Linea's momma I have traveled this road with her as have the rest of her family. Families are intricately involved in the diagnosis (and subsequent treatment) of a mental illness or any other serious or long-term illness and so important to stability.

I am very involved in BringChange2Mind and various other mental health organizations around the country. I am privileged to hear the stories of so many people struggling with mental health conditions. If I were conducting a research project I would sort all the "qualitative data" (the stories) and look for themes. Well, one doesn't have to be a researcher to find those themes concerning diagnosis and family. There is a re-occurring story of anguish, loneliness and loss. Countless people write to Linea and I letting us know that our close relationship and support is something they wish they also had. There is an absence of care for many who are temporarily or permanently in need. For every parent who turns away or doesn't know what to do or somehow gives the message that they are embarrassed or angry or not accepting of their child (no matter their age) there is a step backwards from a healthy lifestyle for the person suffering with a mental health disorder. A message is sent, "You don't matter", even if that is not what is meant.

I know that it is often very difficult to have a relationship with someone who is in the pits of mental illness. I know that often help is slapped away and therefore not offered again. I know that parents and family members often have their own problems and aren't able to offer support and assistance or can't even begin to figure out how to do so. But still....every person should have a circle of family available even if the people in that circle are not blood relations. A parent or family member or friend could simply ask, “How are you?” and “What can I do to help you?” and then, listen very carefully for the responses without judgment or blame.

There is a process called "Futures Planning" used to develop a plan for children and adolescents with disabilities. Some of the steps of this process might be useful here. These include answering the following questions:

What are your dreams?
Goals?
Fears?
Who can help you with these?
Who is in your inner, middle and outer circle of support?

The people identified in this process agree to provide an "unconditional circle of support". This might include family members, professionals and friends. Agreements are made between the participants and the person with the disability is an active partner EXCEPT when they are not able to do so because of their disability or illness. There are many who might benefit from a circle of care and support. I see the look of utter loneliness on the faces of people living on the streets and struggling with mental illness. Would a circle of care have prevented this sad life? I consult with a program for children and adolescents in foster care and I witness their own fractured circles. These children need a wrap-around system of care not broken apart every time they move from place to place, from school to school.

Finally I want to add that my daughter is not "lucky" that she has me, her dad and her family as she is often told. We are lucky to have her. Yes, it is difficult for families with few resources to support someone with mental illness and I know that we are privileged to have the resources that we do. I also know that this experience has provided me an opportunity to learn more than I previously could ever have imagined. It is because of both the terrifying experiences and the honesty and love offered that we are more thankful and joyous and…generally less worried about the small stuff!

I wish every person who is alone their own circle of care. Let us all be part of that circle.

11 comments:

froggy said...

>These children need a wrap-around system of care not broken apart every time they move from place to place, from school to school. <

Our local care center (SE WA) was shut down and our kids sent to Yakima and beyond.

Elizabeth said...

So much of what you write is pertinent to all of us taking care of a child or young adult with a disability, whether that is a mental health issue or physical or cognitive. Thank you, again, for the work that you are doing and for reaching out beyond your own personal life to others.

Jodi Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Support is probably the most important thing! Well said, Cinda.

Jen said...

I am going to take those questions and answer them for myself. Then when the time comes I will, hopefully, be prepared to ask my son the same questions. Thank you so much:) Jen.

writingmatters said...

Great post! Love that you're making the world a better place by the way you are living in it.

Accidental Expert said...

Another wonderful post. It is so important to have a circle of support. Over the years, we have found out who we can and can't trust, but I am always surprised at how blessed we are in the end.

Megan said...

You are so right about the support system being key to successful living with a mental illness. The bipolar adults I know who have that kind of intimate support are doing well. The one friend who doesn't is a mess all the time, always doing really stupid things while she is manic. No one in her life has that daily contacts with her, sensing the changes in her voice, her topics of discussion, and is is hard. I can't care for her the way I would like because I have my own bipolar kid to constantly monitor.

revisedfully said...

"For every parent who turns away or doesn't know what to do or somehow gives the message that they are embarrassed or angry or not accepting of their child (no matter their age) there is a step backwards from a healthy lifestyle for the person suffering with a mental health disorder. A message is sent, "You don't matter", even if that is not what is meant."

I absolutely love this quote, Cinda! Thank you!

Revised
http://revisedfully.wordpress.com

Gregory Montgomery, Jr. said...

Hi Cinda - Very appropriate post today. I constantly get caught in the trap of thinking how lucky 'I am' to have family and friends that 'try to understand me'. A funk usually follows.

It's then I go back and review some of my blog entries in order to remind myself that I'm not totally nuts. Here's an excerpt from a December 2009 post. I'd like to talk to you about my philosophy.



The Mirror Approach

My 'mirror approach' on stabilization/recovery/productivity is based on my theory that the diagnosis is a 'family diagnosis. Meaning all parties involved must not only support, but rehabilitate as well. Many of the neuroses are formed in our youth....our developmental years of 1- 6 yrs old. After this age, the computer(child) is hard wired. Of course each situation will vary depending on abuse, neglect, experiences(tragic/joyous) etc. But in my opinion, the problems of becoming 'unstable' are directly attributed to our social settings, parents, teachers, coaches, etc.(ie not being 'understood').

The Mirror Approach

This being said, it is my goal to involve the entire family/support system within each 'patients' recovery/treatment. I don't like discussing the 12 step recovery program due to the bloody alcohol/drug stigmas. Because it's a fact that the 12 step program isn't about drugs or booze - it's about life! The entire family must engage, acknowledge, show remorse, and then move on as a unit. Picture a parent / loved one walking up to a newly diagnosed kid. Just when the parent starts to talk to the kid, the kid holds up a mirror. And then to the next 'supporter, and the next and next. This will make the person(s) 'helping/showing support' be forced to see themselves and be asked the question - "How did you affect this situation. And better yet. What are you going to do about it?!"

One these 'supporters' realize they are part of the problem, everyone should engage in the deconstruction of the EGO(more on that later) and take the necessary steps to peel ones onion and start to grow(more on that later as well).. Once the commitment is made to recovery as a family, the recovery process begins..............and odds suddenly shift extremely favorably.

Any thoughts? GHM

septembermom said...

An important and insightful post. I like to think how all of us really need to lean on another through all the trials and joys of life. We really need to be connected through care, communication and friendship.