When We Think We’ve Reached the End of the Story

Reaching the end of the story quote

 

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You Are Not Alone

I imagine that you are reading this blog because you, just like me, have an adult child who lives with mental illness or maybe it appears to you that your adult child may be living with an undiagnosed mental illness. Perhaps you are a relative or a friend who knows someone who has an adult child who lives with mental illness. Maybe you are a professional. Regardless of who you are, I’m glad you are here. To parents of adult children who happen to live with mental illness, you are not alone.

To those walking a similar walk to mine, I can empathize with you.

I am so sorry for any challenges you have faced past and/or present. I know what it is like. If you are not familiar with my story, I encourage you to read the “Welcome” page on Stacy’s Flutterings. You will see that I can empathize with you. I have been there, and I am there now.

How do I know that we walk a similar walk?

The proof is in the numbers. If we just look at how many people are affected by bipolar disorder globally, the numbers are staggering. The World Health Organization notes that about 60 million people worldwide are affected by bipolar affective disorder (World Health Organization [WHO], 2015). Can you imagine the number of people affected by mental illness if we add in all of the other mental illnesses? It is eye opening, isn’t it? And each one of these millions of individuals, living with bipolar disorder, has a parent. I am not saying that the parent is involved in their lives or anything about parenting other than the fact that each person has a parent, biological or not and absent or not. Therefore, parents too are affected.

If we are not alone then why does it feel as if we are?

Over the years, as we have coped with the illness of our loved one, we have felt very alone, and to some degree we are. Of course, no one can live our lives and therefore experience what we experience. In all honesty, there have been times, throughout the years, that I wish others could experience what we experience just so that they can empathize with us, not sympathize, but truly empathize. This is not reality though. The closet we can come to garnering true empathy is to share our story with others living a similar story and to those willing to listen. And this is precisely what I am doing. However, it is not just empathy that I seek (so that we can erase the stigma, prevent suicide and make positive changes to our mental health care system), but I do not want other parents, walking a similar walk, to feel any more alone than I did. If you are one of those parents, when times get tough, and you are feeling isolated, remember that you are not alone. Join me as I continue to share more about our experience. I have so much good news to share with you. When we think we’ve reached the end of the story, it really has only just begun…


This blog post contains an excerpt from Simply 1 Mom’s Thoughts About Coping When an Adult Child Lives With Mental Illness.

References

King, S. A. (2015). Simply 1 Mom’s Thoughts About Coping When an Adult Child Lives With Mental Illness.

World Health Organization. (2015). Mental disorders [Fact Sheet]. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs396/en/

Where’s the village? Parenting Beyond the High School Years When Mental Illness Plays a Role

I’ve heard over the years, from family and friends, the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. I don’t know about you, but I tend to agree. After all, we don’t parent in a vacuum. By the time a child is grown, many people have come and gone from a child’s life. The interesting thing is that once a child is grown, it seems that the village disappears. In America, when a child turns 18 years old, we consider the child to be an adult. With adulthood comes independence; no longer is the same level of parental support and help needed or so the story goes. However, what if the child, now an adult, lives with the continuation of or the recent onset of mental illness? Now what? Where’s the village? Parenting, beyond the high school years, especially when mental illness plays a role, can be challenging. It can seem even more challenging if it looks like the village has left.

Who do parents turn to for information if their child, now grown, lives with mental illness?

We know that children aren’t born with a manual that describes how to raise them. We simply do the best we can with what we have. During our child’s younger years we have doctors, teachers, family and others to reach out to. However, once our child reaches the adulthood milestone, it seems that, as parents, we have nowhere to turn because our child is an “adult.” As an adult they are responsible for making their own decisions, and they legally have the right to do so. What can seem like murky territory can become even murkier.

Despite how murky parenting may seem right now, I have good news!

The village is still here. It just looks a little different. How do I know? In addition to being a wife, I’m a mother as well of three adult children. Two of our children are grown and live on their own. Our middle child, who still lives at home with us currently, happens to live with bipolar disorder. I’ve been where you are at. And I’m there now. I  know what it’s like to raise children, and I can empathize with parents who have an adult child who lives with mental illness.

Where can you go for information?

If you would like more information about how you can support your adult child who lives with mental illness, I have a few ideas to get you started. First, I can’t express enough how much personal therapy has helped me. If you are a parent of an adult child who lives with mental illness, I encourage you to give it a try. At the very least, you may learn coping mechanisms that you can add to your parenting toolbox, and you may learn about local resources that may be of help to you and your child. If you find that you are searching for a therapist, you can try using the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Therapist Locator. If you live outside of the United States, you could try reaching out to your primary care provider for a referral. Second, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides helpful articles such as the ones noted below:

These are just a few of the articles NAMI offers that I highly encourage you to check out. And this is just the tip of the iceberg regarding information. I’ll be sharing more information and resources as I blog, and you can always go to the Mental Health Resources tab on Stacy’s Flutterings for additional resources.

Even though it may seem that the village vanishes when our children grow older, especially if we happen to have a child or children who live with mental illness, there are people and organizations ready to help. We just need to know where to look.


This blog post contains an excerpt from Simply 1 Mom’s Thoughts About Coping When an Adult Child Lives With Mental Illness.

References

King, S. A. (2015). Simply 1 Mom’s Thoughts About Coping When an Adult Child Lives With Mental Illness.

Growing Happily Beyond Our Expectations

I imagine that you, just like me, have dreams, goals and aspirations. However, while striving to fulfill your dream(s), did you ever think that you just might achieve it and actually exceed it? Here at Stacy’s Flutterings, we are doing just that and growing happily beyond our expectations. And I have great news to share with you. In addition to writing my next book, and blogging here on Stacy’s Flutterings, I’m now a contributor over at Lose the Cape, an online magazine for busy modern moms! This is such an important accomplishment for me, and I hope you’ll join me in celebrating this good news.

How joining the Lose the Cape team as a contributor surpasses my expectations.

Years ago, actually the year 2011 to be exact, I started this blog. It all started when I was talking with fellow volunteer Pat at the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition build in Ottawa, Kansas. We had been talking about mental illness which was the theme of that particular build and episode. During our conversation, I had shared with her our family’s story and how bipolar disorder and suicide had become center stage in our lives by then. As we conversed, she shared with me that she thought I should start a blog. Honestly, I hadn’t heard much about blogging up until that moment. My curiosity was peaked though, and I asked her for more details. Once the build was over, and Bill and I headed home, my blogging days began. I did my research, discovered WordPress, built Stacy’s Flutterings blog, and started blogging about how mental illness had impacted my family’s life. In addition to being therapeutic for me as a mom, the blog provided me with the means to reach out to other parents going through a similar experience and a way to advocate for the eradication of stigma. However, it’s now become so much more. It’s become a landing pad for half empty nesters who happen to have an older child, who lives with mental illness, still living at home. Here at Stacy’s Flutterings, parents can find inspiration, credible resources and hope. As you can see, Stacy’s Flutterings has wonderfully exceeded my expectations.

Why being a contributor for Lose the Cape is important to me.

I’m so thankful to Alexa Bigwarfe for bringing me on board as a contributor. This is an important accomplishment for me as a writer but even more so as a mom. She’s given me a voice as a mom of a half empty nest, a nest where mental illness is a part of my story. This is such an important milestone to me because this normalizes me as a mom. It makes me human thus my daughter is human. And you know what? That means that all moms who happen to have a half empty nest, with mental illness as part of the fluff, are normal and human too. We have so far to go in regard to erasing the stigma, but we are making strides, and this is one example! I truly have grown Stacy’s Flutterings happily above the expectations I had for the blog in 2011. I’m thankful for the continued support from my readers here at Stacy’s Flutterings, and I do hope you’ll come visit me on Lose the Cape as well! Until next time…

Growing stronger…

Throwback Thursday | Remembering a Happy Full Nest

This Throwback Thursday post is all about remembering when I had a happy full nest. It’s still happy but just half empty now. The picture included in this post captures Kim, Katlin and Paul celebrating Katlin’s 3rd birthday and years later her 16th birthday. I think that both moments, that we somehow managed to captured, are adorable. Don’t you think so? Of course, as their mom, I think that they still are adorable even as grown adults. Wow. To think that now Katlin is in her twenties as well as Kim and Paul. How time flies. I love the fact that both Kim and Paul are giving her a celebratory kiss! Even though they are grown, and Paul and Katlin have flown the nest, all three of the kids are still very close. The fact that Paul and Katlin live over a 1,000 miles from us now doesn’t mean that the kids are any less close. They’ve just had to learn a new way to support one another via special trips home, Skype, their phones, etc.

As I reflect back on their younger years, I remember the bond that they had when they were growing up. Of course, sibling rivalry was alive and well back then, as it is with most siblings, but they always came together in the end to support one another. Years later, that sibling support system still is in place and stronger than ever. As a mom, this means more to me than I can say. Just this past Christmas Bill and I had the joy of having all three of them home with us, and it was so wonderful. Having all three of them home, even for a short while, made everything right in the world. It was so right that Kim, our songbird, wrote one of her original songs “Talk Too Much” during that time. There they were, three grown kids sitting together. Kim was sitting on the fireplace hearth playing ukulele (she had never played it before) and singing as she came up with the lyrics to the song and Paul and Katlin were sitting nearby. They sat smiling and cheering her on.  At one point, I remember hearing Katlin yell out, “Yah! That’s what I mean!” with a big grin on her face. I’ve included the video below so that you can hear the fun that they were having which comes through Kim’s lyrics perfectly. Of course, Kim refined the song after Paul and Katlin made their way back to their homes, but they played an important role in the development of the song. If you listen to it, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

A happy full nest became a half nest. Even so, those that have flown, return often. Therefore, it’s a perfect half nest after all.

Growing stronger…

Wednesday Wanderings |Which door do you choose today?

Happy Wednesday. I hope it’s a good one for you. Today, the Wednesday Wanderings quote that I’m exploring is Alexander Graham Bell’s famous quote, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Using just 31 words, he has a way of righting a person’s perspective as if it were a capsized sailboat laying helplessly on it’s side. I find that there are times in life that this quote is quite powerful at helping me gain a fresh perspective on my life goals. It begs of us to think about what it is we are doing.

The quote is powerful is many ways:

  • It’s an invitation to explore where we are at in life regarding what’s important to us
  • The words “we often look so long…” bring awareness to the idea that perhaps we are missing other opportunities
  • The word “regretfully” describes the importance we place upon our personal goals
  • We are granted permission to try other options
  • It normalizes us with the word “we”
  • It give us hope

Who knew that only 31 words could be so refreshing and life changing? Thank you Alexander Graham Bell. Not only did you help invent the telephone, even in death you help people reinvent themselves on a continuous basis. Now the question remains, which door do you choose today?

Growing stronger…

Hot Topic Tuesday | Gun Violence and Mental Illness

StacyFlutteringsCupwithSteamToday, on Stacy’s Flutterings, the hot topic is gun violence and mental illness. I can’t imagine a hotter topic. Emanuella Grinberg points out in CNN article that despite the gun debate nation wide, there may be agreement, no matter which side you are on, regarding the “need to keep firearms out of the hands of people with serious mental illness” (Grinberg, 2016). Would you believe me if I told you I’ve been on, and seen, both sides of the fence, and mental illness exists on both sides of the fence I’ve seen?

This topic touches painfully right at the heart of our home

I can’t begin to tell you how close this topic touches home for me and my family. My husband was shot in a drive by shooting that took place in Wichita, Kansas back in the 1990’s. He was among 8 survivors. Sadly, one man died in the shooting spree. Our life at that time was turned upside down. Now, years later, I usually choose not to think back on that horrific day, but I want to share with you that I’ve been there, and it was life changing. Gun violence changes people. Imagine:

  • A dear, loved and beautiful person, my husband and my children’s father, chased down while driving to work by a shooter in another vehicle
  • The man of my dreams injured by gun fire that grazed his ear and skull
  • The car, our only car, with the passenger side window blown out from bullets
  • The news that others had been shot
  • The announcement of the death of one of the victims
It does something to you. And can you imagine how Bill feels? Interestingly enough, the shooter lives with bipolar disorder, and from what we understand, he wasn’t taking his medications at the time. You can find more details about the shooting spree in the AP News Archive and in a previous blog titled Aurora, Colorado Theater Shooting: The Million Dollar Question from a Family Affected by 1990 Wichita, Kansas Shooting Spree.

Now for the other side of the fence

Would you believe me if I said that my daughter, who was 5 months old at the time of the shooting, lives with bipolar disorder? She does. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her late teens. Talk about being on both sides of the fence. I’ve felt, firsthand, the impact of gun violence, and mental illness was a part of the picture. I’ve also felt the impact of mental illness from a parent perspective, and I know that violence isn’t a part of her diagnostic picture nor a part of her story, ever.
Whose side am I on?
Due to my experiences, do I side with the National Rifle Association (NRA) or do I side with the opposition? And do I think that those with serious mental illness shouldn’t have access to guns? For now, I’ll wait on sharing my political views, especially since I respect that we each have a right to our own beliefs. However, I do want to thank Emanuella Grinberg for her thought provoking article. I encourage you to read it. Whose side are you on?

Growing stronger…

__________________________________________________
Grinberg, E. (2016, January 25). Gun violence not a mental health issue, experts say, pointing to ‘anger,’ suicides. Cable News Network, Inc. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/25/health/gun-violence-mental-health-issue/

Remembering Our Mental Wellness

Tea Pot ImageHave you heard?

January is Mental Wellness Month! I can’t imagine a healthier way to begin the new year. And It’s important to remember that, even though the end of the month is near, awareness of our mental wellness doesn’t end January 31st, especially since it encompasses everything we do. We need to tend to our mental wellness throughout the year. To give us an idea just how encompassing our mental wellness is, let’s look at a definition of mental health. According to the World Health Organization, “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (World Health Organization [WHO], 2014). As you can see, our mental wellness touches on every aspect of our lives.

How do I care for my mental wellness?

I don’t know about you, but for myself, since mental wellness is all encompassing, it can be easy to forget about my mental well-being. As a wife, mother, grandmother, etc., I find that the last thing I usually think about is my mental well-being despite the importance that I do. It’s hard enough to find time for myself let alone take the time to think about my mental health. However, I realize that if I’m going to continue to effectively care for my loved ones, and fulfill my responsibilities, then awareness and care of my mental wellness is a must. How do I care for my mental wellness? Below are a few examples:

  • I try and take a quick daily mental inventory: Each day, I try to intentionally spend a few moments taking note of what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling. Self awareness helps me adjust and make changes to whatever challenges lie ahead throughout the day.
  • I exercise: I’ve had a health issue so I’ve gotten away from my daily walks, but I’m starting my walks again.
  • I get plenty of sleep: This has taken persistence on my part. I live with chronic insomnia. It took me awhile, but I finally found the courage to talk to my doctor about it, and she’s been very helpful. We’ve finally found, after several trials of different medications, that Ambien helps. Reducing my caffeine intake helps as well.
  • I communicate with others: I talk to my spouse about how I’m feeling, especially if I’m not feeing well. I’ve discovered that talking to someone that you trust can help. It provides us an opportunity to problem solve together.

What do you do to care for and strengthen your mental wellness? If you’d like more ideas about how to care for your mental wellness, check out Mental Health America’s Ten Tools to help you feel stronger. I especially like #8 – Take care of your spirit.

Are we getting the message out?

As you can see, mental wellness is vitally important. Interestingly enough, in spite of how important tending to our mental wellness is, I wonder whether or not we are getting the message out to the public and to employers to name a few. I discovered something that surprised me. Last Friday, when I shared with my daughter Kim that it is Mental Wellness Month, she said, “Wait. Now what is it?” After I shared again with her what month it is, she said, “I didn’t know that!” Without knowing it, she brought up an extremely important point, and that is, even though there are those trying to bring about awareness pertaining to our mental wellness, it seems that many are not getting the message. To my surprise, when I did a Google search of the words “mental wellness,” none of the top mental health organizations that I’m familiar with like NAMI and DBSA came up. However, when I typed in the words “mental illness” several organizations came up such as NAMI, Mayo Clinic, Web MD and other organizations as well. This is interesting to me. Shouldn’t these prominent organizations come up when I type in “mental wellness?” I also discovered something else. Many of the sites that I looked at had outdated material as well. This is an interesting discovery and one that I thought that I’d share with you. For now, the focus of this blog post is mental wellness so I’ll revisit my findings another day. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn about the history of Mental Wellness Month and learn more about caring for your mental wellness, check out Sovereign Health‘s article  “January is Mental Wellness Month.” And if you haven’t thought about it before, I do hope that you tend to your mental wellness. May we all have a great and healthy week!

Growing stronger…


World Health Organization. (2014). Mental health-strengthening our response (Fact sheet No. 220). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs220/en/