A Broken Understanding

Last weekend, our little family among millions accomplished something grand.

It’s actually so monumental to us as a family that I imagine that the universe celebrated along with us at the very moment that it happened maybe even with the creation of a new star out there somewhere in the galaxy. The residue from broken egos gathered like magnetized dust particles and came together in agreement. At that moment, a new and positive energy was created, and it’s unfolding with great purpose. While our accomplishment may seem like no feat at all to others, it’s life changing for us individually and as a family.

Simply put…

Bill and Kim have learned how to work together, not just as a father and daughter, but as musicians. I want to say that they put their egos aside, but that’s not actually what happened. What really happened is that their egos chronically, like a long-term illness, collided day after day and year after year, and it wasn’t a pretty father-daughter dance. In fact, as in many parent–child relationships, it isn’t pretty. And that’s okay because from our experience, imperfection can result in something even greater than we had imagined. Bill and Kim didn’t put their egos aside. Instead, with broken egos front and center, they decided to finally, and truly, work together.

Getting to that moment wasn’t easy…

Last summer, Bill and Kim had talked about working together as musicians, and at one point in time it appeared that they had come to an agreement regarding the direction that they were headed with Kim’s music career. It seemed that they had teamed up and were well on their way to forming a working band. However, for us, it couldn’t be that easy. And in all reality, they were not practicing together. They’d talk about it, but they just didn’t seem to be able to sit down and practice together for very long before getting into some disagreement. Last week, Bill learned that Kim was not in agreement with him regarding the creation of music, lyrics and copyright. They were at a crossroad. It looked like the time had come that Bill would no longer be a part of Kim’s musical journey, and we sadly thought that maybe he never was a part of her journey. Bill and I talked about the possibility that maybe the accumulation of music gear, guitar lessons, healed blisters and melted ice-packs were a false reality that we had created for ourselves as parents, and if so, how unfair to Kim.

Had We been lying to ourselves?

After careful deliberation, we got to the point that we told Kim, “It’s your career. You are in charge of it. You do what is right for you. You know what you are doing. We will still support you, but we can’t move forward with mom and dad as direct partners. You’ll figure it out.” And then this awful dark feeling enveloped our little family, and our smiles dissipated as if they never existed before. Sadness filled my heart, and emptiness. I wondered if I was desperately clinging to Kim all these years later after her last suicide attempt by way of music, and I wondered if Bill was doing the same. The following day, we didn’t talk to one another. Rather, we existed together.

And then…

that same day, moment by moment lapsed…and without really thinking about it…and somehow with all the motherly confidence that I had ever gathered before, particle by particle, I walked outside to the patio where Bill and Kim were. Bill was standing there playing guitar, and Kim was seated at the patio table. I looked at each of them and said, “We have to make this work for you Kim, and for you Bill, and for Jaden, and for me.” I then walked back inside the house. That was it. That was all I had, and I like to believe that it was enough.

Later that evening, Kim shared with Bill and I that she had received an email from a potential client who wanted to know if she could perform at an upcoming event. Bill and I hesitated to get involved with her decision making process and told her that it was up to her to decide how to respond and move forward with this new and exciting opportunity. She then asked Bill for his help. She said, “Dad, I need help with equipment and sound checks. And I need a guitarist.” Nothing more needed to be said. Bill and Kim started to talk to one another again, and they started to truly practice together, and they’ve been working together ever since. We move forward with renewed respect for one another, and we continue to support one another’s definition of self: Kim – singer/songwriter, Bill – guitarist, Stacy – writer, and Jaden – busy being three…1 little family among millions doing it differently…

You can find Kim here: https://www.kimking.us/

~ Stacy (1 Mom)

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Dad’s Coat | True Family Teamwork

Do you happen to have a busy household with adult children still living at home with you? Perhaps you have grandchildren living with you as well? I do, and I find myself wondering at times how we manage to make it work. To give you an idea of what my household looks like in regard to the number and diversity of the occupants, imagine that you have a birds eye view of my house as if you were a bird flying over it. You can be any bird you like. As you fly over my house, with the weight of the world below you, your birds eye view would reveal that there are four different people from three different generations living under one roof. And the three adult persons all work doing very different jobs. One person is a project manager, one person is a singer, and one person is a writer. The adorable wee little one that actually runs the house, truth be know, has a job too. She’s busy being a two year old. What you can’t see from your birds eye view is that we have two other adult children who are grown and living on their own far from our nest. Therefore, we have a half full nest. I think that what makes our half full nest work is that we have infinite unconditional love for one another and another ingredient. It’s called true family teamwork. Last weekend, I happened to catch a glimpse of our teamwork in action, and it revolved around, and as my kids call him, Dad’s coat.

Bill had been outside working on the house. The work he is doing is A monumental TASK To say the least.

He’s completely overhauling the outside of the house, a house that had been neglected by the previous owners. After years of being exposed to humid and wet weather, the old, cedar plank siding with its random splits across each plank and warped edges that curl up, and that have become home to some small lizards, is being removed and replaced single handedly by Bill with new siding meant to withstand Florida’s humid subtropical climate. The windows are also coming out, one by one, and are being replaced with impact resistant windows. Soon we will have a house that will be more energy efficient, and it will be protected from most of Mother Nature’s unpredictable forces. At this time in our lives together, I can’t claim fame to any of the tremendous amount of work being done on the house due to a bad back and another issue that has come up recently.

I feel awful that I can’t help like I used to. Of course, there are things that I can do like hand him tools, help with clean up and other various tasks, but I can’t help with the heavy lifting. Luckily, with Kim still living at home, he has help! Even though we have our challenges as a family, we sure know how to work together. When Bill needs help with lifting or with other tasks that I can’t do, Kim steps in and helps. In the meantime, I watch our granddaughter. At other times, we simply offer one another help.

That is what happened a few days ago when I noticed something special.

It was a gloomy and dark day. Puffy rain clouds loomed overhead. Despite the weather, Bill worked outside. He was busy measuring, cutting and nailing on the new siding. At one point, I was outside with him for a little bit. I helped him as much as I could, and then I got really cold because it had started to rain. My fingers and my toes started to feel numb from the cold, damp soil, and I had become chilled from the wet rainfall. Bill said, “Go inside. It’s too cold.” I told him that he needed to go inside too. He replied with, “No. I’ll be okay. I’ll come in in in a little bit. Go inside Stace.” I decided to go ahead and head back inside the house but with hesitation because I knew he was cold as well and was getting wet. When I got inside, Kim approached me and asked, “Does Dad have his coat on?” I said, “I think so.” I hadn’t actually paid much attention to what he was wearing because when I had initially gone outside it wasn’t raining. I told her that if she went to the patio outback she would be able to see him and would be able to see if he had on his coat or not. Somehow, we both got distracted and continued on about our business. I made a fresh pot of coffee, and Kim tended to her little one.

Not long after, I decided to go back outside and check on Bill. I hadn’t been outside for more than a few minutes when I saw Kim walk up to us with a busy toddler Running along beside her.

She had Bill’s coat in her hand. She reached out to give it to him and said, “Dad, you need to put your coat on. It’s too cold out here. You’re getting wet. You’re going to get sick.” He said he was fine, but he took it from her and put it on. As he put it on, he turned away from us and started to once again work on applying the siding as he had been before Kim gave him his coat. There he was: my man; wet from the rainfall, the kids dad, and the grandkids grandpa working outside on a rainy day trying to fix a house in need of repair and trying to provide a comfortable and safe shelter for his family. And he had his coat on, and he was protected as much as possible from the rain. True family teamwork was alive and well that day. And somehow, I caught a glimpse of it in action. If you were a bird flying over your house, what positive action would you see?

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.

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…

Hushing the Sounds of Social Stigma | A Quiet Book Reveal

Today is a great day. The weather is beautiful here in Florida. The sun, outside my office window, is shining. The sky is blue and riddled with cottony white, fluffy clouds, and yet I sit feeling nervous, and I ponder what to do. What is it that is making me so nervous, and what is holding me back? Sadly, the answer is simple. My fear of social stigma is making me feel nervous, and it’s holding me back from sharing good news. To help me move forward today, past this fear, I’m hushing the sounds of social stigma by blogging about it.

The sounds of social stigma have been taunting me lately, especially since the release of my first book Simply 1 Mom’s Thoughts About Coping When an Adult Child Lives With Mental Illness. To help me hush the sounds of stigma, I’ve noted below a few of my top fears that pertain to writing and publishing the book:

My top 4 Fears that are Laden with stigma

  • How could a mother write about the illness of her child, especially mental illness?
  • Why must you share your dirty laundry with the world?
  • You don’t know anything about what it’s like to live with a mental illness so why write about it?
  • You are not a real author. Your book won’t matter.

My response to my stigma laden fears…

First, in response to my fear, “How could a mother write about the illness of her child?” Why would I be any different from other authors who have written about their children who happen to live with a physical and/or mental illness? I think it’s important for parents to share how they cope as parents when faced with the physical and/or mental illness of a child, if they feel inclined to, because their knowledge may help another parent. Parental advice, based on experience, can be priceless. Also, by opening up and talking about my experience, other parent’s learn that they are not alone. Again, this can be priceless for parent’s who may feel that they are battling life alone.

Second, in response to my fear, “Why must you share your dirty laundry with the world?” To me, the concept of airing dirty laundry is blatant stigma at its best. Because of stigma, many of us want to hide our thoughts and feelings from the world. When we talk about our experience(s), we learn that we are not alone, and we can begin the process of learning what others have done to cope. I believe that opening up and sharing our stories helps us garner support that can help carry us through some of life’s toughest challenges.

Third, in response to my fear, “You don’t know what it’s like to live with a mental illness so why write about it?” This is just incorrect. In fact, I do know what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’ve experienced depression, OCD, PTSD, and I live with anxiety. Therefore, I can relate.

Fourth, in response to my fear, “You are not a real author. Your book won’t matter.” Again, this is just incorrect. I am an indie author, and I am proud of this fact. It takes a lot of determination, hard work and perseverance to write, edit, publish and market a book. I’ve done just that, and as a woman, a mother, a wife, and as a friend, I’m proud of my accomplishment. And this isn’t the last book that I’ll be writing. I’m proud to share with you that this first book, Simply 1 Mom’s Thoughts About Coping When an Adult Child Lives With Mental Illness, is part of a series titled Simply 1 Mom’s Thoughts About…and it’s currently available on Amazon. My book does matter because my family matters as well as families across the globe.

I notice, as I’m typing these very words, that the sun is shining brighter than it was earlier. Maybe it’s because I finally hushed the sounds of stigma in its tracks as I’ve quietly revealed that I’ve published my first book. I feel a weight has been lifted. I hope you will join me in this celebration and even consider checking it out! Any likes and shares on Facebook helps me. For now, I have to get back to writing the second book in the series. Oh! And did I tell you, I’m also writing a third book that pertains to travel that I’m excited to share with you in the year 2016!

Growing stronger…

Wednesday Wanderings | A Mother’s Indomitable Will

IMG_1583-1As many of you are aware, it’s official! Stacy’s Flutterings is no longer on hiatus. In addition to writing regular blog posts once again, I’m bringing Wednesday Wanderings back. For those who might be wondering, Wednesday Wanderings is a series of weekly blog posts that I publish on Wednesdays. Each Wednesday Wanderings post is comprised of a quote that I find meaningful and significant in some way. And what makes each Wednesday Wanderings blog post unique is that in addition to sharing a quote with you, I take it a step further, and I share with you the thoughts and emotions that the quote stirs up for me personally. My hope, in writing the Wednesday Wanderings series, is that on Wednesdays the blog post will spark some midweek inspiration for you. To help kick this off, I’m sharing a quote today from Mahatma Gandhi that I find very powerful. What is the quote, and how is it powerful? Keep reading…

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” Mahatma Gandhi

Wow! Gandhi’s words resonant with me in such a way that it’s difficult to describe. Even saying, “Wow!” sounds like an injustice! I question, “How can I, a mere mom, say anything after Gandhi’s quote that would have any impact at all?” Even in death, the pioneer of the non-violence movement continues to inspire us all to not give up, to have faith in one another, and to help one another. And to think that the keystone, that locks all of his teachings together, is peace. Even though I know that I can’t come remotely close to saying anything at all that would inspire people as much as Gandhi has, and continues to do so, I’m going to share the thoughts that came to my mind after reading his quote. As ordinary as my thoughts are, here goes…

What happened when I read Gandhi’s words above?

When I read the words, “indomitable will” I thought about motherhood and the role of mother. In my experience, as a mother, there’s nothing stronger than a mother’s will. To me, a mother’s will is the manifestation of the love a mother has for her child. Who comes to your mind when you read the words, “a mother’s will?” Of course, I think of Mother Mary, the mother of Jesus. To me, she’s the mother of all mothers. She is the definition of strength. And I think of someone else, I think of my mother. It was my mother’s will that saw my family through some of the hardest times when I was growing up. What is incredible to me is that, intuitively, I knew that no matter what came my way, when I was a child, I would be okay. I knew I’d be okay because I knew that my mother was protecting me and watching out for me, and she still does to this day. Her love for me and my siblings is palpable, and yet she doesn’t live near me. That’s how a mother’s love is.

What about my role as mother?

When I think about my role as mother, I instantly think about my children: Paul, Kim and Katlin. I think back to the days that I carried each of them through pregnancy, birth and beyond, and I feel pride, and I feel joy. I feel a sense of satisfaction only a mother could know. I’ve done my job. I managed to bring three, beautiful, loving, human beings into this world. Now that they are grown adults, we seem to spend so much time apart. However, when I have the privilege of hearing them on the phone and/or seeing them in person, I stand in awe. They don’t know it yet, but now they carry me with each breath they take. They carry me forward, and their love lifts my spirt. That is the strength of a mother’s indomitable will. It’s so powerful that it’s invisible. And with it’s invisible nature, a mother’s indomitable will transcends life and death, and it even transcends the miles here on Earth between a mother and a child. To me, a mother’s indomitable will is the keystone to life itself.

It’s your turn. What comes to your mind when you read Gandhi’s quote about strength and the indomitable will?

Growing stronger…

You Have Permission to Relax and De-stress Now | Creating Moments of Respite

Chair with Wicker Back“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”  Jim Goodwin and Sydney J. Harris

Do you make time for yourself to de-stress? What’s great is that if you don’t, you have permission to relax and de-stress now. Yes, you can relax and de-stress at this very moment. How? Keep reading…

Taking a moment to relax and de-stress is also known as respite. With this in mind, and in recognition of National Stress Awareness Day, I thought I’d share this post with you about respite care. So, what is respite care, and how does it apply to our lives? According to ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center, respite is “planned or emergency care provided to a child or adult with special needs in order to provide temporary relief to family caregivers who are caring for that child or adult” (n.d.). Merriam-Webster.com defines respite as “an interval of rest or relief” (n.d). Hmmm…rest…relief…sounds wonderful doesn’t it?! Below you will find my story of how I discovered that we can actually create moments of personal respite on a daily basis. Yes, planned respite is needed and an integral part of care-giving. However, we can also intentionally create personal moments of respite throughout each and every day to help us survive daily stressors. How you might ask?  Well…

I recently saw one of my doctor’s for a follow up appointment. I asked him if the symptoms I have been experiencing could be brought on by stress. Before he could answer my question I anxiously blurted out that I have been experiencing a great deal of stress. As I busily talked with my hands, as I so often do, he politely took the time to listen to my story and he calmly said, “Stacy, while you are here at our office, use the time to relax and breathe.” I was kind of taken back. I didn’t expect him to say that. He gave me permission to relax. I felt a sense of calm wash over me. As his words sunk into my stress laden brain, I took a deep breath and exhaled. It was as if someone had taken a fresh, warm blanket out of the dryer on an icy cold December day and wrapped it around me. Any tension I felt left my body, and I felt a little less stressed.

As a wife, mother, grandmother, caregiver, friend etc…I oftentimes forget to take care of myself. Usually it takes me getting sick or hurt to realize that I need to slow down and refocus a little on myself. It is interesting that sometimes we need someone to give us permission to do something as simple as relax.

Since that day at the doctor’s office, I have to come realize that we have the power to create personal moments of respite. If we are at the doctor’s office we can use that time, as my doctor said, to relax. We can turn a sometimes unpleasant situation, like a waiting room, into a moment of respite. We can capture the moments that oftentimes elude us and recreate a moment to just inhale and exhale the stress. So, here’s to creating personal moments of respite in an effort to be the best we can be for the amazing people in our lives including ourselves!

Growing stronger…

~~~~~~~~~~

ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center.  Accessed on November 4, 2015 at http://archrespite.org/

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.  Accessed on November 4, 2015 at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/respite

Are We Enabling? Walking the Tightrope

photo (6)Have you heard the word enable yet in regard to parenting?  If you find yourself wondering what enable means, according to Khaleghi, enabling means “… lending a hand to help people accomplish things they could not do by themselves.  More recently, however, it has developed the specialized meaning of offering help that perpetuates rather than solves a problem” (2012).  Honestly, I hadn’t really thought about whether or not I enable as a parent until it was brought up at a support group meeting for families affected by mental illness.

There I sat at the meeting an exhausted and heartbroken parent with my shoulders slumping forward as if gravity had wrapped around my shoulders like a shawl and attempted to pull me down with the guilt of unsuccessful parenting.  Whatever my husband and I were doing, at the time as parents, didn’t seem to be helpful to our daughter in regard to her behavior.  At the peak of her illness her behaviors seemed out of control.  For instance, she self-medicated.  Even though we tried to stop her from abusing substances it didn’t seem to matter.  Try as we might, and try we did, it seemed that we were ineffective as a parents.  It was confusing because we have two other children that we seemed to raise just fine.  However, with my middle child, we were faced with challenges that we did not expect.  When she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder we had to figure out what that meant.  We had so much to learn.  It seemed that we were in survival mode.  We didn’t even think about our parenting skills.  It didn’t come to mind in the beginning.  Why would it?  We were busy trying to figure out what type of help would benefit her, what type of medications she needed as well as how to cope with her symptoms and the ramifications of her illness. Our parental skills were the last thing on our mind and yet how we parent has become such an important tool as we journey forward with her.

In regard to the meeting, when the word “enable” was said it got my full attention.  I sat up in my chair, leaned in towards the group and intently listed.  As a result, I learned that enabling our loved ones can actually do more harm than good.  Tom Smith, President of the Karla Smith Foundation, noted in his article “The Fine Line: Between Supporting and Enabling a Loved One with a Mental Illness” that enabling can interfere with self-sufficiency (Smith, n.d.).  Temporarily, the weight of parenting a loved one with bipolar disorder lifted.  It’s as if I tossed the heavy, gravity laden shawl of guilt I was carrying on my shoulders aside.  When I heard the word “enable” I thought, “Maybe this is what we’ve been missing all along.”  I felt excited for the first time in a long time because I realized that there was still hope in regard to our parenting abilities.  Perhaps we were enabling our daughter’s behaviors.  I found myself thinking, “That’s it!  That’s the answer!  We’ll stop enabling her behaviors, and things will get better!”  However, since that “aha!” moment things haven’t really gotten any easier.  In fact, I think it actually got a little tougher because now we have to think about how we are going to approach certain situations in regard to our loved one’s behavior and whether or not the boundaries my husband and I set either enable or support her.

As a consequence, knowing whether or not we enable our daughter feels like walking a tightrope.  As we attempt to balance our parental boundaries we find that we are still left wondering whether or not we are enabling.  If we lean just a little one way we could lose our balance and potentially create a situation for our loved one that may be harmful.  On the other hand, if we lean to far the other direction we could be helping her greatly.  There seems to be little room, if any, for inconsistency.  To tell you the truth, knowing whether or not we’re enabling her behavior seems difficult to say the least.  One way that my husband and I stopped enabling certain behaviors includes the fact that we stopped the flow of money.  Without realizing it we were actually supporting our daughter’s self-medicating behavior.  Each time we handed her money it allowed her to self-medicate.  Thus, we were in essence saying,”Don’t drink, but here’s the money you asked for, so go for it!”  How confusing is that?  I know it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, but we were so overwhelmed by her illness and just trying to survive as well as keep her alive that the concept of enabling escaped us.

Since that meeting, we have approached parenting our daughter a little differently.  We now ask ourselves, “What is in the best interest of our daughter?”  And, “What might be the consequence if we support her actions or draw the line?”  Usually, what helps us make a decision is that we also ask, “Will our actions hurt or help her?”  For us, asking ourselves the question, “Are we enabling?” hasn’t made parenting any easier.  We are making progress though!  I guess that’s all we can do as parents.  And so, we continue to put one foot in front of the other as we walk the line together.

If you would like more information about enabling I encourage you to check out Tom Smith’s article “The Fine Line.”  You can access it on the Karla Smith Foundation website at: http://www.karlasmithfoundation.org/THE%20FINE%20LINE.doc.

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Khaleghi, K. (July 11, 2012). Are you empowering or enabling. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-anatomy-addiction/201207/are-you-empowering-or-enabling

Smith, T. (n.d.). The fine line: between supporting and enabling a loved one with a mental illness. Retrieved from http://www.karlasmithfoundation.org/THE%20FINE%20LINE.doc

Weekly Writing Challenge: Moved by Music – Wake Me Up

DSC_0160-004While driving home the other night, after picking up dinner at a nearby, favorite restaurant, I heard the new song “Wake Me Up” by Avicii.  I really like the song so of course I had to turn it up!  While keeping my eyes on the road I quickly reached for the volume button.  As I turned the music up, I started to sing, “So wake me up when it’s all over…”  I paused for a moment and listened to the lyrics, and then I continued to sing, “…So wake me up when it’s all over, when I’m wiser and I’m older, all this time I was finding myself, and I didn’t know I was lost…”  As I neared my neighborhood the song of course came to an end, but the lyrics stuck in my head.

With the lyrics still playing in my head I started to think about my daughter, who lives with bipolar disorder, and our experiences due to her illness.  She is 24 now and has a child of her own.  Due to her illness she currently lives at home with my husband and I as she works diligently to get back on her feet.  I have two other children, a son who is 26 and a younger daughter who is 22.  However, they both live on their own.

With that in mind, I have had moments when the stressors are so great that I’ve wondered if things are ever going to change.  It would be easy to just say, “Just wake me up when it’s over!”  That way I wouldn’t have to face the challenges that parents of a child with a mental illness face on a daily basis such as the perpetual, emotional roller coaster ride in regard to my daughter’s moods, the financial strain of taking care of an adult child with mental illness, the wear and tear on my relationship with my husband and other children, and the nagging concern I have in regard to whether or not my daughter has made it to her appointments and whether or not I should get involved in how she conducts her life, as well as other unique challenges.

After pulling into the drive-way, and turning the ignition off, I sat for a moment in my car with silence surrounding me.  I sat alone thinking how nice it would be if everything my husband and I are working towards just fell into place.  The picture I imagined in my mind was my husband and I sitting down to a celebration dinner.  I imagined that as we talked we congratulated one another on a job well done, as far as raising our children.  As we smiled at one another we clinked our wine glasses together and said, “Congratulations!  Now it’s time for us!”  With the blink of an eye the image faded, and I got out of the car and headed inside the house.  That’s not our reality, at least not yet.

And it was as I ran up the steps that I realized that I would never want to wake up when it’s over!  Imagine what I would miss!  I now have a beautiful granddaughter that I get to help take care of!  Additionally, I believe that it is in experiencing that we live!  Yes, some days are difficult to get through, and there are times when things just don’t make sense.  And then there are those moments that I want to hold onto forever, like the moment I saw my daughter hold her daughter for the first time and the moment when I realized how far my daughter has come in relation to her illness.  She is an amazing mother and headed down a very healthy path.  Our family has come far as well, and that my friends is enough for a celebration!  We are not lost.  We are right where we are supposed to be!

So, I have to ask, would you want to wake up when it’s over?

Growing stronger…

DPchallenge