Too Many Things

Yesterday involved a lot of things. Too many things, which ended up overwhelming me.

These things included:

  • Cleaning up the bloody nose Jack had when he awoke. And then worrying if this was a sign of low platelets (it wasn’t).
  • Drawing blood to determine ANC (not related to the bloody nose) and running the vials to the lab.
  • Getting Jack out the door on time to make it to school (put your shoes on, take your meds, brush your teeth, do you need a jacket, don’t forget your backpack). It was dicey for a bit because he couldn’t put two words together and walked around like a drunk man.
  • Calling the vet to make an appointment for my cat who has a skin issue that just won’t go away, likely due to a thyroid problem.
  • Trying to remove the nail polish from Halloween and being left with blue-stained nails.
  • Calling the Department of Child Support Services to determine the status of my account, which has seen no activity since July. Apparently the DCSS has requested that the DMV suspend Jack’s dad’s driver’s license.
  • Notifying Jack’s dad and step-mom about the license suspension. In case they missed the memo. And worrying about the (almost for certain) blow-back that will likely occur.
  • Worrying about leaving the country (and Jack) in a couple of weeks.
  • Calling and leaving a message for Jack’s oncology case manager to ask about the results of the labs, which showed that the acidosis had gotten WORSE despite the changes in medication that happened two weeks ago. The case manager was not working today.
  • Contacting Jack’s pediatrician in an attempt to understand why Jack’s acidosis has gotten worse instead of better and find out next steps. Apparently the next step may be consulting with a nephrologist.
  • Letting the home tutor know we might not need him but, hey, it’s early in the week so ask us again in a day or two because Jack hasn’t made it to school more than two days in any given week over the last three months.
  • My day job, but from home.
  • Setting out the rest of Jack’s pills for the week and, then, ordering more.

That was all capped off by a full blown anxiety attack. ‘Cause this was all too much for one person to handle on any day and there will just be more tomorrow.

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Yet Again, I’m Blogging About Mental Health

Today is Mental Health Month Blog Day. Mental health – and illness – is a topic of great importance to me and something I’ve written about before. It’s importance has only grown as I’ve gotten older. My experiences with mental illness have led me to get involved in helping others through sites like Band Back Together and I try to speak about my experiences openly and honestly whenever possible.

Did you know that a quarter of Americans experience a diagnosable mental health disorder every year? It’s highly likely that you or someone you know (or SEVERAL someones you know!) is dealing with mental illness. And yet, “research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Vol. 41, No. 2) finds that 68% of Americans do not want someone with a mental illness marrying into their family and 58% do not want people with mental illness in their workplaces.”

Whaaaat??

This is why it’s important to talk about mental health!

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

I was diagnosed at age 15 with depression after I read an article in a magazine. Mental illness runs in my family – my dad, my mom, my brother, my grandmother, and cousins have been diagnosed with various problems – but I was one of the first to receive a diagnosis and treatment. Once I was diagnosed, a number of my family members realized they struggled with the same issues as I did and sought help. Our family life improved drastically after we got help.

Getting help was the best thing I ever did – for me and for my whole family.

I thought I knew everything I needed to know about depression by the time Jack was born, over 10 years after I was initially diagnosed, but then I experienced Postpartum Depression and PTSD reared its ugly head. I threw myself into therapy once again, this time taking a multi-pronged approach with group therapy, skills building classes, and individual therapy along with medication. I went through a variety of these intense therapies for about four years before I felt like I could take a break.

Treatment has been tremendously helpful. In many ways, I am a different person than I was before that very intense therapy. I grew up with so much trauma and while that is common, it’s not easy to cope with. I came up with some very creative ways of coping but the coping didn’t end when the traumas did. And because I was so busy coping, I wasn’t living.

But treatment alone would not have done it for me. I needed community. I needed friends and family. And as difficult as it was to reach out, I did. And my friends and family kept me going throughout my treatment.

Now my son struggles to cope with the challenges in his young life, partly due to genetics and partly due to his experiences with cancer. I am especially thankful these days that I took the time to help myself! I am strong enough now to help him. I can tell him that it’s okay to be sad and that he doesn’t have to just CHEER UP and GET OVER IT. I can help him grieve and move on so that his feelings won’t haunt him for years and years. And I can show him how to ask for help from family and the medical community.

He doesn’t have to be alone.

It is my hope that – eventually – no one will have to go through mental illness alone. Mental illness was something I struggled with by myself for a long time and it wasn’t until I got help from others that I truly started to find healing. It was 100% worth it.

I encourage you all to share your experiences and to reach out to others – whether you are the one struggling or you know someone else who is. Even if the results are small, they make a difference and can change a life.

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Mental Illness In The Family

I filed a crime tip report on my brother today. At about 8:00am. What a way to start the morning, eh?

Back in January when Jack was diagnosed with cancer, my brother took a distinct interest. He started emailing me every day. Then several times a day when I didn’t answer. He sent me articles about cancer, “tips” about how feeding kids hot dogs could cause cancer, and then he contacted some ‘homeopathic healers’ on my behalf. I asked him to stop. He responded by sending more. So then I blocked him on Facebook.

After that, he posted to my Facebook wall by using my mother’s account (he borrowed her computer) and also sent me a message from her phone. Each time I informed my mother and asked that she not let him borrow her stuff! And asked her to please get him some help. I live over an hour away, have a kid with cancer to take care of, and do not have the medical history records that she does.

No luck. Actually my mom thinks maybe my brother was misdiagnosed as Schizoaffective…that maybe he just has depression. And that my pulling away from him is making him behave this way.

Ok, Mom.

My mom did call the police on my brother at one point because he was talking about slitting her boyfriend’s throat…she had been advised by his therapist to do that in order to create a record of my brother’s behavior. My grandmother (they live together) assured the police that my brother just needed to take his meds and he’d be fine. He wasn’t arrested at all.

Around March or so he got to Jack’s CaringBridge and posted the following message in the Guestbook:

“You’re really shitty parents and don’t know how to take care of kids so they get sick and get cancer and your treatment sucks.”

I secured the CaringBridge site and blocked him from that. I told my mother not to give my brother any of my contact information. I was done with being stalked and harassed, especially after finding out he’d been trolling a friend’s website and emailing my family members to see if THEY could see my Facebook. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t send me messages anymore.

A couple of months later I was speaking with my mom on the phone and she let me know that my grandmother had been sleeping with a knife because she was afraid of my brother’s behavior. When I asked if my mom had taken my brother to a psychiatric hospital yet, she said yes and that he’d been turned away because he didn’t want to be admitted and “they were full.” I spoke to my therapist, who then called Elder Care on my grandmother’s behalf.

Unfortunately nothing resulted from the house visit by Elder Care – my grandmother doesn’t want to leave the house (she has legit reasons). I encouraged my mother to keep trying the local psychiatric hospitals – to INSIST that they take my brother in. He needs specialized care and my mother is not equipped to give it to him. My mother has been dealing with a lot of health problems, though, and has not gotten anywhere with getting help for my brother.

This morning I got an email from my sister. She had seen on my brother’s Facebook wall that he was threatening to kill our cousin. His exact words were:

“If I see him I will fucking kill him I want to beat him so badly I fucking hate that shitty guy.”

There were two posts related to my cousin, and then a third discussing bullying:

“I hate those bullied people. I can’t stand them. I support everyone in hurting them. I will support the bullies to be extra viscious to those annoying bullied people. Get those bullied people to kill themselves.”

There was a lot more than this, but I’m sure you get the point.

My brother is not well. He is unpredictable and violent. He’s broken into a house, he’s destroyed property again and again, he hallucinates, and he’s told my son to go drink battery acid. He has not physically harmed a PERSON and he has not threatened to commit suicide, so police and the psychiatric hospitals will not take him. He is an adult (27 years old) and therefore in charge of his own care, and he feels that inpatient care is not for him. He’s fine – it’s everyone else’s problem.

I don’t know what to do. I love my brother. I miss the guy he can be when he’s not buried by his mental illness. I wish he could get help, but as time goes on it looks more and more like he will end up in jail. At this point I worry that he is going to be the next guy to shoot up a school or theater. There is no doubt in my mind that could happen. There was a time where I didn’t think he was capable of any crime, when I thought he harnessed so much potential for great things. Unfortunately that time has passed and now I just mourn the loss of a real brother.

So I filed a crime tip this morning. I encouraged my cousin to file a police report. I sent a follow up message to my mother, via cell phone, because she apparently didn’t get my sister’s e-mail. My fingers are crossed that during their visit together today to attend my great uncle’s memorial service, nothing goes awry.

My brother is sick. There seems to be nothing we can do to help him, and there seems to be nothing we can do to protect our family from him.

***

If you have any ideas at all about avenues we might not have tried, please, please share them.

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Delayed Reactions

Jack’s out of the hospital. Thank goodness. Today he is at his first Cancer Clinic appointment getting an infusion of chemo. I’m looking forward to him coming home, and hope he isn’t too sick afterward.

I keep trying to tell myself the worst has past – that the prognosis is good, that so many cancer cells have already been zapped by the chemo, that the disease won’t progress. I know these things in my head. Still, my heart aches. I struggle to get out of bed in the morning, to eat, to do anything to take care of myself. When Jack isn’t here I don’t know what to do. What was life like before this diagnosis? What did I think about when cancer didn’t fill my every waking moment? What if Jack isn’t one of the 90% of kids cured?

I keep thinking about how all of this almost went undetected. I almost didn’t take Jack to the doctor. We almost didn’t opt for a blood test to “confirm” anemia. It would have been so easy to dismiss all of his symptoms as a combination of fighting off a cold and returning to school after a long break. It serves no purpose to think about these things but they are invading my mind nonetheless.

I am very much shell shocked. I got through the crisis period without completely freaking out, but I didn’t escape the freak-out – it’s just happening after the fact. My brain and body are not cooperating. I can’t think straight and I feel tired and/or sick to my stomach all the time. I started getting angry at the piles of boxes in our house – not that I don’t appreciate everyone’s thoughts and generosity but I just want to go BACK. I want to NOT need any of this stuff. I’d much rather have someone take this nightmare away. So when I look at the boxes and think about what they are for, I have this irrational anger…and then I get angry at myself. 😛

I can keep myself busy some of the time. My friend Kurstan ventured out to Target with me this weekend and I bought storage for medical supplies and cleaning products. I came home and organized a bunch of the house, put away the laundry my friend Katie graciously washed while we were away, and started washing items we brought home from the hospital. I’m back to work this week, as well, but I’m having trouble focusing on the simplest of tasks. Maybe I need more coffee.

All of our friends and family (and even strangers!) are being so awesome and loving and kind to us. I really do appreciate it, despite this cloud over my head. I haven’t once felt alone since this all started – I feel a community of support behind our family. I just wish the occasion hadn’t arrived where we need this support…

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I am blogging for mental health

May is Mental Health Month and today in particular is Mental Health Blogging Day.  I am a longtime sufferer of mentalMental Health Blog Party Badge illness and an advocate for awareness and support through the community support website Band Back Together.

I think days like this are important to let others know that they are not alone in their struggles with mental health issues.  Whether you are a sufferer, a friend, a family member, or an acquaintance of someone with a mental health issue, you can educate yourself and others and help make the world a more compassionate and supportive place.

My name is Crystal and I deal with mental illness on a regular basis.

Sometimes I don’t act like ME because I suffer from chronic Depression (diagnosed at age 14), Anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (DES-NOS, specifically).  I attend weekly therapy and take medication to help me manage these issues.  I have difficulties managing my response to stressful situations and memories due to the way that my brain processes information/stimuli – multiple traumas throughout my life have impacted the way I view and experience the world around me.

Despite dealing with these issues for so much of my life, I can still live a normal life – I am not ‘crazy.’  I have a wonderful relationship with my husband and son.  I have a great job at a place I’ve worked for the past 3.5 years.  I have friends and hobbies and many of the same worries that others out there have.

Most days I am a very high functioning individual.  Sometimes I need to step back from my responsibilities a little bit and focus on taking extra care of myself.  There are those days when I can’t get out of bed – on those days I need help from my support network of family and friends.  I have fantastic people in my life who have helped me even when they don’t know it.

*****

I have heard various awful things said about those who suffer from mental illness over the years, even from people I love.  The stigma of mental illness still leads people to state that they wouldn’t vote for a politician who was known to have a mental disorder, or that those with a mental illness should not have children.  It’s disheartening to hear these things and I’m hopeful that as we speak out, the stigma will lift more and more.

If you or someone you know suffers from a mental illness, please take the time to educate yourself about the symptoms and effects on their life.  If you would like to reach out to a community for support please visit Band Back Together.

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