Warrior Moms

We met for coffee. Conversation came easily as we shared stories. She is a courageous woman, a mother whose only son took his own life and left her with deep heartache and a brave new quest.  She is now on the board of our state chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She volunteers. She speaks out. She encourages. She grieves. All of these things take so much courage.

She told of the time she was curious (as any mother would be) about what her son had been looking at online. Though it was years before his suicide, a brief glance told her that he’d searched for ways in which he could successfully end his life. Alarmed, she called his school counselor for help only to be chided for betraying her son’s confidentiality.

She was not lauded for seeking to save his life; she was shamed for being a snoop.

 angry_teacher

(Source)

We talked about how unpredictable finding help in the public school system can be. We found that within the same highly regarded school district, years apart, at two of the schools with very “good” reputations, we both had terrible experiences when it came to support for our teens who dealt with clinical depression.

“My daughter went into the psych ward on Monday,” I told her.”She was released on Saturday. She was back in school the next Monday. I had told them what was going on. Her accommodation was that she was given a pass to leave class if she needed to go to the nurse’s office or the school psychologist‘s office for a while. After she calmed down, she was to go back to class.

“Now I know that legally they were supposed to do more, but at the time I didn’t know there were laws to protect and help students with mental illness. I didn’t ask for more because I didn’t know there was more to be asked for. And the school certainly never told me. ”

We shared frustration at the number of students who still surely go unsupported in these schools, how their academic reputations may seem impressive, but their legal mandate to identify and assist students in need of support services was not met in our children’s situations.

We ached for the parents who are now living what we lived: being shamed for their concern, or failing to be informed of the legal requirements schools have to help look after the safety of their students.

We did our best to encourage one another in our determination to work for change, to walk alongside those in need or in grief.

Such can be the plight of a parent whose child is struggling with any number of mental health challenges. The search for support and understanding can be frustrating and disheartening. To be in a world with confusing directional signs, where no one speaks a common language, and there is either an unwillingness or inability for anyone to point you to the path of help … this is what it can feel like.

 good-luck-road-sign

(Source)

But quitting is not an option.

We may have to fight or beg for adequate intervention for our kids. I know I’m not the only parent who’s had to insist that a suicidal daughter not be sent home from the ER because she didn’t have a specific plan to end her own life, “just” the desire to do so, shouted at the top of her lungs to anyone who would listen.

Everyone has a different story, and some of those stories are beyond belief. But they are true. Some Warrior Moms I “know” are online champions who give and offer support 24/7 to parents in their own cities and around the globe. Others are friends I’ve had the honor of meeting in person.

I have the privilege of being part of a local group of parents whose kids deal or have dealt with mental illness. We are made up of mostly moms right now. There is a brave dad who joins us when he can. It’s a place where openness, anger, vulnerability, fear, laughter, tears, and hope are all in abundant supply, as are pizza and Kleenex.

Some of us have older or adult kids, some younger, and some have both. None of us ever expected to have a child with an invisible but life-altering illness.

Some have been threatened, chased with knives, or forced to protect their other children from a sibling experiencing a “break”. Some are basically held hostage in their own homes because being able to make a quick run to the grocery store has disappeared along with the mental stability of their son or daughter.

All of them realize that if their child had something besides a brain illness, say perhaps a broken arm, an infection, or – heaven forbid – childhood cancer, people would be lining up to offer meals, rides, housecleaning, and free babysitting. But they live with knowing that mental illness is a “no casserole” disease. And they still get up every day and do it all over again.

Autism Recovery – Who is a Warrior Mom?

(Source)

If you can’t love and appreciate and honor women like that, I feel sorry for you because they are fierce and beautiful and awe-inspiring and deserving of respect and every possible support.

At one meeting some time ago, one of the women very kindly expressed her appreciation for what I’d written about our story. “You should write a book,” she told me.

“That would be a dream come true,” I replied. “But apart from the obvious challenges, my greater concern is that so many books give a message that seems to say, ‘We had a problem, but we don’t anymore. Everything’s fine! Hope you’ll be okay, too; good luck!’ “

I explained to them my discomfort that so many times it seems like we tie a big red bow on a closed-up box and give the impression that there are no problems anymore. But life doesn’t really work like that, like the book is over and we close it and put it back on the shelf. It’s really more like finishing one chapter and moving on to the next.

“And some of my chapters would definitely be named OH CRAP. WHAT NOW?” I confessed.

Another mom spoke up quickly, “I’d call most of my chapters ARE YOU F#!%@$G KIDDING ME?!?

We pretty much gave her a standing ovation.

*****

If you are bravely parenting a child with mental illness or emotional development issues, please see the Resources page of this blog for some helpful links and Facebook support/informational pages. If you are on Facebook, I highly recommend the Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid page. If you have specific resources you would like to share or need help finding, leave a comment below. Alternately, you can message me via the Help To Hope Facebook page linked below, or email me at HelpToHope@msn.com.

© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013
https://www.facebook.com/HelpToHope
https://twitter.com/HelpToHope

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8 thoughts on “Warrior Moms

  1. When I vegan self harming at 13 my school never offered support. My parents were told to take me to the hospital. We were very angry when I entered high school and found that the school board has access to everything we needed (social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist) but never offered.

    So many parents are not aware of school resources. My mother has asked me many times for resources for parents she knows and I always say check the school and everyone is shocked.

    • I was hoping it might be different in Canada, Kristen. Sorry to hear this was your experience as well. In the US this falls under the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) and schools are legally mandated to identify and support students in need, whether it’s for a hearing loss or a mental illness, or of course many other needs, I realize they have their limitations. I was not expecting them to fix my daughter (or any student, for that matter), simply to offer the knowledge that it was clear I did not have. It’s unconscionable, in my opinion. It literally was a matter of life and death.

      After my daughter’s return from residential treatment, her old high school still made it clear they were eager to be rid of us, She ended up at another local public school, probably about 5 miles away from the other one. They were amazing and supportive and truly cared about her. Same school district as the first, but the response was night and day different from the first. I’m grateful we found that support, but many don’t.

      Thanks for being an advocate in your own community. And thanks for reading. Good to see you!

      Monica

      • I’m glad your daughter ended up with a supportive school. Given how many hours a year children spend in school it is the most important resource to access.

        I have noticed change in services in the school systems (or at least the two school boards I am familiar with). I am always glad to see that mental health is in the school’s vocabulary which it was not when I was in high school.

        I am always interested in the parent perspective and I think it is a perspective that is often ignored. Thank you for always sharing!

  2. You are so brave. And so right: Quitting is not an option. With three daughters within a three year span (right now they’re 31, 30, 28), we had some scary issues during the teen years, though not quite as intense as what you write on. We did though deal with depression, therapists galore, threats to institutionalize one, blah, blah, blah. I can tell you, it did get better (though the post partum stuff is now a concern). We all do the best we can. I commend you on sharing.

    • Authentic parenting sure takes a lot of guts, doesn’t it Lisa? The teen years can be particularly challenging, especially if mental health issues surface (and that is not uncommon during those years of development). Yes, we do the best we can. As my late husband used to say, “Just do the next, best thing.” That still gets me through a lot of days! 😉 Thanks so much for reading and for your encouraging words. (ps – congrats on that new grandbaby on the way!)

      Monica

  3. Monica, I’ve just discovered and started to read your blog. Many of your experiences are so similar to ours. While I do not feel joy that anyone else would have the same life as me, there is a sense of connection in knowing we are not alone. Thank you for reaching out.
    I do have a question. We have repeatedly asked the school for help and support, and they always come back with nothing. Where in the ADA guidelines can I find the mandate that the school helps?
    Thank you.

    • Hello, friend ~ I am so glad you realize you are not alone in this. It is not an easy challenge, but it’s not one any of us need to walk alone.

      Believe it or not, there is a whole industry for helping parents find support for their kids in the schools. Here are a couple of links to some good info:

      http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/section504.ada.peer.htm
      http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/fape.index.htm

      My best advice to you is to go to http://www.wrightslaw.com/ They are committed solely to helping parents in your type of situation. It can be overwhelming, I know. There are advocates available. There are even attorneys who specialize in this area. But start with informing yourself at this website. Take a look at the left side of the home page; scroll down and see all kinds of topics that can help you. There is also a search function at the top right of the page. Use it all!

      As mentioned and linked in this post, if you are on Facebook, go to the Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid page. You will find many supportive and information-laden people. I cannot recommend them highly enough when it comes to people who know about FAPE, IDEA, IEPs, 504s, accommodations, etc. (You will become familiar with what all of those things mean, and you can do a simple internet search on lots of things once you understand that they even exist!) On top of that, they are parents who are in the trenches, so to speak, and they share their lived experience as well as their compassion and encouragement.

      When it comes to FAPE (free, appropriate public education), there are of course legalities to be met on both sides of the equation, for parents/students as well as for schools. It’s not a free-for-all, nor should it be. But Wrights Law is a great place for you to begin.

      There really is support available to you. I hope this gives you a good start. Thanks so much for reading and touching base. All the best to you and your family,

      Monica

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