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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Stepping Out

Last Friday night I was reading the news paper and noticed a piece on a Forum that would be held in town on Mental Health I had never gone to one of theses forums before but after being thrust into the mental health system in 2009 when my child experienced the undiagnosed reaction to a prescription drug, I was intrigued. I think it helped that they were putting out questions:  What’s working? What can we build on? What do we still need?.

We fell through so many cracks back then with services that were there and weren't listening, were there but didn't have to be there when we needed them the most while in crisis, were there but truly didn't get the impact that they were contributing to the problem or just weren't their at all.

I know in some of the cases it was because services were stretched far to thin to be of any use to someone in crisis. I truly can't understand why we as a society wouldn't take our funds to be proactive to preventing a crisis, saving far more money than being reactive causing more services having to be used to get control of a situation that could have been prevented in the first place. When a community is one of a reactive nature it is like trying to use a band aide on a gaping wound and seeing if it will work rather than stitching it up. Ultimately the person will have to come back and get stitched up causing twice as much unnecessary work and expense that could have been placed else ware.

I emailed with my interest in attending and on Sunday I received a reply that included this statement:

 "I'm wondering if you think you could talk about your story from the perspective of "here's what families do/can do to support people who, for one reason or another, are experiencing a mental health crisis," possibly with an addition of some thoughts about what might better support families to play this crucial role?"

I was being given the opportunity to speak on a subject that I am passionate about. Would I be able to speak without my nerves getting in my way? I had to try because I needed to voice what was on my heart.

I tried writing a speech, before I replied, to see if I could do what he was requesting.  I sat in front of the computer drawing a complete blank. What we had gone through was so much more on survival and instinct, not something that had time to put thought behind. How was I going to write about that? I sat and nothing was coming.

I finally decided to pray about it. I have to tell you it would be so much easier if I would just remember to pray first.

After I prayed the words started flowing as I typed them on the computer. I so thank God for that speech, if it wasn't for him my first speech would have never happened.

Here is what was written:

    First I need to say Thank you to the Advisory Committee for inviting me to speak with you tonight. 
    I am here to speak to you about how families can support those they love when they are faced with a Mental Illness.
    I, as a single, parent of two children, one of whom has Autism/ADHD and the other who was thrust into the mental health system after an undiagnosed reaction to a prescription drug caused non-coherent hallucinations that lead to calling 911 over 60 times in a 6 month period, I have had some experience supporting someone through the Mental Health System.
   I have suffered from a mental illness, as I have faced depression and after my daughter’s experience I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I come to you today hoping to use what we have journeyed through to help educate and create change that will hopefully be helpful and reduce the isolation that families feel when they go through a crisis of Mental Health.  
     The greatest gift you can give someone with Mental Illness is to get to know the person behind the illness and what they face everyday as they battle against it; for many it is a very isolating battle filled with fear, shame and rejection for what they are going through.
    You can support them by not taking personally  the effects of the Mental illness that are pointing your direction, many times the person has no control and would rather not be doing what they are doing if given an option. From the experience I have had, I find most moments of rage and lashing out are more directed inwardly than outwardly, as the person gets mad at themselves because they cannot control what they are doing. I remember my daughter coming out of one of her non-coherent hallucinations begging the police officer on her knees to please lock her up because she was becoming a monster and didn’t want to hurt anyone, as she looked at the added bite and bruise marks on me and she knew some how she had caused them.
      Setting strong boundaries is also essential for families, because no matter how bad it gets there are always certain lines that should not be crossed and if the boundaries are not kept you may be an enabler to the problem. My son was not yet diagnosed with Autism and use to go through rages, I know them now as Autistic Meltdowns, He would thrash his body around and be self injurious so I was taught to give him a love hug, a form of restraint. Any time he would rage he would be given a love hug; this was a boundary that was set because it was not ok to hurt himself or destroy things. Eventually, I would have to do them less often and then not at all because this boundary was set not allowing the self injures behaviour to continue.
When we as a family journey through Mental illness it is important to keep a journal of events and conversations with names, dates of who you speak to and about what in regards to the Mental Illness for a few reasons. 
1) You may be asked to answer questions by service providers and makes answering easier. 
2) Journals help with finding a pattern to what is happening. 
3) I found if there is a problem that you need to advocate for the person with mental illness you will have something to back you up. 
      I have needed to go back to the Journals I have kept for both of my children and if it wasn’t for the Journal I kept with my daughter we would have not had the evidence that clearly supported the medication as the cause of her mental illness. My son’s case it helped in tracking triggers to his behaviours. 
Awareness of the shift in moods and personality are also important as there can be two serious reasons for a shift in these. 
1) May be a sign they may heading to depression and/or suicide, as the feeling of helplessness grabs hold. 
2) May be an adverse reaction to a medication used to treat a mental illness, causing more severe symptoms of the mental illness and/or physical health.
      All of us have a little voice in us that gives us what I have been told are red flags that tell us when something is not right. Trust it, trust yourself. You know your family better than anyone else and if something doesn’t feel right chances are it isn’t. What if no one will listen to you? Well we teach kids who are being bullied or abused to keep speaking till you are heard, it’s time we take that same advice, if you don’t feel you are being heard keep speaking until someone listens.
We need to remember that we are all human and this includes the professionals and we can all make mistakes, the greatest gift you can give yourself is to forgive yourself when you don’t get it right because you are doing your best and that is all you can do.

I sent it off to him, to see if it was what he was looking for, along with my plan for the iblong Community Centre that I have proposed to Fraser Health. I received an email back Tuesday, the day before the event, saying Fantastic! I think I was hoping in the back of my mind it wouldn't be what he was looking for, so I wouldn't have to speak in front of a bunch of people. No God wasn't going to give me that out.

Many people I know don't realize this but I am shy. I was that kid in the grocery store who hid behind mom and wouldn't say a word.

Having to fight for my son and then my daughter I was forced to face some of my shyness to overcome some situations and because of that I force myself to go past my comfort zone until it becomes my new comfort zone. I hope that made sense?

I have to say I was excited to get what I needed to say out but also absolutely terrified to speak out in front of allot of people.  I have allot of Faith, belief and confidence in God and that he will get me through anything I have to face, but as I am finding out I have not got the same for myself.

I know that when I am nervous I either giggle or talk like a road runner, either is embarrassing.

I remember a moment when the nervous giggle got me into a lot of trouble.  I had gone up to the monastery, in Mission, BC with my friends and the PEI exchange group they were apart of. I was kneeling so the people behind could see, while the Monk was speaking. My knees started to hurt and my nervous laugh decided to pay a visit just as the Monk was speaking about their vow of Chastity, now try getting out of that situation unscathed.

Well back to what I was saying.

I would be speaking. I arrived at the event not knowing how I would recognize the person I was emailing with and had no other instruction of how this was to proceed. I guess it was a good thing I have my photo up on the internet because he had Googled me, I think that is the first time that has happened to me, so he recognized me.

I would be speaking after the service providers, just enough time for the nerves and anxiety to build just nicely. I kept telling myself I would be ok, now if my body would have only listened. My heart started racing. I was given the indication I could go now so I stood up and turned to the crowd behind me, was thankful there was one familiar face in the audience. I had earlier had brought up some of what I was going to say as there was a police officer there that was being for lack of a better word being verbally attacked and I needed to counter that as we would have not made it through 2009 if it wasn't for our local police officers and their kindness and compassion, so I had messed up myself and really didn't know where to start raising the stress level and lowering my blood sugars as I spent out to much energy on anxiety.

I was thankful that earlier in the evening others had spoken even though you could tell they were nervous.

I finally told everyone I would just read from what I wrote so that I wouldn't miss anything with my nerves, so I planted my face in my paper notes. I read like a roadrunner, stumbled and fought back tears but I made it to the very end saying almost everything I wanted to say and by the response I got it was received.

I have learned one valuable lesson about doing a public speech only have listed on the paper the points you want to speak about, do not script it because you are going to want to stay on script and it is impossible to do.

Well I also spent my first week outside at work and in grand fashion it has rained off and on, but I have to say I enjoyed just getting left to work and get it done.

I guess I should be leaving you for now as I start hearing the rest of the house starting to stir, as the morning starts. Have a blessed day or night depending where you are!

Thank you God for getting me through another week of my life, please continue to walk me through the rest till I get home. In Jesus Precious Name Amen.

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