When You Don’t Feel Peopley Due To Anxiety

Mood-wise, I’ve experienced a bit of a crash over the past few weeks. That’s not unusual as you navigate menopause and anxiety, but it’s frustrating when I was about to launch myself into full holiday mode.

Woman lying down, looking hopeful.
Photo by Talles Alves on Unsplash

I know stuff is serious when I’m not feeling peopley, because as a Leo, I am generally energised by company and being at the centre of things (sort of). But last weekend, I had to cancel pretty much everything we had planned – much to the old man’s delight.

There is little doubt in my mind that anxiety (GAD) is the root cause of these sudden changes in my mood. It can’t be a coincidence that each time I allow myself to feel a measure of contentment with my life, that little voice pipes in to remind me not to get too comfortable, and then slaps me around the face with the unexpected.

Admittedly, there has been some stuff going on that has pulled me closer to the darkness, as well as the usual woman’s guilt about pretty much every aspect of my life – usually triggered by those “sobriety benefits” articles that pop up in my inbox daily – but I suspect that the real culprit is a virus that started with an irritating case of Laryngitis and then developed into mild flu-like symptoms.

There are two big problems with not feeling 100% now, in my fifties: the first is the fear that THIS IS IT, MY TIME HAS COME, and the second is that it stops me from my daily exercise routine. Exercise (and being outside) is my fix, so when I can’t get out, all of those bad thoughts such as worthlessness, feeling like everybody in my life hates me, or that the walls of the apartment are caving in on me, chase me like a swarm of wasps, draining the positivity and creative energy from my body.

My attempts to rise above my illness and use the time (when I should be exercising) effectively, to catch up on some research for my writing and reading, exacerbated the problem this time. Reading about anxiety when I’m already in a heightened state because of all the things I’m not achieving is highly detrimental to any improvement. As is reading about Pauline Hanson’s latest bid for the spotlight, the entitlement of those Liberal Party wankers who still believe they have a right over womens bodies, and watching depressing (albeit thought-provoking) series such as When They See US (WATCH IT!) on Netflix.

However, sometimes all it takes is a change of scene, a friend saying exactly the right thing, or even a self-help article to turn me around that corner and force me back outside again. Even a measured dose of exercise and sunshine can get the old endorphins back into the spirit of living.

This time, two things enforced the change: the first was an overdue trip to the city for some culture (and some good, old-fashioned man-hating) with Annabel Crabb at the Opera House – even though, I imagine that would be most anxious people’s idea of hell, to weave their way through the furious tide of tourists in Circular Quay when they’re not feeling peopley; and the second was an article I read in the SMH, written by Judith Hoare here, about Claire Weekes, who she lauds as the “the Australian doctor who cracked anxiety.”

Claire Weekes was a scientist who experienced such severe panic attacks as a young adult that for many years she believed that she had a serious heart condition and was going to die. So, when eventually she discovered that her problem was panic attacks – related to her mental health (and more pertinently to anxiety) – she used her science background to research the condition. Having examined the treatments available for the condition, she came to the conclusion that “acceptance” was the best approach for coping with them.

“To recover, they must know how to face, accept and go through panic until it no longer matters …” Weekes said.

“Acceptance” is a pearl of wisdom that I’ve picked up in recent years – and not only in relation to anxiety. “Acceptance” has been the key to my improving relationship with Kurt, the key to finding work that suits my strengths and limitations, and (most likely) the key to the survival of my marriage, (in this case, his not mine). In relation to anxiety, it is simple and effective and backs up the latest thoughts about positivity, which are that we don’t need to be positive all of the time. Sometimes it’s okay to smell the dog poo rather than the roses – in fact, it’s important to.

However, “mind over matter” is cruel advice to give an anxious person, especially when for some, the condition can be completely debilitating. And yet, there is no escaping the fact that simple changes to our lifestyle may be a highly effective starting point to ease the symptoms. Exercise, a change of scene, and some form of mindfulness of meditation are the most immediate cure for me.

After I read the article about Claire at the weekend, I sat there in bed and breathed deeply for several minutes – a strategy I’d dismissed as a waste of time at a recent mindfulness session. And as I did it, I reminded myself that things rarely turned out like my catastrophizing brain promised me they would, which was why worrying was such a waste of time. And this time it worked.

John Marsden has a point: Let’s strive to build our kids’ resilience, rather than trying to turn them into something they’re not

Many of you won’t be aware of this, but quite a large chunk of my career has been spent in education – working with kids with special needs. At the beginning of this year, I returned to the field to become the co-ordinator of a new after-school care facility.

Child sitting in a tree with her doll.
Photo by Vivek Doshi on Unsplash

Last week, we completed our first week of vacation care. For reasons of confidentiality, I can’t tell you too much about what happens on the job, but what I can share is the wonderful experience of working in a progressive school, ie. the type of school that encourages the type of childhood that most of us Generation Xers experienced – with its focus on outdoor play and exploration, and the inherent dangers therein.

While I try not to waste too much time reflecting back on my own parenting fails these days, it’s hard to ignore the ongoing evidence of the relationship between our kids’ deteriorating mental health and “helicopter parenting”. The link has made me think about how I would do things differently if I had my time again.

The school in which I work is a green, progressive school, set in beautiful, lush grounds in the bush where the kids spend much of their day, with the option not to wear shoes – apart from during funnel web season, when (obviously) I wear full body armour. And the focus is on learning through exploration and play, using nature as the primary resource for teaching. Technology is used minimally and the culture of the school is based is on kindness and respect.

I have never seen happier, more fulfilled children. Perhaps, because there are fewer rules, but most likely because they have the freedom to explore and take control of their own learning. That approach makes it the perfect setting for kids of different abilities and the responsibility it encourages boosts their self-esteem and confidence in their own abilities. It is such a privilege to watch them make up their own games and then extend them, and to work out their own problems. During after-school care, they sit together and play board, construction and card games, they colour in, they play together outdoors, they craft out of recycled materials, and even help cook their afternoon tea. Some of them are happy to simply sit and read a book.

While it is a child-centred environment – there are still expectations in terms of behaviour and respect for our resources, of course, but most of the time the kids sort out their own issues among themselves because they are encouraged to problem-solve at every stage of their learning.

As you can imagine, I was horrified in my interview for the job when I found out that the children were encouraged to climb trees and retrieve balls from snake-infested bushes. Hence, I have been forced to learn how to keep my own anxiety in check. As my supervisor explained to me, if a kids falls out of a tree and breaks their arm, they won’t climb as high the next time.

Humorous meme.
Found on Pinterest from http://www.shopatartworks.com

Raising my own kids, I know that I was guilty of the type of “helicopter parenting” that educator and author, John Marsden, talks about in his new book, The Art of Growing Up, so with this new responsibility I have been mindful of my need to relax and let go more. John worries about the effects of this parenting on the resilience of our children. ‘When I hear parents say ‘I want my children to enjoy their childhood; there’ll be time when they’re older to learn about those things’, I hear the voices of those who are scared of the vastness of the universe. These adults have a view of childhood as some kind of discrete interval, rather than just a few years from the continuum of life. How fortunate that the spirit, courage and curiosity of many young people remain largely undefeated by such adults.

One of the points he raises is the danger of putting our kids in a bubble to “protect” them from outside influences, which means that once they grow up and enter the real world they are unable to cope with its demands. Worryingly, when he interviewed a group of children and asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up, many said that they didn’t want to grow up at all.

Of course, backing off and letting children with special needs like Kurt fail isn’t quite as straightforward. It is important to advocate for them at every step of their education, but towards the end of Kurt’s schooling I had learned not to sweat the small stuff and to pick my battles in relation to homework and lost uniform, a change that has stood me in good stead for this job – particularly on the days the kids make slime and potions, or when I catch one of them at the top of a tree!!!

But, perhaps, my enjoyment of this more relaxed approach to childcare has something to do with my appreciation for less drama in my own life right now, as well as my personal appreciation of nature and mindfulness that has developed with middle age. This new simplicity to how I live my life, boosted by my greater respect for nature, is empowering. And it is so much more fulfilling than the exhausting drive of my thirties and forties that I see evident in modern parenting, where parents are continually striving to turn their kids into something they’re not.

The Meaning Of Life: And Why People Who Live In Hot Countries Suffer From Depression Too

Kurt experienced a few personal setbacks a few weeks ago and because I know that many of you follow this blog because you too have young adults who struggle, I thought I’d take you through what we’ve learned from it. Obviously, I won’t go into precise detail about what happened, but suffice it to say that after more than a year of giant leaps towards a balanced, happier life, his world came crashing down around him and he felt unable to cope.

Man looking out onto world.
Photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

We’ve all been there – those parts of growing up when it feels like life is conspiring against us, leaving us no way out. But it’s worse when you have a disability and the lack of a good emotional skill set and resilience to cope with it.

His cry for help coincided with my first day in a new position at work – a position that I know is within my field of expertise, even though my anxiety consistently tells me that I can’t do it – so, needless to say, I was already in an emotional tail spin that morning when he started calling me. In hindsight, I think that I may have over-reacted to the situation.

My therapist tells me that anxiety can be contagious in some families, like a chemical reaction, where the molecules keep bouncing against each other, escalating it. Apologies for my simplistic interpretation but I never took Chemistry seriously at school. However, I did manage to stop my eyes glazing over as she was explaining what she obviously believed was a useful analogy to me. And I know that I use this expression all of the time in this blog, but sometimes it really does feel (for a lot of us) as though we will never get our shit together and that life takes some perverse enjoyment out of kicking at us when we’re already on the ground. Fortunately for us oldies, though, maturity and experience help remind us in those moments that we will (most likely) get back up on the damned horse, whereas Kurt is still young. He has yet to understand the difference a year, a day, or even an hour can make to how he is feeling in that moment, or how different those areas of his life that he struggles with today may look in ten years time.

When you’ve been misunderstood and had to fight for acceptance for most of your short life, resilience is hard to build.

However, a week on, I am happy to report that he is in a very different headspace. In fact, a few nights ago the family got together for dinner – Waltons-style (not quite) – I watched the light return to his eyes as he held court at the dining table, and it was almost impossible to believe that this was the same, broken young man from the week before.

Watch any documentary or reality show on the topic of depression or suicide ideation and you will see that most people regret their attempt if they survive to be given a second chance at this crazy thing called life.

We live in a crazy world, and not even maturity hands over all the answers to our reasons for being here. So it’s understandable for an over-thinking twenty-two-year-old, whose brain is still developing, to lose his way; to question if the pressure and suffering are really worth it, and (perhaps, more importantly), why the shit seems to be dealt out so disproportionately.

Hence, the rise in mental health issues in our youth.

I constantly question what we can change for this boy of ours to help him believe that overall the good outweighs the bad. That is the problem with depression – it is not something that you can fix by throwing money at it. On paper, Kurt has everything he should need to be happy. He has family support, a job and that sort of energising personality that Robin Williams had. ie. a convincing mask.

When the old man and I watched Chernobyl this week, I found myself looking at the bleakness of the Russian landscape in disbelief, wondering how any population could enjoy their lives beneath the heaviness of those grey skies and such an unforgiving political regime – let alone a dodgy nuclear reactor – and I decided that it is because they have known no different. But I was wrong. Happiness doesn’t come from the tangible stuff in our lives. It has less to do with blue skies and much more to do with living in a supportive community and having friends. It’s why the poorest in Africa and India are still happy. Seriously, Indian people are the most rounded, happy people I’ve ever met.

Blue skies help, but people who live in hot countries suffer from depression as well.

I keep telling Kurt that dealing with life’s crap makes you more resilient, even though I’m still trying to convince myself. I’m not comfortable using “stronger” in this instance – there are many days when I feel far from strong, but I hope that he builds the resilience to hang in there long enough to experience the good bits about this world. Ie. the myriad of wonderful relationships and experiences that are within his grasp if he allows his stars to align. But then that does require a certain level of positivity, hence the Catch 22 fuckery of my parental wisdom.

I suppose that the real crux of the matter when it comes to the meaning of life is that, in truth, there is no real alternative.

It Wasn’t The Lack Of Compassion That Hurt, It Was The Lack Of Understanding about Mental Illness and Addiction

I had been feeling upbeat over the past few weeks, ahead of our run for breast cancer – which we nailed by the way, raising in excess of $800 for research. And then I stumbled upon a FB share of an old article of mine that was published by News.com last year.

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

As a writer of contentious topics (for some) – ADHD, feminism, inequality, mental health – I realise that I put myself in a glass house when one of my articles is published, and I have learned not to read comments from trolls.

This particular article was a highly personal piece about Kurt, detailing his struggles with his mental health, and my reasons for coming full circle on my views about cannabis legalisation. It was an opinion piece – hence, bait for comment and constructive criticism – to which I am always open.

However, many of the comments were not constructive. They were subjective – targeted directly at me as the author and mother. They laid the blame for Kurt’s issues squarely at my feet, and it was that lack of understanding about mental health and addiction that hurt the most – even more than their lack of compassion.

It was a slap in the face to realise that in spite of the attempts of fantastic organizations such as Lifeline and Headspace and various media outlets to improve awareness about mental illness, (as well as the increasing numbers of kids that are taking their own lives), that many people still believe that kids with mental health issues deserve no support, and should even be punished for not towing the societal line.

I am used to being held responsible for Kurt’s choices. Sadly, blame starts with the parents when it comes to ADHD, although there has been a gradual shift in attitude in recent years, thanks in part to the increasing acknowledgement and support of the condition by world governments.

And I can (sort of) see why. A child with impulse control or oppositional issues can look like a monster when you peer in from the outside. However, that refusal to show compassion or to probe more deeply into understanding the condition is why so many of these kids end up being bullied, isolated and rejected, leading to depression, self-harm, OCD and self-medication.

When it comes to inclusion, attitude is the biggest problem we face. But trust me when I tell you that any child with mental health issues who self-mutilates or lines up pills on the carpet is not “attention-seeking” (by our common acceptance of the term). They are seeking attention for help.

Beyond the public condemnation, perhaps the hardest part of the journey for parents or carers is the lack of support, the sense of isolation and the self-blame. That’s why I wrote that article. For others out there, like us, going through what we did and feeling alone.

It has taken years for me to come to terms with the fact that I am not to blame for Kurt’s struggles.

Sure, if I had my time again I would handle some things differently, but I know that no child could have been loved more. We raised our kids identically. We put the same boundaries in place that we did for NC, and like any normal teenager, she tested those boundaries. The difference was, NC was able to distinguish which of her strikes for independence were worth the consequences – unlike Kurt, who was encumbered by poor impulse control.

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt – at the very least until I have all the facts or I have met them personally. Rather than judging a book by its cover or from local gossip, I arm myself with as much information as I can before I draw my conclusions. When did we stop doing that as a society? When did we decide that it was acceptable behaviour to take a pop at someone for our own entertainment?

Surely, there can be no excuse for ignorance when we have access to information at our fingertips?

Social media has made it easy to bully without consequences and I fear that we are losing our sense of compassion. So before you jump right in with your heart rather than your head, remember that there is a real person at the other end of posts or comments, who is often motivated by doing good. That person has a heart and possibly a full wardrobe of skeletons that you know nothing about.

Why I Cried In A Star Is Born

For those of you who know me and my need to spew verbal rubbish at least twice a week as a means of therapy, you might have guessed that my past few weeks of silence has nothing to do with laziness or writers’ block.

However, this time, it is not my story to overshare. Instead, I want to talk to you about “A Star Is Born”, because it is rare for me to cry in a movie.

Admittedly, I cry each time I watch “Terms of Endearment” – who doesn’t? – but usually, I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to movies – even tear-jerkers. Be it emotional defensiveness or a block, I am lucky that a history of brutal initiation ceremonies at boarding school, a family tree that resembles the Ewings in “Dallas”, and the numbing effect of anti-depressants for my anxiety – all contribute to protecting me from the lows.

(I should also point out, in my defense, that – spoiler alert – BRADLEY COOPER DIED in the movie).

But sadly, while those are all highly plausible reasons for my ugly sobs at the loss of that perfectly chiseled and landscaped chest beautiful hunk of a man (and the hero of many a middle-aged woman’s fantasies), in truth, the reason for my public blub was the content of the movie. It was just a little too bloody close to home.

Anyone close to a person who suffers from depression, anxiety or alcohol and substance abuse will understand the sadness and sense of helplessness caused by their struggle.

The devastating effects of these conditions radiate throughout the inner and outer circles of the people close to them, provoking a fear that never truly goes away.

Unfortunately, mental illness is not something that can be fixed as easily or as quickly as a broken limb. Indeed, I am beginning to believe that perhaps it can never be fixed – although some people do learn to manage it.

I am not a psychologist or doctor, but I would like to explain in simple terms the “depression” I have witnessed. Due to a myriad of reasons, there are some people who don’t feel that they can ever be happy or slot acceptably into society. Particularly, a society that expects the same from them as everyone else – that views them as a problem rather than a group of people that need support. Modern society is a meritocracy that is not inclusive to those with a disability, and when these people can’t meet normal expectations, they start to feel inadequate or a burden and they isolate themselves. This is when many of them start to dance freely with the notion of death.

Inevitably, their behavior can leave their loved ones in a perpetual state of fear – a fear that is hard to understand when you look from the outside in. For while there is empathy for people who are physically sick with those illnesses of which we have a greater understanding, such as cancer, there is less for those who suffer with invisible illnesses.

Added to which, the desperation they demonstrate in their behaviors and choices in life is easily misunderstood. For example, a common misjudgment about homeless people is that they are lazy addicts that abuse the system -rather than victims of mental illness, neglect, or abuse, who have hit rock-bottom. Addicts are viewed as the dregs of society or irresponsible pleasure-seekers, rather than people suffering from a disease.

I’ve used the analogy of a game of “Snakes and Ladders” many times when I’ve written about caring for someone in this situation. To support a person that you love to the end of the world and back, who won’t seek professional help, is similar to playing the game. You take ten steps forwards, and just when you think they are finally making progress, they slide back down a snake.

During their better periods, you fool yourself into thinking that this time they will stay well. You pray that the new job, new house or new partner will provide them with the change they need to provide them with the purpose they need to live. But you never breathe freely.

You despair at the way they abuse their bodies as a coping mechanism – which, obviously, it isn’t. You know that they self-harm to feel something – anything – that they drink to forget or to find the courage to function in such an unforgiving world. You know that the alcohol and drugs – the very things they abuse to feel normal – are just a catalyst to greater heartache as you watch them spiral helplessly towards their own self-destruction.

So what can you do?

You can look out for the signs. You can listen to them without judgment. You can empathize. You can remember that depression is not the same kind of sadness that many of us experience from time to time. And yes, it is possible to function with it – which makes it even harder to spot. Eventually, you may have to acknowledge that you may not be able to save them.

If the statistics are to be believed, we have a massive problem on our hands with the number of “troubled kids” and men out there. The choice made by Jackson Maine in “A Star Is Born” is becoming more common as our kids are placed under greater pressure from advanced telecommunication, social media, and fears about their future in terms of climate change and housing. Many of them are reaching their tipping point. When that silent growth of fear linked to not being good enough that has been eating slowly away at them starts to spread – like the Melanoma in those scary skin cancer ads – it distorts the reality of their situation. And ultimately, without the right support – and even WITH the right support – it can lead to devastating, irreversible decisions.

To help prevent these tumors from growing, we need more funding in schools and mental health services. We need greater awareness and better education. Above all, we need more empathy and understanding. So please consider carefully who will best serve the future of our kids when you place your vote at the next election.

For the carers of these people – who love them unconditionally and who for the most part are at a loss for answers or solutions about how best to help them – the fear that they will make Jackson’s choice is all-consuming. That is why I cried in “A Star Is Born”.

I Must Thank My Son For His Mental Illness

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The boy turned twenty-one last week, and while part of me wants to scream and holler with excitement, pride, and relief, the other part wants to sit in a corner, rocking and licking my wounds.

Many of you will be familiar with our journey with Kurt, our son. It was one of the reasons I began to write this blog, and I suspect that some of you follow it because you too have kids with mental health problems. You’ll also know that life with them is not what you signed up for, not by any parenting manual standard.

Some people say that parenting brings out the best in you and there have been times, particularly over the past six years, when I’ve wanted to rip that statement apart, over-analyze it with a few bottles of wine and then say “Fuck You!” because parenting is hard, and because there have been so many times when I have hated the person it has turned me into.

Before I had kids, I believed that being a parent was something I was born to do, and I made the assumption that I would be good at it. That naivety and arrogance have made the past twenty-one years feel like a very long and hard road at times, with its highs and lows, the steps forward and backward, the silent condemnation, and then more steps backward.

I’m not seeking pity or consolation. This is my honest acceptance of some responsibility for our journey, because perhaps if we’d done certain things differently, the outcomes might have changed. But we were amateurs at this parenting lark, carrying baggage from the past and the false expectations of others. And we’ve made it. We’re not out of the woods, but we can see the lights of the pub at the end of the road as we approach the start of the next phase of his life and the signs are that phase horribilis is drawing to a close.

My son is officially an adult, and as I draw the curtains on the past few years, I owe it to him to thank him.

I must thank him for shredding my heart strings and teaching me how vulnerable all of us can be – for which there’s nothing to be ashamed of – and for showing me how strong we can be when needed. This experience has opened my eyes. I have learned and grown from it more than from any other experience in my life and it has inspired me to write, develop compassion, get to know people before I judge them, and to form a concrete understanding of difference, unconditional love, and mental health that I will take with me into every other decision I make. 

This experience has shined a glaring light on what I see now was confusion in my younger years about what really matters.

Some God said that we are only given the stuff we can handle, and there have been times over the past decade when I was certain that I couldn’t handle being my son’s parent – or even why I should. You can lose sight of who you are when you have kids, and when you become the parent of a kid with special needs or a maverick, (or in our case ‘that kid’), there are times when you feel resentful about your needs being usurped by theirs. Instead of triumphs and awards, you get calls from school, the police, and the parents of other kids, and the pressure to keep pretending to be a professional at work (when your home life is falling apart) requires your finest thespian skills.

Not all of us are Mother Theresa types, with their long grey hair, premature lines, and a forgiveness in their heart for whatever shit life throws at them. Some of us lie in bed at night feeling broken, rallying against the unfairness of it all, thinking ‘why me?’

No one could have loved my son more than I have, and yet it’s hard not to think about how he might have fared with parents that were more liberal, or less anxious people than us; who might have come to the party with fewer middle-class expectations and ill-informed judgments. Poor kid. Although with fewer boundaries, who’s to say how he would have turned out.

As a parent, you can only follow your heart and do what you think is right.

At seven, I never thought my son would read and write; at twelve, I never thought he would have any friends; at sixteen, I thought he would kill himself; at eighteen, I thought he would end up in prison; and at twenty-one, I am still worrying – because what mother ever stops worrying about their kids?

But I am so proud of this young man. He has fought his own demons to stay here with us when others have given in, and with his fiery temper and big heart, his abounding energy and gentleness, his optimism in the face of constant rejection and his childish vulnerability, he has shaped me into who I am now – a better person.

And like every mother, I believe that he will go on to do great things – in his own time, (because Kurt has only ever done things in his own time). And I don’t mean GREAT things, necessarily,  I mean that he will do something extraordinary that is unlikely to fit squarely with society’s view of what is great; yet somehow, I have a feeling that it will be memorable.

 

License To Rant

The best thing about turning fifty is that you get a license to rant and it turns out that I have quite a talent for it. Which is why I’m going to dish the dirt on the six or seven police officers at a Random Breath Testing unit at 10am this morning in my sleepy suburb.

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‘Have you had a drink this morning, Madam?’ I was asked.

‘If only,’ I almost replied with a twinkle in my eye, until common sense prevailed. Australian police are not known for their sense of humor, and as I locked eyes with the loaded weapon on the officer’s hip, felt the color seep into my face and for a second there, I forgot how to count to ten, I decided that a quip wasn’t worth the risk. 

But what I would like to know is just how many drunk drivers they expected to catch at 10am on a Tuesday morning? I mean, in the scheme of things, it was probably a little late in the morning to catch those that had over-indulged the night before, and a little premature for those gagging for their lunchtime tipple.

And while I know that (in general) the police do a wonderful job of policing my son and that part of the reason for the fall in the rate of traffic accidents among young people is thanks to their diligence, surely they have better things to do?

With the escalation in bullying in schools around the country that has dominated the media in Australia this week, surely some educational visits to schools would have been a more valuable use of their time?  Suicide is also on the increase in the same age-group, so what about educating kids in how best to support a suicidal friend? Surely, that has to be more beneficial to the public taxpayer than catching Reggie McPissface who is one drink over the limit?

Then there are the homeless, more and more of them, and many through no fault of their own. Perhaps, as the days get shorter and cooler, they might welcome a hot drink or some friendly advice about the best places to sleep tonight to keep warm; indeed, I imagine they would appreciate an interaction of any sort.

And yet six or seven police officers can justify the time breathalyzing a motley crowd of people on their way to work.

 

 

When It’s Time To Motivate Your ADHD Child, No Matter What The Psychs Say

One of the reasons I gave up my day job recently was to motivate Kurt to get back on track with his life. He’s had a difficult transition over the past two years since he left school and has suffered periods of depression and self-doubt at times, countered at other times by the ADHDer’s insatiable desire to experience the most of life by being irresponsible, drunk and fancy-free. adventure-1807524_1920

 

Which means that to the outside world, I guess, it looks like he’s functioning. Sadly, though, things are never that clear-cut and the rules are simply not the same when it comes to ADHD kids. You can do everything by the book, and it is still impossible to get them to learn from their mistakes, even with consequences. And oh, how I wish that “tough love” had worked, but it doesn’t or hasn’t so far with our son and when you really think about it, rehabilitation programs for depression and other disorders are about giving those people love, time and compassion through therapy. 

 

I read a wonderful post recently written by the mother of two children whose first child was “parent manual perfect” and whose second was a “monster”, and how it feels to be the parent of “that child.” For the most part, kids are comparable to each other once you leave the poisonous environment of “mothers’ group” competition and can accept that they develop in different areas at different stages. The author had a friend called Jenni at the stage that she was in the throes of preening over the perfection of her first child and Jenni was struggling with the child hell, and she admits now to privately maligning her friend for bad parenting. That was until she produced her own little bundle of horror.

 

I can identify with Jenni – although now that Kurt is older and I no longer have to deal with the daily condemnatory attacks from school or too many direct comparisons with the children of friends, I am more at peace with it. And anyway, I don’t feel as responsible for his choices and differences now because ultimately he has to take responsibility for himself.

 

If it were that easy. The problem is, he doesn’t and each time we put that on him, the result is a crisis of confidence leading to emotional breakdown. Medical professionals such as psychs and pediatricians and your GP understand mental illness, but they don’t know your child the way you do. And I’m sorry, but when you witness your adult son in genuine distress, you have to make a call and question if tough love is the only solution. Any parent would do the same thing.

 

A few weeks ago, after almost two years of the tough love strategy, imposed in the main to combat addiction issues rather than mental health issues, and with no tangible results to show for it, the old man and I decided to try another approach, as we watched Kurt hurtling towards his next crisis. We decided that instead of berating him for his lack of focus and achievements and nagging him daily to make steps towards progress/being normal – (even though you know those steps will be small, because your expectations change when you have kids like these, even though you need ear muffs to block out to the judgements of others who continue to accuse your ADHD kid of being naughty or lazy) – we decided to cut him some slack.

 

Yes, ultimately he does have to manage independently in the real world, but perhaps, we decided, we need to accept that journey is going to take him a few more years. And we are tired, and surely daily combat in your own home is no good for anyone’s health.

 

Anyhow, we decided to focus on what steps we could help him with to get him back on track, and decided to start with his driver’s license, in an effort to build his self-esteem and give him a taste of the independence he so desperately craves.

 

Attaining your driving license is a grueling process here in Australia – rightly so, after the loss of so many young lives before recent regulations were changed – and kids have to do 120 hours under supervision before they can take the test. Fortunately, after ten years of back-to-back viewing of every season of Top Gear, Kurt has always had an enthusiasm for the concept of driving and is, in fact, a natural driver, so we knew it would make him feel good about himself to pass his test. This, in spite of my knowledge of the appalling statistics of accidents of kids with ADHD.  

 

And after three weeks of intense arguments instruction, he passed his test. First time.

 

The old man and I teared up the center, he out of pride, and me out of abject fear for what this achievement meant. But within a couple of hours, Kurt was on the road, solo, so I did what any proud parent does and put out a warning with his number plates to all my friends and followers on social media.

 

It was a small shot in a long game.

 

Fortunately, we’re mature enough not to let the fine for driving in a bus lane ($285) that happened TWO HOURS AFTER HIS TEST and the parking fine ($285) the next day demotivate us. I hasten to add, though, that in the spirit of recently reinstated tough love, he will be paying for both.

 

 

Change, Anxiety and Crazy AF Dreams

There are some exciting changes coming up in my life in the near future. Or at least I’m pretending to myself that they are wildly exciting even though inside my organs feel as though they’re dissolving in acid, something that happens each time I go through such changes and my anxiety goes into overdrive. The other byproduct of such an assault on all my senses is that I have crazy AF dreams about what can go wrong. halloween-997596_1920 (1)

 

These current changes involve my career, and if the dream I had last night is anything to go by, I’m not completely comfortable with them.

 

Last night’s dream involved my opening of a home and giftware shop (a long-term aspiration) where all the product is white. Logically, I named the shop ‘White’.

 

The best part of the dream was I can remember the tingle of anticipation I felt at the prospect of a whole shop full to the brim of calming neutrality because if I had the choice, absolutely everything in my house would be white…that is until the complication of real life intrudes such as children and dogs and men who can’t eat without getting food on the sofa. I’ve never quite understood how such schemes work outside of Home and Garden magazines unless you make a religious commitment to “Vanish”.

 

Evidently, there’s a little OCD thrown into my own particular brand of madness.

 

Anyway, as I was signing my first orders for ‘White’ branded tee-shirts and white fluffy cushions, I got a call from the police to say that I had to close the shop because its name was not politically correct and there had been complaints from the locals. They castigated me for overtly demonstrating my privilege in the neighborhood and as a result imposed sanctions on my potential customer base from buying from my dream store.

 

The dream was intense. Not as terrifying as those ones where you fall off cliffs or are being chased, but I remember one moment distinctly where I was looking at my beautiful new business cards, weeping onto their perfect white gloss card with its perfect black font and wondering if I could change the brand name to ‘Black and white’.

 

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many black schemes in beach-style, Hamptons homes.

 

Next was the stress of actually choosing the product. One of my intentions, when I chose my white theme, was to keep it simple, because something I have worked out with maturity is that simplicity is core to my mental stability, hence survival. The problem then was that I couldn’t decide whether I was allowed to veer off-piste and include all of those different shades of white that Dulux has invented – because then, I worried, my brand might not be authentic to its racist origins.

 

The final stress of this journey to the fulfillment of my dream career came about when I gave a customer’s child a white chocolate jelly bean at the front desk and they had an allergic reaction, entitling the mother to accuse me, very publicly, of being both a bad retailer and bad parent.

 

This is anxiety, folks. It’s how your stupid brain can turn even your dreams into nightmares.

Talking Publicly About Trauma

Anna Spargo Ryan has written a riveting and widely appraised book called The Paper House, and I’m thrilled for her success (if not a bit jelly) because I’ve followed Anna on Twitter for a few years. She is intelligent, witty and an advocate for mental illness awareness and I was particularly keen to read her book which deals with the topic of grief, because I knew that she would treat it as empathetically as it can be. 

Caucasian woman feeling sick flu illness
Talking Publicly About Trauma

 

Because, let’s face it, “grief” is not everyone’s cup of tea; not everyone is prepared to open up about a topic that is so intrinsically painful and personal. But it just so happens that I have, and the subject is at the core of the storyline in my own manuscript; another reason I was keen to see how Anna treated it.

 

Very differently to me, it appears, because Anna is one of those rare writers whose fingers drip melted chocolate onto the keyboard and create literary genius.

 

I admit that these days I rarely read what would be categorised as “literary” books, and my own work will fall into the category of women’s fiction – more Jilly Cooper than Graham Greene – with its own treatment of mental illness, although it is similarly symbolised by a central, dysfunctional family whose experiences of death are treated in a more black and white, in-your-face, Big Brother style of writing.

 

Since having children or reaching middle age, (I’m not sure which), I suffer from what I know to be a common problem of not being able to stay awake longer than fifteen minutes through pages of descriptive prose, clever metaphors and stunning imagery, no matter how breathtaking it is. 

 

Although that is not The Paper House. No, Anna’s book is so much more than that. It is more akin to putting on a ball dress for the first time in a long time, when you feel typically more comfortable in jeans. It forces the reader to think about her purposeful choice of every word on the page, their beauty and their poetry in spite of such gut-wrenching subject matter, as she takes you on a journey of flora and fauna and emotion.

 

Anna drags you into Heather’s world of visceral pain, not in a maudlin, heavy-handed way, nor does she allow you to wallow and fret for her loss. Although not trivialised, “grief” is touched upon delicately, and decorated with a heavenly backdrop that helps describe the outer body experience of living, the shell of her former self that she is reduced to by her grief.

 

There is dysfunction, humor and realism too, brought to life by a sister who refuses to allow Heather to fall victim to self-pity and absorption, and a husband whose view is typically more black and white, more ‘life goes on’ as well as a handful of quirky instrumental characters who pass through her journey and contribute to her recovery.

 

Anna’s book tackles the difficult subject of recovery of the mind, body and spirit after trauma.  As is often the case, this new trauma in her life – the loss of a child – triggers the pent up grief of her earlier loss of a parent, which I recently identified as an aspect that has unwittingly crept into my own writing when I talked about my blog at a local library a few weeks ago.

 

To be honest, I never realised before just how much my own personal trauma has infused my writing. But grief never goes away completely.

 

Not trauma on the scale of heinous, newsworthy trauma, obviously, nevertheless the sort of low-level domestic trauma that we all go through at certain junctures of our lives, that is impactful enough to put a pin in our happiness, take a toll on our relationships and affect how we function.

 

Anyone who follows Anna’s blog knows that she suffers from anxiety and she wrote a post for Daily Life recently entitled Can We Not Shame Women For Writing About Their Trauma?. The article discusses how certain women writers have recently been accused of capitalising on their trauma in their blogs and writing. Some people believe that these writers should be reminded that not everyone is interested in reading about abuse, infertility, death or mental health issues.

 

But in Anna’s own words, ‘Critics accuse us of being self-focused and overly dramatic, but it is in relating these stories that we find our commonality. We are not isolated. We are not one person climbing a mountain on her own. We are women who, for the first time in all of history, can hear and be heard’. 

 

I tackle “depression” in my book, as well as suicide, loss and the effects of mental illness on a normal family. These aren’t light topics that can be trivialised and I hope I treat them responsibly – but identifiably too – because I know that there are many people out there living those experiences right now, who are not being supported.

 

I used to co-run a support group for parents of kids with ADHD and sometimes our meetings would attract up to a hundred parents, all coming to be educated, supported and reassured. Due to the stigma surrounding ADHD, many of those parents chose to remain anonymous, yet still came in their flocks.

 

Talking and writing about trauma publicly does help others, which is why TED is such a success and literature such as Anna’s has such reach. We are fortunate to have choices in our democracy, and if we don’t want to hear about it, we don’t have to listen.

Trauma and Bullying And Their Link To Mental Illness

The Sharpest Pencil, one of my favourite blogs, by Lana Hirschowitz, drew my attention to this illuminating, but deeply sad post by Mike Cullen recently on the subject of bullying, after the investigation of the Safe Schools program here in Australia was announced.bully-655659_1280

 

An Open Letter To The Prime Minister of Australia

 

In their own words, ‘the Safe Schools Coalition Australia offers a suite of free resources and support to equip staff and students with skills, practical ideas and greater confidence to lead positive change and be safe and inclusive for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families’.

 

Unfortunately however, concerns have been raised recently at the explicit sexual content used in schools and what some see as its ‘indoctrinating’ influence, hence the investigation.

 

This investigation into something that many see as a highly positive arm of education, was designed to help school children understand the problems faced by the young LGBT community, and its investigation comes at a time when the suicide rate in Australia has increased by more than 13% over the past year, and the worst affected group are 15-22 year olds.

 

In is post, Mike describes his time at school, where from his kindergarten year he was bullied for being an LGBT kid, a sad indictment of not only our society but of the children we are currently educating, because this behaviour still happens today. As a parent, it is distressing to read about the terrible experiences and injustices kids like him are subjected to, just for being different to their peers.

 

Around the same time, I read a letter that was published by clinical psychologist, Richard Bentall, (a school contemporary of the actor/commentator, Stephen Fry, who is very publicly vocal in the mental illness forum about Bipolar Disorder, being a sufferer himself), to correct Stephen on his mistaken belief that all mental illness is linked to genes, but rather to social and environmental factors that may lead to trauma (which includes sexual abuse, Stephen).

 

What I Wish Stephen Fry Understood About Mental Health

 

But obviously it’s not only LGBT kids who are at risk of bullying, trauma and mental illness.

 

When I first read Bentall’s letter, my old friend ‘mother-guilt’ inevitably set in and I found myself wracking my brains to think how or when we might have traumatised our son Kurt, who as many of you know we have been through the proverbial teenage mill with over the past few years  as a result of mental health issues. Until I realised that although his ADHD has always been the root cause of many of his problems, the real shift from ADHD to depression and self-harm began in Year 9 when the bullies cranked it up a notch at his school, mentally but physically.

 

Looking back to that time now, knowing what we know now, I despise myself for the naivety that led me to accept the advice of a school that had shown very little in the way of interest in my son’s troubles, despite the many red flags, and which believed that making him sit out of the classroom was the most effective way to punish him. The school also intimated that bullying was a phase my son just had to go through, a kind of rite of passage for boys to teach them to toughen up; in fact the only real support the school offered would have singled him out for even more bullying.

 

The situation ultimately came to a head when Kurt made a stand and refused to return to the school; his innate terror of physical harm at the hands of his peers was such that it far outweighed any potential repercussions from the Department of Education for what we knew they would see as truanting. He lay in bed for days, depressed and disconsolate, until we decided something had to change, upped sticks, moved location and school.

 

I wish I’d listened to my son earlier, rather than a school that was ill-equipped and under-funded to cope with mental illness, but I thank God that eventually we followed our gut instincts as parents and acted upon them.

 

These days, sadly, too many parents don’t get to see the warning signs, and aren’t given that second chance before it’s too late.

 

Ironically, within a few weeks the school did threaten to report us to the Department of Education for Kurt’s unofficial absence.

 

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the current suicide rate in young adults proves that mental illness is a big problem for our kids, that many of them are struggling and we still don’t understand what the triggers are. Suicides are not mentioned in the media for fear of copycat behaviour, but because of that cover up (which has valid reasons), many parents remain in the dark about the increase in the statistics or may not realise that their child may be vulnerable and at risk.

 

So remain vigilant, keep the communication lines open with your teenagers and don’t trust departments or schools to have the same instincts as you have when it comes to your child.

Mental Illness: Out Of The Closet And Into The Fire

Yes, I’m talking about mental health issues, because…well, at last we can.

Like cancer, mental illness has finally been let out of the closet and is halfway to being accepted as a bonafide condition.

In fact, these days it’s almost in vogue to have a mental illness.

We’re finally talking about the different conditions, educating ourselves about them and discussing how we can get to the root of them early enough to prevent escalations such as depression, suicide and even murder.

Did you read the recent article by Mia Freedman, ‘I’m Finally Ready To Talk About My Anxiety’, in which she came out about to her own battle with Anxiety Disorder?

Mia, being Mia, and sadly judged as a lightweight ‘blogger’ by certain circles of superior up-their-own-arses, old-school writers, has taken a lot of flack for the article; even though her admission may, over the course of time, help thousands of women get help for their mental health issues.

But her article was followed by a war of words and condemnation from Guy Rundle at Crikey in his piece ‘Depression confessional culture obscures the true nature of mental illness’, in which he castigated Mia for her over-sensationalism of what he views as minor ‘nervous breakdowns’, endemic of living in a competitive Western culture.

He makes valid points about the pressures of the society we now live in and the effects on mental health those pressures can have on certain people:

English: An anxious person
English: An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘But it is also competitive, setting people against each other, hyper-individualistic, repeatedly dissolves grounding meanings — where you grew up, how you lived, etc — and all of it driving many people to work very hard with no meaningful purpose. When the going is good, it’s great, when it’s not, you can fall for a long way.’

Rundle recognises that depression exists and requires treatment but he is wary of the over-prescription of the SSRIs that are used today, often without adequate follow up from GPs and psychiatrists – he believes that the fault lies with the influence of the drug companies and a lack of funding by governments to fund alternative treatments.

However, while we need to be aware of the dangers of medication, we mustn’t stigmatise it or the people who will most benefit from it won’t access it.

What hit home most for me in Mia’s piece was that she was demonstrating to her readers that mental illness can affect anyone, even to someone as publicly successful as she is. In her admission, she was attempting to lift the shame of mental illness.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand when you read a Mamamia article that invariably it’s going to be an article from the heart, a shared experience, not some medical discussion with big words that might be better suited to a medical journal and may not be easily comprehensible to Joe Public.

As a fellow sufferer of Anxiety Disorder, I wholeheartedly applauded Mia’s honesty in relation to her own problems. I myself had dog-paddled frantically for several years in an attempt to keep my head above water until finally a single trigger threatened to sink me after years of ruminating anger, self-doubt and jeapardising family relationships.

But I also have to agree with what Guy Rundle highlights about some of the potential side- effects of medication on the brain chemistry and perhaps, as he implies, I too wasn’t really suffering from anxiety or depression, but some self-imposed pathetic condition brought on by the stresses and strains of living amid the competition of middle-class over-expectation that I was ill-equipped to deal with.

But it felt real enough.

If a force affects your health to the degree that you can’t live a normal life, or the quality of your life is compromised to the point that you consider ending it, you need help. I have watched my own son grapple with his demons and every day I worry about the long-term effects of medication on a brain that is already vulnerable – although it is his choice to take them now. But I also know of parents who have lost young people to suicide, from Bipolar Disorder and Depression; kids who might have been helped if the systems in place weren’t so flawed due to lack of funding.

What’s the point in advancement in medical knowledge and treatment if we don’t use it?

I don’t agree with Mia’s public recommendation of anti-depressants as the solution, necessarily, or of naming her particular brand of medication, because I know that there are many other treatments that are not invasive to our brain chemistry that can work and should be considered first. But in my experience, GPs do not provide scripts for SSRIs without a detailed look at family history, the history of symptoms, a trial at therapy or a change in diet, until medication is the final resort.

And whatever your thoughts about medication, it does save lives.

Just like the medication debate over prescribing drugs to kids with ADHD, there is a similar stigma about supplying anti-depressants, and the more knowledgeable I become about mental illness, the more I believe that the use of drugs for depression, anxiety and ADHD is stigmatised not only because there has been abuse leading to over-prescription, but because many people still don’t believe these conditions are real. That if an illness is invisible, it probably doesn’t really exist – even though the side effects of that illness, when left untreated, can prove fatal.

Other drugs are never as over-analysed.

HELLO! We know that all drugs carry health risks and have side effects, and most of us would try every alternative treatment to avoid them. But why do some people think that where mental health issues are concerned, we have a choice? That’s a shallow, naive level of patronisation, that demonstrates a lack of education and understanding.

It’s also true that those people with a history of abuse, loss, addiction or a mental health condition are probably more prone to anxiety and depression, just as people who are overweight are more prone to diabetes and those who smoke are more prone to lung cancer.

But should we feel guilty about belonging to those vulnerable target groups?

Does being that unfortunate mean we don’t deserve help and should just buck the fuck up, (like we’re told to, so often)?

Mental Illness and Grief: Stories That Need To Be Written

It’s an interesting decision of mine, to carry on writing my book, when due to it’s subject matter, I know that my chances of ever being published are about as high as Glenn McGrath’s invitation to MC an RSPCA conference.

Grief
Grief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And no, it’s not because the subject matter of my never-to-be-published book is some X-rated erotica where Christian Grey actually gets his penis out, or a threatening feminist tale about how women will ultimately rule the boardroom.

It’s about ‘grief’.

You see, I have it on good authority, (thank you Kerri Sackville), that the topic of ‘grief’ is not saleable – even though ‘death’ is something that affects all of us, no matter which party we vote for, demographic or country we live in.

In short, the first chapter of my book opens with a suicide – SHOCK! HORROR!– because no-one wants to be reminded that suicide happens, even when the number of cases has almost doubled in certain age groups over recent years; and with the increase in drug use and impact of social media and cyber-bullying, we are certain to witness a huge surge amongst young people).

In a year where suicide has been highlighted in Australia due to the untimely deaths of celebrities Charlotte Dawson and Robin Williams, how can we still be pushing education about mental health issues under the carpet?

But back to the book. So how exactly did I get my book so awkwardly wrong?

Well mainly because having spent the past thirty-plus years grieving, I know a little bit about that topic and the ensuing mental illness it can provoke. And as a friend (who is still grieving and feeling misunderstood) pointed out recently, no-one can really understand grief unless they’ve been there themselves; so suggestions from naïve do-gooders to ‘move on’ can be highly inflammatory.

I mean, I get it…sadness and anger are uncomfortable emotions to be around in this world where we are supposed to spray a mist of happiness around us, and pretend to be upbeat and personally successful all the time – to fit in.

But grieving is an exhausting preoccupation, and like depression, the uninitiated can interpret it as a type of self-flagellation. But let me assure you, it’s even more exhausting having to pretend not to be sad and in pain, simply to appease the undeveloped senses of those around you.

Spookily enough, depression is a huge theme in my book, too.

(Definitely a bestseller on my hands!)

Depression is another wrist-slapping/don’t-go-there topic in the world of publishing, I imagine?

The point is, my book is therapy for me. It’s a story I needed to tell. It’s a story that will force my readers to deal with skeletons in closets, mental illness, guilt, family dysfunctionality and self-development head on.

And you’ll know if you read my blog, I happen to be an expert in all of those areas.

But I don’t view my little piece of never-to-be-published fiction as a sad story. The death of a loved one changes the future of those closest to them, but it can also create a sense of awakening.

‘Growth’ can emerge from the isolating cocoon of grief.

And there are some funny bits in my book, too, because I find it impossible to be serious about serious stuff most of the time. Humor and self-deprecation have always been strategies to help me cope with blackness.

We’re not all afraid to confront our emotions, in spite of what those silly publishers believe.

Did I ever tell you about how my foot slipped on the wet mud at my mother’s funeral and I nearly plunged headfirst into the hole dug for her coffin?

She would have laughed her head off.

I Know There Are Worst Things Than Parenting A Teenager With ADHD, But Sometimes It Doesn’t Feel Like It

Embed from Getty Images

 

http://www.tickld.com/x/father-finds-horrifying-letter-from-his-son-this-is-gold

 

The story above was doing the rounds on social media last week.

 

I get that it was meant to be funny and to most people it would have been. I did smile at the end. Bitterly.

 

I read through the first part of the letter and a shiver ran through my body. That part of the letter could have come from Kurt – I’m almost expecting a letter like that any day now. What I wanted to be able to do when I reached the end of the letter was to laugh at it like everyone else, and think smugly ‘thank God, that’s not us.’ But I couldn’t.

 

That humorous little scenario the son depicted to his father embodied the fear we live with daily with Kurt at the moment. 

 

Each day our son crosses another line to challenge our moral fibre and the strength of our family unit; each day we question how best to parent him; each day I say my prayers even though I’m an atheist.

 

What we have come to terms with, is that these bad spells are probably not just part of a teenage ‘phase’, like we had been kidding ourselves hoping they were. This is it – this is the path with Kurt and his ADHD, and it’s probably not going to get much better.

 

There are days now when I almost wish my son wouldn’t come home. Isn’t that a terrible thing to admit to? Then the anger and anxiety abate and I calm down just enough to remember how much I would miss him – because his charisma and enthusiasm for life is contagious, for better or for worse, and because he is my son and I love him.

 

Sometimes I do question if there is indeed some truth in the link between ADHD kids and attachment disorder.

 

Kurt is seventeen now, and school (as we suspected it would) has become overwhelming for him. As a friend of mine described it at the weekend – my poor son is drowning. With the difficulties of ADHD (that include poor executive skills leading to poor organization, time management and impulsivity), added to pressure from school and pressure at home, I can see that my son is feeling buried and becoming defeated.

 

His sunny disposition has become eclipsed.

 

My weeks are now spent fielding calls and texts from his school about truancy and late assignments, and my evenings are spent trying to make him see sense.

 

The question is: how much pressure is too much pressure to put on him? Today he disappeared for a couple of hours after a bad week and an argument about homework and I assumed the worst. We have reached the point where he no longer communicates with us, preferring to bury his head in the sand or self-medicate for relief. When I read terrifying articles about teenagers on Ice or other similar drugs, it makes me paranoid.

 

It goes without saying that we would support him if he decided to leave school – we’ve known for a long time that school does not suit Kurt. But he still doesn’t have the maturity or the tools to handle a job, so as much as school might be anathema to him, the thought of a job terrifies him almost as much.

 

It’s the thought of him leaving school with no plan that terrifies me the most. I’m not concerned about him leaving without qualifications – I know lots of successful people who have left school without them – but I am concerned about where a lack of ambition and focus may lead him.

 

The self-medication he uses to cope with feeling over-whelmed is our biggest enemy. We were told that his ADHD drugs would reduce the risk of him self-medicating but Kurt has told me that it stops the craziness in his head, and so he has been sucked into their short-term lifeline.

 

Whatever we say, however many articles I leave surreptitiously on his bed for him about the dangers of drugs, everything seems to fall on deaf ears.

 

He is a teenager and he is a teenager with ADHD.

 

Meanwhile his behavior at home and his attitude towards us threatens to tear us apart. This is not like dealing with a sick child who responds to and needs love. He is oppositional, angry and defiant and the days of being able to send him to his room have long gone.

 

We aren’t the first parents to have a difficult teenager, but when you’re in this position and trying to make sense of it all, unable to see light at the end of the tunnel and fearful for your child’s life, it can become dangerously obsessional. Your parental instincts tell you to do whatever it takes to keep your child safe; yet this child, who was made out of love and came out of my own body, rejects us and is tearing the rest of our world apart, seemingly without a care in the world.

 

‘There are worse things in life,’ but on a bad day it sure doesn’t feel that way.