We are all stuck inside here in Michigan. The kids have had off school for the past four days due to the extremely cold and blistering weather. YEA! The excitement overwhelms me as I try to combat our two youngest children who seem to be finding new ways to make messes. By the third day, our teenage son Grey said, “enough is enough already” and hopes we have school the last day of the week. I took this time to bother Grey about his opinion of what “mental health” meant to a near 15-year-old boy.
To start, I asked Grey, what he thought when I asked him what, “mental health” meant.
G: Something to do with your mind or state of emotions. Basically, it’s stuff that is in your mind and how you react to certain things.
Nosy Mom: Personally, how do you feel that your mental health has been?
G: Right now, things are going well. In 8th grade, things were rocky because some days I would feel good and then there were days where I felt low and sulked in bed.
I can attest to this myself. During his 8th grade year I noticed something different about our son. He is the eldest of four, so all the adventures we were having with him were the first of our lives as parents, so when his demeanor began to change, I was concerned. I began to weigh out what was the change of his hormones due to puberty and what was the change due to the circumstances in his life. Our cute little boy was turning into a teenager and that I understood, but he seemed angry a lot and sad. He never wanted to be around anyone and rarely spoke more than a few words to us unless he had to. He slacked on his chores (more than normal for a teenage boy) and he would scratch up his arms.
Nosy Mom: What helped you make it through your 8th grade year?
G: Having supportive parents, having people to talk to and realizing that I did not have to be sad anymore because I had support
Nosy Mom: Was there any situation in your life that made things seem worse?
G: Um…yeah, when grandma was living with us and that kinda made me have more anger. I knew she had dementia, but I just got really angry because she was there.
Now what I must mention and what I think parents need to keep in mind is this, circumstances and timing matter to your preteens. When my mother came into the home, we cut our son’s room in half because of the little space we had (seven people in a three-bedroom home). Grey was barely into his middle school life when she came into our home and this is also when “the change” began to happen. Gosh, I cannot believe I used that word as it sounds so goofy mom like, but it’s true. Our son was on the cusp of becoming more of an individual and here came his grandmother, taking his space and his mother’s time and attention.
Nosy mom: What would you tell other kids/teens your age if they feel what you are feeling?
G: It really depends on how their past goes. If they have good parents who will listen to them, trust your parents. Still try to talk to them, but I would say ask for help. Don’t do stuff alone. Ask friends for help.
Nosy Mom: Do you think that you could be helpful to a friend
G: Yeah, I could be helpful.
Nosy Mom: What would you tell parents?
G: Well, you should help your kids…try to figure them out, don’t rush them, have patience…if they are not letting up or getting better, push them a little. Don’t push to the point where you push them away. Time is the most important.
Nosy Mom: What’s the funniest think you can think of regarding mental health
G: I never thought of the funniest thing about mental health, but I guess it’s that one day you can be there then you can be down. Mood swings are a big thing.
Nosy Mom: What do you think about the aspect of not having control of your mind, body and emotions?
G: I’d say, you may think that you do have control…you have control…I think that a lot of kids my age think that they don’t have control. I know most people would say that you don’t really have issues with depression if you can control it, but you can reach out for help. Getting help from others is a good step in gaining control. People may not understand “at first” but give them a chance to try to help and understand. If they aren’t listening or helping, then reach out to a teacher or friend. Do not stop until you have reached someone that can help.
This is where I add the truth about medication. Now, first and foremost, you must speak with your primary care doctor about your child’s behavior and actions. YOU KNOW your child the best and if something is off with their behavior and actions; you know whether something is normal for them. I am not saying automatically get on medication, but you need to talk to your doctor about what is going on in order to make sure that something medically is not happening. True, mental health is medical, but we have a section in our manuals that leaves room for “due to other medical conditions” that may contribute to behaviors and thoughts that mimic other mental health disorders. From there, seek mental health advice from a therapist/counselor that specializes in working with adolescents. If medication is deemed necessary, don’t scoff this and work with your child’s doctor and counselor to make sure that your child is on the right regimen. This is a situation that all eyes should be on your child (yours, doctors and therapist’s). If you feel like something is missing in your child’s care, be the advocate. Be the example for your child that they should advocate for their health, by caring about their health by listening to them when things do not seem to be going right.
Nosy Mom: What do you think about your mom being a therapist?
G: I think it’s actually really good…cause if your mom is a therapist you can just go to her instead of paying someone else. You can just like walk in and go to her and be like, “okay, here’s what is going on.”
Many parents do not have the advantage of being a mental health professional, nurse or doctor but that does not mean that you should not have patience and seek out the advice of others. I mean, I wouldn’t attempt to fix my own vehicle, I would be lucky enough to go to my husband who happens to be a technician, and he’d fix it. Same as my husband defers to me when it comes to issue pertaining to our children’s behaviors, emotions and thoughts.
Asking for help IS NOT a weakness. IT IS a strength.
If you like this post, please check out the link below to read what life is like being the child of a mental health professional.
How do you do it when the world seems to be falling around you? How do you survive through life when there seems to be no way to relieve the pain? How many trials and tribulations are one person supposed to go through? I wish I had to answer to that question; the world would be such a better place for it. Sadly, I am not even sure how to explain how I have made it thus far in my own life. To simply say that I had a massive trust in God probably would not be the best way to answer the questions above nor would it explain the logistics of how someone makes it through difficult situations.
Listen, I went back and reread some of the things that I wrote when I was first married, and I am shaking my head at this young girl who fell so deep in love with a man who swept her off her feet. She was naive and so unsure of how to handle her emotions that she became locked inside herself. I was a young Army wife, awaiting her husband’s return from the Middle East. I had not had the chance to live with my husband much after we were married, so I knew little about him and his own emotional baggage. It was a little over a year after we were married, had a new baby and suddenly, he was gone in another country. I feel as if I should have known how all of this was going to go when I became a frantic woman, clinging to her husband as if he was a prize that someone was going to steal. I did not trust much of anything except for the fact that I was head over feet in love. I knew at that time, without him, I was a puddle of mush. Below are a few tips on how to “keep going” when the deck is stacked against you.
1. Find faith in something greater than yourself
I did not trust much of anything: my own emotions, my own worth or even God. I was always trying to fight for my husband’s attention, but did I turn towards something greater than myself? Nope. We cannot just simple trust something that we do not have a physical hold on, and I was certainly unable to hold on to my emotions, a nonexistent mass that flew on a regular basis. What is my point here? My point is this, I get that trusting in God can be difficult.
2. Create a passion for something
I decided that I was going to go to school for Psychology and become a counselor. Shew, what a long road that was going to be. When I went back to school to get my undergraduate degree in Psychology, I had no clue what a Christian school was going to do for my life. I originally went there because the military discount was off the charts amazing. I did not know how important it would be to create a life for myself.
3. Be honest with yourself about your own journey and your beliefs
After attending a Christian school for a while, something began to come alive in me. I am not saying that suddenly when my faith was renewed that everything began to fall into place. Let’s see, we separated from the Army and returned home, selling our house and basically paying someone else to take it, my husband and I fought a lot, my husband went away to school in Arizona, I worked at a terrible factory, my mom was diagnosed with dementia, I was in a terrible car accident, my husband’s an alcoholic with anger issues who was terribly mean on numerous occasions and so many other things. Trust is not always easy.
4. Ask your questions, but also seek out answers.
Why does God allow things to happen? Why is God not watching out for me? These are all valid questions an does not mean you are a bad person for asking them, but you must be ready to do the work to find answers. Seek out a therapist, pastor, Bible, other healers or go to the library to read other literature. You cannot just ask questions and expect answers to fall into your lap.
5. Keep going.
You say, “I have been praying, I have been faithful, I have been to a therapist, I have taken my medication, I have filled out those forms, I have got up every single morning when all I wanted to do was sleep the day away. I have followed those rules, I have put down the drugs, I have begun to read my Bible, I went to a Christian School to become a mental health counselor and I am STILL fighting to make it through the day”
Did I catch you there yet? Listen, I do not have all the answers as to why all the bad things seem to be happening to you at once. I wish that I did. I wish that I had the answer as to how you can find a job after you get out of jail or how you can finally get out of jail after those awful charges were brought against you. I wish I could lift you up and make you feel better as you drudge through your journey, wishing and hoping and praying that things would finally fall into place. Keep going, head held high.
I have a relationship with Jesus Christ that I wish I could put into words, but most days I am gob smacked as to how I have made it through this life and why I could not have been a stronger believer earlier on in my life. Time has helped, I can assure you of that. I know that the purpose is to keep going even when all the walls keep building up around you. I am not saying that you do not deserve to cry or feel weak. There are times when all you can do is cry or days when anger wells up inside or days when you feel like if you have one more failure, you’re going to die. Keep going.
“But it hurts”.
“I know, but feel it, take it in, breath it into your body. Fight. You are not done.”
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So, it's no surprise that today there is no shortage of opinions in our society today. With the constant barrage of negative rhetoric, it can be difficult to want to share your opinion. For many, fear of starting an argument or starting a war keeps people from sharing or engaging in what could be a positive experience. The interesting thing is that differing opinions can be good for your mental health. I know it’s far-fetched, seeing as how everybody is, in fact, constantly attacked for having a different opinion than somebody else. We fight over how to raise children, politics and even who somebody else should marry. The amazing thing is that God wanted his people to have their own opinion in the form of choice. I know as a kid and new reborn Christian, I was often wondering why, if God is so powerful, did something like Adam and Eve cause such an uproar. Couldn't God just make sure that they didn't eat the apple? I mean, he is all-powerful after all, but the truth of the matter is, God didn't want to create beings that strictly loved him. If you've ever thought about your significant other, do you want them to love you by force or choice? Loving someone despite all their quirks, pitfalls and differing opinions is one of the most beautiful things on our planet. The free will to think independently is a gift that no one should attempt to take away from anyone.
So, back to my original statement, differing opinions are beneficial to our Mental Health. Of course, sharing your opinion and suddenly having negative backlash can have an adverse effect on your mental health, causing you stress, anxiety, anger and depression, but that doesn't mean it has leave you beaten down. If everyone takes small steps to positive interactions, we can better ensure our own Mental Health is well, healthy.
1. Having a different opinion from somebody else can give you the chance to learn and further educate yourself. It can positively affect your mental health by allowing your brain to flourish. Dr. Daniel G. Amen, MD stated on sharecare.com that, “to stays sharp as a whip, continue to challenge your brain daily. Each time you learn something new and practice it, your brain will either change the structure of its neurons (cells) or increase the number of synapses between your neurons, allowing them to send and receive information faster”
(https://www.sharecare.com/health/brain/learnings-impact-on-the-brain). Maybe you end up finding out that your opinion has changed a little, maybe it's changed all together or maybe you become surer of where you stand. Either way, you are challenging your brain and hopefully learning something new, if anything, interpersonal conflict resolution.
2. Having a different opinion from somebody else can allow you to take proper measures to control your anger. You can become attached to your body in terms of recognizing what it is doing during a heated debate. How are you reacting physically and is it worth the stress? Truth is, we CANNOT control what others think and do. We want to, but we can’t (legally). Control what you are doing and how you’re reacting. The change really does start with you.
3. One of the things, on my platform, is having empathy towards others. Ask yourself, “why is somebody else have a different opinion than me” Put yourself in their shoes and try to think of what is going on in their world. We usually form our opinions based on the story of their life. Lord knows, our life stories can be vastly different, but that doesn't mean you can't empathize with other people.
4. Differing opinions doesn't mean that life is “not fair”, I mean we all know that life is “not fair”, that sometimes we are the waterfall and sometimes we're the rocks getting beaten below. Just because someone has a different opinion doesn't mean that you are being beaten down. Go back to number 3. It means that there is likely a reason they believe the way they do.
I'm sure somebody's reading this and probably thinking "yeah, but I live in a family where the majority do not have the same opinion as I do, or I am in a family now where the opinion is vastly different than mine. I am constantly berated for having a different opinion, so I never speak up. Now what do I do?" Breath, you are going to be okay. Examine your own thought process and even write down a few questions that you should try to answer before engaging anyone.
If you got the theme that the change starts with you, you’d be right. You must be the change. I cannot change you. As a mental health professional, I can help you examine your life and thought process. I can help you work through things on a deeper level, but ultimately, the change will be in your hands.
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How do you do IT when the world seems to be falling around you? How many trials and tribulations are one person supposed to go through? I wish I had to answer to that question; the world would be such a better place for it. Sadly, I am not even sure how to explain how I have made it thus far in my own life. To simply say that I had a massive trust in God probably would not be the best way to answer that nor would it explain the logistics of how someone makes it through difficult situations.
Listen, I went back and reread some of the things that I wrote when I was first married, and I am shaking my head at this young girl who fell so deep in love with the man who swept her off her feet. She is naive and so unsure of how to handle these emotions that were unlocked inside of her. I was a young Army wife, awaiting her husband’s return from the Middle East. I had not had the chance to live with my husband much after we were married. It was only a little over a year and he was gone in another country. I should have known how all of this was going to go when I became a frantic woman, clinging to her husband as if he was a prize that someone was going to steal. I did not trust much of anything except for the fact that I was head over feet in love with the man that I had recently married. I knew at that time, without him, I was a puddle of mush.
I did not trust much of anything, my own emotions, my own worth or even God. I was already starting to fight for my husband’s attention, but did I turn towards something greater than myself? Nope. We cannot just simple trust something that we do not have a physical hold on, and I was certainly unable to hold on to my emotions, a nonexistent mass that flew on a regular basis. What is my point here? My point is this, I get that trusting in God can be difficult. When I went back to school to get my undergraduate degree in Psychology, I had no clue what a Christian school was going to do for my life. I originally went there because the military discount was off the charts amazing. Then something began to come alive in me. I am not saying that suddenly my faith was renewed that everything began to fall into place. HA! Let’s see, we separated from the Army and returned home, selling our house and basically paying someone else to take it, my husband and I fought a lot, my husband went away to school in Arizona, I worked at a terrible factory, my mom was diagnosed with dementia, I was in a terrible car accident, my husband’s an alcoholic with anger issues who was terribly mean on numerous occasions and so many other things. Trust is not always easy. Why does God allow things to happen, why is God not watching out for me?
I did not have answers to these questions, yet I kept going.
But I have been praying, I have been faithful, I have been to a therapist, I have taken my medication, I have filled out those forms, I have got up every single morning when all I wanted to do was sleep the day away. I have followed those rules, I have put down the drugs, I have begun to read my Bible, I went to a Christian School to become a mental health counselor and I am STILL fighting to make it through the day.
Did I catch you there yet? Listen, I do not have all the answers as to why all the bad things seem to be happening to you at once. I wish that I did. I wish that I had the answer as to how you can find a job after you got out of jail or how you can finally get out of jail after those awful charges brought against you. I have a relationship with Jesus Christ that I wish I could put into words, but most days I am gob smacked as to how I have made it through this life thus far. I ask myself, why couldn't I have been such a strong believer earlier on in my life? All I know is that the purpose is to keep going even when all the walls keep building up around you. I am not saying that you do not deserve to cry or feel weak. There are times when all you can do is cry or days when anger wells up inside or days when you feel like if you have one more failure, you’re going to die. Keep going.
But it hurts.
I know, but feel it, take it in, breath it into your body. Fight.
You are not done.
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A father should be the measure by which his little girl judges her future suitors.
What makes a man? Is it the ability to swing an ax, shoot a gun or throw a punch? There are so many different definitions of a man aside from the dictionary definition as “individual human or male human”; simple definition, doesn’t explain much about what the person could or could not be. So many times, I have heard of the importance of a man having son’s, this is a long-time demand of women throughout history. Males have a long-standing place in our society, and the role of a man is vital, important, necessary to our society, but there is something else that is Necessary to our society. A man who raises daughters. Do not think for a minute that the role of a father in a daughter’s life is not vital or important to our society. We have four children in our home now, a boy and three daughters. We adore all our children. Watching the relationship between my husband and our son is something precious but watching the relationship between my husband and our three daughters is miraculous.
Many fathers, though by far not all, might desire to have a son, only a son, He might get bummed out when they find that they're having a daughter or only daughters, but not my husband. He takes so much pride in being the father of a little girls. It really takes someone special to be the father of a daughter, to want to hold on to her when she cries or play with her ponies and dolls. An authentic man, when given a daughter, will step up to the plate. He will look at his little girl like a precious commodity and know that he is the one that will help shape her future. A father will show his daughter what type of man she should look for and encourage her to strive for the best love she can get out of life. I want our daughters to see the kind of man their father is: loving, loyal and very much in love with their mother. I want them to see that their father is not perfect, that he falters and stumbles throughout life, but that he asks for help. He makes sure to love them even when they get punished for not cleaning their room or talking back.
I DO NOT say this lightly. A father should be the measure by which his little girl judges her future suitors. Should things go awry in her life, they can turn to their father as a shelter from the storm. Besides that, I know our daughter's future suitors will have a handful of trouble if he dare hurt "daddy's little girl". It's been amazing and quite funny to hear my husband talk of "not allowing our daughters to date until they’re married" and to know that someday teenage boys will come around for the pieces of his heart and be met with fierce kindness and strength. Yes, the love of a father is surely something else to experience, especially for his daughters. This is the importance of "Daddy Love".
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It has been a few years now since we separated from the military. I certainly say “we” because being a military family means that everyone is involved whether they wear the uniform or not. There are so many different things that remind me of our time in the service. Regularly, I see or hear certain and my body has a physical reaction. I feel a heaviness in my heart and at the same time, a sense of sadness and longing for those times as a military family. I can fondly remember what it felt like watching my husband walk away to board a bus that would take him to a plane, setting off to a land that was worlds away. I titled this the Memories: How a USAA Card Can Evoke Memories because this is the most recent reminder of how important service time can be to a military family.
The other day, I was in line at the local fast food joint and I handed the worker my card for payment. She asked if I was in the military and I smiled and said, “no, my husband was.” First, I wish I had a better way to phrase that. I did not meet my husband after his service time, but was there with him, embedding myself into his life. We were married outside of post during his service. We had two young children, a little baby who was unexpectedly born in our home outside of post; her umbilical cord was tied off with parachute 5-50 cord. As you can imagine, many parts of this time in our life has remained in our memory bank. We bring up the good times and the bad time regularly in our life. I digress, I knew why she was likely asking about military service and that is because she had seen my USAA debit card. There were many times that I was in the same position. I was excited when I saw someone paying for a bill with their USAA card and I immediately had to ask the exact same question. I knew I asked primarily because I wanted to have a sense of connection again, to let others know that I had experience with military. I would bet that this girl had the same reason for asking. Someone in her life is likely in service and this aspect of her life has impacted her. Perhaps she was a military brat, a sister to a soldier or maybe she has a boyfriend, fiancée or husband in the service or maybe she has an intention of joining the service. Either way, I know her reason for asking. It is a question that was meant to form a connection with others who were in the service.
I know there are others who have had a reaction when they see parts of the military world in every day life. It is normal, seeing bits and pieces when you live near post, but moving back home is a totally different story. For me, when I see any piece of a green uniform, I immediately think of my husband in his uniform, kneeling to talk to our son in the backyard. When I hear the taps, I am reminded of being with my husband on post when the flag was lowered and the requirement; he had to turn towards the flag no matter where he was on post. When I visit an airport, I think of the morning I dropped him off to go back overseas and how difficult it was to make the 2.5 hours back home without him. When I hear a helicopter, I am brought back to our home in Kansas and the sounds of the birds flying overhead, making their rounds as they trained. I remember always hoping one would land nearby our house and drop my husband off earlier from his deployment. These are memories that will never leave me, they are forever a part of me, and truth be told, I never want them to go away.
I get what it means when these memories pop into the mind. We are a proud part of a small population and that is why I originally embarked on my journey into counseling. I knew that if there was a small bit of experience that I could use to help someone else then that is what I wanted to do. I remain a dedicated advocate to the military community (past, present and future).
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Did that cat ever get a fish? Yes he did, the biggest one in the bowl. Did he eat that fish? Nope, just played with it till it died. I guess that means that success is what you make it.
It was being an Army wife that propelled me into the mental health field. I thought that I had figured something out about surviving the life as a military wife and further thought that it was my destiny to help others. Well, it is my destiny to help others, but I have since learned that it would not only be my experience as an Army wife that would be useful, but being a wife of a veteran and alcoholic, a mother, student, daughter and Christian that would be prime experiences to draw from. Below are my words during the midst of my husband’s 2nd deployment.
“Today seems to be the day that I have run out of things to say. It almost feels as if I have said everything, I have ever needed to say regarding this deployment. I've complained to my husband, I've cried to my husband, and I've argued with my husband about the loneliness, the sadness, and the anger I feel. I have run out of many words except the select few I always reserve for the ones I love. I still Love him and no matter how long I must wait for him, I will always love him. I might be selfish at times or I might give all my being. I might complain more than I should, but I cannot deny that I love being his wife more than I love my own life. The overwhelming fear that at any moment I'll break to the point where I will not be able to be put back together again often clouds my mind. However, I repeat, let it be known that I am proud of my husband and of our military. I feel weak having to complain about myself at all, but I am but a human. I might dislike the situation many times, but I couldn't be happier with the choices I've made for my life. The heartache shouldn't be confused with lack of support. The anger shouldn't be confused with lack of understanding.
I imagine a time when again I can look into his eyes and know that we are together as a couple, as homeowners and best of all, together as parents. I often imagine at night what it will be like waking up beside you in the morning again (on weekends of course because during the regular week, you are up a 4 am). I try to fall asleep to the thought of you coming home and of us meeting up again. I imagine what you'll look like when you see our children again. I imagine the look on your face as you look upon our daughter who is walking and talking now, the little girl you left when she was only eight months old. I must remind you that you are very loved and that you are very missed. I must remind you that we are all proud of you. I must remind you that I am HERE for you no matter what. No matter what feelings I have, we will get through this together. Why, because we love each other, and we have the faith in God and in our love.
I might hate being away from you, but you have given me opportunities in life that I never would have had without you. I am on the long road to thinking positive. It's going to take me sometimes. You my love know how I worry, you know how my mind gets working and I lose my emotions.”