Saturday, February 21, 2015

What's a parent to do?

Have you ever noticed that we leave certain people in society in impossible traps?

When parents are abusive, we say, "Why couldn't they have given that child to someone loving to raise him/her?"

But when parents give up their children we often say, "How could a parent walk away from their child like that?"

Some people realize the selflessness of giving a child up for adoption.  Others don't.  And when it's done in less than proper ways (like dropping a baby off at a safe haven), look out!  Cue all of the "how could a person do that?" from all sides.  But isn't it better than leaving baby in a dumpster?

Most people disagree with me on this, but I think the safe haven thing should be for any age.  If a parent genuinely can't take care of his/her child, why do we force them to continue trying?

Yes it's an awful thing for parents to walk away from a child.  Yes it's horribly painful to the child, and can cause them all sorts of emotional issues.  But ya know what?  So can living in a home where you're clearly not wanted by the people who are supposed to love you and care about you the most.

I've experienced both.  I spent 13 years living with parents who made it clear on a daily basis that they didn't want me.  My mom would call me "her little mistake" and say flat out that I was in the way and that she wished I wasn't there.  My dad went the more physical route in letting me know his feelings towards me, but he had some choice words for me as well.  Essentially, I was scum and needed to be beaten for all my wrongdoings, and the only thing I was good for was sex.

When I finally escaped that, my parents walked away from me.  I'd run away, and when authorities tried to take me back to them they refused to even acknowledge me.  They said I was too much trouble....that they wouldn't and couldn't take me back because I was too much to handle.

I was crushed.  As much as I hated my parents sometimes, I wanted nothing more than for them to love me.

So yes, abandonment hurts, no matter the quality of the parent(s) doing the abandoning.  But I can tell you it would hurt a lot less if there wasn't the 13 years of abuse tacked on with it.  Even if any one of those years could've been taken off it would've been better.  It still would've hurt to lose my parents, but I would've had the gift of less trauma, less pain, fewer flashbacks, etc.

This was brought to mind for me because of the woman who gave her baby because he has down syndrome.  I made the mistake of reading the comment section on one of the articles about her.  All I can say is I hope she never reads them!  Yes she made a sad choice, and maybe she went about it wrong.  But she left the child in the loving arms of HIS FATHER!  For one thing, men do that on a regular basis and it doesn't make headlines.  That doesn't make it ok, but in the grand scheme of things she didn't do anything that bad.  She recognized her limits and made a decision for the welfare of her child.  Maybe it was based on her own selfish desires.  Or maybe it was a selfless decision for the child.  None of us reading bits and pieces on the internet can know.  The point is, she didn't hurt or kill her child.  She didn't force him to spend years living in a home where he was resented by his own mother.  She didn't make him wait to get to the loving family part.  She knew she wasn't it, so she didn't pretend.

I wish we could stop shaming parents who make these decisions.  I don't hold it against my own parents.  Painful as it was, it gave me a chance to experience some foster families and see what a family is supposed to be like.  One of my kids at work is going through something similar.  He'd left with a foster family but now he's back because the family couldn't handle him.  Of course he's upset and angry, but even at 10 years old he's a big kid with some big issues.  When he came back he was scary violent when he'd get mad.  We've been able to help him with that in a way the foster family couldn't.  I can only imagine if the foster family kept him to avoid shame or failure, how the situation might have changed.  Yes this boy is hurting right now from another loss in his life, but he's also not scary angry (which I know scares him too).  Had he stayed at that home, he could've done some serious damage as his outbursts continued to get worse.  That's not a healthy place for him.

I guess, like everything else, it comes down to not judging without knowing the story.  And you can't know the story unless you're in a person's shoes, so really we need to just lay off the judging as a whole.  Leaving your child with someone who can take care of them > abusing/neglecting/resenting them.  Always.  As an adult I've met birth parents who said that the only reason they kept their kid for so long when they knew they couldn't handle them is because they worried what their family and others around them would say.  That means your judgment may be actively keeping a child and a family from getting help.  Maybe if we support those who say, "I can't do it" or "I don't know how", more people would step forward and admit these things.  Maybe we'd have more families getting help and fewer children getting hurt.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas for every kid

Hi everyone, remember me?  Long time no blog! :)  I've missed writing, and have a lot to say, but I've been soooo busy with work and school.  I'm back today because I have something I feel needs to be shared.  I've had multiple people come to me lately asking for help and ideas for their kids who struggle with the holiday season.  I struggle big time with holidays, as do most of the kids I work with (residential treatment center).  I'm realizing that what is just a part of life for me is helpful insight for others who are struggling to make the holidays work for their kids.  Since it seems like a useful topic, I thought I would make a list of some ideas that have been beneficial to me and to kids I've worked with.  It's pretty general, and obviously not every suggestion will work for every kid, but maybe it can give you some ideas.  Please feel free to share it with anyone who may find it helpful.  I really do love being able to use my experience to help families and children in need.  Now we no particular ideas and suggestions! :)

1. Give your child a “safe space” that they can go to at any time with the understanding that parents can come check on them/talk to them, but they can stay there as long as they’d like.  I’ve seen many well-meaning parents tell stressed out kids “It’s rude to ignore guests,” or something like that.  This just leads to increased anxiety and feelings of isolation.  For some kids a safe space might just be spending time playing in their room.  For others who are stressed out by crowds, noise, etc. may like a very specific place…like a cozy corner with a comfy chair or a special fort they’ve built with toys that help them calm.  For a child that is not able to express well that they are struggling, this can be an immediate signal that they’re having a hard time and need help.  It also teaches coping skills by recognizing the need for a break and finding a way to take it.  Obviously different kids will need different levels of help and guidance with this (in my experience some love the idea while others don’t understand it’s purpose and need lots of reminders to use the space).

2.  Set a schedule.  Holidays can be hard because they’re a change in routine.  Make sure your child knows what is coming up and what to expect.  Talk to them beforehand about who will be coming, what activities might happen, etc.  You may want to write it for them, or use a picture schedule.  The feeling of predictability will make the lack of routine less scary for them.  Be careful with too much “just hanging out” time.  It might be what seems natural for you, but for some kids it’s scary and overwhelming to fill the time themselves.

3. Be careful with transitions.  Remind your child of plans before they happen.  Give them a chance to ask questions, and then give them “countdown” type reminders as it gets closer.  The amount of time will vary depending on the kid, but things like “We’re going to see grandma in an hour,” “Make sure you have your shoes and coat ready, we’re going to see grandma in a half hour,” etc. will also add to that feeling of security.  Depending on the child’s age, you can add in additional details, i.e. “We’re going to grandma’s in a half hour, and when we get there we’re going to have dinner with her and then play a board game.” 

3.5. These transitions are equally important if not more important after the fun has been had.  There are many reasons why the return from a fun holiday event can be fun.  Kids who have been through trauma and have other mental health issues often lack the ability that others have to calm their emotions.  Most people can get excited about something, but then settle down again once the excitement stops.  But these kids can’t do that.  Think about playing a fun, active, laugh filled game with a 2-year-old.  They’re excited, engaged, and want to keep playing and playing.  Now imagine you were to suddenly stop playing the game, put the child in bed, and tell him to go to sleep.  Probably wouldn’t work too well, right?  In this way, these kids are much more like two year olds.  Though it may be hard to see on the outside, they still have the fun emotions going crazy inside but the fun activities have stopped, leaving them without a way to handle it.  Since it’s hard for them to settle their minds down by themselves, they often end up acting out as a way to get the energy out.  So, make sure activities have a wind-down time afterwards, as well as some sort of re-entry activity into usual routine.  For example, “In 20 minutes our guests are going to leave, and when they do you and me can read a book together just the two of us.”  Focus on something simple and enjoyable that you and your child can do together.  Having a calm presence with them can help them to settle themselves more easily.  

4. Another issue that may cause upset feelings after a fun activity is the let down afterwards.  For someone who does not regulate emotions well, emotions are felt on a roller coaster.  My analogy is that some days I’m a roller coaster, some days I’m a river.  When I’m the river, the good and the bad come together to change the flow slightly and add some bumps here and there, but mostly the river keeps flowing.  When I’m having a roller coaster day I feel super high highs that are almost always followed with super low lows.  I get involved in doing something that makes me feel amazing, which is great, but unfortunately it is almost always followed by the low drop.  So I’m not saying don’t have fun, but make sure some of it is calming fun.  Depending on what your kid likes, maybe some extra cuddle time, a quieter game, etc.  If you’re go go go all the time, you’re bound to have a crash at some point since that’s obviously not sustainable forever.  Also, keep in mind through all of this that being upset after an activity doesn’t mean that they didn’t like it.  In fact it could very well mean the opposite.  They may have had such a great time that it’s confusing to go back to the normal. 

5. Keep expectations small.  This is important for both you and your child.  For you, you probably won’t have that picture perfect Hallmark Christmas that you see on tv or read about online.  That’s something you have to accept.  Of course no one’s holidays are perfect, but when you’re dealing with a child with emotional/behavioral issues, your chances of a flawless day are even less likely.  Focus on making good memories together without worrying too much about the bigger picture.  Don’t miss the beauty that is there because you’re too busy worrying about what isn’t going right.  For your child, helping them understand simple expectations can make the day smoother.  They see the same pressures you do to make the holiday just right.  Most likely, they want to please you and they want to make you happy.  But that puts them in a very scary place.  In their eyes, they have to do everything right for you, and if they don’t they’ll have to wait a whole year before they have a chance to try again.  This is definitely enough to raise the anxiety of an already anxious child, and for some it’s enough for them to sabotage from the start because they can’t handle the stress of trying to be perfect.  This pressure is even more intense for foster kids, who may feel like they have to be good to be accepted by the family (especially if there’s more family around than they’re used to, or if they have traumatic memories connected to the holidays).

6. Keep it simple.  Christmas doesn’t need to be a multi-course meal, or celebrated with every extended family member.  No one needs a giant stack of presents, nor a million different activities or decorations.  Focus on the main goals of togetherness and fun, and be realistic about what your child can handle.  Maybe that means a smaller tree.  Maybe visiting with some relatives on different days.  Who says you can’t have a Christmas dinner in January?  Or maybe it’s as simple as changing the time of an event so there’s more rest time in between.  If you’re not sure just ask yourself: “What’s more important, that my Christmas contain ______ or that my child is able to be successful?”  It’s ok if someone needs to bring that child late, take them home early, etc.  Just do the best you can.  Christmas won’t be ruined if you take out some pieces.

7. Foster/adoptive kids might miss their families, even if they don’t know them.  For some kids, like me, holidays were an extremely traumatic time.  They brought out the worst in my parents, and also gave them a tool to use against me.  Something like Santa is a dream come true for controlling parents.  One year Santa skipped my house.  In hindsight my parents probably got drunk and forgot, but at the time I was crushed.  In my mind, I was such a horrible person that not even this wonderful, loving, caring, mythical man wanted to give me anything.  It’s not that I spend the holidays sitting around thinking of the bad memories, but a lot of different things trigger stress and anxiety…often without me even realizing that that’s what’s going on.  I have less extreme memories with other holidays, but let’s just say anything family focused is tough when you have a family that’s struggling. 

But even for a kid that doesn’t have traumatic memories of the holidays, the holidays are still a reminder of what a family “should” be.  For a kid who is uncertain of his future, the idea of family is painful.  Even kids who were adopted at birth and never knew their biological family may spend time wondering what things would’ve been like with their birth family.  They may not even realize they’re doing it, they may just be feeling a bit of extra emptiness that they’re not sure how to fill or what it’s from.  Unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do on this one, except just to be aware.  Give them time to feel sad if they need to.  Let them help invent new holiday traditions, especially if you know they’ve had trauma around the holidays.  Creating a whole new family tradition that they’re involved with from the start gives them a new focus, helps them create new memories, and best of all gives them a sense of belonging.  It’s possible they’re feeling like your traditions are yours, not theirs, and they’re just floating on the edges no matter how much you try to include them.

8. Give them a break, but not too much of one.  Understand that some of their behaviors are out of their control.  They likely aren’t feeling like themselves, and might be having a hard time with things that are normally easy for them.  Approach this with compassion and understanding, and try to talk it through with them if they are able.  If they’re not already aware, start pointing out to them how their behavior is different during the holidays…not in a punishment way, just helping them to be aware.  Talk to them about what might be causing it, and what they might like to do differently to help them get through the tough times.  Sometimes kids are impressively wise once you help them start to make the connections.  But don’t take away rules/expectations all together.  Be understanding that they might be more likely to slip, but routine is important and they also need to see that you believe in them and their ability to be successful.  Giving them expectations and the focused help they need to get through when they are struggling shows that you believe in them and you are with them through it all. 

9.  Give yourself a break.  If something doesn't work out the way you'd hoped it's not a reflection on you.  Your child is struggling with issues that are outside of your control.  Take a deep breath.  You didn't fail.  It will be ok.  I promise.

10. Have fun!  I don’t want this list to be entirely dreary.  It takes work, but you can have an amazing holiday time with these kids.  It may look different than what you imagined or what you wanted, but it can be done.  Be creative.  My kids at work struggle with understanding giving and the meaning of Christmas, so we go on secret kindness missions.  We make Christmas decorations together and then go on secret missions to decorate the office, classroom, etc. of people who work with the kids and that the kids appreciate.  We go all out with the secret mission, taking back routes along the grounds, tip-toeing strategically and hiding when needed, and decorating as fast as we can while someone acts as lookout.  (Of course, if necessary I will go in as “distraction” first to give the ppl a heads up to not be in their office, but don’t tell the kids that! J  They actually really like coming up with ideas of what to tell the people to get them away from their offices…so I pass that along too with the distraction).  Anyway, that’s just one idea, but so far it’s worked for us.  The same kids that didn’t understand why they should give someone a present are now begging for more missions and suggesting various staff that they’d like to surprise.  And best of all, it’s helping them to feel good about themselves because they’re starting to understand that their actions can have a positive impact on someone else.  Non-traditional, sure, but it works for us.

That's all for now folks!  Please ask questions if you have them, and I'm happy to offer suggestions on specific issues if you think that would be helpful.  I know there are many of you out there working hard every day, and especially over the holidays to be there for these kids and give them positive memories.  In case you haven't heard it in a while, THANK YOU!  Your efforts are appreciated, even if your kids are not able to tell you that right now.  I'm thankful for you, and I believe very strongly that your kids are or will be too.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Blame Game

Wow it's been a long time since I've been here!  Work has been keeping me busy.  There's soooo much I've been wanting to write but haven't had the time or energy.  For those that don't know, my new job is at a residential treatment facility for kids with emotional and behavioral issues, most due to trauma.  As you may imagine, it's an intense place for me to be!

One of the biggest things I've been noticing is the tendency of everyone to find another group to blame.  I'm in a weird spot.  Because of my life experiences, I relate to a lot of different groups...probably all of them in one way or another.  On one of my first days of work, I was surprised to hear my supervisor make a comment about how many foster parents do it for the money.  Some of my best friends are foster parents, so I know this isn't true.  I see the effort, compassion, and funds they put towards their foster and adopted children every day.  I see that same effort at work, so I would've expected them to have a better attitude towards and relationship with foster parents.  But I get it.  A lot of the kids are there because they had crappy foster parents.  One boy was adopted by a pedophile who wanted a little boy to live with him.  One girl had a placement all set up and then last minute the foster parents decided nevermind, they weren't interested.  Many of the kids have had failed adoptions.  Many were abused or neglected in their foster homes.  A lot of the issues the kids have come from being in many different foster placements over a short period of time.  So yeah, I get where they might have a warped view of foster parents.  I don't agree with it, but I get it.  Nevermind the fact that I'm sure none of them would want to take one of the kids home 24/7 and deal with them without all the extra support, structure, and and safety measures.  Nor the fact that most of the foster parents are either uninformed or unsupported, or both.  But I've spent a lot of my time around foster parents, and lived with incredible foster parents who probably saved my life, so I can't look negatively towards foster parents as a whole.  (Of course the abusive ones deserve all the negativity they get, but they're a rarity).

Also because of my experiences, I understand a lot of stuff the kids do that my co-workers don't get.  It's funny, because in my world it's common sense so it catches me by surprise that others would be confused by it.  For example, I was planning an outing with a co-worker and she was talking about how strange it was that the kids get so obsessed with food when we go places.  Makes perfect sense to me...the one who feels like everything is off if I don't have at least one snack in my backpack!  If I'm going somewhere unfamiliar I pack a ton of food because who knows what the food situation there will be and I hate the feeling of being hungry.  Just recently during a training we were doing these activities that were supposed to give us a better sense of how the kids feel and react to situations.  I sorta messed it up because I unintentionally kept skipping over the adult part and going straight to kid.  One of the big ones was about how hard it is for the kids to make eye contact and feel on the spot to answer a a lot of times they listen better if they're fidgeting or doing something else at the same time.      Well that is 100% me, and I started wondering if I'd been offending the ppl doing the training by my constant fidgeting and lack of eye contact! lol  But during the ones where we were supposed to be making good eye contact I was so worried about whether or not I was doing it right that I missed everything that was said...putting me squarely in with the kids.  I joked about it during the training, but it got a little awkward since no one there knows my history.  The point is, I could probably do without a lot of the training since it's what I live every day!

Of course everyone wants to blame the bio parents.  That's the easy target, right?  Wellll....not for me.  I relate to them too.  For one thing, a lot of their issues come from poverty, which I've lived.  The other issues come from addiction, which I've also lived.  I understand how a parent can neglect their child while focusing on their drug.  I don't condone it, but I get it.  I'm lucky I was never able to have kids.  It really just comes down to luck for wasn't from good quality planning ahead.  I've seen first hand how hard it is to get sober...I can't imagine doing it along with the responsibilities of taking care of a child...often a very difficult child with minimal support around you.  I don't understand the sexual abuse stuff, except that often those parents were themselves abused as children.  I can tell you that sexual abuse when you're a kid fucks with your mind more than just about anything out there.  It leaves you with no idea how to relate to people, and no real concept of what love is.  I have no doubt that the parents who have hurt these kids love their children.  They just have no idea how to parent.  I also have no doubt the kids love their parents...even the ones with no desire to be with them.

I guess it goes back to what I said before...I'm grateful for my life experiences because they've given me the perspective to see where so many different people are coming from.  I can't, nor do I want to, hold a whole group of people hostage to a single idea.  Yes, there's bad ones in every bunch...but generally there's a reason why.  There's some kind of pain that's brought a person to where they are.  Judging and blaming isn't going to help them.  I just hope we can find the right path to healing so we can change the course of things rather than continue with the same cycles.


I'm so so grateful for my job, because I love it and I love getting to be a part of truly making a difference for kids who experienced what I did.  I love being a part of (hopefully) making real change for the future.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tico Time

Years ago I was fortunate enough to take a trip to Costa Rica as part of a study abroad class.  I had an amazing time and am so grateful for the experience.  What a beautiful country with genuinely nice people!

Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos.  One of my favorite phrases, which we heard often there, was Tico time.  Basically it meant that nothing really happened "on time".  Things were scheduled at specific times, but if you happened to run in to a friend on your way to some event, you would never say, "Sorry, can't talk, I'm late."  You'd take the time to talk to your friend, and then head on to wherever it was you were going.  You get there when you get there.

Realistically, I probably wouldn't function well on Tico time.  I'm a procrastinator.  I wait until the last minute and then rush to finish everything before the deadline.  When there's no deadlines, I don't do much.  But I love the concept.

Last night I was on my way to a meeting and happened to run into a friend that I hadn't seen in probably a year.  It was a total fluke because I was in an area of town I don't normally go to for said meeting (not one of my regular meetings...not a typical meeting...hard to explain exactly what it, and she had just moved in to that area.  She hadn't lived anywhere close to there the last time we'd talked.  So I was about a block away from the meeting, but I took the time to talk with her.  I found out she's now 8 months sober (she was struggling to string together more than 3 months before), has a new job, and is doing well.  Eventually I decided I'd better head to my meeting, though now 15 minutes late rather than the 5 minutes early that I was.

I'm not a huge fan of walking in late places....especially places like that where the door is right by the front of the meeting room so there's no sneaking in the back...but I'm used to it because time management has never been my specialty.  Later that night I mentioned the encounter to a friend of mine and she was talking about how nice it was of me to stop and talk to this friend, and how it was such a supportive and caring thing to do.  That surprised me because I never really considered doing anything else.  Of course greeting and talking to a friend comes before "business".  Even if it hadn't been someone that I hadn't seen for a year....even if it was someone I see regularly, I'd still want to take the time to catch up and make sure they're doing ok.  That's just the way my mind works...and sometimes it gets me in trouble because so many people value being on time so heavily.  I remember being lectured about how it's disrespectful to show up to a class late.  I understand what they're saying, but if I see someone I care about along the way, aren't they more important than a class?

When I was in Costa Rica we went to this big rodeo event that most of the town was apparently coming to.  It started very late.  The rest of my group, all American, was checking their watches, grumbling, and seeming generally unhappy.  The Costa Ricans around us were talking and laughing with each other, and none seemed bothered at all by the delay.  I asked a man sitting near me about it.  He chuckled at the question and said, "They'll get here when they get here!"  Works for me!  Somehow, the philosophy seems to work and life keeps going there.  What I do know is I felt 100x more peaceful there.  Granted it was like a vacation....the school was not very school like and i wasn't working or anything...but when I got back to the US I remember sitting in the corner of the airport feeling shell-shocked as I watched people rush by me.  Everyone going somewhere, everyone checking their watches, everyone rushing.  I wanted to go back to the land of "we'll get there when we get there," where human interaction always trumps punctuality.  Of course I may disagree if I spent some real time there, but it felt like a breath of fresh air.  So much of the stress of expectation was just gone.  There wasn't the constant push to do more.  I felt like I could breathe...and just be.

I don't know why this is my chosen rambling today.  I've had so many things I wanted to blog about, but when I finally had time to sit down and write I'd forgotten them all! lol  So hopefully you'll be hearing from me again soon.  My internship starts next week.  Eep! :)


I'm grateful for my new perspective on life.  I had some things go on this week that may have done me in stress-wise in my "old life"....but any more I'm able to think through them, find the positive, and keep going with them just being a little glitch along the way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Little League

Lately I've been spending a lot of time watching the Little League World Series.  It's a rather strange fascination of mine I guess, but I've always loved it.  It's not just the big world series event, I've just always loved youth sports.  Back when my PTSD and anxiety were so bad I could barely function, one of the few things I truly enjoyed was going out to the local little league field.  For some reason I just felt safe there.  It felt like, when I was watching kids play baseball (or whatever other sport happened to be in season), all was right with the world.  Everything was simple, manageable, and understandable.  Maybe it was the simplicity of the game, or the families there to cheer, or the kids just out to have fun.  Whatever it was, it worked.  (It's also helped me to work...over the years I've had jobs coaching kids in many, baseball, tennis, hockey, skiing, etc. :)  So naturally, when youth sports takes over ESPN, it's something I want to watch.  It makes me feel good.

This time around it's gotten me to thinking...many of these kids' dads are out there on the field with them as coaches.  Those parents that aren't coaches are there in the stands watching, even though it's meant traveling across the country or around the world to do so.  The parents talk about the sacrifices they've made....the long hours and many miles getting their kids to practices, games, and tournaments....making sure the kids have the gear they need....paying team dues as well as paying for extra coaching and training....working fundraisers for the team...showing up to cheer at every game, etc.  It got me having involved parents a pre-requisite for success in sports?  Obviously no parent is going to be interviewed on tv and say "meh...I don't do much.  I show up now and then," and if there is a parent that's not there they're obviously not the one that's going to be interviewed.  But I've noticed that with almost every batter that comes up, the camera shows the parents and family members, happily adorned in the team's colors, holding big handmade signs.

This definitely isn't just a baseball thing, or just a little league thing either.  I had the same sort of thoughts during the olympics with the repeated "salute to mom" commercials of athletes thanking their moms for all the behind the scenes work they did.  (Though not their dads...which bothered me...but that's a topic for another post! lol).  In both cases, Olympics and little league, they also generally talk about the years and years of work starting from when the athlete was very young.  They talk about joining their first sports team when they were 4 or 5.  When I was that age I was learning the safest hiding places in my house, and how to read whether or not dad was drunk.  Sports were the furthest thing from my mind!

Of course there's a big range between "hiding from drunk dad" and expensive private coaching.  I know not all kids have what the kids on tv are talking about, even though it sometimes seems that way. Also, I did get to play sports sometimes as a kid.  I was a natural athlete, so I got to join school teams a few times.  I just know that had I ever gotten on a team good enough to travel to another state for a tournament, my mom likely would've pulled me off right then and there, not wanting to put in the money or the work to help me get there.  That's just the way my family was.

It's not that I think I would've been some kind of amazing professional athlete had my parents been different.  No matter who I had been raised by, I don't see myself as someone having that level of drive and commitment.  (Not to mention, the sport I loved was football, and no matter who my parents had been I doubt there was a team anywhere that would've taken me!).  But it's just one of those things that makes me wonder.  It makes me wonder who I would've been had my parents been different....had my childhood been different.

Wondering about those things for too long is not a safe place for me to go.  I have to be careful not to drift too far that way because the answers will never be known.  I am who I am.  I am me.  I only have this one life, and it's entirely possible that what I think would've been a better life for me growing up could've led to somewhere much worse.  After all, as much as times have sucked here and there, life is pretty good now.  I still struggle, but I wouldn't want to give it up.  Anymore I can't think of anyone I'd want to trade with, so there's no reason to think of trying to trade in my past.  (Wow...I don't think I've ever said that "out loud"....that there's no one I would want to trade with...but it's actually true.  There's really no one else I'd rather be today than me. :)

I guess what this all comes down to is it's just one more thing to grieve.  My life has a lot of grief in it right now.  So much that I'm still sometimes crying for no reason.  (Well, I guess there is a reason, but it seems to come out of nowhere).  Mostly I'm grieving for the big things...loss of innocence, loss of a happy childhood, loss of safety and security, loss of the ability to trust people and have genuine relationships, loss of a family I feel like I can fall back on...  It's getting better.  I'm learning to accept these losses.  But every now and then these little things jump up from out of nowhere and they get to me.  They're silly things.  I get that.  I know the world is not going to end because my mom almost never came to sports games I played...and if she did she was sitting in the back looking bored not up front cheering.  I know that's not earth-shattering.  But sometimes the little things hit the hardest.  And it's one more reminder of the cohesive family I wanted more than anything but didn't have.

I did a little reading online today...and came across a website of people (adults) talking about how badly they want a team of theirs....their go to the little league world series.  I realized then, if I ever have kids (which I do still plan to....I really could care less if they ever go to any kind of championship of anything...but I can't wait to be in the front row of whatever they decide to do.  That seriously is a dream of be the coach...or whatever they'll let me be...of some team my kid is on and get to share that with them.  It's just a family moment I really really want.  And no, it doesn't have to be sports, because if I say I want it to be sports that pretty much guarantees my kid will hate sports and be in to chess or something like that, right? lol  It's just a connection I wish I'd had...and one I'm excited to one day give to kids of my own.

It's also one more little thing that's a bit scary when I think about it.  I have yet to find a high-level athlete who didn't start playing their sport when they were very young (except for a few select sports that seem to cater a bit more towards "older" athletes).  So this is just one more example of where decisions made for kids when they're very young, or how even the youngest of kids are raised, can have a HUGE impact on where they end up as adults.  You'd think that when they're that young it doesn't matter too much, but once again you just never know when that moment is going to be that's going to shape the future.  As someone who has coached, I could've been a part of it for a kid and not even known.  I just hope my impact was a positive one. :)

Before I finish up with Little League related stuff I just gotta share one more thing.  A speech from the best coach ever.  Seriously.  After hearing this I want to find a way to nominate this guy for president!  Honestly he was so incredible that when the game ended and his team was eliminated, rather than showing the other team celebrating their win and getting to move on in the tournament...the cameras went straight to this guy to hear this talk.  I've never seen that before in any televised sports events but this speech was worth it.

Coach Belisle for president!  Or at the very least I need to hire him as my life coach! lol


I'm grateful that even in the midst of the worst chaos of my life I've been able to find something somewhere that brings me comfort....even if it seems weird to the outside world.  And frankly, the fact that it's always been as simple as eating a burger at a little league field, even when I can barely eat or think or function a pretty sweet deal for me!  Yay for simple things to bring comfort!  If it's simple, it's always available in one way or another.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I guess it's time for me to blog again.  Losing my last post really took it out of me.  Usually I'm better about saving things as I write.  I guess that one just wasn't meant to be seen.  Anyway...back to today.

I think I have some survivor's guilt when it comes to suicide.  I've been hospitalized twice because I was suicidal, and there are multiple times in my life that I should've died, either from attempted suicide or from indifference.  Many nights I didn't exactly want to die, but I really didn't care if I lived to see the next morning, and I acted accordingly.  It scares me because I don't know why I lived.  It definitely wasn't because of something I did.  Some say it was because my higher power was there.  I think that's probably true, but at the same time what does that say about people who do successfully carry out suicide?  Does god not care for them as much?  No, I can't believe that.  I know I didn't do anything back then that made me "deserve" to be alive.  Not that people should necessarily earn their right to live or anything, but I brought a lot of pain to the world back in my suicidal days, and I hadn't done much of anything to help anyone.  My net impact wasn't positive!

So then you have someone like Robin Williams.  Well loved by so, so many.  It seems like the whole world is in mourning today.  From what I've read and seen he was well loved off screen too.  He admits he did a lot he's not proud of during his active addiction, but it seems like he was a genuinely good guy.  So the response I have inside is hard to put words to.  When I was suicidal, I was some dumb kid living on the streets (or close to it).  Had I been successful, very few people would've noticed me gone, and their thoughts of me would not have lasted long.  So, if there were some sort of world quota for suicide, it would make sense to get rid of me, rather than him.  That said, I was a kid with nothing.  From outside appearances, he had everything.  Money, fame, family, friends, etc.

I know firsthand that it isn't that outside stuff that leads a person to suicide.  It's way bigger than that.  You have to feel so completely empty inside that you can't imagine continuing on.  It is a depth of pain that is truly inexplicable and goes way beyond just whether or not things are going well in your life at the moment.  This last time that I was hospitalized, I knew people cared, and honestly I was angry at them for caring.  In my mind, they were keeping me from reaching that final peace.  I thought often, "Why couldn't I have just died when I was truly unknown?"  There were times when literally no one would've noticed me missing for a long time, if at all.  Also, no matter how much people cared about me, I still genuinely believed they'd be better off without me.  I can't really explain it because it isn't logical.  But I knew I hurt so badly that I couldn't possibly be a benefit to anyone else.  "They'll see, once I'm gone it will be better."  I was so, so blinded by pain.  I wanted the people around me to see that all I could possibly bring to the world was pain.

I tried to get help but was constantly blocked from it...first by pride, then by money and resources.  It amazes me to hear of a celebrity suicide because they literally have access to any resource they could possibly want.  All the therapy, all the inpatient rehab, all the whatever.  It's at their fingertips.  Of course they also have the constant judgment that follows.  It makes national news if they go to any one of those places.  I can't imagine if my life had been so on display when I was in such a dark place.  In the case of Robin Williams, it kills me to know that he was seen by so many, and yet no one could reach out in the way that he needed to bring him out of where he was trapped.  I don't blame anyone around him, nor do I blame him.  Depression is terrifyingly sneaky and stealth.  I just wish, as I know everyone does, that it could've been different.  I wish he could've felt the love that the world has for him.  I guess this all goes to show that even the biggest names are far from immune.  Sometimes I think it's worse for them.  The better you look on the outside, the more you're judged for how you feel inside.  If things are going well in your life, you're expected to be happy.  You're a comedian, you're expected not to be sad.  I imagine it was that much harder for him than it was for me to admit he needed help, even though he had the resources available.

Last thing...he checked himself into rehab just a couple of months ago...not because he was drinking or using again, but because of mental illness.  So even with inpatient treatment, he couldn't defeat whatever it was that was going on in his head.  Obviously no one but him can know for sure...but from what I can see, he did everything right and depression still won!  That's so scary to me!  People want to blame those that kill themselves or attempt to....talking about how selfish they are.  But in my own experience, and with every suicidal or formerly suicidal person i've spoken to, they've lost touch with the ability to feel connected to others.  They can't grasp how their death will impact anyone.  But it's not that they're not thinking of others.  These people who want to blame the depressed person love to say, "Well they should've done ______."  But sometimes I don't think anyone knows the answer to what they should actually do.  He sought intensive inpatient help, so clearly he talked to people and I can only assume (hope) got medication.  He didn't go back to his addictions (as far as I know).  He tried to handle it the right way, and it still got the best of him.

Of course it's sad when the celebrities (or anyone) that have a long history of drug use eventually overdose, but at the same time it's almost expected.  I know how hard it is to get sober....but ultimately it is a choice whether to take action.  And addicts know that choosing to continue to use will eventually lead to death.  But when someone gets sober and stays sober, seeks help for their mental illness, and still can't get through it....that's both terrifying and tragic.  Is there really nothing that can protect one from severe depression?

Had I died when I'd wanted to, obviously I know the reaction wouldn't have been as big as this one is....but I'm feeling so strongly about Robin Williams and I've never actually met him.  I can't imagine what I would've put those who cared about me through.  Even though obviously I didn't succeed, it still pains me to think how close I came to hurting so many.  I wish there was some way that I could take it back, even though many that are close to me have no idea how close I came.  I also think of the people I know now.  Even though I struggle to believe that people actually like me, today I know I have a place in the world and a meaningful impact.  Had I died back then, that impact wouldn't have happened.  It just feels like there's this balance in the world, and something like suicide throws it off so badly.  Maybe it really was just his time to go.  I don't know if it will ever make sense.  But I am so overwhelmed with grief, sadness, and guilt right now that it's hard to even function.  I want it to make sense, and I don't think it ever will.


I really am grateful to be alive, even though lately I at times have been struggling to show it.  I really am trying to live today in a way that shows that gratitude.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


I just wrote out a super emotional post that took a lot out of me to write, and then the stupid website ate it. :(  So frustrating.