Children

My Soul is on Fire, Walker Ladd, Ph.D.

My soul is on fire
in another room,
in another house,
across town,
in a neighborhood where I never go.

My soul is on fire over there;
put in a place where it is safe to burn…
away from the children.

My soul goes there every weekend.
So Friday through Sunday it stays there,
out of my body. Invisible.

What would it take dear Lord to bring it back?
To house it in this hollow chest?
How would it feel inside my ribs? Would I dance? Paint?
Grow breasts where the scars sit? Would I finally feel like me?

Because I am withering here, dear Lord; I am dithering here, dear Lord.
Only motherhood keeps me moored here, dear Lord.
Decay
Disease
Decline
Divorce
Depression

Parts of me rot and float away,
every Friday through Sunday.

I wasn’t done with the memories of
toddlers snuggling
and babies loving.
I wasn’t done with the
scent of my children growing.

On weekends, the smallest flash of a memory of those babies
dissolves my bones down to where
I live now.
Here now.

Here is me, dismembered from
that which ignites me into being,
sparks me into feeling.
Cut off from twenty years
Every Friday through Sunday.

My soul is on fire
in another room,
in another house,
across town,
in a neighborhood
where I never go.

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Summertime, and the living is easy? Vanessa Benson

All the moms at school: “Aren’t you so excited for summer break?”
Me: “ Honestly…… I don’t know” I shamefully whisper.

Am I the only mom whose blood pressure rises slightly when I think of the length of summer? It seems like every other mom is eagerly anticipating summer and having their kids home all the time. I love my kids so so much, but the idea of camp mom 24/7 is a little daunting to me. Maybe my mood is being heavily influenced by a combination of hormones, having 3.5 kids, ages 9, 7, 4, homeschooling two days a week and being up 5 times a night to pee because I’m 5 months pregnant.

I sometimes wonder if I’m cut out for this job. I know, its a little late now that I’m pregnant with number 4. But, my boys’ constant fighting and bickering and what I can only assume is them asserting their need for male dominance is so incredibly draining. It feels as if every time I think I have solved the most recent battle or conflict and gotten my boys to sign the latest peace treaty, I foolishly surmise I can finish the laundry when another volcanic kid erupts…..

”My brothers aren’t letting me play with them, (big tears and screams)” -the whining child

“He’s cheating, he’s such a liar! I wish I didn’t have a brother! I will NEVER play with him again.” -the prideful child

“I can’t help it if they don’t know how to play by the rules, I was just telling them what was fair”- the know-it-all child

So am I just not cut out for this? I think my general threshold of chaos times three is naturally low. It’s hard for me to roll with the constant screams and bloody injuries that need tending to. So I try and plan playdates and schedule activities. It seems like this is the only respite to solve or mildly alleviate sibling rivalry. That and TV.

As I sit here in the peaceful, quiet cool of the morning having my coffee (yes I drink a double shot latte every morning while pregnant) while the kids are all still asleep, I pray and ask God for the patience to not even make it through the day. I’m not asking for miracles, but just to not lose my mind or patience before 9 am. But then I remember that moms have gone before me and weathered the storms and even turned out decent human beings. I remember that there are great moments, swimming, playing cards with kids, hanging out with friends, watching them play unfiltered, unstructured, and the slower pace of summer. But am I “excited” that it’s summer? I’ll tell you after 9:00 AM!

Vanessa Benson
Author of: Out Came The Sun, My hopeful Journey Beyond Postpartum Depression
vanessasbenson.com

I can’t afford mental health awareness, anonymous

People talk a lot about increasing awareness of mental health. The last thing I want is anyone to be aware of my mental health. I know they would immediately judge me as a mother. They would judge if I were late picking up my daughter at daycare, late to parent-teacher conferences, late to soccer practice.

Can you imagine if I got tipsy with moms who knew about my mental illness at girl’s night out? Can you imagine if I got divorced or fought with my kid in public? No way. I don’t want anyone to be aware of anything.  There is too much to lose. I need my job; I need health insurance. I need people to NOT be aware of my mental illness.

Awareness is for people who aren’t moms; or moms who don’t have to work.

anonymous

When 261,000 people fear someone “finding out”

A new study of the use of mental health care services among adults in California has been published (with full pdf text). Who Gets Needed Mental Health Care? Use of Mental Health Services among Adults with Mental Health Need in California (Tran & Ponce, 2017), examines the records of mental health consumers over four years. Findings are startling, but sadly not surprising. For example, in 2013, it was estimated that 2.2 million people in California needed mental health services. However, 77% of that 2.2 million did not receive mental health services. Nearly 8 of 10. Those at the intersection of economic security, age, learning, and language were the most impacted, including men, Latinos, older adults, and those with less education and non-English speakers (Tran & Ponce, 2017).

More specifically, stigma played a huge role in determining lack of care.

When asked why they did not see a health professional in the past year, a majority (64%; 354,000) of adults with mental health need who felt they needed help endorsed cost of treatment as a reason; 47% (261,000) indicated that they “did not feel comfortable talking with a health professional” or were concerned if “someone found out [they] had a problem;” and one of five (20%; 109,000) adults said they had difficulty getting an appointment.

When 261,000 people are afraid of someone finding out they need help for a problem, we have a problem. Imagine 261,000 people with diabetes not getting insulin because they were afraid that  someone would find out they had a problem. Imagine 261,000 people with chest pain not getting help because they were afraid someone would find out.

What would happen? A large number of them would die. We figured this out during the early days of AIDS/HIV. As the number increased, as we all began to know someone who had in one way or another been effected, we dropped fear and increased knowledge. We put research dollars to the problem. We learned what it was and was not. We embraced those infected, we supported communities devastated by the disease. We corrected each other, demanded our institutions not discriminate. We beat stigma. We saved lives.

Why not mental illness? Is the stigma of mental illness somehow different? From the research I have done over the past decade I feel comfortable saying a resounding , NO. It is the same stigma that separated lepers in Biblical times.

Stigma is not a choice, it is a rule of the road that those with mental illness know intimately. It is not merely “feeling” afraid that someone would use the information inappropriately or harmfully. It is direct knowledge that in fact they would be harmed. Stigma is not an abstract hashtag or fundraiser. Stigma is not an issue of diversity, inclusion, or fluidity on an abstract spectrum of identity. Stigma stops people who need help from getting help.

When 261,000 people who need help and can’t get it, one wonders how bad the alternative must be? Loss of family, shelter, job, relationships, food security, freedom, custody of children. As a mother, I would risk diabetes, heart attack or shark attack to avoid anything that would jeopardize my life with my children. I will follow the rules of the road; and in Los Angeles…we have freaking freeways.

Tran, L. D., & Ponce, N. A. (2017). Who Gets Needed Mental Health Care? Use of Mental Health Services among Adults with Mental Health Need in California.