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For some of us, painful memories stick like glue. These memories impact us so hugely that they crowd out the happy ones. It can appear that there were no positive experiences that we had as a child.
If that is the case for you, it is healthier to challenge that thinking. If you think there were no happy memories at home, look for the ones outside the home.
Somewhere, somehow, you were nurtured as a child. It may have been a relative or neighbor. It can seem like an affront to the painful memories to recall any good ones, but keep looking for the warm moments. Even if both parents were monsters, they had some good qualities, no matter how minuscule. Make it OK to invite the pleasant memories to surface. You can still keep the unhappy ones. Since you survived long enough to read this blog, you were sheltered, clothed, fed and schooled. Therefore, you were nurtured, however poorly it was done.
While not here to tell you to shut off the bad memories and get all positive, I’m here to say there was painful and pleasant in every life. It is realistic to look at both. If you cannot look at the bad memories and want to see everything wonderful in your past, go for it, as long as you do not openly oppose anyone else’s experience. Despite the awful memories, if you cannot look at the good memories and see only the hurtful ones, you may be doing yourself, and others, a disservice.
Also, it is easy to forget that it is universally true that no one has all easy, pleasant experiences. So to expect that we should, is unrealistic.
To start you off with remembering the pleasant …
Remember a time when you laughed as a child.
Remember a time when you played with a ball.
Remember a time when you proudly wore nice clothing.
Remember a time when you happily conversed with a new friend.
Remember a time when someone did something kind to you.
Remember a time when you won at a game.
These may seem simple. You may want to discount these small joys. Yet, these memories can dispel the myth that your childhood was all bad. The more you dwell on the happy times, the more you will find balance, no matter how terrible your childhood. To remember the positive does not discount the pain. It is about refocusing your view and recognizing the whole picture. Your foundation does not have to be totally one dimension. Allow yourself the simple pleasure of enjoying the pleasant memories.
For me, I recall bouncing balls against the side of the house. At a young age, it was a delight to catch it and do it again and again. Even chasing after a missed ball was fun. Later, I played baseball, starting at age six with a hard ball. My older brother, the boys in neighborhood and I teamed up every summer to play ball near our home. Holding my own as a girl in that competing world was thrilling. No amount of pain by getting hit with a fast hard ball, ever slowed my enthusiasm. Even though I could hardly stand upright due to respiratory challenges, I ran to bases as needed. That fun was part of what developed my determination and perseverance to get through the rest of my life. Life has its rewards.
How about you? What do you remember?
Soon my Breaking Through Concrete Workbook will be published. The purpose of the book is to support people in uncovering the origins of present behaviors and beliefs. Sometimes it helps to know the origins, if you see any need to change either painful beliefs or behaviors.
This book is one filled with self-examination questions that can be used alone or in a small group. The questions are related to time segments of your youth. They include: Preschool Years, Elementary School Years and Teen Years. These segments lead you through your earliest memories all the way to the doorstep of your early adulthood.
To give you a sample, here is one question from Preschool Years.
Which parent nurtured you in a way you responded to the most? What is one memory about being nurtured by that parent? What difference, if any, did that memory have on your life?
Here is an example of exploring and using these two questions.
My answer is that my father was more nurturing than my mother, which was no contest, given how harsh my mother was. Though my father was distant and aloof, I was sure that he cared about me.
My earliest memory was the time he found me sleeping on the couch one night when I was about five. As he picked me up, I awoke to my father carrying me through the hall and tenderly putting me in my bed. Pretending I was still sleeping for fear he would stop carrying me, I did not want to blow my cover that I had awakened. I’ll never forget how pleased I was to realize I was important to him in that moment. It buoyed me up and it was my secret memory that got me through tough times. Though I did not have verbal encouragement about my value, I knew he loved me. There was more evidence I collected later about my father’s kindness. He did not have to say he loved me and I had learned not to expect it.
So how was it for you? How would you answer these questions? Leave me your answer and how you are affected today by a loving or nurturing parent.
My, as yet, unpublished Breaking Through Concrete Workbook is the basis of a four-part course that I call the Playshop Series. My friend Brenda, who attended my first Book Signing, suggested that I do a series of workshops based on my published book. When I told Brenda that I had written a Workbook, she said that was more proof I could go ahead with a course. Promising to be a participant, she requested I create something immediately.
Already, the Breaking Through Concrete Workbook included the human experience, not merely mine. By leading a four part course, I would test out my workbook.
This course is called a Playshop to evoke some lightness, playfulness and creativity. Self-expression is needed to balance with the often heavily laden memories. Creative play takes the form of journaling, drawing, collaging, montaging, singing and dancing. In the sessions, creative expression takes the form of writing, drawing and sharing to capture what personal answers emerged for the participants from the questions in my workbook. Participants are encouraged to continue other modalities of creativity, expanding on what came up from the Playshop.
One participant wrote this to me:
“For me, your workshop hit the spot … so much that I could use more time and work in this direction. I’m just thrilled you did THIS Playshop the way you did. Your visualizations and group sharing/support were MUCH more effective for me than conventional therapy.” ~ Marilyn
Since last Saturday turned out to be a snow day, the Playshop will continue next Saturday. This extra week in between gives participants time to create more connections with their creative self.
This is the information I sent out to a group of people before it started:
Breaking Through to the Inner Child PLAYSHOP Series
What is the one thing in your life that is not as satisfactory as you’d like? Is it in the area of Relationships? Finances? Health? Self-Expression? Recreation? Career? Environment? Why has it eluded you? Could it be due to something unsettled from your past? Come to a Playshop Series in a group setting with nurturing, creativity and lightness all around you to get a new perspective.
This Playshop grew out of my book Breaking Through Concrete: The Gift of Having Mentally Ill Parents. It is not necessary to read the book to take this course.
To notice how you have broken through the concrete in your life.
To see yourself as the star protagonist in your life using fresh ways of looking.
To forgive your past.
To embrace the best in yourself.
To own your gifts, no matter how they came about.
To identify the Monkey Mind Monsters and take your power back.
To shift your point of reference to life. (Mine was: “Life is a struggle”).
Who: Powerful Players. Those who want to uncover hidden, denied, or wounded,
parts of self. And those who want to reclaim, own and express your gifts.
What: 4 Playshop Sessions
When: Saturdays: January 12, 19, 26 and February 2
Why: Expanded JOY, Greater FREEDOM.
Where: At a Cincinnati location. Possibly in the future, I may offer this as a Teleclass. People from around the country have expressed a desire for this course.
My book: Breaking Through Concrete: The Gift of Having Mentally Ill Parents is on Kindle and Amazon. On Kindle you can access it on this site: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A71KTAI
My Kindle book allows you to lend it to others for two weeks at a time.
Also, the Amazon site is: tinyurl.com/breakingthroughconcrete
With both of these sites, you will find excerpts. You may have to scroll down since some of the first pages are blank. Please share these sites with people who are dealing with mental illness or know someone who is. Thank you.
To introduce my soon-to-be-published book: Breaking Through Concrete: The Gift of Having Mentally Ill Parents, I am posting the Introduction here. This is a sneak peek. After you read it, I would love to know what you would want to see in this book.
FIRST, THE CONCRETE
My parents were my concrete. The emotional concrete had set in before I knew it. Growing up, it seemed solid and impossible to break through.
This concrete story is about the hard reality – the details of living with a disorganized schizophrenic, bi-polar mother and a depressed, closet alcoholic father. My experiences can give you glimpses into the hidden world of mental illness in a family.
Throughout my life, neither my mother nor my father approved of anything that I accomplished, not my graduations, my accolades, my choices, or my husband. At every stage of life, I felt unacceptable to them. Looking elsewhere, I discovered that appreciation and approval could come from others.
There is an undeniable downside to a difficult upbringing. Psychiatrists tell us that human frailties are accentuated in a stress-filled, suppressed, under-protected childhood. After experiencing emotional neglect and abuse, a sense of shame can be intensely difficult to release. This type of upbringing most often results in unrelenting emotional baggage such as low self-esteem, frustration, and insecurities. One can think: “If my mother couldn’t love me, then who could?” That thought lurked in the background for me.
While my mother threatened my life at times, not all mentally ill parents are a danger to their children. Some parents with mental illness could have adequate medicine or behavior modification techniques to control their symptoms. In such cases, the family can be functioning well. The risks to any child are on a case-by-case basis.
In no way do I advocate overlooking the serious damage a child can suffer from living with a disturbed mentally ill parent, or parents. While unattended mental illness is the trigger for bad behavior, undeniable damage can be the result.
There are many highly regarded, accurate studies about children’s wounds at the hands of a mentally ill parent. Though there is truth in this view, it is not the only way to look at this, or any other challenge. If only the pain is perceived, the problems are emphasized and nothing else is observed.
Up until now, I have not read anything of the benefit of experiencing such a childhood. After having experienced the difficulties firsthand, I learned that my experiences with mentally ill parents could eventually reveal to me my power. It took me quite awhile to get to that understanding. No matter what my past, I can view it as a burden, or a benefit.
How could there be a benefit? For one, even a severely mentally ill parent has their moments of kindness or clarity. Those soft, tender moments in a typical mother would be taken in stride, appreciated mildly at best. The same kindness received from a dysfunctional parent produces pure bliss. That moment of kindness can affect a child throughout his or her life. My chapter: Giving and Receiving is one such example.
When demonstrations of love are so rare, it could result in a child giving up and becoming cynical about the world. More often, gratitude is automatically there when a child of a mentally ill parent does receive some symbol of love after long, lean times of nothing.
From the hard times, something valuable can emerge; something that takes up residence in your soul. It settles there because you had to labor so hard to chisel through it. That something might be different for each person.
At some point, I recognized that there is a benefit to taking responsibility for my life. To blame anyone else is to cripple, and limit myself. As a child, I made immature responses that had me experience the solid concrete barriers. As an adult, I have more ability to find the cracks in the concrete. If I only see the limits of the concrete and do not look for the cracks to break through, then I will continue to constrain my life.
The concrete made me who I am in the present. Being “between a rock and hard place,” I found the breaks to push through. It took more than one breakthrough.
All concrete has its weak point. When I was a young adult I saw others unhappy due to their childhood. I knew instinctively that I wanted to be free, and to take charge. Others were banging their head against the proverbial concrete of their life story. Being able to see the confining and punishing part of resisting the past was one of the cracks in the concrete that I grew through.
In disclosing raw details, I am not blaming my parents. They were as much sufferers of their illnesses as their children were of them. My purpose in sharing the inner workings of a household in daily crisis is to speak my truth. Hopefully, my story will help you find your truth.
BLAME VERSUS RESPONSIBILITY
Following the recent loss of several people in the shooting in Tucson, I have heard people blame Jared Loughner’s parents for the shootings. Others say: “He is just no good and he was born that way. He is bad.” At least one well-respected TV commentator called the perpetrator: “ a nut job.”
Some people blame the gun lobby. Everyone has an opinion. Some say he shouldn’t have had a gun that allowed him to shoot more than ten rounds. Ah, I suppose ten people are enough target for one days shooting. Now, who is insane?
Others blame the health care system or the health care workers. Most health care workers need to be commended, and not blamed when things go haywire. Often, tireless and unappreciated mental health care workers strive against all probability to do everything they can.
Does the blame remind you of anything? Does the Virginia Tech shootings come to mind? The exact same arguments came up then.
The leading doctor in the field of schizophrenia, renowned psychiatrist Dr. E. Fuller Torrey blames state governments. Pointing out that the system is not set up to see all the information on a person who is dangerous to themselves or others, Dr. Torrey said: “Ultimately, it is important to hold state officials responsible for not providing sufficient resources to treat those who suffer from serious mental illnesses. For almost two centuries, it has been an accepted function of state government to protect disabled persons and to protect the public from individuals who are potentially dangerous. State governments have been very effective in emptying the hospitals in an effort to save money but remarkably ineffective in providing treatment for seriously mentally ill individuals living in the community. We have completely failed these people.”
While Dr. Torrey makes a worthy point, I think we all need to look at ourselves, too. Our whole society has lacked the will and the commitment to solve this challenge. We feel helpless and want it hidden from our sight. Our country reflects our common values. How much do we value the mental health of all citizens?
It is said that people with mental illness do not commit more crimes than the rest of us. What if, because we handled it, no one with mental illness would commit a crime due to mental illness? That would cut down on crime enormously. Then we would have mass murder committed only by the sane. By any measure, can mass murder be sane?
This tragedy has been happening several times a year here and in many countries. It’s like the movie: Groundhog Day. We are the characters in the movie that keep forgetting what there is to learn from this. The lesson is that we need to get mentally ill people help, even if we don’t know which ones might ever kill. It seems our policy has been that since we cannot know for sure who will kill, we do not need to help any of them. What if we made sure they all got help? While we’re helping them, we would be helping ourselves. Not only would our world be safer, we would have a healthier, even happier, population of former sufferers of mental illness.
In coming months, when the six dead are long buried and the thirteen people wounded recover, we will likely forget. Could this incident in Tucson have been prevented if we all were interested enough?
While we cannot change what happened, how might we prevent the next tragedy? The next time it could be you. I invite you to join me in asking our congress members: “What programs will be put in place for sufferers of schizophrenia, such as Mr. Loughner? What is the state or federal plan that will prevent the next tragedy?” In case you don’t know your local congress members, here is the list of senators and representatives by state district: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/ Please call or write. It is very easy.
If we cannot care enough about the sufferers, then we need to care about ourselves. We live together with the mentally ill, whether we know it or not. We drink the same water and breathe the same air. We see schizophrenics on the street, often homeless. Instead of judging, let us ask ourselves what we can do to make this world work for them, as well as for us. Mental illness is a brain disorder. Mentally ill sufferers are not bad people. Because we do not have a solution to their problems, we wait until some of them do something unacceptable and then we condemn them, often to death. “It is conservatively estimated that 5-10% of death row inmates suffer from serious mental illness.” http://www.deathpenalty.org/article.php?id=53 That huge number might be prevented in the future, if we act today.
While improvements can me made in many areas such as the topic of mental health systems, mental health workers, guns and government programs and priorities, I want to focus away from blame and look at responsibility without fault.
Who is responsible for the sick among us?
We have hospitals for the physically ill. Happily, Rep. Gabrielle Gifford is in rehab, possibly for months. Like thousands of others in our country, most wounded people with medical insurance will be rehabilitated for as long as it takes. There’s no such facility for the mentally ill who are pushed out of a mental hospital in a few weeks, or less, no matter what their mental wounds.
While Jared Loughner does not engender sympathy, we have to acknowledge that he, and others like him, did not get help. I am not defending the shooter. I am pointing to the bigger picture. This message is about more than this one incident. It’s about all the past and future incidents exactly like this, except for the location and the victims involved.
Why do we ignore the needs of the most severely disturbed of the mentally ill? There are no visible scars. We pretend these people are normal. Then we judge them morally wrong when their thinking is totally unbalanced. We justify our scorn. It is understandable and normal to abhor the behavior that disrupts the world in any way. We assume that the mentally ill could manage their life better, or at least as well as we do.
Often, even when we know someone’s behavior is caused by serious mental illness, we still want to deride him or her. They are not like us. We tend to think: “Why do they have to act that way? They shouldn’t be like that.”
According to Dr. Torrey, schizophrenia is at least one mental condition that Jared Loughner has. With severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, some behaviors are downright destructive, some highly dangerous, some merely annoying and some seemingly normal. Often, those suffering some mental illnesses can make it difficult for others to endure their company. For that reason, we naturally stay away. Since we never can be inside their disordered brain, we cannot know if we could control our behavior any better.
Our attitudes may block people getting help. Instead of experiencing shame for an illness they did not choose, what if the mentally ill were respected so much that they had no fear of getting help and they had no loss of self-respect? If they received help early their disease would not be as severe. Most mental illnesses can be successfully treated.
As a whole, it appears that our view of those suffering from mental illness is that they are less worthy than the rest of us. We do not consistently mock people with heart disease or cancer. Our first reaction is concern. Could we have concern for the health of a mentally ill person?
To learn more, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a fact sheet that I included at the end.
The consequence of ignoring another’s suffering was huge and painful this time in Tucson, as it was in Virginia Tech. There have been many tragedies throughout our history, both ancient and recent history and all time in between. So, unless our collective intention becomes compassionate toward the mentally ill, this horrible crime will show up again and again. According to Dr. Phil McGraw, it happens about three times a year. When it does not affect us directly, we go back to forgetfulness.
How responsible for their actions is a person with such a neurological disorder? While I grew up with family members with mental illness, I cannot give a definitive answer to that. Each incident and each person is different. I wish our society had such a support system for mentally ill people that no one would have to ask the question of responsibility. As citizens, we have some say in what goes on. To that extent, we are somehow responsible for the way the systems are run, or not run. We are not to blame. There is opportunity in knowing that we have power.
So, who will demand that mentally ill sufferers get help? I hope you will. How responsible for your world, do you want to be? We can go on blaming others for why things are they way they are, or we can take some action. If everyone took one action to heal this problem, the world would change.
For decades, Dr. E. Torrey Fuller has championed the needs of schizophrenics. Alone Dr. Torrey cannot do it all. I call upon you to keep the funding alive without costing you anything but a stamp.
Dr. Torrey frequently tells people who want to help that they should send a thank you note to Ted and Veda Stanley who fund his work. That is probably the #1 thing people can do to help his research: help preserve his funding.
People who want to thank the Stanley’s for funding Fuller’s research can write
TED & VEDA STANLEY
The Stanley Medical Research Institute
5430 Grosvenor Lane, Suite 200
Bethesda, Maryland 20814
If this is too much, please send a Thank You email to the Stanleys about Dr. Torrey’s brain research here: email@example.com
From http://www.schizophrenia.com/newsletter/398/398torrey.htm there are other ways to help:
“Please acknowledge your local mental health experts and doctors. Encourage them to begin participating in the brain research programs so we can find a cure for schizophrenia faster – this is something you can do today that could change the world for the 20 million+ people around the world suffering from schizophrenia. Support this effort today!
My understanding is that the Stanley Foundation and Dr. Torrey are already working with the organizations that can provide them the brains that are prepared in the way they need for their research. However, other research organizations also need brains for further research. One specific organization I recommend is the “Harvard Brain Bank” – for more information
visit their web site. — http://www.schizophrenia.com/newsletter/398/398torrey.htm ”
INFORMATION ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS
From NAMI’s fact sheet, here are some important facts about mental illness and recovery:
* Mental illnesses are serious medical illnesses. They cannot be overcome through “will power” and are not related to a person’s “character” or intelligence.
* Mental illness falls along a continuum of severity. Even though mental illness is widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion-about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans-who live with a serious mental illness.
* The National Institute of Mental Health reports that One in four adults-approximately 57.7 million Americans-experience a mental health disorder in a given year
* The U.S. Surgeon General reports that 10 percent of children and adolescents in the United States suffer from serious emotional and mental disorders that cause significant functional impairment in their day-to-day lives at home, in school and with peers.
* The World Health Organization has reported that four of the 10 leading causes of disability in the US and other developed countries are mental disorders. By 2020, Major Depressive illness will be the leading cause of disability in the world for women and children.
* Mental illness usually strikes individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and young adulthood. All ages are susceptible, but the young and the old are especially vulnerable.
* Without treatment the consequences of mental illness for the individual and society are staggering: unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and wasted lives; The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States.
* The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports.
* With appropriate effective medication and a wide range of services tailored to their needs, most people who live with serious mental illnesses can significantly reduce the impact of their illness and find a satisfying measure of achievement and independence. A key concept is to develop expertise in developing strategies to manage the illness process.
* Early identification and treatment is of vital importance; By ensuring access to the treatment and recovery supports that are proven effective, recovery is accelerated and the further harm related to the course of illness is minimized.
* Stigma erodes confidence that mental disorders are real, treatable health conditions. We have allowed stigma and a now unwarranted sense of hopelessness to erect attitudinal, structural and financial barriers to effective treatment and recovery. It is time to take these barriers down.
So, besides joining me in questioning the plans of senators and representatives, thanking the Stanley Foundation and educating ourselves about mental illness, I invite you to get involved in local chapters of NAMI. Each of us has a contribution to society as a whole to make it work for everyone.
More about blaming:
To learn more about the Stanley Foundation go to: http://www.stanleyresearch.org/
Dan Hannemann, my guest on August 24, is an energy worker, counselor, hypnotherapist, entrepreneur, coach and co-author. Dan shared his expertise and experience about Anxiety Disorder
His account of the challenges and the gifts of Anxiety Disorder gave me a whole new perspective on the subject. Besides overcoming many of the difficulties of Anxiety Disorder, Dan is able to support others in overcoming their challenges. On the spur of the moment, Dan outlined a four-step process for any anxiety sufferer to climb his/her way out of anxiety.
Dan Hannemann is a contributor to the book: Wake Up … Live the Life you Love: Living in Abundance. His websites include: www.BlockBustYourPath.com and SpiritualRockStar.com You can find him on his blog radio program http://www.blogtalkradio.com/spiritualrockstar
Also, Dan offered a gift to listeners. Check out this interview.
Best-selling author, editor and founder of Conditional Publications, Vrinda Pendred was my guest in August. Vrinda’s topic was the gift of OCD. She spoke from the UK.
Delightful and articulate Vrinda Pendred shared her experience with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD was one of five neurological disorders that Vrinda has dealt with concurrently through her life. You will be amazed at what she has created out of these challenges. Below is the replay.
Vrinda’s book is Check Mates published by Conditional Publications, books by and about people with neurological disorders. Her sites are: http://conditionalpublications.com/ and http://conditionalpublications.ning.com/
There is more about Vrinda and OCD on articles in this site April 26 and April 27.
Andrew Mondia, actor, producer, and writer, was my Blog Talk Radio guest for the program on July 20, 2010. This is the second of two in a series on various aspects of ADHD. Sharing about his experience of having ADHD, Andrew gave us insight into what life is like for him dealing with ADHD.
Having ADHD has its challenges. Andrew found ways to make it work. Hear what he has to say on this recording. His is the second from the last replay since he was my second guest.
Cheers to your mental health,