I often get a lot of peeps asking about medication. Is it ok? Is it a one way ticket to messing me up? Do they even work? Meds can seem quite daunting and scary. And loaded with stigma.
I have to start this off by saying I’m not a medical doctor, and I never go advising clients on medication. Always go and see your medical professional for that stuff. Buuut, meds and psych are closely related, we’re trained in understanding meds and what they do to you, and why they might be used etc. We just don’t prescribe them.
With Mark Latham being a general douche in the media last year (well, a general douche any year really these days. Let’s not get picky here), talking about taking medication equating to being ‘weak’, people get all cagey and embarrassed to discuss these kind of things. Like how cold sores are a form of herpes, medication for mental health is the ‘seedy underbelly’ that no one wants to talk about, or admit they’re dealing with. Like we talked about with PND, if you had a nasty infection, would you just hide away and hope it disappears? No! You’d be up at the doctors asking for help, and taking antibiotics etc. Well our mental health should be no different.
It’s a funny feeling, isn’t it? We feel yuck when we experience guilt, yet often we keep going back again and again to that familiar old sting. Are we masochists? Why do we do it to ourselves? And then when there’s kids involved, guilt skyrockets in all ways. Inadvertently we can pass it onto our kids and then they too get in the guilt cycle.
Time and time again we are told ‘get rid of the guilt’, ‘guilt is a useless emotion’ and for the most part it is, but what if we need guilt? What if it’s not the evil enemy we’re told that it is?
What even is guilt? It’s often seen as an emotion that crops up when we either feel like we’ve done something we shouldn’t have, or we didn’t do something we think we should have.
Guilt can be useful sometimes. It can alert us to something a bit deeper within ourselves that we’re not happy with. Maybe we snapped at our cherubs in the rush to get them off to school, when it was really the shitty traffic that made us run late (*cough* thatmighthavebeenmethismorning *cough*), maybe we forgot to send that important email, maybe we scoffed that last chocolate down. It’s not guilt that’s the issue here, but rather dissatisfaction in the way we’ve handled something- could be anxiety operating at the core, could be self-esteem, could be almost anything. But guilt is what alerts us to something not being right. It’s that discomfort we need so that we can reassess and make a change.
Guilt can be shit too. That’s when it becomes shame. Shame is that more internalised, personalised crud- where we think we’re bad for doing something, rather than just feeling cruddy for doing or not doing something. Shame can colour our everything, and if we leave it to grow, it can transform into even ickier things like anxiety, depression and other difficulties.
The difference here is function. Guilt often jumps us into action, whereas shame halts our process. It gets us stuck. So we need to stop bagging guilt out, and instead label the healthy stuff guilt, and the unhealthy stuff shame. Makes the world of difference when you’re grappling with the ick.
If you’re feeling guilty about something, don’t beat yourself up about it. You know that the ick feeling is an indicator that something has to change, so review what it is that you want to do/ don’t want to do and then make plans to rectify it. That’s it. Talk it over, allow yourself to feel ick for 13.45 minutes and then take action. The longer you hold onto guilt, the less useful it is and the more it turns into shame. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit.
Are you a guilt hoarder? Or are you all up in that ‘let it go’ zen mode?
It has been a hectic last few weeks. Hectic! Adjusting to this new life of ours, dealing with nasty random viruses, and keeping said infected germ factories (aka: the girls) away from the baby, watching an ever-growing list of things to do steadily grow, downing wines. You name it, we’re dealing with it!
When things get hectic, plans tend to go by the wayside. Some of us handle this ok and roll with the punches, others, like yours truly, tend to get in a flap about it. I *may* be a teeny, tiny bit anal about my routines, and about marking my to-do list off.
So it got me thinking. What makes some of us rollers, and others flappers? What’s your style? Those terms sound rather crass, don’t they? Totes my style.
Think about these questions- how would you respond?
1.The house looks like a bomb has gone off. In fact it probably has- a bomb of toys, detonated by tiny hands throwing crap all over the shop. Your friend rings (or texts. Because who rings these days?!) and says “what’s up? How bout I pop around in 20 mins?” Do you:
(a) Respond- ‘sure thing, you’ll just have to navigate the maze of toys on the ground’ and just put the kettle on in preparation?
(b) Get really annoyed that you’ve been given 20 minutes notice, pace the house for 10 of those minutes muttering under your breath, panic and start throwing toys in a cupboard (that will most likely burst open smacking said friend in the face as they walk by. Penance for giving 20 mins notice in your mind), while responding ‘sure thing. Can’t wait to see you! xoxo’ (because even though you want to throttle them, kisses and hugs are mandatory to end a text).
(c) Just not respond. If you pretend the message never came through, then it didn’t, right?
2.You’ve got an appointment you have to get to in 15 minutes. You’ve prepped, you’ve sorted the troops out. You’re on top of this shiz! Then one of your cherubs decides to spill vegemite toast (because we ALL eat vegemite, right? And it’s Murphy’s Law that something so heinous would stain a shirt just before you have to leave) all over themselves and then the other has a toileting accident. AT THE SAME TIME. It’s kismet. And if you’re cherub free- let’s pretend you spilled something on yourself. We’ll save the toileting accidents to protect your modesty. What do you do?
(a) Laugh it off. No biggie. You’ll get there when you get there, these things happen.
(b) Stand motionless, paralysed by frustration. Noticing a twitch in your eye, you think you may be having a mini stroke. Curse Murphy for such a shitty law, panic about missing the appointment, and the chain of events that results from rushing and being late. That’s it, the whole day is ruined now.
(c) Pretend these things didn’t occur. Throw new clothes at one, hide the vegemite stain on the other. Smile and nod people, smile and nod.
3. You’ve budgeted to within an inch of your life. You know what bills come in when, your money is sorted. Feeling rather chuffed with yourself, you feel like it’s all covered and heck, at this rate you might be able to take the family on a holiday! To a caravan park an hour up the road, but hey, it’s still a getaway, right? Then you get an unexpected bill in the mail… in the form of a speeding fine from your delightful partner. Do you:
(a) Chip your partner for not following the road rules, but reassure that it’s all ok. It will work out somehow, and you’ll just have to budget a bit tighter for a few weeks. The caravan park will still be there.
(b) Begin plucking your eyelashes out, because it’s less painful than dealing with your reckless partner. Your voice quivers with rage, whilst simultaneously panicking about where the hell this money is going to come from, given the money tree out the back ain’t producing the goods. Curse Murphy’s Law once more and you’re convinced that Murphy is specifically out to get YOU.
(c) Shove it to the bottom of the bill pile, down a shot of whatever alcohol is close by and deal with it when it’s due.
If you find yourself gravitating toward (b) then welcome to flapperworld. I’m right there with you. Though of course we’re not that flap-extreme. Much. Cursing Murphy’s Law is mandatory though. Flappers need advance notice for everything. They need a notebook and a pen for obsessive list-writing. They are the planners, the organisers, the sorter-outerers. It’s a word. For real. Spontaneity, while it sounds awesome, really isn’t their shtick. When that routine is thrown, even the slightest, the flap begins. And the melodrama. And the mountains out of molehills shit.
If you’re more of an (a) person, you’re a roller of the highest calibre. Nothing phases you. Breaking a sweat isn’t in your vocab. Shit happens, and you’re ok with shit happening. You shake it off, shake it off (ooh ooh… yeah try getting that song out of your head now…), and rolling with the punches ain’t no thang. People rocking up at the last minute? Come on in! Stuff going haywire? Not a worry.
And what about the (c)’s? Classic avoider. Like kids do when they’re really little- ‘if I close my eyes it’s not really happening, right?’ It’s akin to being a flapper on Valium. Rather than getting upset, they just block it out. Put fingers in the ears and go all ‘la la la la laaaaa’. While it feels nice in the short term to avoid shit, long term it is a big ouchie. The shit doesn’t go away, and that ick feeling in the pit of an avoider’s stomach doesn’t go away.
So ideally, we all want to be rollers. How do we get to divine roller status, without having to listen to Cat Stevens or spend a weekend in Nimbin? It’s not easy. My flapper self still struggles with rolling. Things I would say to a friend (but of course I can’t do for myself. You know, like the best kind of advice….) that might help would be to just chill out, relax, prioritise- what really matters? Is it a big deal worth flapping about? And what if you did just let it happen? Let that friend come over, or clean up the kids and run a bit late? Is the world going to end? Will your friend disown you because Toys R Us vomited in your lounge room? Will you be condemned because you’re 10 minutes late for your appointment (let’s face it, you’ll be like 20 mins late at least… but hey if you say 10 minutes you don’t feel as bad so let’s roll with that)? Challenge the flap- things might actually turn out better if you roll, you know? Or it might go to shit, but let’s not worry about that right now.
I think we put so much pressure on ourselves to have our shit together, and to be ordered, and to present a nice, ‘together’ us, that we often end up in a flap about stuff we don’t need to flap about. Friends don’t care if the house has exploded in toys and crumbs (unless it’s like from an episode of Hoarders), appointments normally run late anyways, it’ll alllll work out. Kids have been sent to test our flapability, I’m sure of it. They are like heat-seeking missiles when it comes to mess, and tardiness, and delays.
We can roll. They’ll roll when we do. And in the meantime there’s wine. There’s always wine.
How about you? Are you a roller or a flapper? Or just avoid the whole shebang?
Can you imagine living each and every day having to lug a giant weight chained to you? It might be sitting on your shoulders, making it impossible to stand properly. Or sitting on your chest, making it impossible to breathe clearly. Or maybe chained to your leg, making it impossible to move. It’d suck balls, right? Well often that’s what it feels like each and every day for people dealing with mental health issues.
Only we can’t see those heavy burdens that they carry. They look like they’re walking fine, talking fine. They might smile and chat, laugh and hug. But those heavy weights are there, and they can be suffocating.
Isn’t it funny that in 2015 we’re still so in the dark about many things? Many simple, basic things. One of those things is mental health. We’ve come so far, but yet still so far away from a cohesive understanding, and decent support for mental health issues. We still think of it as some weird, taboo thing, something many try to sweep under the rug, or discount as ‘not really being a thing’.
I’m madly cramming for a work deadline. So of course, I go and put a blog post together here instead. But while I was reading a bunch of jargon, I came across this:
‘don’t let your entire life hinge on one element’’ (Niven 2000, p. 71).
He asserts: ‘‘Your life is made up of many different facets. Don’t focus on one aspect of your life so much that you can’t experience pleasure if that one area is unsettled. It can become all you think about, and it can deaden your enjoyment of everything else—things you would otherwise love (p. 71).’’
And it stuck in my head. How true is that?! Clever dude.
Sometimes we put all our eggs in one basket. At times inadvertently, other times deliberately. But basically what strikes me about that is if we put everything into one single thing, we’re going to be unbalanced, and other areas are then going to suck.
One prime example comes to mind for me. Now, let’s take this one gently, because it can ruffle some feathers. Parents who live through their kids. They put everything into being a parent, they forsake other areas of their life for their kids, and you know what happens? Their kids grow up, they fly the coop (as they should), and parents are left feeling empty. They cling to their kids, and their kids get fed up and get the f outta dodge. For realz. The number one thing I’d see when I worked in high schools was parents who weren’t ready to take a few eggs out of the kid basket and kids who became resentful. It was a bad cycle.
No one is disputing that kids are a big part of life, but they can’t be the one element we hinge our lives on. Same with work. While work takes up a huge chunk of life, and we like to take a sense of pride and identity with what we do, if that’s our one element, then what the hell are we going to do when it’s gone?
Did you know the highest rate of divorce actually occurs when people retire? Because. Eggs in one basket. People get so caught up putting their eggs into their children, their careers etc (sounds a bit wrong when you put it like that, doesn’t it?), that when the kids are gone and the job is done, they look at each other and think ‘omg who the hell are you?’
Sometimes when we hold things up so closely to our faces, we go cross eyed. We can’t see what’s around us- we can only see this blurred mush in front of us. We need to just pull that thing back a bit so we can see the other great things that are around.
Our lives need to be a bit like a page from Where’s Wally. We need to be able to have the perspective to look at a bunch of things. Sure, sometimes we have to focus on smaller areas, because they need our attention. But if we only look at one section of the page, we’re not going to find Wally.
That clever dude Niven? He’s got a nifty little book out- and I found a naughty little pdf of it right here. Handy little thing to flick through.
Have you ever been caught out with all your eggs in the one basket? Or are you more of a ‘I play the field with my eggs’ kind of person?
You know how we’re in this society where there seems to be so much god damned pressure to ‘look on the bright side’ and ‘think positively’ and ‘be grateful’, while showing the world how #blessed we are? Well, turns out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
I mean, sure, we need to live in the now, and it is so important to focus on what is going well as opposed to just looking at the shit going wrong. Nobody disputes that. But, not everything has to be awesome all the time. Nor do we have to ‘find the positive’ in every.single.thing. Sometimes crap happens, and we have to acknowledge that. Friends, I present to you, depressive realism.
Just when you thought I was done with monsters, eh? Here’s the last one in our series. A wily little fucker that can come in a few forms for little ones. We normally associate eating monsters with teenage girls, but you know the eating monster can hit even our younger cherubs.
In what ways can the eating monster screw with our kids? Well we have the more well-known eating issue of refusing to eat, in its extreme version we know it as anorexia. With the eating monster, refusal to eat can lie on a spectrum, from your garden variety pain-in-the-ass “No! I’m not eating that!” to a full control over what they put in their mouth. Anorexia can actually happen in children as young as 7 or 8. At that age it seems to have a bit to do with the sad monster or the worry monster (with obsessive compulsive features), and is hard to diagnose. The refusal eating monster also needs to be distinguished from the sensory eating monster. Some kids just will.not.eat certain things because of the way it feels to them, or the sensation of eating it. And some kids will not eat due to the worry monster leaving them with a fear of choking, or possible trauma around food.
Ahhhh the old Silly Monster. A crowd favourite with kids, an arch nemesis of parents and adults alike. What is the silly monster? Is it what happens to Mummy when she’s had one too many wines and thinks that singing karaoke and staying out partying until 5am is a good idea? Not quite. That’s a monster of a different kind I think (hello alco monster, I hope to meet you again in a matter of months….).
For kids, the Silly Monster represents that little part of us that can get a little too active sometimes. At the wrong time. Not understanding personal boundaries, not picking up those subtle cues that people might be getting a bit put out. Getting so excited our little brains get a bit scrambled and we can’t really put our impulse control or regulation skills into place. It’s not that we don’t know what to do, but the act of putting it into practice can get short-circuited by this Silly Monster. Sometimes the Silly Monster is just a by-product of excitement, or over-tiredness, or sometimes it can be a symptom of something bigger. Anxiety, ASD, ADHD can all feature the Silly Monster.
There are so many monsters lurking around, isn’t there? We’ve looked at the worry monster, we’ve looked at the sad monster and we’ve seen what little bastards they can be. But what about the angry monster? What’s the deal there?
The angry monster is a little different to it’s previously mentioned cousins. The angry monster can pop into any kind of difficulty a child is having. It’s not necessarily a ‘disorder’, but the angry monster is a main player on the kidlet scene. The angry monster can mean bigger things, like anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or it may just be a function of testing boundaries and learning their place. It’s a tricky minx, the old angry monster.
So what does an angry monster look like? Prickly, loud, breathing fire maybe? Possibly. Seething, quiet and contained? Could be. Our angry monsters can look different depending on the situation we’re in, and depending on our personalities.
The angry monster can be hard for parents to negotiate. And even harder for kids to manage. It’s tough. But it’s not impossible! It’s really about helping kids to understand what’s going on for them, what the angry monster is, and why it might be popping up at this time.
The biggest message to share with our kids about the angry monster is that anger is normal! Anger is common and we all feel it. What’s not ok though is when we let our anger get the better of us and it takes over. Normally the angry monster is at the surface, while another monster bubbles below. So when we explain the angry monster to kids we need to be able to let them know they are allowed to feel angry, but letting the angry monster make them aggressive is something else entirely.
How do we explain the angry monster? Try a little something like this:
Let’s have a look at what’s been going on for you lately. Seems like things have been pretty tough. Maybe you’ve had a visit from the angry monster, do you know much about the angry monster? Well, it’s a monster who can get really annoying and LOUD. And when an angry monster gets loud, it can make us loud. Yelling, screaming, stamping and stomping. So much noise! That’s the work of the angry monster. They hit our bodies, our minds and our actions. They do things like make our fists clench, grind our teeth, get all our muscles tight. They can make our cheeks feel hot, our eyebrows frown. The angry monster is tricky like that. And then when our bodies are all tight, they start telling us all sorts of things, like “it’s not fair”, or “I want that toy!” or “they can’t do that to me”. If you think things like that, how do you think you’ll be feeling? Pretty darn angry! Aha- the angry monster is working! So when we think angry, we feel angry. And when we feel angry, sometimes it can come out in not-so-nice behaviours. We can get aggressive- hitting, throwing, yelling, breaking things. Sometimes we can get so aggressive we can hurt others. And that never feels good, for anyone. Before we know it, our angry monster has us all twisted up, and we don’t know how to get out of it! Why does the angry monster visit? Well there can be many reasons. We can find something unfair, we can feel like we’ve been hurt by others, we can actually be scared or sad about something, and it feels so yuck the only way we feel like we can get it out is by letting the angry monster take over. So we need to be detectives, get to the bottom of why the angry monster is visiting us, and learn ways to shrink the monster down so we can shine again.
Sadly with anger, we inadvertently paint it out to be a bad thing, and something we need to hide away and not express. Anger is a valid emotion, and both ourselves and our kids are allowed to feel it. It’s all about how we deal with it that’s the issue though, and what we want to upskill our kids on. With kids, particularly younger ones, anger is the go-to emotion when they’re struggling to understand or express what’s going on for them. So it’s always helpful to try and educate them on anger, and get them to understand what is happening, and why they might be acting in such a way. A lot of the time, once we can see what’s going on, our anger tends to simmer down.
Got concerns your cherub’s anger is over and above what is appropriate for their age? Chat to your GP. More complex issues like Oppositional Defiant Disorder do exist, but the prevalence rates range from 2% to 10% (Maughan et al., 2004; Costello et al., 2003. Source). Some sessions with a psych might help give you some tricks, and enable further support for your child.
One resource that is great for explaining anger is the book “Mad isn’t Bad” . And all the cute series of “When I’m feeling…” are really useful too. You can often pick them up from Kmart. For children with Aspergers, a fantastic book to help them understand is “The Red Beast”. And if you’re stuck on how to deal with misbehaviour (because we’re all about the anger being ok, the aggressive behaviour is not though) here’s some strategies on disciplining kids that we’ve looked at before. But truly it’s about helping your child uncover what is driving the anger. And not having them beat themselves up for it. That’s what we have monsters for!
How’s your anger monster travelling? Are you all over it, or does your angry monster get the better of you sometimes? I tell you, without my wine, my angry monster has a little too much spunk. Must remedy that. In a few months.
Hello! It’s that time again, where I come here and waffle some crud on some stuff and hope it makes sense. Sounding really profesh, right? I know. I have no faith in me too after that glowing introduction. Anyways, let’s push ahead, shall we?
Last week we chatted about our monsters, and I wanted to know what your monsters were like. And then my manic monster took over and I haven’t even had a chance to respond to your comments yet. Noice. I promise I’m going to. My ‘sir paranoid a lot’ monster will make sure of it.
We know there’s lots of monsters out there, but the first cab off the rank is one of the biggest monsters, we and our kids often face. The dreaded worry monster. I’m going to talk about anxiety in worry monster format, in the hopes that it might help if you have a cherub who is currently afflicted with said monster. Because sometimes as a parent (or as a teacher or anyone who deals with kids!) it’s hard to put into words what anxiety is, in a way that kids are going to grab a hold of, and most importantly, not blame themselves for.