Saturday, February 17, 2018

Who's To Blame?

First and foremost, this is not a post about the Florida school shooting. While that is a tragic event, there are bloggers all over the internet weighing in with their perspective on the matter and they are doing a great job, so I have nothing new to add to that conversation right now.

However, I recently read a blog post that targeted the unrealistic expectations of parents and schools as a significant cause of anxiety and depression in teenagers.

While this may be a contributing factor, it muddies the already-cloudy waters of mental illness.

Mental illness is a disease process that effects the brain, an organ that the medical community still knows precious little about. It is an illness of the body, just like cancer or ALS or any other terrible disease that can potentially have a terminal outcome.

Until mental illness is recognized by society for exactly what it is, not weakness and not something that can be switched on and off at will or managed with positive thinking and deep breathing, there will remain a stigma attached to the disease and it's sufferers.



For over 2 years we navigated the very confusing mental health system. We tried counselors, psychiatrists, inpatient therapy and an endless number of drug cocktails to try to help our son. We didn't pressure him to get good grades, join school clubs, play school sports, take AP classes, etc. in order to get into the very best college and become what society defines as a successful adult.

We fought to keep him alive. And we failed.

On January 2, 2018, Logan lost his battle with bipolar depression and anxiety.

What we need to be teaching about mental illness is how teachers and administrators (or any adult authority figures) can recognize the signs of mental illness in the teens (and even tweens) that they interact with frequently. We need to give these kids a safe way to talk about their feelings without feeling judged. We need to engage them on their level and try to remember how difficult that time in our lives was and maybe give them a little grace. We need to dig deeper when a child is constantly disruptive or causing trouble.We need to talk openly and honestly about mental illness and it's devastating symptoms.

Until these things happen, until mental illness is recognized by society as a disease just like any other physical ailment, there will be a stigma attached. And that stigma will prevent sick children from getting the help they need and in some cases, will result in their death. And sometimes, as in our case, we can do everything in our power to help our child, and the disease still takes their life.


So instead of blaming parents and schools, let's empower them to recognize and help children suffering from mental illness.

Blessings,
Meri

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Three Strikes And I am Out

I have been short-tempered and anxious since the minute my husband's alarm went off for the 5th time this morning. The plan was for him to get up and take Emma to counseling and me to stay in bed a little while longer. But that didn't happen.

After reminding him to get up 3 times, he finally started moving, but not before asking me to go upstairs and wake Emma up. Now, that sounds like no big deal, and truthfully, it shouldn't be. But my plan was to stay in bed, not trudge up the steps, half-awake, to wake up a tween who didn't want to go to counseling to begin with.


Then Emma's riding lesson time was changed to 3 pm so she went back to school after her appointment at which time I anticipated my husband (who was off today) would be coming home. I thought we had discussed that, while I was working, he was going to knock out some of the household chores. But that didn't happen.

Instead, he was gone until just before he had to take Emma to riding. Just enough time to come in, say hello and then walk right back out the door.

STRIKE 2



I have slowly been working through our laundry with a new goal of not doing more than I can get washed, dried and put away in one day (I know, I know...but a mom can dream, right?). So as I pulled the last load out of the dryer I noticed it had 2 or 3 items that belonged to the girls and I thought I would be nice and just put them away myself. But that didn't happen.

I walked upstairs to be greeted by what appeared to be an audition for an episode of Hoarder's. The bathroom was a mess, clothes were every and there were 2 full baskets of clothes that are yet to be determined if they are clean or dirty (which means I will likely end up washing clean clothes a second time, which is my favorite thing e.v.e.r.)



.After 6 weeks of keeping it together, taking my children's grief into consideration and loosening the reigns (possibly a little too much), I lost it. Completely. Utterly. Red-faced screaming.

...and there's the snap.



I am not proud about this. I don't want to be that mom, and I'm not that mom....at least not all the time. But this is who I was for those moments today. And it's okay. But not acceptable. It's forgivable, but not if it happens over and over.

We all have our off days (sometimes weeks, maybe even months) that go with only a smattering of bright spots throughout. But we have to forgive ourselves for these moments (and in my case tonight, I had to ask forgiveness from my daughter).

Nothing about raising a tween girl is easy. N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

But, God never promised us parenting would be easy, He just promised us that it is worth every moment-even the painful ones.

Blessings,
Meri

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What Now?

So now the initial shock and horror of Logan's suicide has passed. We have had his funeral. The bustle and activity of family and making arrangements has all stopped.

Now it's quiet. It's just us. Minus one.

What's next? How do we go about our daily lives with this gaping hole in our family?

I have been told that we will learn to find our "new normal".  But, I was not particularly fond of that term. Don't misunderstand, it's not offensive to me and may work for other people finding themselves walking this path of grief. But we have never been a particularly "normal" family, we are what you might call a "spicy" family. So finding any kind of normal is not really something that appeals to me.

Then I found the following quote:


That is what we are doing. Remaking life.

The life we knew for 15 years is over. It ended in one terrible moment after Logan's long battle with mental illness. I can't change that reality.

Tonight we went out to dinner for the first time as a family since Logan passed away. When asked how many in our party, we said 4. Not 5.

We were seated at a table for 5 anyways and the empty seat was a painful reminder that we will never again be a  party of five. But, at the end of the meal, we raised our glasses and toasted our sweet son and brother-gone but never forgotten.

So this is our new chapter. Remaking life. One experience at a time. One moment at a time. One day at a time. Eventually the days will turn into months and then years. We will never forget Logan, but we will learn how to remake our lives without his daily presence.

Blessings,
Meri

Love Is...

Today is Valentine's Day and people all over will be getting flowers, cards, candy, and gifts.

But not me.

You see, I have already received the greatest gift, and it doesn't look anything like a heart-shaped box full of chocolates.



Let me tell you what love is to me.

  • Love is running to the store for the 3rd time in one day to pick up the one ingredient I need for supper.
  • Love is holding me while I cry while "Amazing Grace" was sung at the first church service we have been to since we buried our son. (That song was also sung at his funeral)
  • Love is cooking dinner when I am just too exhausted.
  • Love is picking me up a Starbucks coffee, even when it takes him miles out of his way.
  • Love is taking our girls to counseling and encouraging me to go as well, but still being patient with me until I was ready to talk.
  • Love is vacuuming the dog hair off the floor (with which we could probably make another dog!)
  • Love is giving in to my request for a puppy, even when he doesn't really want to go through the puppy training part again.
  • Love is encouraging our girls to pursue their passions.
  • Love is mourning and grieving with me when the pain of our loss is just too much to bear.
  • Love is taking us out to eat and spending waaaaay more than planned just to make his girls happy.
  • Love is listening to music he doesn't particularly like, but the girls love.
  • Love is knowing that I am having a hard time with the loss of our son without me having to say a word.
If you get flowers or candy or a gift today, I am so glad for you!  It's wonderful to feel special in that way.  But don't lose sight of the kind of love that really matters, the kind that will stay with you for the long haul, the kind of love that is without end, amen.

Blessings,
Meri


Monday, February 12, 2018

Fallout

Let's talk for a minute about the fallout of a family tragedy....specifically our family tragedy, the death, by suicide, of our son on January 2, 2018.

There are the obvious repercussions:
  • Grief
  • Anger
  • Pain
  • Sadness
  • Tears
  • Feeling incomplete
Then there are other repercussions. Fallout that we did not expect and are not quite sure how to deal with.

What I am referring to is bullying. (I know the 2 don't seem to go together, but stick with me here).

My son was 15 when he took his life. His sister is 12.  They shared mutual friends. Many of his friends have younger siblings that go to school with our daughter. We knew this from the beginning and tried to control the news of Logan's death to the best of our ability. It is our story to tell and we wanted to make sure it was told the right way.

However, since our daughter has returned to school, she has been bullied. A student left a note in her locker between classes calling her a "dirty brother killer". She is frequently referred to at school as the sister of the kid who killed himself. Today she showed me a message on one of her social media accounts asking her why she killed her brother.

As a parent, I am furious. I am angry. I am incensed.

She is suffering terribly from the loss of her brother. We are doing everything we can as her parents to help her. The school is doing it's best to manage the issues on campus.



But, I feel helpless. I want to sit down with the parents of these kids and their children and find out why they think this is acceptable behavior. I pray daily that my girls would never treat anyone this way, but I am painfully aware of how little control we parents have as our children get older and spend more time away from our protective presence.

This is what I will tell you.
  • Monitor you children's social media accounts.
  • Make sure you have ALL usernames and passwords.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Talk to your children about the dangers of social media and what they should do if they are being bullied (on the web or in person).
  • Limit screen time. (Yes, I am aware that it's on the list twice).
  • Know their friends, and the parents of their friends.
  • If they cannot use social media responsibly, cut them off. Allow for the possibility of earning the privilege back.
  • Make sure they are clear that cell phones and social media accounts are privileges, not rights.
This was not something I thought we would have to deal with, but we are stuck right in the middle of it. Unfortunately, Emma's age group can be downright vicious and cruel.  They rarely understand the consequences of their actions and even if they do, they rarely concern themselves with anything that does not directly cause them pain or punishment.

No bullying is okay. Ever.

Blessings,
Meri

Firsts

We went to church yesterday. 4 weeks to the day we laid Logan to rest.

It was hard, so much harder than I could have imagined.



I know there will be a lot of "firsts" without him this year: birthdays, holidays, horse shows, rodeos, last day of school, first day of school.  But, I never expected our first time back to church would hurt so much.

We also attended a monthly family night with a group of friends that we have been doing for a couple of years now. It was the first time Logan was not there. It was so much harder than I anticipated.

My experiences yesterday have made me realize that it's not just the big events that are going to be difficult. It's going to happen far more often. Probably more often than I am prepared for.

But we will keep pressing forward. We will not crumble under the weight of our grief. We will survive this and someday, we will thrive.

Blessings,
Meri

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Room

Dear Son,

I went in your room tonight for the first time in over a month-since we lost you.

It smelled like you. It felt like you. It looked just like you would leave it.

I noticed your favorite black cowboy boots and your Vans in your closet. I saw the cans and bottles (some inappropriate for your age, but I will pretend I don't believe you drank what was in them first...).

I saw the 3-D shark model that your Uncle Sean gave you so many years ago when you visited him on Ocracoke. I saw the train sets that had been my grandfather's-I hope you are both enjoying model trains in Heaven together.

I saw the Punisher Skull we bought you just last year and the Route 66 sign hanging on your wall.

I saw your ball caps hanging on your bookcase.

I saw the bow and arrows that you got for Christmas that you never had a chance to shoot.

I saw a life that was not done. I life only partially lived. I felt the heavy weight of all of the future that you will not be here with us for.

I am selfish and I am jealous. I want you here, in our home with your family on earth; I am jealous of God because he gets to see you and touch your face and hug you tight.


Love forever and ever, amen.

Mom