Tag Archive | bullying

When Mental Illness (MI) Hit Home

MI.hits.home

I never thought it would happen. Not to my son. Not to our family.

Who plans on life with MI? Who dreams of having a son with MI? Not me. Thirty-three years ago, I felt blessed to give birth to a ‘normal’ baby boy. Chris started his life as a happy baby. After sixteen years of his life, things fell apart. Badly.

Denial worked for a time.

My life is normal. Everyone struggles with their kids from time to time. All children get in trouble at school once in a whole. Boys will be boys. He’s going through a phase.

I tried fooling myself. But, deep down inside you knew the truth. Things weren’t right. Finally, one day I couldn’t ignore the obvious. Along came a huge problem. More serious than any other. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, a greater crisis hit.

There comes a time when the facts hit you in the face. For me, that’s literally what happened.

Two weeks before Christmas in 1996, much needed to be done. Holiday cards to address, gifts to wrap, presents to buy, baking to be done…

I planned a simple meal for dinner. After we ate, I wanted to spend time talking with my husband, Howie. Find out how his day went. Then, I’d wrap some gifts and address a few cards. If time allowed, I’d prepare for an upcoming faculty meeting. As the director of instruction at the Christian school where I worked, I didn’t always have time to plan during the day.

While I washed the dinner dishes, our oldest son came into the kitchen. Chris slumped down in a chair and stared at the floor. I sensed something was bothering him. But, I really didn’t have time for a serious discussion. I proceeded to share some small talk. Hoping that would cheer him up.

Chris’s responses seemed distant. He seemed serious and preoccupied. It became obvious I needed to re-evaluate my priorities for the evening.

I sat down and asked him, “What’s wrong, Chris?”

“Mom, I’m lonely,” he answered with tears in his eyes.

I felt a pain pierce my heart like a knife gouging my emotions. Memories of abuse he endured through the years hemorrhaged in my head. Reminders of bullying he suffered pounded my stomach like a sucker punch.

My mind raced. I couldn’t silence the thoughtless comments teachers said to me about Chris. Those comments I’d buried tormented me once again. Insensitive statements made by professionals who found it difficult to manage a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Scenes of Chris’s fellow band members ignoring him plagued me once again. It became impossible to suppress reminders of Chris’s classmates walking past him as though he didn’t exist.

Up until that night, he never showed any sadness or expressed any loneliness. His happy façade fed my denial. I chose to believe he must have gotten desensitized to the way others treated him. Thinking perhaps he didn’t even notice some of it—a benefit of having ADHD. I convinced myself none of it really bothered him.

I’m lonely, echoed in my mind. I realized all the pain from the past never went away. He would have to deal with emotional scars of rejection and teasing.

How can I watch him work through all that pain? How can I relive all those terrible memories?

Chris and I talked for about two hours. Then, I spent time talking with Howie. Not about how his day went. About Chris.

The next night, Chris needed to talk again. This time both Howie and I listened to him. We shared words of comfort and affirmation. We prayed together. That was a Thursday night.

The following night, Chris and his younger brother, Robert, prepared for their high school’s holiday musical performance. They collected their instruments and music. Hung their tuxedos by the door.

Chris came over to me while I prepared dinner.

“I can’t talk right now, Chris. I have to finish making dinner. We’ve got to quickly eat dinner and get to school.”

Chris ignored my comment. He continued the conversation we had the night before. He wouldn’t stop talking.

This isn’t fair. I spent two whole nights listening to him. I can’t deal with this now. Why is he being so demanding?

In my heart, I knew Chris was hurting. I sensed him reaching out for help. But, I felt annoyed and overwhelmed.

“Chris, just let me make dinner.”

Chris stormed away.

By Sunday night, Chris talked non-stop. There was no conversation. No back and forth communication. He didn’t acknowledge our comments in any way. His rambling words revealed thoughts which were distorted and disconnected.

Having received my training in the field of special education, I knew what was happening. I’d seen it before. Years ago, one of my students had a psychotic episode. But, all that training and experience couldn’t prepare my heart.

It didn’t help to know ahead of time what might happen. If Chris had become schizophrenic, he could be violent and unpredictable. He would need to be hospitalized.

I listened to Chris drone on, distorting verses from the Bible. He paced the floor like a caged animal. He had a dark, empty look in his eyes. I saw before me a broken young man. A son in torment. A gifted mind (with a 144 IQ) shattered.

Am I witnessing the result of all those years of pain? How am I going to face this? How can I bear to watch him unravel? Will life ever be normal? How will this affect his brother? Is this really happening?

Like many mothers, I handled whatever came my way. That’s what we do. We deal with life. But, I knew my husband and I would need help. Help beyond professionals. Help from Someone who could ease our pain and restore our son’s clarity of thought. I turned to God.

Dear Father, help! We need wisdom, strength, patience, and peace. Chris needs comfort and healing.

That was just the beginning of our trial. Thankfully, it was also the beginning of God’s protection and guidance. So began my journey with our son through MI. My heavenly Father had already started helping me through the grieving stages, gently moving me past my shock and denial.

What would I have done without God’s amazing grace? Celtic Woman sing of His “Amazing Grace.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsCp5LG_zNE

 

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Emotional Pain of Bullying

 

Vicki's Picture Book

Vicki’s Picture Book

“What if my son wasn’t bullied?”

Is that thought among your what ifs? Do you wonder what role bullying played in your child’s mental illness (MI)? Thinking maybe bullying caused it.

Bullying is painful for the target and for the victim’s mother.

Our son, Chris, was the object of bullying throughout school. His ADHD made him an easy target. Other kids knew how to torment him in class without getting caught. If Chris told them to stop, he’d be the one to get in trouble for disrupting the class. His belongings were often taken from him. Kids teased him at recess. Even beat him up. He got so taunted on the bus that I drove him to and from school.

As he got older, it got worse. In sixth grade Chris became a latch-key kid. My new job prevented me from driving him to and from school. He had to take the bus. When he got off the bus, children harassed him. The school district said there was nothing they could do. The police advised against taking action. Saying it would only enflame the situation. So each day when I came home I’d check him for bruises. Then I’d comfort him and repair his damaged self-esteem.

Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get worse, they did. In high school he joined the marching band. I often watched his peers walk past him as if he didn’t exist. A form of bullying that says, “You’re not worthy enough to be acknowledged.” Someone even pulled a knife on him. In college a teacher whacked him on the head with a book because he slept in class. NOTE: His medication made him drowsy.

Undoubtedly, bullying impacts mental health. The website stopbully.gov addresses the effects of bullying. They state, “Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health …”

Some children are bullied more than others. Even just one traumatic event can scar someone emotionally. It’s time to update the old adage: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never FOREVER hurt me.” Emotional scars can last a lifetime.

Ask my mother-in-law, Mary. When she was alive, she frequently told the story of an incident that happened when she was eight years old.

At home, her parents spoke Ukrainian. So, Mary pronounced ‘soup’ by saying ‘zoup.’ In second grade she told her teacher, “I’m having zoup for lunch.”

Her teacher asked her to repeat what she said.

Mary repeated it and the entire class laughed at her. Including the teacher.

Mary told that story over and over again … even 85 yrs. after it happened.

Bullying has impacted my life as a bystander, parent, educator, and administrator. That’s why I wrote a picture book to empower bystanders. Children who witness bullying are often too intimidated to tell an adult. There seemed to be a need for a book to help bystanders. One that parents and educators could use to teach bystanders what they can do to prevent bullying. Heart Eyes: Beth and the Bullies is now available on Amazon in print or as an eBook.

What’s the worst kind of bullying? Would it be when someone is threatening a person’s life? Imagine if your best friend’s father was trying to kill you? In the Bible we read about David. His best friend’s father, Saul, repeatedly tried to kill David.

David didn’t understand why he was so persecuted. He asked his best friend, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?”  (1 Samuel 20:1)

Later in 1 Samuel 30:4 we read how things got so bad that, “David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.”

Have you ever cried that much over the tragedy of your child’s life?

The same God who protected David’s life can minister to you. David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (1 Samuel 30:6). Find inner strength in the Lord your God.

We can praise God in our storm because we know He’s with us. ‘Praise You in the Storm’ by Casting Crowns reminds us of that truth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCpP0mFD9F0