My role now is still to be there for my daughter, just as I am for her sisters. But ‘being there’ has changed over the years. No longer does it mean helicoptering or hovering. No longer does it mean vigilant, 24/7 monitoring of medication compliance or safety checks. No longer does it mean advocating for treatments and school accommodations. Today, ‘being there’ means giving space while giving love.
The longer that Howie remained at Greystone, the more he began to be called by different nicknames. The most popular (and, remember, his peers were all 15 to 17 years old) was “Crazy Howie”. Over time, amongst the large group of peers we both knew, I became known, by extension, as “Crazy Howie’s Little Brother”. I didn’t like the nicknames for Howie or for me. I like it even less, at this time, as I recognize it for all of it’s insensitivity and rudeness. It reminds me of the greater level of both a pervasive unknowing and a continued heightened level of ignorance which still exists today.
Nine-tenths of what I can’t see is stuff I’m keeping to myself—things I won’t discuss in therapy, fears I won’t express, self-stigma I won’t face up to. If I don’t speak about it, it’s not real. Which is not true. That’s just fear and naïvety. What do I have to gain by sabotaging my mental health? Nothing.
On March 1st, our lives irrevocably changed. My work is to ensure that this change will not be in vain.
I support Bring Change 2 Mind, and hope that you will join me. Please share this opportunity with your community, and help to support an extraordinary cause – ending stigma! Treat yourself or someone special as we help raise money and awareness at the same time (10% of proceeds of items purchased from this link now through September 30th will go to Bring Change 2 Mind). Please spread the word.
Mental health disorders are truly hidden diseases at times because those of us with them become experts at placing them under a table where only a few know they exist. My daughter, during that time, was no different. We had known about the bullying taking place at her school, and had been advocates for her, but we had thought it was getting better when she stopped talking about it. We were wrong.
My parents have since told me that, at that time, Howie was telling them both things that sounded fearful to the point of paranoia, and that he was frequently agitated and depressed. I remember sitting with my parents at the small, round, cluttered dining room table and asking them, “What’s going on with Howie?” They told me that they honestly weren’t sure, but knew that he was suffering inside emotionally. They told me that they had made an appointment for Howie to be seen by a child and adolescent psychiatrist. I remember them looking perplexed, exhausted, and seemingly helpless to what was going on. It was exactly how I felt.
At some point I realized my heart was racing, I was breaking out in a cold sweat and my chest was tightening and and beginning to hurt. It was only a month later I realized I was having a panic attack. During my 25 years serving churches I had often faced hostility of all kinds, even death threats and now I was experiencing the toll all that had taken on me.
A psychiatric service dog is trained to specifically meet the needs of the handler by such things as: identifying what’s real; creating a personal space barrier; calming anxiety; blocking an impulsive, panic driven movement of darting into oncoming traffic; guiding back to safety. There are several wonderful, dedicated organizations that provide the training, resources and funding to connect service dogs with those in need.