Memorial Day brings a chance to say thank you to all the service personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Thank you to them and to their families, who have endured so much. It also marks the end of Mental Health Awareness Month.
Over the last month I hope you had an opportunity to take care of your mental health, especially if you have a loved one who struggles with theirs. In the classes and seminars I teach for NAMI and the Facebook groups I participate in for parents of kids with mental health issues, there’s a piece of advice I repeat time and again: You must put yourself at the top of your to-do list. You must find a way and make the time to take care of yourself.
People bristle at this. I get it. I did, too. In the first-ever therapy session I had with my therapist, shortly after my daughter’s diagnosis, she said these exact words to me: “Your daughter wants to see you taking care of yourself.” I remember because of the intensity of my reaction. Shock stole my words. Disdain punched me in the gut. I was sure I’d misheard. Taking care of myself was nowhere, and I mean nowhere, on my radar. Why would it be? I had a child who needed me.
The suggestion was in conflict with my ingrained beliefs, with the patterns I’d steeped in growing up about mothering and sacrifice. It was also in conflict with how I felt about myself. I didn’t believe I deserved to take care of myself. I wish I’d figured out sooner how right my therapist was. Alas, my personal rock bottom was still months away. We each have our lessons to learn, in our own way, and in our own time.
Mental health conditions don’t just disappear, they don’t just go away. People don’t wake up one day cured, no matter how badly we want them to. People can heal, but it takes time. The key here is, “takes time.” The tunnel between here and there can be dark and long. Recovery and healing look different for every individual and family. What’s similar among us is the toll of watching someone we love change and being powerless to stop it: fear, shame, worry, rage, despair, guilt, grief, wondering how we’ll survive, and exhaustion. Exhaustion like we’ve probably never experienced. We get ground down. And maybe even feel like giving up. So then, what? How can we commit with care, compassion, and respect to the long haul that recovery can require?
The answer is self-care, which is a practice that is as individual to you as your fingerprint. Self-care isn’t simple, although it can start simply, and is about more than having another task to complete. I’ll get into more detail in future posts. For today, please know that no one else needs to give you permission to take care of yourself. Taking care of ourselves to the fullest extent possible is a right, not a privilege. My first step happened the day I realized family patterns and society and what I’d learned from them–that I should put other people’s needs ahead of my own–was backwards. Taking care of myself would serve me and my daughter. It was the way to show her an idea of wellness she could understand.
If you need a place to start, start small. Make one small change that feeds your soul, but that doesn’t add more stress to your plate. You’ll be helping yourself and modeling important behavior for your kid(s). I don’t plan on waiting another year to keep mental health in the conversation. For me, every month is mental health month.
What I’m reading. . .
and how it helps
Five ways it helps. . .
This book is chock full of information. I wish it had been available way back when.
- The author, Michael Hollander, dispels common myths about teens who cut, like they do it for attention.
- He explains in clear, easy to understand language what the current research and his decades of experience have taught about why teens cut and how it helps them cope.
- He explains why punishment is ineffective for changing this behavior.
- He reinforces the importance of parents learning the communication/acceptance strategy of validation. (Note: I’m frustrated that this skill still often eludes me. My habit is to jump into fix-it mode, but I’m gentle with myself and keep trying. If it’s hard for you too this book has good concrete language examples that really help.)
- He devotes an entire chapter to why taking care of ourselves as parents is part of taking care of our teen.
Watch a twenty minute YouTube video of an interview with Dr. Hollander HERE. It’s about battling emotional dysregulation and self-harm.
Did you know?
You can buy socks ( and more) to support mental health? Check out Conscious Step and their partnership with NAMI HERE.
An update about my manuscript
“Copy editing (also known as copyediting and manuscript editing) is the process of revising written material to improve readability and fitness, as well as ensuring that text is free of grammatical and factual errors. The Chicago Manual of Style states that manuscript editing encompasses ‘simple mechanical corrections (mechanical editing) through sentence-level interventions (line, or stylistic, editing) to substantial remedial work on literary style and clarity. . .’ In the context of print publication, copy editing is done before typesetting and again before proofreading.”
Hopefully, after the time and effort already invested by me and my editor, Linda Joy Myers, there won’t be much remedial clarity needed! But when you’ve worked on a manuscript for a long time it’s surprisingly easy to forget the first time you wrote, say, am and pm. Was it AM and PM? Or a.m. and p.m? A.M. and P.M.? An extra pair of eyes that specialize in style reduce the chances for type-o’s and increase the chances for consistency.
A few people have asked why the process from finished manuscript to printed book takes so long. Why it won’t come out sooner than a year from now? The answer is there’s still much to do, like the aforementioned copy edit, typesetting, and proofreading.
As a first time author, I have nothing to compare this process to. I’m excited to keep you posted about what’s happening as the months tick by.
Book club reminder
I announced the preliminary information for the next book club. You can read that HERE.
I hope you’ll join us.