AWF

armed with faith #2

with Father Gary Kyriacou

In case you missed it: Back by popular demand!

I was invited to participate in a second conversation with Fr. Gary on his Armed With Faith podcast about teens and mental health. The video lasts about an hour. The edited transcript is below the link. I hope you’ll listen or read. Our kids need us not to bury our head in the sand if they have mental health issues, more prevalent now than ever. We all have mental health and we all need to be talking about it, normalizing the conversation.

Click here to watch the video. (Scroll down until you see Week #5 with me, Tracey Yokas)


Fr Gary:
We brought Tracey Yokas back for another week because the topic of mental health is one that I think we could actually do a whole podcast around, right Tracey? After last week’s show lots of people emailed, texted, and said you could have done a whole other hour with her. So here we are. We decided to do it. Mental health is a huge, huge issue right now. And it’s something that we need to tackle and look at. It’s in the news with the NFL and Jon Gruden’s comments, it’s in the media with different TV shows. And if you’re a fan of Ted Lasso, you know what I mean.

Tracey, I have so many questions for you, but before we start is there anything that you didn’t say last week? Did you think of something afterwards that you wish you would have brought up or discussed that wasn’t discussed?

Tracey:
Yeah, for sure. I think the one main thing that popped into my mind that I wished I had said was really around a statistic, which is that 50% of mental health issues present by the age of 14. So when we’re talking about mental health and talking about our youth, that’s at the top of the list about why it’s so important an issue to address with teens.

Last time, we talked, for example, about a cancer diagnosis. You wouldn’t say to someone who thought they had cancer, oh, you know, just wait five or 10 years and let’s see what happens. I’m sure you’ll be fine. Mental health issues need to be treated and the sooner they’re treated the better. So that’s one big thing that I wish I had said when we were talking about this age group.

Fr Gary:
I want to bring up some statistics right now. And that’s the difference between 30 year olds today versus 30 year olds in 1975. 90% of 30 year olds lived on their own in 1975. That’s only 70% in 2015. In 1975, 89% of all 30 year olds were married. And in 2015, only 57%. In 2015, 47% of 30 year olds had a child. And in 1975, 76% did. And this one really kind of got me. In 2015, only 33% of 30 year olds own homes. And in 1975, more than half owned a home. And we can talk about all kinds of economic factors that take their root there.

But my point that I’m trying to bring up here, Tracey, is our kids are being kids longer than they used to be, right? So an 18 year old today is not the same as an 18 year old was 25 years ago or 30 years ago, and we’re looking at adolescents kind of going into their twenties. Some people are even saying that a 26 year old is what an 18 year old was back in 1990. Just looking at those things, how do we help our youth and young adults when adolescence is being extended that long because 18 you’re an adult, right? So how much can a parent do for an 18 year old, a 22 year old, a 23 year old. And what are some of the things that we can do versus the things that we cannot do?

Tracey:
Well, that’s a great question. And it’s something that we only briefly touched on last time related to the age, and when we’re talking about what the community and parents can do for 18 and over, it’s very different than what they can do for under 18. That is something that we touch on in the NAMI classes and something that anyone who has had a young person and they’ve grown with them and lived with them through transitioning from teen hood into adulthood has been through. And what I mean by that is when you hit 18, you’re considered an adult. So whether you’re actually an adult or not, which can depend on a lot more circumstances than just mental health, but that’s what we’re talking about today, you’re an adult.

Your parents no longer have access to your medical files, even if they’ve been taking care of your treatment and paying for your treatment. HIPAA laws go into effect. So that means the medical community, anyone who was treating your child, literally on their 18th birthday the providers no longer will share information with you. If you have developed a relationship and your child has insight and you were able to get a waiver signed by your child, when they turn 18, that says, my parents still have permission to talk to you then great. But a lot of times that doesn’t happen.

And a lot of times, for whatever reason, the child hasn’t gotten any treatment yet. So now they’re over 18 and they’re going to get treatment and the parent is trying to help, trying to get information, trying to facilitate things, and they’re hitting a brick wall because they can’t get any information.

It’s really important to keep that in mind because as much groundwork and as much help as you can provide, and I don’t only mean parents, but of course it’s even harder for someone who’s not in the family, once the age of 18 comes to be effective in helping get treatment. Most parents want to help. We want to be involved. We want to be agents of treatment, agents of change, agents of help to our child so it’s a very complex matter that these HIPAA laws have gone into effect.

That’s why education is also important for parents and knowing your rights. For example, even if the team, cause hopefully there’s a team, working with your child, can’t talk to you you can talk to them. You can give them information. You can sit with them and say, This is what I see at home. This is what I experienced. This is what is happening. They might not respond to you in any way, but you can give them information. So there’s a lot that goes into the difference when they’re under 18 and then over.

Fr Gary:
Thank you. I really appreciate that answer. And another thing I wanted to mention to you before we started was I want to give our audience the opportunity to ask questions a whole lot sooner than the end of the hour. So as we’re discussing here, this, especially this topic, if anybody has a question, please by all means, post it in the chat or just raise your hand.

We’re seeing a lot of people who are suffering from stress and anxiety and depression and all the effects that the pandemic have had on us in a variety of ways, and watching how kids deal with it. And those kids, like we said, are getting older and becoming young adults as well. So Tracey, you know that I like watching movies. Mental health is a huge issue and a huge topic in the movie, Dear Evan Hansen. We talked about that last week as well. And, I’m a huge fan of Ted Lasso and there’s an issue of mental health that comes up in that as well.

What do you see when you watch TV? How are you seeing mental health being portrayed today versus 30 years ago?

Tracey:
It’s very important to bring up popular media and social media because of the impact that they have on our youth. But I think what’s changing is that people with mental illness, especially significant mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, things that would be considered on the more serious end of the spectrum were portrayed in the media in a way that was not necessarily accurate, but it made for good TV.

So that means, the “crazy person” who has schizophrenia on Law & Order, or whatever show, is acting out and killing everybody, a mass murder and all these things. When in actuality people with significant mental illness, statistically, are more likely to receive violence than perpetrate it.

Now that’s not always true of course, but we’re talking about majorities here. So I think, especially with the dialogue and the snowball that is now rolling down the hill, people are being more conscious today to portray mental health issues with accuracy and with care. And so why is that really important? Because our kids are seeing this, right? And if they see portrayals that are inaccurate, well, it certainly doesn’t help them feel safe or secure to come forward and talk about things. So it’s important that they get it right.

But I also think it’s important that they’re kind of still showing both ends of the spectrum. I don’t watch Ted Lasso, but you told me a little bit about the issue. I think from what you were telling me, they’re trying to show that there’s still stigma attached to mental health. And that it’s still a scary thing, even for grownups, to come out in their workplace or in their houses of worship and say, this is something that affects me because of all the misunderstanding. They think that people are going to assume X, Y, or Z because of social media, because they don’t have enough education about it, because of experiences maybe they had when they were kids with someone who they were told had some kind of issue.

It can be so many things that go into it. But today at least I think they’re being more cautious, at least most of the time, about portraying things in a way that’s going to aid the dialogue as opposed to harm it.

Fr Gary:
I do have to say that Ted Lasso did a great job of remedying the problem at the end of the show. I wouldn’t want to give it away, but they came around and they hit a home run with addressing it. Crystal, welcome from Washington DC.

Crystal:
I have three daughters and I find that sometimes they seem to get very anxious and overwhelmed just by what’s going on in the world. One time, we had this discussion about everything and they said, You don’t understand, Mom. You didn’t go through any of this. And what they forgot is that when I was about their age or younger, we had the Detroit riots, which is where we lived. And then we moved to California. We had the Watts riots, and then we had Vietnam. And then we had Watergate. I mean, we had our own things that were going on that could have made us all very anxious and very almost to the point of depression.

We also had it for only a half hour every day on the news. And I’m really concerned that the major problem that I’m seeing with a lot of kids and their anxieties is that they’re bombarded 24/7. I mean, if I had to watch everything that was going on in Vietnam or all the Watergate hearings and all the corruption and all the riots in all the different cities I think I would’ve felt the same way, but I didn’t. I was inoculated from it because I only got to see it, if I did watch it, for a half hour. I didn’t get it on my phone. I didn’t get it on my TV. I didn’t get it on my computer. You know? Everybody says, well, tell them to turn it off. I’m very concerned about what we’re doing to them with all this constant bombardment of information.

Fr Gary:
I appreciate you bringing that up because I just read the other day that today we get more negative news in one day than a person got in a year 50 years ago. That’s how fast news travels these days and how much bad news we hear. So yeah, that really has a huge impact. And how do we address that? Because one of the first things that they do when you go to a facility for treatment is they take away your devices, right?

Tracey:
That is correct. Yes, they do. And I wish that I could wave my magic wand and have this not be the case, but I think this is where we are in the world. And I know from my daughter’s perspective that as harmful as her access to social media was she could equally say there was as much that was helpful. I don’t know, as her mom, if I agree with that. And there’s certainly no easy answer as it relates to today, especially with kids who are older. It’s one thing if you’re talking about kids in elementary or middle school, but once they hit high school it’s pretty much a losing battle, which doesn’t mean that parents can’t have boundaries. They certainly can. And they certainly should.

I don’t have any easy answers to that except to say that I think for all of history kids have told their parents, they don’t get it.

I’m not minimizing your question because I totally agree with what you’re saying. I think today they are bombarded and it’s a very complex matter. And it also depends on the age group you’re talking about. So one thing I know, Facebook is in the hot seat because, as the whistleblower testified in front of Congress, they had the information that Instagram was dangerous for young girls and did nothing about it. And so the girls that were on Instagram at a young age had higher rates of incidences of self harm and eating disorders and these things. It’s a significant issue. And, with my daughter, we did actually end up having to put her in residential treatment when she was 14, which was devastating for her and for us.

They did take her devices away, but it only does so much because eventually she came home and eventually she got them back again. And I try still with her today, now she’s 22, I try to spend my time, instead of fighting the battle about whether she should be on social media or not, because I personally feel like that ends up being a waste of my time and breath, because she’s not going to give it up, but I try to continue to reiterate reality. And talk about the images that are put forth on social media being, of course, what people want other people to see.

So it’s a façade. It’s helped me with her to remind her that they’re showing you what they want you to see. You have no idea what their reality actually is. And we can’t compare. I mean, comparison is something humans do by nature, not just our kids. We continue to compare ourselves to others as we grow up and move into other aspects of our life. And that is a sure way to unhappiness and despair because we can always find something to compare ourselves to in the negative. And it’s hard work not to compare. But it’s the first step in the right direction. I hope that’s helpful. There’s no good answer.

TAKE AWAYS

  • 50% of mental health diagnoses present by the age of 14
  • Earlier treatment leads to better outcomes. Don’t wait!
  • Accurate portrayals on TV and media are important because our kids are watching
  • Encourage kids to discuss how they feel and what they think when watching the news etc. Help them to conclude they feel better with less exposure to social media.

Fr Gary:
Tracey, Cheryl Crow has a song called “If It Makes You Happy, It Can’t Be That Bad” and she’s talking about heroin. So, I want to ask about self-medication. When we watch people who are suffering from any kind of mental illness and they begin to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol how do these things then perpetuate the illness? And, how do we help somebody realize that that’s not effective? And I’ll tell you that there was an issue at one of the camps that I work at during the summer where a kid was using alcohol to self-medicate and we had a good conversation about it. And so I just want to know, how do we put a stop to that? How do we encourage somebody not to go that direction?

Tracey:
Yeah, well, these are really hard questions. I think the stat on that is 80% of adults who have mental health disorders also have a substance use issue with whatever the substance is. You can trace that all the way back. Is it the substance use that then triggers the mental illness? Is it, they have mental illness and they don’t know what to do, and they don’t have any way to cope so they start using to numb and to help them. I don’t know, exactly. And I’m sure for every case that’s actually different. And they have treatment centers called dual-diagnosis for a reason, because it’s such an insidious problem. There’s sadly no easy answer for that. I think underlying the core of these last two questions is really what we started talking about last week, which is normalizing conversation around it.

Imagine a world where everyone, especially our children, feel comfortable talking about their mental health, and we start talking to them about it when they’re young so that they have some language around it. How different might it be when they get to 13, 14, which is the age when things can start to go “wrong,” for lack of a better word, if they aren’t terrified or confused or don’t understand it. And they have already been talking about it for years, and now this can become part of the conversation, out in the open, like anything else. And they don’t feel so alone or afraid or confused or despairing that they turn to substances to try to help them cope. We talked about negative coping mechanisms last time, specifically in reference to my daughter’s self harm, but that’s what substance use is.

It’s a negative coping mechanism. So, perhaps, if we can get this dialogue going so that people aren’t so afraid, and they know that there’s going to be people there to support them, and they can get help that they need. Does that mean they’re going to suddenly stop using? Of course not because addiction is medically complicated. I’m not really qualified to talk about that, but it certainly needs to be a part of the conversation. And to be aware that many people turn to substances because they do have mental health issues that they need help with and they don’t know what to do.

Fr Gary:
So Tracey let’s, let’s open the conversation. When you’re talking about starting a conversation with a young person, and let’s say, you want to coach them about mental health before they get to 14, right? So that when they get to 14, there’s a healthy conversation surrounding it. How do you start that conversation? What are you mentioning? What are you bringing up?

What are some ways to open the conversation around mental health, with young people that are 6, 7, 8 years old? Do you say, are you sad? You try not to use yes or no questions. How do we open the dialogue with them?

Tracey:
Yes, it certainly has to be age appropriate, and you’re not going to have the same conversation with a little one that you’re going to have with a teenager. I think fundamentally even more important than the words that are used necessarily is your presence, being fully, fully present with your kids. Now, we’re busy, right? We have lives, we have jobs, we have lots of things going on, but I think that that’s part of the problem and this, I’m talking about myself, okay, so I’m not saying this in a blaming way.

I think as a society we are all just so overwhelmed with things. And back in the day, if we were still in an episode of Little House on the Prairie, we wouldn’t have anything else to do. We would work all day and then we would come in and we would be sitting together at dinner and we wouldn’t have one kid going to soccer and the other one going to water polo and the third one going to piano and the husband, maybe working nights, and I’ve got to work during the day. It’s just a different life now than it was.

I think fundamentally the most important thing, and I know that’s not easy. I’m not saying it is. I have to practice this as a 53 year old person with my daughter at 22 today. I have to remember that I need to just calm down, come into the moment, and be very fully present. Make sure that I’m hearing what she’s saying, that I’m not thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner tonight.

She’s flown the coop now, so it’s not quite the same, but up until recently, she was here. Fundamentally people want to be seen and heard. I think that’s true from the minute that we’re born. And I think that doesn’t change as we get older. I want to be seen and heard. Grownups need these things too.

So, really being present, finding a time once a week to sit down together and say, let’s talk about, really talk about what’s going on with you. In an age appropriate way. But yes, with little kids, it’s hearing what they’re saying. Johnny broke my toy. Oh my gosh, you must be so sad. You must be so upset, validating what the kid is experiencing, what they’re feeling.

We touched on this last week, especially folks of a certain generation, it was like, get over it. Parenting was different then, and we didn’t learn how to do that, is what I’m trying to say. So one of the classes we teach in NAMI’s Family to Family class is devoted to communication because it is such an important thing. And it’s a thing that we’re not actually trained how to do all that well. Because we start learning how to communicate before we can communicate. And we learned that from our families. So if our family isn’t that great at it, guess what? We’re not going to be that great at it either.

There’s nothing wrong with thinking to yourself, even if you don’t feel like you have a significant a mental health crisis, if you’re concerned about your communication and your family get a book about communication. There’s a great one I have on my shelf called Nonviolent Communication. Get into therapy for a little bit. Say, I’m concerned about how I’m communicating with my child. Am I able to support them with what they’re going through? Talk to someone who is a specialist and can help. Learn why I-statements are important and why, when you’re having conversation with someone who may be upset, you want to listen and you want to reflect what you’re hearing back and how you can help people feel seen, heard, and validated.

I had a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and I still didn’t feel like I could do it. Because it’s one thing when you’re sitting in therapy for 50 minutes and someone is paying and you have this very contained little box, but that’s not how we live in the real world. So in the real world, I gotta make dinner. Then I gotta pay the bills etc. It’s okay to admit that we need a little help learning skills that are going to help the whole family. And especially if we have a kid who is struggling. But being present and being nonjudgmental, I think are the two big keys. Because if we don’t know how to do that already, because it was never modeled for us as a kid, it’s harder than it sounds is what I’m trying to say.

Fr Gary:
A million things pop into my head and one of them is, what’s the difference between stress over like an exam and anxiety in life altogether? What’s the difference between grief, losing a loved one and depression? How do we tell the difference between that and how do we know that something is an issue? Is there any way to tell and to talk about these things, because look, my grandfather dies and I’m going to be sad for a while. Then life continues on, but a person who’s depressed that might magnify their depression. How do we help somebody through that? How do you understand that?

Tracey:
That’s another good and complex question. For my daughter, my mother died very unexpectedly in the summer when my daughter got sick. That was back in 2012, but it was a trigger. So to your point, something can happen and it can be a trigger for some people, and for some people it’s something that’s very, very sad and that they’re going to be able to process. They’re going to be able to continue on with their day and bouts of sadness and bouts of grief and bouts of mourning will come and go. It’ll be hard, but you’ll still be able to do what you need to do. Now, that being said, we shouldn’t forget that just because somebody mans up and goes to work every day doesn’t mean they’re actually fine.

They might be looking fine, but that doesn’t mean that they’re fine on the inside. So that’s one thing. We’ve been taught to deal with that stuff and grow up. Words we might be saying to ourselves that actually doesn’t mean that we might not need some extra support so that we can still be effective in our day. That’s an important thing to say, but with kids it’s a little harder because they can’t just say to themselves, I should go get my myself into therapy for a little while. They need their parents because they can’t pay it for it and they can’t get there.

We touched on it last time, but the key thing is really about day-to-day functioning. And if you see significant changes in the day-to-day functioning of your child, don’t even mess with it. Don’t worry about, is it serious, isn’t it? I did that too.

Start right away. My daughter’s issues started with an eating disorder. So we started with her pediatrician. I said to the doctor, I don’t think she’s eating enough to stay healthy and the doctor says, yeah, you’re not eating enough to stay healthy. The point is you go ahead. You don’t want to look back with regret. I mean, that’s going to happen anyway.

You don’t want to regret things that you could have easily done. Something like taking your child to the doctor and having a conversation about whether what you’re observing is normal or not normal. And if in your gut, you’re feeling like something is wrong something probably is. So even if you don’t get the answer that you think is right from the first doctor, don’t give up right away. Because especially as parents, no one knows our kids better than we do. So if we feel like something is wrong, that’s the message. Something inside us is saying, there might be something going on here that I can’t handle by myself. And I should start asking some questions.

Fr Gary:
Let’s talk about that. I was going to ask you what some of the signs are. What are some things that we can miss as parents that are telltale signs that your kid is having an issue?

Tracey:
We touched on last time, changes in their willingness to do hygiene, changes in their willingness to want to be with their friends. They can withdraw. They can become isolated. Emotional volatility is a big one. They can just not want to leave the house. It depends on what the issue is. There are different signs, some things are the same, which is part of what makes getting a diagnosis really complicated. I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression after an hour or two of conversation that it’s like, oh, you take your kid to the doctor, the doctor says X, and then you get some help and then pouf: everything’s fine.

That is not generally how it goes. I hope that we get to a point where it is how that goes, but we’re not there yet. And there’s just not enough science that’s been done, enough research. There’s a big push, especially with depression and anxiety because these are the key things that most people are struggling with. There’s overlap and then there’s not overlap. But those are the key things that you’ll see. For us, it was like that. Things started to spiral out of control. And you’re very confused and it’s like, wait a minute, yesterday, this was fine. Today. You’re raging, you’re crying. You’re slamming the door. It can be different things.

The key is to listen to your sense that is telling you something is off and to not hesitate to reach out for assistance to people who do this for a living, to help guide you. If they’re concerned, they’re going to say so. They’ll say, I think this might be serious and you should probably get a mental health professional involved.

Fr Gary:
What I want to ask you is. if you could get everyone in the world’s attention for 30 seconds to give them a message about mental health, what would it be? What would you want?

Tracey:
The short answer is that everyone has mental health. And everyone has struggled in their life. I don’t care who you are. And that struggle might not turn into a serious mental health diagnosis, like a severe depressive disorder or a bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, but we have all struggled and we all know what that feels like. And we all know how scary it feels to not feel good. And so let’s eradicate the judgment around all of this stuff, because it’s hurting everyone. It’s hurting our kids most of all, because whether we’re saying it to them or implying it or social media is or TV shows or whatever. Judgment in this society runs rampant. Getting rid of the judgment and having enough resources, I mean, in society.

Enough treatment and enough clinics and enough clinicians and enough all that. That’s just a whole other can of corn, but I would say more than anything is just fundamentally boil it all down to love, honestly. And if you’re afraid and you don’t know what to do, you’re afraid for yourself, how do I love myself enough to ask for help? How do I love my kid enough to let go of judgment? How do we love each other enough to have dialogue around this, to have conversation around this? Maybe it sounds simple, but it’s actually not because there’s so many things that can go into it. So letting expectations and all those things fall by the wayside and just deal with one another in love, I think is a great way to start.

TAKE AWAYS

  • Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol is a negative coping skill: have compassion
  • Start age appropriate discussions around mental health as early as possible, get a book!
  • Practice that communication and speak appropriately and honestly about your feelings and thoughts
  • Don’t wait to seek help if you sense something is off
  • Everyone has mental health

Fr Gary:
A great book that my daughter read a few years ago was called Wonder. And then there was a movie that came out, too. And there was a line in the movie where the young person said, Be kind because everyone you know is fighting a battle. It’s awesome that they quote that young person for saying that, but it’s actually Plato that said that first. Everyone’s fighting a battle. And I think that when we realize that everyone is fighting that battle you can become a little bit more compassionate, right. And not be so confrontational.

Tracey:
Yes. And, a lot of these things that we think of as nouns, like love and compassion, are actually verbs. How they manifest in our life is actually a verb. So loving and compassion, wanting to alleviate suffering. You can’t judge somebody and alleviate their suffering, those two things can’t coexist. We as parents have authority and we have power over our kids because we are the parent. But, in actuality, to have the healing relationship that I wanted to have with my daughter I had to stop looking at her as my child. I had to look at her as my equal, human being wise. And that is where I was able to start understanding compassion in an entirely different function in our relationship.

Fr Gary:
I want to ask you why, because you would think that as a mother you would have the ultimate compassion for your child. Can you explain that a little bit? Why did you have to remove yourself from that relationship and look at her in different light?

Tracey:
It really does stem to the idea of the expectations that we have for our kids. And I mean that on every level. I touched on this last time. We expect our kids are going to be healthy and we expect that they’re going to go to school and they’re going to do schoolwork and they’re going to live these lives and all that jazz. And then, that isn’t necessarily the case, or maybe not the case, at least for awhile. You mentioned earlier that we see life through lenses, or our own goggles. From the minute we’re born, we spend our entire life looking through our eyes. We cannot take our eyes off and put somebody else’s on.

The only way we can become more aware of other people is to be aware of our biases. That we have certain preconceived notions, but sometimes we don’t even know what those are until something smacks us upside the head. And so with my daughter, I had all these preconceived notions based on the life that I had led growing up about the life she was going to lead growing up.

And so it was like, I want you to do what I’m telling you to do because I’m your mother, and I know what’s best for you and you need to get help. And you need to do all these things, but that isn’t what was working. And it certainly it took a long time. So it wasn’t that my love for her changed. . .

Fr Gary:
It revealed itself in a different way.

Tracey:
Yes, exactly.

Fr Gary:
I really appreciate that answer because it’s true. Because, as a parent, if your child is not taking their medication and doing that it’s much easier to get angry with them and say, you need to do this rather then getting to the bottom of the issue. What’s the reason why you’re not doing these things, and what’s the reason why you’re not seeking help, and what’s the reason why you’re staying in bed.

Tracey:
Just so you know, sometimes there is no why. That is a great conversation starter and an important way to be able to start. That’s great. Can we talk about why you were a little reluctant or whatever. Also, just realizing sometimes there’s not going to be an answer and that has to be okay, too. Again, like funneling it back to the love. Are you going to love this person any less because they don’t want to answer you or they can’t answer you or they’re refusing to take their medications? Well, frankly, some days the answer is, yes. Because life as we knew it has ended and it seems like you’re fighting me when all we’re trying to do is help.

That’s why therapy is so important. We’re human beings too. We have feelings we’re allowed to feel, but we have to understand that some things are not going to further the relationship and they’re not going to help in the long run. There are things that I took into my own one-on-one therapy that I needed to deal with that then I could utilize in a different way to help my daughter.

Fr Gary:
Ah, that’s so great. I love that. Noelle, any questions on social media or in the chat?

Noelle:
Yeah, we have one question here that is kind of related to what we just said, which is how do we navigate creating supportive relationships while acknowledging that illness in general, some mental illness will not be cured, but only managed?

Tracey:
That’s a good question, and that’s exactly right. My daughter’s diagnosis really hasn’t changed much over the years. She has major depression and that is unlikely to be cured in her life. We touched on that last time, while she’s in a fundamentally better place today than she was nine years ago, that is true.

And so managing expectations about what it looks like to be better is really important, especially in the parent child relationship. It can be a very lengthy process. There’s the initial crises, right? You’re dealing with a lot of things that can be going very wrong all of a sudden, and then hopefully, things levels out with treatment. Over time, everybody’s getting treatment.

So it’s a situation that you need to address within yourself, within your dyad, if you’re married or with a partner, and within your family system because we can’t forget the siblings. And the other people that are involved. It affects everyone. So remembering to do your own work. We’re not going to have time to get to self care. That’s going to have to be the next hour. It’s a huge, huge topic: taking care of yourself so that you can take care of your family.

This is a long haul. It absolutely is. And so learning how to manage yourself in that situation and also be able to still do the best for your family member is different based on each situation. But definitely has to be done. I’m not sure I answered that.

Fr Gary:
No, I think you kind of did. I think you went there. There’s a really easy one here in chat. Who’s the author, who’s the author of Nonviolent Communication.

Tracey:
Marshall Rosenberg. And I have a resource blog post on my website. If anyone wants to go to it, you’ll see it. (HERE.)

And I just want to finish up the thought about kindness, love, and compassion. No one wants to suffer. Of course. And we certainly don’t want our children to suffer. And the cliché about suffering opening us up is true. I would change anything I could for my daughter. If I could take the pain that she has gone through away from her I would take it in a second. No questions asked.

However, I cannot do that. So what I can do is take care of myself and learn the lessons that I need to learn and come out the other side of this. And I wouldn’t change a thing because of what I’ve learned about myself, about her, about my family, about my life and the relationship I have with her today.

Granted, it also helps that she’s growing up and maturing and that she’s not 14 anymore, but the relationship we have today and the place of love that we come from with each other I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. So that’s my long-winded way of saying that there’s still hope, regardless of how bleak things can get and they can get pretty bleak during this journey. I’m not gonna lie about that. I don’t want you to lose sight of hope because it’s still can be there for sure.

Fr Gary:
That’s a great message to end on there, like encouraging people to always reach out. Never, never, never not reach out. Right. Never, never, never stop. And, I think that you’ve made that abundantly clear in the two hours that we’ve spent together. I think that there’s a whole lot of people that need to learn how to better communicate the issues around mental health and make it more of a household topic for people to realize that it’s more common than stubbing your toe on the kitchen table.

Tracey:
Right. We all have it. So pretending that we don’t, that mental health isn’t part of our health is detrimental because everyone has it. Every person on the planet has mental health in addition to physical health.

Fr Gary:
And just to realize that it’s so important that we open our hearts and listen, and not only listen, but share as well. And so thank you very much, Tracey, for taking the time and making this effort that you have. And for everybody else being here as well. I hope that we can get to a place where more people find assistance and help and we deal with it differently.

Tracey:
Well, we can certainly heal the stigma around it and we can certainly cure the misinformation and we can certainly separate the facts from the fiction and the myth around it. So those things we can do, but yes, cures for mental illness. That’s a whole other thing, but we can certainly cure some of society talking about it and judging it.

Fr Gary:
That’s great. We’re going to leave it on that because that’s the most important thing is that we stop judging it and we start realizing that it’s something that needs attention and love. So thank you, Tracey. I can’t thank you enough.

TAKE AWAYS: my intentions

  • Be a catalyst for conversations just like this one
  • Let people know they aren’t alone
  • Increase awareness of self, others, and various aspects of mental health
  • Demonstrate taking personal responsibility for what I could control
  • Advocate for mental health awareness and also for mothers having the right to share our stories in appropriate ways
  • To inspire hope, empathy, and compassion for persons living with mental health diagnoses and their families

Tracey can be reached at traceyokas@gmail.com

Find the Orthodox Christian Network HERE.
Find a list of online Christian counseling services HERE. (By verywellmind.com. Not vetted by me.)

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