Pediatric Mental Illness
This month, Band Back Together is bringing light to teens - an often-forgotten part of the population.
Are you a teen struggling with mental health issues?
Are you a parent of a teen who has struggled with any type of mental health issue?
Please, share with us your stories.
My son is 17 years old. The same age I was when I had him.
Being pregnant at 17, meant I had to grow up fast. I had a full-time job, continued schooling, while caring for my son. I was still living at home, but I supported the two of us. His biological father died before my son's birth, but he'd already told me he wanted nothing to do with the baby so I was a single mom right out of the gate.
My son was always mischievous, he got into some trouble in middle school. His behavior really escalated in high school. He will be a senior this year; a senior with a third of the credits he needs to graduate. He's skipped so much school that it will be almost impossible for him to catch up.
I've tried hard to do right by my kids - my son and my two daughters.
I remarried six years ago after my first marriage ended. My first marriage was not ideal; it was a rough time in my life. After much struggling I moved on and met a wonderful man.
When my ex decided to move in a new girlfriend after only weeks of separation, my kids struggled. My son, the kid not genetically related to my ex, was told by the girlfriend that he was "not welcome there."
My ex was the only dad he knew, and he was not wanted there. He then began to act out. First, it was little things, then fighting, followed by insubordination at school and home.
After the divorce, I got a good job, married a good man, and went back to college - all for my kids - to give them a better life. I wanted to show them that it's never too late to go back to school, to do something with your life; to change your circumstances.
We bought a nice home in a small, quiet town with a good school district. We did things as a family, even if it was just playing tag outside in the dark.
Apparently, it was not enough.
Last year, my son attacked both my husband and I. We were tired of him breaking things we bought for him. He tried to throw an iPod across the house in a fit of rage and when we tried to take it away, he shoved me into a counter, bruising my hand, then he tackled my husband.
We called 911. He was arrested. He didn't serve time in juvenile detention; instead he got a year on probation, some community service and a fine. Things got better after that - we started family counseling.
That is, until he learned that his probation was ending. When he learned of this, his behaviors at school began anew. He missed school, failed classes, and got into fights.
Last month, he assaulted another kid by throwing a water bottle at him. We've been told that the kid had x-rays, that I may be held responsible for the medical fees. Today, we went to court for the charges - my son was charged with assault in the fourth degree.
It was very hard to control my emotions while I sat there, watching his face, talking to the judge. He was sentenced to only two days in juvenile detention.
Watching my child; the child I had such high hopes for at birth, taken away in handcuffs was beyond hard. I cried all the way home.
What I've learned is this: don't let other people treat your kids like crap. Stop your children before it's too late; before they're hauled off in cuffs. Get them the help they need.
Remember that sometimes even if you're not hurting your child, you need to be there for them when they are hurting.
Many of us have times when we're tempted to pull out our hair. Most people don't act on those temptations.
I do. I have trichotillomania. I've had it since I was very young.
No two cases of trichotillomania are necessarily alike. For me, it's something I do without thinking. If I realize I'm doing it, I can stop. Some people pluck eyebrows, eyelashes, and other hair sources, but I only pluck the hair on my head.
Trichotillomania is thought to fall on the Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) spectrum. It is an impulse control disorder and is related to stress and anxiety. Everyone has stress and anxiety, and there are times in all of our lives when stress and anxiety are more of a problem than others.
I'm pretty sure I started pulling my hair out when I was a baby, which means I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. Most days my mom didn't get me up in the morning or from my nap very promptly because she was busy with my twin brother. I believe I started pulling my hair as I waited for someone - anyone - to take me out of my crib.
My intention here is not to demonize my mother, but to try to help you understand how this started.
My mom lost preemie twins a little less than 2 years before my brother and I were born. When my twin and I were born, he was 6 pounds and 9 ounces, while I was 2 pounds and 2 ounces.
He was a roly poly baby. I made my mother nervous. She bonded more with my brother initially. Eventually my mother and I bonded too, but by then, I was already pulling out my hair on a regular basis.
School was, for the most part, a place where I was happy. I succeeded academically and was usually treated well by teachers and peers. One event, which happened multiple times each year, left me disconsolate each time it happened - head lice checks.
Head lice checks made my hair pulling worse. The ladies checking my head were so insistent that I had lice that they usually convinced me I had them, and I would pluck hairs out of my head at two to three times the rate I normally did. I would then check each root and all along each hair shaft for the presence of a nit. I never found one, though, which was most likely a very good thing because the pesticide shampoos probably would have been very painful on a scalp with so many open wounds.
The person checking heads would almost always be so horrified by the condition of my scalp that she would call my mother to leave work and come get me. I can remember sometimes hearing my mom's voice even as someone from the school nursing staff talked to her on the phone. She'd plead with them and insist it was normal for me, but they would want her to come to school despite her protests so they could show her what they were talking about.
She already knew, but she came anyway because she had no choice.
One time as my mom was taking me home and looking at my pock-marked scalp for probably the tenth time, a school nurse very condescendingly said, "For God's sake,you're a psychologist and your husband's a doctor. Why don't you do something with her?"
My mother shrugged as she walked out with me. Once we got inside the car, she began to cry. I recall just sitting there on that November day as my mom sobbed into the steering wheel of her car, thinking what a horrible person I was to make her feel this way.
Even though in some ways both my brother and I were like the proverbial peddler's children who ran around barefoot in relation to our own parents' professions, in fairness, they had taken me to my pediatrician, an allergist, a couple of dermatologists, an equal number of psychologists and psychiatrists, a naturopathic physician, and even a pediatric neurologist.
There didn't seem to be any fix that would not have left me virtually comatose and drooling. When the cure is worse than the disease, sometimes you have to live with it. They never gave up trying to find a cure, though.
For a while, my mother even made me drink goat's milk because a lady at church swore by it as a cure for plucking, picking, cutting, and all manner of self-injurious behaviors. Mom and Dad eventually gave up on goat's milk because I was suffering from both dehydration and malnutrition. I couldn't keep any food down if I had to consume goat's milk along with it.
The goat's milk didn't seem to slow the hair pulling anyway.
When I used to get my hair cut, the person cutting it would invariably comment on the condition of my scalp. I never knew what to say in return.
I would beg my mom to cut my hair herself. But she always refused, which may have been her way of punishing me for pulling my hair out. My mom used to talk about how nice it feels when her hairstylist shampooed her hair. I didn't know if she said it because she thought it might motivate me to stop pulling my hair, or if she said it to make fun of me because she knew no one would ever willingly touch my scalp.
I wear my hair long and trim it myself now.
I can remember my problem with hair pulling worsening when my mom was battling leukemia. It was also bad when I suffered PTSD after I was assaulted in a school restroom a couple of years ago.
I've just finished my first year of university. Things happening around here right now have caused me to stress.
I'm recovering from a minor car accident that left me with broken ribs, a broken collarbone, and awful bruises in unmentionable places.
There's little I can do other than watch bad TV and pull my hair out.
I was eleven wishing for heaven
I sat miserably with scissors
Praying desperately for a heavenly visitor
I wanted to kill myself
I was living in a secret hell
I wouldn’t dare tell
I wouldn’t dare scream and yell
No signs, no trail
I hid it well
I felt I had failed
My mind felt jailed
Would the pain end with a farewell?
No one was aware
So, of course, no one cared
I never felt safe enough to share
My daily nightmare
Talking about it brought me shame
I took it upon myself to reclaim
My fear-filled brain
I was petrified, terrified and I glorified fear
This was every day of the year
Only shedding tears behind closed doors
Begging and pleading “Please, God, NO MORE!”
I was hurting at my deepest core
The judgment and names, hate and drama-filled games
They were all the same
I was wanting to be different
It was going to take commitment
Being filled with resentment
Created my limitations and restrictions
I desired and admired
And rarely aspired
I was sick and tired of not feeling required
And not being able to acquire
My truest desires
Changing my convictions
Releasing being a mouthy vixen and victim
Stop hoping and wishing
Start a new mission
Shed my old image
Embrace a new vision
Choose to feel accepted
No more feeling neglected
I’m changing my perception
Releasing the anger, jealousy, greed and envy
Is not always easy or pleasing
But I am releasing to relieve and receive
I am stopping the "poor me" mentality
To begin to accept love and peace as my new reality
Is this a possibility?
I had forgotten to love me, you and the land
I had no real goals or plans
Just a beer and a nice tan
It was my selfish superficial stance
Voiding myself of any real chance
To dream and expand
I had forgotten how to dance enjoy and love
I had forgotten to rejoice in the power above
I had my things and my drugs
The rest was all unimportant details I swept under the rug
I was unaware I could dream
Living only by a means
I wasn’t me or who I wanted to be
I numbed my being and every feeling
I was very deceiving.
Compassion, passion and action
I have been lacking
Fear and loathing have led me slacking
I have been passive
I have fed off of reaction
My life I would have captioned
In the past as slow moving and taxing.
There’s glory here for me
I’m choosing a new story
It’s the end of the poor me mentality
As I say yes to pure ecstasy
By looking for the light in me.
I’m no longer the girl crying on the floor
Begging and pleading no more
I’ve risen to my knees but not to beg or plead
To breath, see and believe that there is a Christ in me
I’m still here releasing my fears
Drinking less beer
Trying to figure out how to be sincere
I’m still switching gears
My pain is less severe
Some of the hurt I’ve let disappear
Letting the good in me reappear
By holding myself accountable and looking in the mirror.
I’m living more expressively, creatively, freely and aggressively
I’m allowing myself to enjoy and love me
It’s slowly and progressively becoming more easy to be me freely.
Reputation no longer my motivation
I’m looking for salvation
To some of my old ways I have already said salutations
I am looking for inspiration
That leads to feelings of validation.
I feel better these days
Now that I’ve cleared some of the haze
Feeling less dazed
My eyes have been covered with a new golden glaze.
I’m letting love light my pathways
My new life has been in motion
No more sugar-coating
No more swaying and coaxing
I have started devoting
No more moping, hoping, and doting
It’s time for focusing.
I will find that which strengthens me
Enlightens me and heightens me
Release that which frightens me
Accept and shed light on what brightens me
Unleash the fight in me
It’s my God given right, you see.
Infinite love and gratitude is my new attitude
More meditation, realizations, and appreciation.
My openness and willingness
Has led me to much bigger bits of happiness
I am blessed
I am seeking my best
I’ll trust God will handle the rest.
I was 11 wishing for heaven
17 years and a lot of tears
A lot of anxiety and so many fears
But with the help of love, words, family and a few peers
I am now 28
Releasing my anger and hate
Trading in my past for a clean slate
Realizing my fate is in my hands to create.
I have been "blessed" with the beauty of Generalized Panic Disorder (GAD) and now panic attacks. I think I have them under control, for the most part, but I know I'm not the only person in my family to suffer from them.
I have a cousin with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and agoraphobia. My mother has been on anti-anxiety medication since I can remember and refuses to leave the house 90 percent of the time. And they aren't the only ones. I don't worry so much about them; they're adults and know of the wonderful resources available to them.
What I do worry about is my precious daughter. She had her first panic attack at age six when she realized that her daddy and I weren't going to be in the same house anymore. My ex decided that it was an isolated incident and would go away without medical attention. It did not. We took her to see my therapist and psychiatrist. The therapy helped, and the doctor put her on a low dose of anti-anxiety medications. Of course the ex didn't feel his daughter needed to be a junkie (his words) and we discontinued them.
Things were alright for a while, but every now and then she would have such severe anxiety that nothing could calm her down. She didn't want to go to school on PE testing days or days when she had to do an oral report. She didn't want to go to school if there had been an incident the day before. After months of dragging her to school, I finally had to sit her down and share my experiences. My mother had never done this with me and I thought if my daughter knew she wasn't alone, she would feel better.
So I told her how my heart would race when I thought of meeting a new person. How my legs would get all wobbly if I had to walk up to a podium or speak in front of people or run a lap with everyone watching. I left nothing out. And my precious ray of sunshine said to me, "I'm sorry you're hurting Momma, how can I help you?"
No honey, I'm here to help you, so that you don't have to be alone or afraid. I want you to know that you are normal! Everyone has anxiety! Just not to the extreme that we sometimes have it.
Since this time (about four years ago) she still experiences the anxiety, but we talk through it. We take a time out in a quiet room and I bring her cold water or a snack or just sit at the bed and listen. We are open about it. I know I can't be with her all the time, and I know that there's always a monkey wrench thrown into the mix, but we're teaching her to cope with things as they come. That she is not a alone, and that there is an end to these feelings of anxiety.
I have been one of the Brains Behind The Band for a little while now and find it incredibly fulfilling. I have found a wonderful sense of purpose here.
But I have always found something more with The Band.
I have found amazing friendship and support.
I've recently had issues with depression and anxiety sparked by the trauma and abuse I suffered as a child. It seems I have a wicked bad case of Complex PTSD, which is wanting to rear its head NOW, no matter what I do.
No amount of ignoring it or distracting myself has made any difference.
I decided to finally talk about everything I was feeling with my husband of six years, for the first time ever in our relationship. I have a VERY hard time trusting, so it was insanely hard for me to do.
I told him how I hated myself, as in "hope I get hit by a truck and die a pain-filled death" sort of hatred.
I told him how I was unable to stop thinking of the things that happened to me as a child and how I was obsessed with my parents, the perpetrators of the abuse and trauma.
I told him I need help. I told him I want to go into therapy but that it would be a long, hard journey, and I couldn't do it without his support.
He sat there in silence.
Then, he started speaking. He told me that, yes, he was sure I had issues, but it isn't C-PTSD. He told me that I need therapy, because I was definitely a little nutty, but that it shouldn't be too hard to fix me.
He refused to be my support, with his unspoken words.
Now, before we all go up in arms, my husband is pretty wonderful. He just truly sucks at being a supportive partner when it comes to anything regarding mental health - he thinks it's all a bunch of crap.
I was distraught and heartbroken.
I fear rejection like normal people fear zombies. It's a visceral reaction for me when I am rejected, even if the rejection is all in my head.
I felt like I had been open and honest with him, completely baring my soul, and he threw me under the bus.
As I went to sleep, I cried. I spent the next two days beating the ever-living fuck out of myself.
How could I have been so stupid? Of course he wouldn't support me, I am completely worthless! No one would support me because no one cares about me, and they shouldn't!
I was spiraling downward at light speed.
Finally, I reached out to my fellow Brains.
I told them what was going on, feeling like an asshole, a whiny baby, and a complete moron for believing they might care or even want to help me.
I waited with bated breath, praying they wouldn't hate me, or make me stop volunteering.
I was terrified of their rejection. I knew it was coming, and I was pretty sure I had struck the killing blow with my letter. I was sick with the fear and terror of the impending rejection.
They didn't reject me.
My worst fears - my biggest hurdle in seeking help from anyone and the knowledge that I would be rejected - were past.
They were awesomesauce with their love and support!
I got glitter-filled bacon flavored cupcakes of love and hugs flung at me!
No, it didn't immediately fix all my problems, nor did it make me magically able to trust the world.
I am terrified to post this.
What they did do for me, however, was love me.
In loving me, they have shown me that I may not be doomed to be forever rejected, ridiculed, and hated.
They have helped me just by being their awesome glitter-flinging selves, and, for that, I am grateful.
Now I know that during this journey, I have the support I am going to need.
I have The Band.
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