the night before program your experiences with day treatment/ intensive outpatient programs?

Hey.

So it’s the night before I start day treatment at new foundations center. It’s a small mental health facility in Northfield IL about a half an hour from Evanston. The day program is a clubhouse style recovery model. They have groups from nine til two Monday through Fridays. They also have some group home support, crisis intervention and job support.

I was there in 2012 for about a month while at Friedman Place. From that end of Chicago it took like an hour to get there. Way too long a journey for me! And without anyone dragging me out the door or talking me into going even when depressed I soon couldn’t do it anymore. That happens here still but it’s a lot harder with Jess and caseworkers and Jonathan on my case.

So this is easier. I better like this place. I’ve tried a ton of programs in the area or it feels like it. Really there aren’t that many and the ones that sound really good are private pay or for people who have good healthcare insurance as in not Medicaid. I went to Trilogy Behavioral health which is a wonderful huge provider of mental health in this area. They have a very good day program with a large assortment of groups. They have a therapist who’s certified in drama therapy and that was the most enjoyable group for me. When I was at Friedman I participated in many groups and also had a case manager who helped with transportation to store haircut ETC. She also took me to a cat shelter for my own personal pet therapy (recommended by hospital social worker)

Unfortunately Trilogy does not work with Medicaid transportation which is free. To go I’d have to get paratransit tickets which cost $30 a book which is way not affordable!

They also have an awesome medical clinic with a very compassionate thorough nurse practitioner and from what I hear awesome doctors and psychiatrists. Unfortunately as I’m living here at Albany you have to use their doctors.

I also went to turning point in scokie. It also had a good amount of groups. A lot of them did worksheets and were CBT cognitive behavioral therapy focused which was not something I took to well as that therapy generally doesn’t work for me. Also I found it hard to believe this place that for some could be the only mental health provider in the area (with many licensed social workers, counselors psychologists psychiatrists) doesn’t have the training to work with eating disorders, self-injury (even though they claim to,) or substance abuse. Given that these are components of many people’s mental health issues it made me wonder what they do have training in. No really I know they have training and many of the therapists were very nice. Some weren’t flexible to information from clients about our ideas on how to improve groups ETC. And as I said a huge reliance on worksheets and a narrow lense (as I believe CBT is) of viewing a person’s issues and just a person in general.

Then I tried Norwigean American intensive outpatient program. This was actually within a hospital. You had to attend three days a week. The other clients were very nice although too many were so medicated I’d say over medicated. They were constantly falling asleep and could not concentrate or participate and complained of how sedated they felt. However instead of contacting their psychiatrists or nurses at their facilitys (as far as I know, and I think some of these people had good heads on their shoulders and would have mentioned that) they seemed to blame the person. Telling them they needed to be awake, in spite of sedating medications and just bugging them endlessly about it. That they weren’t participating and all that. It was heart breaking. I stood up for them as best I could in group trying gently to explain how when someone’s brain is being swamped with these powerful chemicals it’s really not their fault. I didn’t see a change in the care these people got or how they were treated and that got me mad.

And people say that has nothing to do with you! Well yes and no. It’s not me but it kind of is. Or maybe that’s just a trigger from my past. I witnessed a lot particularly emotional/ verbal abuse. So when I have to stand by and watch people be in a way bullied and put down day after day it’s hard to deal with, hard as in more like overwhelming anxiety producing!

Secondly is their ridiculously rigid attendance policy. If you miss a day they have to have a whole conversation with your caseworker on exactly why and it’s this whole thing. If you’re out because of a doctor/ psychiatrist coming (and you never know when that will be more on that later) they need to see the doctor’s notes. Unfortunately my first week of program I ended up in a bit of a crisis related to a close friend going through a hard time and not knowing how to best support her. Another trauma trigger. I’ve had to support as a young child parents in crisis. And have felt and was made to feel like I was all they had. I’ve also been put down by my parents about the type of friend I am. So old feelings about my worth as a friend/ ability to be adequately supportive just came flooding back. Some self-injury came about and a nice long night at the crisis center. I was happy for no inpatient stay but the next couple days I wasn’t really in any shape to go anywhere. So I missed two days my first week. This program was like six months long. I had plenty of weeks to go.

Well they were unbelievably ridiculous about it. This one therapist in particular who was the person who talked back and forth to my caseworker/ staff here. She was literally like well this is a really serious issue (what happened) because it affected my ability to attend the program and my well-being. Yeah in that order. That’s like the first thing I heard. And anytime that particular situation came up, what they saw as not having solid boundaries that I’d be so deeply affected by my friend’s situation to send me into crisis, what they brought out as evidence was my stupid two day absence. It’s not just me. Some poor developmentally disabled man threw up on the way there and they didn’t send him home! I guess once you’re here from transportation you’re stuck here. Good thing it’s a hospital LOL!

So yeah just got tired of the whole thing. What did it was realizing how sad it was these people were forced by the staff where they were living to go to this program, and by program staff, when many weren’t happy or more importantly couldn’t even decide how they felt due to such high doses of meds. So I left. I hadn’t made any connections with anyone except someone who seemed nice until she violated my confidentiality by reading over my shoulder on the computer. They did a group where everyone had to go up in front of the group individually and talk about their issues and be questioned and I didn’t like that. So yeah.

So here I am. So frustrated that other programs that seem really well staffed with people specializing in trauma and self-injury with things like expressive arts (real expressive arts not a therapist blindly using art) process groups, and pet therapy are all private pay/ with good health insurance. The only program I can think of I haven’t tried in the area that’s open to me is where my friend goes to IOP. Because we’re so close staff there and here want us going to different day treatment to get a break from each other and have separate treatment venues. Which makes sense. This is her secondtime through there and she really likes it. Watch me have issues! I’m just a very picky girl! Seriously I guess I only find certain things/ approaches/ personalities helpful. I think with the things I go through it’s hard to form a trusting connection. And these programs are so group oriented that you can’t go through the natural connection, conflict reconnection that naturally happens in individual therapy. Because it’s all about the group. That’s the other thing I hated about that IOP I went to. There was no one therapist you worked with on your treatment plan. It was random whichever therapist would go over treatment goals with you. They said it’s a team approach. Well then the whole team should be discussing the treatment with each client which I’ve heard happening. I said how important it was for me to be able to really connect with the person I’m working on goals with and checking in with. Again this was deemed another manifestation of my poor boundaries that I attached to one particular person and had trouble letting go. Who knows. Sometimes they made me feel worse.

All that to say I’m anxious about tomorrow a little. I went in 2012 and then for a trial day in February. From then I decided to go to turning point. So I know some of the staff that are there but not everyone. I’ll be interested to see how things go and if I like it. I’d really like to hear all of your experiences with intensive outpatient or day treatment programs. Hopefully we’ll get a nice discussion going.

I hate the drama of facebook groups

Well again I have to say I really hate these so called mental health support groups on facebook! Now I know why I run lists and why the people who’ve joined my lists are happy here.

In my quest to let others know about my blog I joined several facebook groups one called anxiety and depression outlet and another called depression suicide and mental illness support. I was surprised to see that each of these groups had over a thousand members! How can anyone get to know anyone else with that incredibly ridiculously huge of a group? Even with a ton of admins it’s impossible to keep everything under control.

I think that all of my posts to either introduce myself or ask a question or post a link to my blog have gone so far down the list of posts that I never find them. When I do not surprisingly there are no comments. It’s just way too big to manage.

I find the people who are responded to the most are the ones constantly saying they’re gonna hurt/ kill themselves.

Trigger warning talk of SI/ suicidal thoughts

So here’s my view on this topic. We’ve all been there I believe. At least those of us with day in day out depression, anxiety, trauma issues ETC. Many turn to self-injury because the pain is so constant and intense they see no other way to deal with it then to use physical pain as a way to either release the feelings, become numb, or for some as a way to feel something because they’re numb all the time. The topic of self-injury is very complex but that’s a general understanding of the main reason for it. I had empathy for but never truly understood suicidal thoughts/ actions. Until all of a sudden literally one day I was suicidal. And very deeply so and very calm and matter of fact about the whole thing. I wasn’t afraid I was very sure of myself at the time and peaceful. The thing that hurt like hell were the months after I had been caught before even attempting anything where I felt absolutely trapped on this planet because of what I thought were others selfish desires for me to live when I didn’[t feel I had a life.

End of trigger warning

So all that to say I know that part of supporting each other day to day as people recovering from mental illness is about being able to hear one another when we’re in that amount of pain. So saying (with a trigger warning) that one feels suicidal and why, or that one has self-injured, is going to ETC is fine. This happens a lot on the list. We can only give support suggestions and sometimes silent support. We can’t stop another’s path if they choos/ their illness leads them into these things. What I don’t like are people posting in a huge venue where there’s no way to really form close connections unless you do it outside the group, that they’re gonna kill themselves/ hurt themselves. Knowing pretty much nothing about the person everyone either gives them a ton of attention saying not to do it we care about you soo much (they don’t even know you) or saying stupid things about how killing yourself is selfish.

I could basically go survey a bunch of people in Chicago on their thoughts on suicide/ self harm and get this response. And when I say “know” in terms of internet support I mean you’ve established a personal connection with someone know them beyond their mental illness, know them as a whole person and have a relationship with this person. Not just answering a random person’s cry for help.

If a person doesn’t get a lot of responses they are upset about that and vent to the group about not being supported. I feel that true support usually only happens when you have a group of people who know you, who want to get to know you beyond your mental illness who want to share good and bad times and where you have a close connection. I don’t know why someone would want to reach out to a random huge group of people in this time of need and then get so upset when they don’t get reswponses from that random huge group of people. Maybe it’s because they have no one else and feel this is the only way. It’s all a lot of drama to me and draining and emotionally intense for me and I feel for others who might be in hard places to read that.

The things one can normally monitor when moderating a reasonable size group of people just can’t be contained with such a high level of participants. Like triggering content. For a reason I don’t think I’ll ever understand (though I welcome thoughts) a lot of people like to post pictures of their SI activity, cuts/ scratches/ scars. Or pictures of SI tools knives guns rope ETC. Again I have no idea how this is helpful to anyone. Secondly are the graphic descriptions of suicide or self-harm. Often posts just say “I wanna kill myself” Again there isn’t a sense at all of an ongoing solid relationship between people on there or any discussion about themselves as a whole beyond bouts of SI panic attacks ETC. Again these are a part of our lives but I believe support is about knowing the whole person in a context that’s not all about symptoms.

It’s frustrating then when you want to post helpful resources and information or ask a relivant question and load this page only to find a mountain of emotionally dramatic posts and everything seems and uncontained mess.

I’ve learned a lot about online support and mental illness from moderating my blind mental health list over the years. I’ve learned to try and tell when a person is attention seeking (and I’m not just saying that as the stereotype or to judge some people don’t have a clue that their attention seeking) and how to work with other moderators to try to address the behavior. If someone is unable over time to give support and always is needy I have to redirect them elsewhere. If it’s clear a person is constantly in crisis with no support system outside this group for the safety and sanity of everyone I have to direct them elsewhere or insist that they also find outside support (a psychiatrist, hospital, therapist) then they can stay in the group.

I monitor general conversation and try to make sure we’re talking about our lives in general and day to day hapenings even boring everyday stuff so the focus isn’t symptoms and crisis all the time. In this way I’ve learned a lot about people and what we can and can’t handle as a support group online. I think it takes a lot for a person to participate well in an online support group actually. You need to remember that though these are your friends everyone has a responsibility for their own lives/ choices. You can’t make someone do something. They should have out side in person support systems as should you. I’ve learned to take time out from the group when needed when I’m having a hard time and we’re all extremely gentle and accepting of each other when it comes to that. I think with these things in mind however a person can gain a lot from a well moderated support group online. You can end up making friends for life. And for someone who has trouble for whatever reason making in person friends in their local area this can truly be a life saver.

I don’t want to advertise, but Oh well it’s my blog and I will LOL!

Below are the lists that I run. If this article intrigued you and you want to learn more about how I and my friends run groups, or are interested in something other than/ to supliment facebook groups you’re a part of the links might be useful. Feel free (as in please pretty pleas!) to share with friends.

Lists:

Blind mental health: blind-mentalhealth+subscribe

Disability haven: disability-haven+subscribe

Living with mental illness: livingwithmentalillness+subscribe

A safe place: asafeplace+subscribe

No Place for Nathan a casey watson short story

Today I finished reading No Place for Nathan which is a short story written by foster carer and teacher Casey Watson. Casey has written many memoirs dealing with foster parenting exploring the day to day lives of the children she takes under her wing and how they affect her family and gain whatever amount of healing is possible.

Before Casey was a foster parent she taught in a school setting in a department for children who can not handle mainstream education because of behavioral problems. She’s branched out into these teaching memoirs. I personally find her foster care memoirs more compelling and did even ask on her facebook if she’d be continuing to write these memoirs as I didn’t want her to stop. She said she would.

No Place for Nathan is about an eleven year old boy named Nathan. He is brought to Casey’s unit for fighting and anger outbursts. It soon becomes clear that Nathan is a complex person. He often dresses and acts like a girl, Jenny, and ehxibits other behaviors such as sudden angr for no apparent reason when normally he is sweet and cooperative. Throughout the book he matter of factly, as Jennydiscloses horrific incidents of sexual abuse as well as showing signs of physical abuse. The book shows the inadequacy of the social services as the social who has been assigned to the family for a long time claims that there is no abuse or behavioral problems and that Nathan is just attention seeking. It’s only because of Casey and the child protection officer at the schoo Gary’s dedication andmitulous reporting that the case is followed up. The story seems to have an abrupt ending. I wish it would have been a full length book instead of a short story so that Nathan’s psychological problems could be explored in more detail as well as what became of him.

On her website after announcing the short story Casey posts something about DID dissociative identity disorder that she believes Nathan had. Though there’s no reference to it in the story. Over all I wouldn’t recommend this story as one of Casey’s best stories. I think the full length books are more well done. ,

Christian based Residential treatment free of charge

Hi everyone,

I discovered something yesterday that sounds like it could be a helpful resource for some of us. For some people weekly therapy/ day treatment/ other supports isn’t enough and they feel they need a more focused yet short term residential treatment option to take the time out to address whatever issues are going on. Unfortunately for many residential treatment is so outside their price range it’s not even funny. I plan to do another post called something like “residential treatment how is it afforded.” Where I do research on the different treatment center sites insurance accepted ETC.

Anyway I had a friend who was looking into residential treatment but only has Medicaid. I told her good luck with that LOL! She said she wanted something with a Christian focus. I didn’t know of anything and even if I did I would still think the barrier would be cost. Well she ended up finding a couple resources I have never even heard about so I thought I’d share them.

At least two organizations that we’ve found offer Christian based residential treatment free of charge. One place says it charges room and board about four hundred dollars a month. The other place I don’t believe charges anything at least that I could see.

Both these places work with girls from teen years through twenty eight I believe. Who have many of the issues that people usually seek treatment for: depression, suicide attempts, self-injury, eating disorders, unplanned pregnancy ETC. I haven’t done much research myself into this particular type of treatment. Personality religion/ spirituality isn’t a part of what is helpful to me. So I honestly don’t know the ins and outs of what treatment offers. It’s focus obviously is Christian so it seems like a lot of Bible study/ lectures about religious principles that can be healing with whatever issues are going on. Plus b group and individual counseling around these same ideas. Girls live in a home rather than a treatment center which seems nice. And it seems like they would form a close and connected community. The program seems to really emphasize the person really wanting to heal from their issues and that they’ll get the physical, emotional, and spiritual support to do so. These programs are for at least six months so a lot of time is taken to address what’s going on.

From my general research these programs do sound very solid and like they could be helpful to a lot of young women out there who are seeking a Christian focus and healing principles for their treatment. I don’t have very many feelings one way or another on religion/ spirituality. But I think religious organizations can do great things as well as other ones can be very misguided and hurtful if they twist religion around and use it as a weapon. That’s just the general idea I’ve gotten from people I’ve talked with who have mental illness and are connected with whatever religion they practice and are a part of organized religion.

I have to say I absolutely applaud these organizations for being so commited to people getting the help they need that they would set things up so that the women can go free of charge without having to worry about finances.

Below are the links to both organizations for further information.

Mercy Ministries

http://www.mercyministries.org/

Vision of Hope

http://www.faithlafayette.org/voh

ups and downs of looking to the week ahead

Hey everyone,

It’s been an ok Saturday. Hung out in the morning. Tried to take a morning nap but couldn’t sleep. Had twitching in my legs I have that a lot in different parts of my body when I had my EEG in 2013 they recorded it as seizure activity. Jess just calls it the jitter bug LOL. So that kept waking me up.

Anyway went to lunch and after lunch felt kinda anxious looking at the week ahead. After stopping my last intensive outpatient program at the beginning of may or end of April I’ve had weeks of just chilling here at home with the ups and downs of my daily life but not going out or doing much other than working away behind my computer. Now looking into my first week at New foundation center a day program in a nearby town. The program runs I believe from nine til two thirty and has many groups. Different support groups (mens, women’s general) CBT, DBT, substance abuse, music group, art therapy, journaling, Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP), WMR,(wellness management and recovery,) and more groups. I forget them all. Anyway I like it because of its open ended manner. You can go for as long as needed and don’t have a limit of a certain number of months there, having to wait a certain number of months or up to a year to come back. Also it’s flexible in terms of how many days you go. You can go minimum of once a week which is nice as three days is hard for me to maintain over time. Edith, my caseworker, wants me to go three days I’m good with two.

Anyway so I have two or three days of going out and being around people/ engaged all day which isn’t a bad thing obviously it’s probably what I need but I know is exhausting as I haven’t been used to it. Plus they don’t serve lunch. And I’m so picky I hate cold sandwiches which is what they give in a lunch bag from here so I probably won’t have anything to eat except snacks.

Then Thursday I’ll be heading over to my old home Friedman Place! I’m going to see Robert finally. We haven’t done in person stuff since thanksgiving. He came over here. He was ok with things but uneasy with certain aspects of being here like he didn’t like the food even on thanksgiving! Just stuff like how the staff were dressed, people yelling and slamming doors ETC. I don’t blame him plus it’s horrible to have to try walking around when you’re blind (or sighted actually) with people who often for whatever reason don’t move out of your way. We had a tricky time with Jess him and I trying to walk back and forth from lunch.

So mid week I decided it would be a whole lot easier to just go see him. I’ll be able to go over and say hi to residents I like and staff. And ignore the annoying residents. And probably will have to answer a lot of questions about my sudden disappearance from Friedman in November 2013. (literally I went into the hospital for two weeks, for psych but obviously not many people knew that) and then was gone forever! But I’ll be honest with the people who deserve honest answers and ignore or give stupid answers to the annoying residents.

So yeah maybe just a little nervous about going and seeing everyone again. Wonder who’s moved into my old apartment. Anyway Robert and I are gonna have the best time. Putting aps on my ipod trying to make videos with it just shooting the breeze. It should be really cool.

Then Friday is my birthday! I’ll be twenty seven. It’s hard to believe time goes by so fast. Anyway will just have a hang out kinda day with Jess.

Anyway I was better after just relaxing with Jess on her bed awhile. Then went online on fanfiction.net. I really like the TV show Higher Ground about teens with mental illness issues living at a wilderness therapy school. Was looking for a certain story but couldn’t find it. Signed up for fan fiction just to be able to write people and ask about the story.

Did some more hanging out and looking through old e-mail. Before I knew it it was time for dinner. Jess and I are pretty good at going down there eating and getting out as soon as possible to avoid as much chaos as possible. Had to have fruet plate for two meals today but that’s because I didn’t want the turkey fritter or beef stew. The food’s not horrible here and it’s good they have the fruet and sandwiches as substitutes plus substitute meal I’m just very picky!

Anyway am back here and blogging away. Feeling more confident about the coming week even though I know there will be more issues ahead. Hopefully nothing like Friday morning when I didn’t get my meds til ten thirty because of a very slow and stressed out substitute nurse. Said goodbye to our evening nurse who’s been here three years which was sad. So yeah change in that department. Staff changes are always very hard for me.

Oh forgot. Put a bunch of stuff on my amazon wishlist. Included a miny trampoleen, net swing, scented strawberry shortcake dolls, squish balls ETC. So yeah since Robert got his new ipod secretly bought by someone out there maybe I’ll get stuff too LOL!

book review: Somebody Else’s Kids

Just this week I finished reading the Book Somebody Else’s Kids by Torey Hayden. Torey Hayden is a special education teacher and psychologist who has written many nonfiction accounts of her work with children with emotional problems that prevent them from being successful in a regular classroom. Her books are heartfelt and deeply emotional as well as give a day to day account of life in a special education classroom.

In the time that Torey was teaching and writing these books children with special needs were kept in self-contained classrooms appropriate for whatever issues they had, physical, sensory, intellectual and emotional. In 1981 when this book was written it was the beginning of the turning point where special ed was turning towards kids being mainstreamed in regular education classrooms while receiving resource help for part of the day. Torey was a resource room teacher during the time this book was written. So at first she didn’t even know she would have a class.

First was Boo. He’s eight years old and profoundly autistic. Only echoing things he hears like weather reports or conversations long after they’ve happened. He’s unable to really focus or communicate with anyone meaningfully. He’s placed in her room in the afternoons while in the mornings home with his mom. Torey and his first days together envolve her chasing him around the building as he likes to escape the room and him constantly taking his clothes off as it’s hard to involve him in any meaningful activity Next to come is eight year old Lori. Lori and her sister were severely abused by their father and ended up being adopted at a young age. Lori was left with brain damage that left her unable to do the internal processing mentally to be able to successfully learn to read or other tasks that envolved understanding symbols. This all weights heavily on Lori’s mental health and self-esteem. As she’s had to repeat kindergarten and is now with an incredibly gruff old school first grade teacher who is merceriless in insisting Lori learn to read and singling her out and basically making her feel like crap because she doesn’t. And no Torey didn’t write that part about making her feel like crap but I’m sure she thought that as over the course of the book the animosity between she and this teacher Edna grows.

Next in line is Tomaso. Tomaso is of Mexican desent. He had a traumatic start at a young age he watched his father murder his mother and kill himself. He’s been in and out of foster care ever since. His troubles in school stem from extreme aggression and physical fights. Unable to know what to do with him he’s put in Torey’s room to see what she can do to help.

Months after Tomaso’s arrival Claudia joins the group. She’s the oddest and most different from them all. At twelve years old she comes to Torey’s class thre months pregnant. She’s raised in an extremely religious catholic family and was going to a Catholic school. She got a boyfriend a few years older than she and when she became pregnant obviously she couldn’t attend the Catholic school. There were no programs for teen moms at all in the district or other alternatives so she’s placed with Torey’s class. She’s given work from her other school in order to graduate the sixth grade and Torey also gives her other work she plans out. There couldn’t be a more different bunch of children thrown together.

For awhile it’s chaos. Boo won’t do anything except wander around in his own world unable to communicate meaningfully with anyone constantly taking his clothes off. Tomaso is extremely aggressive and does everything possible to push Torey and the other kids away. From being emotionally abusive to totally gross things like purposely farting and picking Boo’s nose. Some of his worst behavior are explosions of anger when questioned about his fantasy that his father is still alive and is an amazing father any boy could want. Who’s going to come get him any day now. This makes him very difficult to handle in class and his behavior disrupts the other children a lot.

Lori is in the clutches of Evil first grade teacher Edna in the mornings and with Torey in the afternoons. While getting picked on by Edna in the mornings with Torey she has some relief. Torey is very gentle with Lori. She sees beyond her learning disability to the child Lori truly is. Whether it’s due to her brain injury or just her personality Lori is unfailingly caring towards anyone and sees the good in everything around her. Once she drew a picture of a blue bird and it was all the wrong colors and she said how that was ok because things didn’t have to be perfect on the outsideand that if you looked hard enough you could see how good the bulue bird was and how it’s appearance didn’t matter. I’m badly paraphraising. Don’t have time to go look up the quote. Another example is at one point Torey said that if she could give Lori her ability to read and not be able to she would. Lori responded that she wouldn’t want that because she wouldn’t want torey to suffer like she did and plus if Torey couldn’t read she couldn’t teach her.

The problem of her learning to read continues to weigh heavily on Torey and Lori in their room. But at least Torey isn’t making things worse by being antagonistic. However she devises all kinds of game like approaches to help Lori learn letters. She tries so hard and is so earnest and Torey can see the toll this is taking on her. Her brain injury makes it hard for her to focus anyway with this extra toll Torey can see Lori becoming more and more emotionally fragile. Eventually things build up to a point where one morning in Edna’s class Edna goes too far and humiliates her in front of the class by insisting she read. Even the most basic reading materials she can’t read. She becomes so traumatized she throws up. Then bolts to Torey’s room and hides behind the file cabinet where she stays the whole day. This is when the whole issue of Lori and reading and just how important is it really comes to a head. With Edna and others saying she absolutely has to be pushed to read to be with her peers. It’s complicated by the fact that there are no other special education classes in the area because of the mainstreaming law. The only option for Lori would be a class for developmentally disabled kids (at the time still called retarded.) Clearly this is way below Lori’s level of functioning in a lot of ways yet the reading issue keeps coming up as a barrier to her being able to go to a higher grade in school.

Torey believes that reading should never have become so important as to let Lori have this breakdown just because she couldn’t. To make it feel like rading was more important than who Lori is as a person. Torey eventually convinces Lori to come back to school though it takes two adults driving her there kicking and screaming and throwing up. She tells Lori she won’t make her read. At this point Edna has had enough. Lori is in Torey’s room full time. She’s given other work to do things that she can do and that raise her self-esteem like helping around the classroom, helping Boo with things and becoming a companion to him and some kind of ankor for him in the real world. Tomaso previously so violent and wanting nothing to do with the class becomes Lori’s “reader” and reads and writes anything that is needed.

The other children go through similar ups and downs. Tomaso’s anger hits it’s peak when he physically corners Torey and holds her hostage with a pair of extremely sharp sheears used to open a cardboard box that contained a teddy bear, a sensitively picked birthday present from Lori. Receiving it brought up so many feelings that he exploded in anger. Torey was able to finally deesclate the situation. Tomaso still had anger issues but they’d gotten through the worst of it.

Claudia turns out to be Torey’s biggest challenge. She openly admits that she finds it hardest to work with teenagers. Somehow she just naturally can reach younger children, when they get to be around twelve she just feels helpless. She feels it’s because it’s a part of herself she has had trouble being in touch with. The matter is made more complicated that this is a pregnant twelve year old. She struggles to really connect with Claudia who turns out to be an extremely gentle cooperative girl who becomes Torey’s helper in a lot of ways. She forms a strong bond with Lori Tomaso and especially Boo. Through the year Torey tries to discuss the baby with Claudia but it’s a closed subject much of the time. Behind the scenes she searches for any kind of support group for teen moms but there is none.

Throughout the year these seemingly opposite children who no one would think could ever form a cohesive group form deep and lasting bonds and deeply influence each other’s lives and problems. Lori creates a picture book that helps connect Boo with others and he’s able at times to talk meaningfully. Tomaso is calmed through being Lori’s reader and through the connection he has with her in spite of their differences. And Claudia in the end decides to give her baby up for adoption after seeing the damage that can be done by neglect to someone like Boo before he was adopted.

I encourage anyone to read this book. I think any one of these stories would attract readers as I feel we’ve all been there with one issue feeling lost as a child and needing someone persistent, compassionate, firm and imperfect as Torey to guide us along the way.

an anxious day

Today I didn’t get up and check e-mail right away. I was startled awake earlier in the morning by a CAN banging on our door to wake my roommate for meds. Normally they’re not so bad but today for whatever reason it just woke me up. I rested some but was anxious since. I read some of a book on my braillenote and for some reason didn’t feel like checking e-mail. I had breakfast as usual. The CAN took me to the nurse’s station to get my meds and I found that our day nurse had taken a vacation til June eighth. She’s worked here for years and years and is like seventy. She’s been taking more and more days off for health reasons so I thought that was it. But no it’s vacation and no one had any idea! I mean residents I guess. For many it probably was no big deal who gave out meds. But for me my anxiety is such that I need to know about this stuff as far in advance as possible for me to have the best chance of being ok. In this case only a couple days in advance would have been fine just to know what’s coming. It really wouldn’t matter if I were just continuing to laze at home. However next Monday I’m starting at a day treatment program. Transportation picks me up at eight in the morning. Which means I have to be up fed medicated and out the door quicker and earlier than I want to be. I hate being rushed and I don’t like having to go through my routeen so quickly. But there are these people called staff who continuously bug me about getting out of the building including my therapist. I also have a best friend/ big sister/ roommate who I think would eventually shove me out the door to hang out on the sidewalk all day til she comes back from her day program just to get me out. So yeah.

So how this relates is in order to be all ready I’ll need my meds before seven thirty. So I can head into the dining room chaos and be all ready to just leave at eight. The night shift nurse I believe leaves at six thirty. Day nurse is supposed to then take over in a timely manner. However with the regular nurse on vacation they bring in agency nurse’s. Nurses that come in on as needed basis, think substitute teachers. Yeah not fun. Or well maybe fun if you’re in school and have a sub you can torment all day. Not fun if you’re an anxiety filled girl trying to get out of the house first week of a new day program. So being my anxious self the minute I heard our day nurse was on vacation and knew agency nurses were gonna be there I burst into tears. Well I waited til I came back to our room. I was teary and anxious all day. People can say all the rational things they feel like to try and calm me down. I know logically that it’s no big deal about this nurse thing. That I’ll get my meds. I refuse to leave the house without them. But I just know in themoment how super hard it is for me to feel rushed or like things are gonna be off at all. I just panic and get agitated and overwhelmed. I think it also goes back to all the times I felt this way growing up and was basically told again and again how no on understood why I was like this and to cut it out. So when stuff happens it feels like no one’s gonna help to make it better or help me get through it. Even though of course they do. The best thing about living here that for me rises above all the totally annoying things is that I’m in an environment 24/7 with people that truly understand what’s going on. Staff that get it that I and others are dealing with chronic illnesses. In the same way cancer or Aides are chronic physical illness. We know that we’re trying (well some of us here aren’t) but even if they aren’t they are there for us anyway. Back to those that are trying, they know we’re trying and they know some things are truly out of our control, and they help us work on how to help us prevent that. But if stuff happens it’s not this huge deal. They don’t make it worse by verbally abusing you saying you’re this crazy person we don’t understand you and by the way how are you ever gonna go to college and make friends because no one gets it. And if we make a mistake they just say ok what can we learn from this? Well my therapist/ clinical director says that a lot! And then we just keep at it. It’s a battle of us against our illnesses and the good staff are in it together.

And having others dealing with similar things can be annoying at times and triggering, but also comforting. The thing about here is that everyone is thrown together. There are so many levels of functioning/ issues going on with people and we’re all thrown together. Like there are a lot of people here with schizophrenia or psychosis. And I honestly don’t understand/ know much about that. So stuff happens and it doesn’t make sense. So I ask staff about it. And it helps me realize that they’re struggling just like I am even though it looks like they’re just being purposely annoying or creepy or whatever. So I feel like I have even more compassion for people with different mental illnesses than I did before.

So to sum up having anxiety that comes up over what I know rationally are little things really sucks. But it helps me get through the day to know there are others around me that are dealing with similar things even if we all experience our illnesses differently. And that there are staff (and some people really don’t like the staff) but the staff really are here for us no matter what and will do whatever they can to help. This means so much to me. It makes it just a little easier living with what I go through day to day knowing they’ll be a constant in my life and I’ll never be pushed away by them even if sometimes due to past experiences with others I really get scared I will. So yeah. Comments? Anyone else had this experience with therapists/ other mental health support people? Anyone who is or has lived in a residential place group home/ supportive living have experiences to share? I welcome your thoughts!

mental illness support e-mail groups

Hey everyone,

Just to recap from yesterday. My friend and I now own two e-mail lists for general mental illness. Anyone with a mental illness can join. They are:

A Safe Place:

Asafeplace+subscribe

Living with mental illness:

Livingwithmentalillness+subscribe

Additionally I own two other disability and mental illness related lists.

Blind- mental health: has been operating since 2012. For anyone who’s blind/VI and has a mental illness.

Blind-mentalhealth+subscribe

Disability Haven: for anyone who has a mental illness as well as other disability/s.

Disability-haven+subscribe

I hope these are helpful to you and please share with others! For questions comment or e-mail me:

Nelsonsam68

just started a mental illness support e-mail list

A safe place e-mail list: https://groups.io/org/groupsio/asafeplaceHello everyone,

Subscribe: asafeplace+subscribe

I wanted to let you all know that I’ve just created a new e-mail list. I’ve been running e-mail lists for two years now. I started blind mental health, for anyone who’s blind and has a mental illness, in 2012. In fact tomorrow is our second birthday yay!!

I never knew before starting this list the need out there for a safe place for those with blindness/ visual impairment and mental illness to feel that they aren’t alone. The lack of support for our specific population is truly sad. I’m going to save a detailed discussion of that list and issues around people who are blind and have mental illness for another post.

Anyway what brought my attention to the lack of safe supportive groups online for mental illness, at least in my opinion was facebook. Facebook has a huge overwhelming selection of support groups for everything under the sun. There are too many groups to count for people with mental illness. I think this is a wonderful thing and believe that you can’t have too much support when dealing with mental illness. However it disturbs me when these groups aren’t well moderated. I think sometimes it’s the nature of the size of the group. A couple I’ve joined have thousands of members. Even if there were several admins no one can keep track of that many people. I’ve also been in groups where the admin/s are just missing in action and the members are left to their own devices with no boundaries or oversight from the group owner/ moderators who ideally should work as a team to monitor the daily progress of the group and resolve any issues that come up. Which is my second point. These groups seem full with a huge amount of drama. People can really be quite judgmental and I’m not sure if it’s just the fact of being behind a computer screen so they think they can say anything and it doesn’t matter. That’s a theory my good friend Robert has about facebook/ youtube comments. I think it’s even harder due to people with mental illness honestly often having a lot of problems relating well to others. I put myself in this category at times. Due to depression, anxiety, PTSD issues around relationships ETC. It can be hard in a face to face situation, much less online to get your point across in a healthy way. However I often see in these groups a lot of members siding against one another and it not being a welcoming and truly friendly environment. And for whatever reasons again I think due to the size of some of these groups it’s hard to control. And I understand that everyone in the group including admins is going through ups and downs. That’s why I learned as an owner that having at least one other moderator if not a couple more who have their own individual skills and perspectives to bring to the table is important.

Lastly I think there are some other things in these groups allowed to go on that are less than healing. For example, many people for whatever reason, post self-harm pictures. This is my first encounter with this kinda thing and when I saw a message from admin saying please don’t post self harm pictures I was like what the hell? Why would anyone do that. A couple days later saw a post that said “I use rubber bands on my arms here are my scars.” (which put a dent in the rubber bands being a helpful sub for SI theory) Not only that but I was horrified that someone would post this and see it as healing for themselves or others! And I was glad to be blind so as not to see the picture!

I don’t see this or any other posting of photos of triggering material to be helpful at all. Lastly and again I think it’s due to the overwhelming nature of these groups at least for me, it’s very hard to feel included. I know on my lists I always try to give a lot of support to new members with everyone doing intros and helping new members feel safe. It’s often hard, again on the subject of having trouble relating to others, for people with social anxiety or other issues to start relationships. So often even with best efforts of others people still don’t feel included because they just can’t initiate connections or respond to others. On these groups it seems like the people that know each other post away. My posts of intros which I did a few times because I thought there was something wrong with facebook, would end up way down the list within an hour. And never got any response. Or maybe like one or two comments as opposed to a huge amount on other members posts that know everyone. I’ve seen other new members posts saying this as well.

And so we’re clear I’m not bashing all facebook groups. Or facebook. Like I said I think that everyone needs all the support possible. And I’m just someone who has never really taken to facebook for groups as I really like using e-mail lists. It’s just easier for me with a screen reader and just also I don’t know easier. I’m on e-mail all the time. For groups on facebook I’d have to keep going to the site and scrolling through and with so many different threads it’s really confusing. I’ve found similar issues with psych central, which is the only other forum website I’ve been on with a lot of drama but they do have admins that are pretty good. Their issue actually is a few people thinking they have all the answers for everyone else just because they claim they’re all better from their mental illness which was annoying.

Anyway so tonight I created “a safe place.” It’s on groups.io and a very good platform. Again it’s for anyone with any mental illness from late (or mature teens) on up. It’s well moderated and drama free. We’ll discuss the daily lives of everyone and their struggles, issues with personal relationships, work/school, therapy meds etc. Also encourage each other’s hobbies and activities that are healing. I’ll have the list info in my resources section as well as on this post. If interested please subscribe, comment here for questions/ ideas, and share with others.

A safe place group page:

https://groups.io/org/groupsio/asafeplace

sub: asafeplace+subscribe

Please Don’t Take my Baby by Cathy Glass book review

Hey everyone,

So this past week I finished another amazing memoir by Cathy Glass. Her heartfelt and emotionally raw accounts of the children she’s rehabilitated through fostering and their affect on her family are extremely unforgettable and I feel can give hope to anyone in a similar situation. This could be someone looking into becoming a foster parent, a teenager in foster care, or an adult who has been fostered as a child. Or really anyone with an interest in how one helps children who have gone through extremely damaging situations find some kind of a normal life and move forward.

Please Don’t Take my Baby is the story of a very unique fostering situation for her family. A general rule in fostering at least in Cathy’s local area is that the child coming into the house not be the same age as the biological children. Cathy’s children were eight and 12 at the time of this book. Cathy was able to foster teenagers however usually fostered younger children. Seventeen year old Jade was introduced to Cathy not through the usual route of social services but through an unexpected visit from a concerned teacher. This teacher had been Jade’s mentor and knew that Jade was seven months pregnant. She also knew that she and her mother had a very rocky relationship and when her mother found out about the pregnancy she had thrown Jade out of the house. Living down the street from Cathy this teacher was aware she fostered. Though not knowing the requirements around fostering she begged Cathy to foster Jade. Cathy gently explained the rules and accepted avenues for Jade to be put into care. And had to gently tell the teacher to look elsewhere.

To her surprise the next day Jill her link worker called and asked if she was interested in taking a pregnant seventeen year old girl. It turns out the teacher did upon Cathy’s suggestion contact social services. She said that she specifically wanted Cathy to foster Jade. Jill encouraged that Cathy could say no as clearly this wasn’t a placement that she’d ever undertaken before. She wasn’t a trained teen carer. On top of that there are specialized carers that work with teen moms and their babies and she’d never done this either. Jill explained that the only such carer was outside the county and Jade refused to leave her friends. Cathy who has a huge heart and always seems to rise to any challenge said yes.

From the beginning Jade was overall a very nice girl, if very immature. It surprises Cathy when Jade arrives with her social worker Rachel as well as with her sixteen year old boyfriend Tyler. However Cathy goes with the flow and says Tyler is welcome there so long as he goes home by eight at night and continues to attend school as he’s very committed to his studies. These boundaries were set with social workers present. By the end of that first day Cathy sees Tyler’s maturity and positive influence on Jade. And Tyler connects right away with Paula and Adrian cathy’s other children.

It’s clear that Jade is excited about becoming a new mother. She sees herself treating her baby well, with lots of love taking it to the park ETC. However she doesn’t seem to grasp what having a baby really entails. And is still in many ways a child. She’s in a rocky relationship with her mother and at first refuses to try and resolve things even though doing so would be a step towards maturing and also getting support for the future for her and her baby. However the next day upon going to collect more of Jade’s stuff they run into her mom Jackie. After some harsh words Jackie and Jade eventually make up and Jackie promises to be there for Jade. The fights are far from over and the two do clash at other points in the book but overall Jackie turns out to be an extremely supportive mother.

That accomplished Cathy is hopeful she can spend time with Jade and make the most of the month or so it’s said she’ll be at her house. Teach her skills to care for herself and a home and prepare her as best she can for the baby. However Jade has other plans. From the second day she’s at Cathy’s she goes off track engaging in troubling though common teenage behavior. She goes out with friends and drinks coming back to Cathy’s in a drunk state several times. She also smokes, lies about where she’s going and is extremely angry when confronted. This would be difficult but somewhat expected for a normal teenager. But Jade doesn’t seem to grasp that she’s carrying a baby and that all her choices especially around physical health affect her baby profoundly. Cathy is dismayed at her multiple talks with Jade about these issues seeming to have little to no impact. And feels disappointed and hurt when Jade continues to disregard the seriousness of her actions. It doesn’t make her feel any better to hear from Jackie and Rachel that this behavior has been a long standing pattern for Jade.

Jade also seems to disregard the responsibilities specifically around preparing for her baby. She missed ultrasounds and important doctor visits. She’s not eating right or taking vitamins. And it turns out she had her due date wrong. So on the second or third week of Jade’s stay at the house she ends up delivering her full term, thankfully healthy baby girl named Courtney. Cathy is overjoyed that Courtney was born unscathed by Jades irresponsible actions. She now expects that Jade will be moved to a mother and baby placement where she can get specific instructions on how to parent and also will be closely assessed to see if she can keep her baby or if the baby will be put into care.

However she hears from Rachel that there isn’t a teen mom placement available except the one outside the county which again Jade refuses to go to. Cathy at first automatically says no as this is way out of the ordinary of anything she’d done before. But eventually her commitment for Jade wins her over and she prepares for another new challenge. Jill and Rachel as well as Jackie help to get everything ready for this next phaise of the placement. Cathy is really worried about having to be such a key player in the parenting assessment as well as being the person responsible for teaching Jade how to parent as she’s never worked with a teen mom before. However Jill and Rachel remain extremely supportive. And Cathy’s maternal instincts around parenting babies kick in and she does a good job of helping Jade and Tyler learn the ins and outs of baby care. Again Tyler shows striking maturity in parenting Jade when he is there and not in school. However, heartbreakingly, Jade ends up engaging in the same kinds of immature behaviors that she was doing before her baby. Everyone hoped she’d have a huge shift in perspective after Courtney’s birth however this wasn’t the case. After each episode and a big warning from Rachel and Cathy she’d seem genuinely sorry and say it wouldn’t happen again. Often poor courtney was taken on these dangerous adventures sometimes left in the care of an eleven year old child.

When not engaging in these troubling eppisodes of behavior Jade is by all accounts doing fairly well as a new parent. It’s clear she loves Jade with all her heart and is learning more each day about how to care for her. However Cathy does help with things like constantly reminding Jade about what to do, cleaning up, waking her when Courtney needs a bottle at night ETC. Cathy also does part of the job of feeding courtney as she’ll hold her while Jade goes to another room to fill the bottle. Cathy reasons that if Jade and Tyler were living together he’d fill this role so this amount of help is ok. She also logs everything in detail for the review of the social workers.

Time passes in this way. Then Jade’s escapades reach their peak in an experience of shoplifting with Courtney present. The police are envolved and they bring Jade and Courtney home. After repeated warnings Rachel and Jill come to assess Cathy’s log notes. They discover that yes the notes do show that Jade is making strides to parenting Courtney. However it’s also clear that Cathy is giving her a lot of support on things that she should be able to do completely on her own. Apparently teen mom placements are 12 weeks before the assessment of whether the child stays with the parent is complete. Rachel gave Jade eighteen weeks. Along with this Jade has put Courtney in harm’s way many times while having her out with her being rebellious. She’s also not taken Jade for her dr. visits or shots on different occasions. Rachel has to tell Jade that the week after will be a meeting that will decide if Courtney can stay with Jade.

Jade understandably falls into a serious depression. Soon she can’t stand to be around her baby knowing it will likely be taken away. Cathy feels lost for words or any comfort she can give to Jade. Despite the professionals and even Jade’s reassurances that there wasn’t anything she could have done differently she still feels very guilty for the current situation. When Rachel comes she starts out by saying the struggle the department went through on this. And how many professionals envolved said that it would be better to take Courtney into care now rather than prolonging what seems like a situation that would eventually lead to foster care for her due to Jade’s unintentional neglect. However being an amazing social worker Rachel combs all the resources and manages to find a residential program for teen mothers. It has very strict rules but if Jade accepts it it will be the last chance she has to keep her baby. Jade wholeheartedly agrees and is overjoyed at not losing her baby.

It would be good if the story ended there. But our stories never just end on a happy note with no complications. So I think it was wise that Cathy continued the story after Jade and courtney left her care as she was still very much in contact with them. Though initially overjoyed about going to this program Jade soon is annoyed by the very strict rules. Her old rebellious tendancies start to kick in as she grows to befriend a girl with similar negative immature feelings. Helplessly Cathy watches as Jade goes down hill again. This ends in a physical injury courtney gets while Jade and her friends have been drinking. It’s a small injury but the whole thing looks like she’ll be taken away and yet again Jade has lost her way.

I won’t give away the ending at all. I want people to be surprised because it is a very surprising and positive ending. It shows the ups and downs of life and how the choices we make effect sometimes the whole course of our life. How the different people who we come into contact with can influence our lives I think this is an excellent book for any teen mother to be, or a mother with a baby who’s a teenager or young adult to read. It reallyemphasizes the immaturity of teenagers and how it’s hard for them to change that perspective when having a baby. It shows what help is available and the consequences of accepting or rejecting help. I think Jade’s story could have turned out differently if she didn’t have an amazing social worker willing to fight til the very end for Jade to keep her baby. And if she didn’t have a mostly supportive mother. And especially if she didn’t have such a mature and loyal boyfriend. And of course Cathy who stayed by her side through everything and is known to Courtney as “auntie Cathy.”

Cathy made it clear that many many stories don’t have such positive endings and that a huge number of children taken into care/ adopted come from teen mothers. This book is one you’ll want to reread again and again as it’s impossible not to connect with Cathy, her family, or Jade and her struggle whether you’re in her situation, or know someone who is. Enjoy and comment!