Just when you think everything is good. In the back of your mind, you suddenly hear "Put your safety belt on" and then the phone rings and it's your son with a worrisome tone on the other end, telling you that he is in police custody and you need to pick him up. As much as you dread the ride, you find yourself slowly treading up the first loop preparing for the first drop. That first drop for me was hearing from the police officer that my son was under arrest and was going to be put under Emergency Detention and transferred to the local hospital for suicidal thoughts. What prompted his decision was not only my son's statement of having the suicidal thoughts but, witnessing my son miss a passing train by a second. His impulsive idea of "will I make it or not," was "will I make it, I hope not." My first reaction was a mixture of things. Anger, anxiety, and an enormous amount of sadness. I was grateful that he missed the train by a second but, what if he hadn't. I know I can't think like that but, the thought has crossed my mind on multiple occasions. I swallow my emotions to avoid the idea of it but, what does a parent in my situation do? I can't keep him "caged up" (as he puts it) for the rest of his life. I'm not sure if this is considered a suicide attempt but, I know the intent was there. At the moment, I'm at a loss and I can't figure out what else to do. I have done everything I can possibly do to help him. I have laid it all out for him and at times I have even handed it to him but, what do you do when they refuse to help themselves? How do you keep them from hurting themselves? How do you keep death from happening?
Today is Daniel's first day back to school as a freshman at a new school. He was nervous when I dropped him off but said he would be okay. As I drove off, I felt the stress and the nervous feeling fall upon me. I know he is 15 years old and no longer in elementary school but I know how it goes. It doesn't matter how old he gets, any type of change affects everything.
When he was first diagnosed, no one explained to me what I should expect from that day forward. NO ONE sat with me and said that it would be a roller coaster ride. My son's situation isn't as bad as others but it has been rough. He is currently in a good place but I understand that it can change from one day to the next. The sad thing is that I don't know what's next. How do we ever find out? You don't find out till it's happening. Expect the unexpected.
It took me time to figure things out. I watched his every move to try to determine whether something was going on with him. I logged everything to keep track of how often symptoms occurred. Now he just tells me how he feels. This shows we've made progress. I monitor his eating habits and make sure he is well hydrated and takes his medication as directed. Back then, I explained to him what every medication was for and what types of side effects he could have from them. I educated him as I educated myself. We learned coping skills and managed to figure out triggers. As his mother, I was his #1 trigger. I had to learn more patience and learn how to approach the situation without letting it escalate. I use to take everything he said personal but I had to remind myself that he was ill and didn't mean it. He has therapy sessions weekly and visits his psychiatrist once a month for medication management and lab work for his lithium levels. I wish that he didn't have to be on the medications he is on but without them we would be back to square one and the hospitalizations would start up again. His therapy sessions help him during times of stress. He's able to express himself and his therapist has been a great mentor. I don't know what we will be doing once he is no longer able to continue care with him. Becoming an adult in three years scares me. It's a whole new type of roller coaster ride but I remain hopeful for him.
Hope is one thing I refuse to give up on. My son has taught me how to be strong and I have faith that one day he will be able to manage his life with little help from me. I was once told by a parent that her daughter's psychiatrist told her that there was no hope for her daughter. I refuse to believe hope doesn't exist for those worse than my son. There is hope for everyone.
What a week!!! I went to the Texas Suicide Prevention Symposium in San Marcos and I heard this awesome story from a suicide survivor named Kevin Hines. He has published a book called Crack, Not Broken. This man's story was very uplifting and very powerful. I suggest you look him up or read his book. He is the perfect example that hope does exist..There is HOPE guys!!
I was a panelist for the Speak Your Mind Texas community conversation on teen and young adult mental health and substance abuse. It was a great experience and my first time being a part of panel. The turn out was great and I invited Daniel to attend with me. Believe it or not he actually participated at our table and openly spoke about his experience with his own mental health. He was even acknowledged by the facilitator and was given a round of applause by all the participants. I know for a fact that it made his night. He was also invited to speak about his experience with CPS and he said he would once he was ready to speak to a large group. For participating on the panel, I was interviewed by a local news channel KSAT 12 and made the 10 o'clock news and the next day I was also interviewed by Elise from Time Warner Cable news. Daniel was also interviewed by the local newspaper. Overall it was a great week.
Daniel is preparing himself for the first day back to school. He's nervous and he's been struggling a little but he is managing it. The best thing about it is that he has continued to inform me and it helps to know where he is at. In approximately 38 days, Daniel will have his first anniversary. One year without any hospitalizations. After 20+ hospitalizations how can we not acknowledge such a great accomplishment. Don't get me wrong there were moments of uncertainty but we made it. Yet again, NEVER GIVE UP ON HOPE.
To all my parents that follow our page. Please don't give up hope. If you see your child (Young or Old) struggling with something. Always ask "Are you okay?" "How are you?" "How can I help?" anything that will let them know you care. Kevin Hines said he stood crying on the Golden Gate Bridge. People walked passed him and no one asked him if he was okay. In fact a lady asked him to take pictures of her with her camera but didn't ask him if he was okay. He was visibly distraught. He said had anyone just asked once, he wouldn't have jumped. Imagine how that one moment could have prevented him from trying to commit suicide but no one appeared to care. Let's make a change and ask questions. Let's start saving lives instead of passing them up.
I want to thank everyone for following my progress in this crazy journey of mine. It hadn't been very easy for me to express my feelings but I want to thank you for all the well wishes and the encouraging emails you have sent.
My message to you is that you're not alone. It takes time, hope, and faith to get to where I am at. Where I am now is a place I didn't know I could ever be. That's happy and hopeful that my life is and will continue to be better. I have faith that everyone in my shoes can get there too. For a long time, I really thought that my life was not worth keeping. I thought my illness was the only thing I was ever going to look forward to but I know now that I am not my illness. I know that it's just a part of me that I have learned with time to manage. I know that I have much more to learn but I am stable and I have been able to keep myself out of the hospital for almost a year. I believe that each of you that read this can be in the same place as I am. It takes a huge amount of hope and faith but most of all support.
Don't take for granted the good people in your life. I'm guilty of it but I'm learning how to appreciate the good things.
One last thing, I am in a good place right now but I know that at anytime my illness can sneak up and surprise me. I also know that as long as my mom doesn't give up on me. I will make it. So don't give up on hope and don't feel like you're alone because you're not.
Have a great weekend.
15 years old
In the years of working with children and adolescents I have grown to realize that in the midst of a meltdown, what are the factors that I need to know in order to help this child. The first thing to know when dealing with a child that suffers from any type of mental illness, you must learn to identify their triggers to their meltdowns. Once you know what triggers your child into a meltdown, it will be easier to avoid those triggers and eliminate the meltdowns. Once in a meltdown, if your child is upset and angry with you which naturally happens because you are the main “enforcer” in their eyes, it is best to have someone else, “swooper” come in and “swoop in” to take over the situation. This person should come into the situation as neutral energy and be as gentle as possible, redirecting the child’s focus from the situation at hand possibly with distraction such as bringing them a snack, or sitting with them to pop in a movie, or playing a game, anything that will take their focus off the issue at hand and distract their attention from it. Some people will think to themselves, “Hmmm, so reward them for their distasteful behavior?” Ultimately, you need to step back and look at the whole picture. This child has a mental illness and at times cannot control what they do because they cannot help themselves. So please continue to read and you will see the reason for this approach. Once the child, is calm and distracted, then the “Swooper” will then talk to the child about what happened, such as why and what upset them and be encouraged to speak with the “Enforcer” to come to a resolve and what can be done differently next time. Always start the conversation with a hug and end it with a hug, reassuring them that they are safe and they feel your love. Feel free to email me for any questions or comments you may have. Have a blessed day and live every day in the same light you wish to shine in moments of darkness…
I wanted to give an update on Daniel. It's been awhile since I last mentioned anything.
Daniel has been doing well. He is officially a high school freshman. We have reached another milestone and I'm very proud of him. I'm hoping to reach our next milestone in September. If we continue the same and there are no problems when he starts school. September will be 1 year since his last hospitalization. Some people may think that it's not that big of a deal but for us it is. Daniel has been hospitalized more than 20 times since his initial diagnosis in 2009. He has come a long way and I am very proud of him for his improvement. Talking him out of wanting to die is no longer an issue. I'm starting to feel comfortable and not have to worry so much. There is hope you just have to believe in it.
If you're reading this and you are a parent struggling to believe that there is hope....BELIEVE IT! It's there don't give up. I hope everyone has a great Sunday. I have a long week ahead of me. I will be speaking to RN students on Thursday at a facility in Campwood, Texas. Daniel will be attending with me for the first time ever. I'm pretty excited about it. I remember I was once told that I shouldn't involve Daniel because of the stigma that he may encounter later but I always go along with my gut feeling about the things I decide to participate in. I knew deep down that if people heard our story. It would help them not feel so alone and in return would help my son feel like his life has purpose. I don't ever regret sharing our story with the world.
I've been working on making our website more useful to our viewers. As of today, I have invited my sister to start sharing her ideas on coping skills, how to
de-escalate an episode, and other helpful tips to help your child during a crisis.
Consuelo has been a Mental Health Advocate for many years. She has experience working with children from a young age to 17 years of age living with mental illness. She currently works with a local children's mental health hospital and is in school working on her nursing degree. I feel she will be a great asset to Saving Daniel. Please look out for her blogs and don't hesitate to ask questions.
Thankfully the dark cloud has lifted and after three weeks he has finally come out his depression. For a moment there I was a bit worried that we would end up in the hospital. He is back to his delightful self and has been actively reading on his own without being told. Reading use to be a hot issue. He still has his moments but he's trying to help himself more and more. This is a great feeling and it reassures me that he wants to get better. Usually I was the one trying to figure out his triggers and how to deal with them. Now I see him trying to figure out his own coping skills to help with the voices.
I've learned one thing about him last week. Something that tells me that I'm on the right track. He came to me with an English assignment from school. The assignment is to write a short story. His idea for the short story is about his life with mental illness. We all know that stories like this are far from short but he is determined to tell his story. So I helped him introduce his characters and helped him write a short synopsis. He was quite impressed that his classmates were interested and anticipating to read the whole story. What I learned is that he's starting to embrace his illness and trying to make it positive. I'm very proud.
I can stand in front of an audience and tell my story over and over. My story is never the same and often I'm more emotional on some days than most but; the day my son stands up and tells his own story in front of an audience will be my last and final time. It will be the day that I will completely be able to share my emotions without holding back. I will be able to break down and feel what I have been holding back for many years. His OWN story will be the brick that breaks the wall that has blocked the hidden pain and emotion that I have felt since this journey of ours began. Daniel's OWN story will help many people see that there is hope in the midst of all the pain and struggle one has to endure when living with a mental illness.
It's been a while since I have been on to say anything. I wanted to give you an update on what's been going on. Today we get to meet our new friends from High Tech High Chula Vista from San Diego, California. Daniel gets to spend the next few days getting to know the students and their teacher. He will be part of their documentary that they are doing as a school project. This time he will be telling his own story. I'm so excited because this means that he is moving forward and finally realizing how much he can help people with his story. He has changed a lot within the last few months. He does worry about the stigma that he might face since he will officially be on camera but I told him that fear is what stops people from doing what they want and need to do. We try hard not to let fear get the best of us and after thinking about it. He finally said that he wants to help other teens like him. So here we are; today is the beginning of many good things to come for him.
These 45 students and their two teachers are trying to make a change. Please help them by making a small contribution to their project.
To support our project, please visit the High Tech High Foundation website and indicate that you want contributions to go to Beyond the Crossfire Film Project, Account # 30036.
On another note, next month I will be speaking at Lone Star College in Kingwood, Texas. They will be having a series on mental health and I will be one of their speakers. I'm pretty excited and I can't wait to participate. I am still participating with CIT here in San Antonio. My lecture with Course Cafe is almost done and I'm trying to put together a little something for parents in my shoes.
I wanted to talk about the interview with Adam Lanza's father but that will have to be on a later entry.
Hope everyone has a great Friday and a wonderful weekend.
I was looking through some old things and I found this. It was something I had written when my son was first admitted to SWMH now Clarity Child Guidance Center. I just wanted to share..
"Last week was the worst week of my life as a parent, I can't imagine how it was for my son. I can't imagine living with a mind in total chaos, not knowing if I'm coming or going, knowing that I can't control what I hear or what is real or unreal. Sitting in a psych hospital watching my son go through a manic state of mind was the worst thing I ever went through. I wouldn't even wish that on my worst enemy. I never thought I would ever go through this in my life nor did I ever think my own flesh and blood would have to either. I remember working with my old boss and watching her go through her mania and I never could understand how someone as smart as she could have this illness till Wednesday night. No one is to blame for this disease, it’s not how you were raised, it’s not what your life is missing out on, it’s not because you're spoiled or poor nor is it because your life is bad. Unfortunately it’s genetic and it never goes away. No matter how much I wanted to blame myself or my ex-husband for walking out, my divorce, and his dead beat father for not giving a rat’s ass or medication. I realized that no matter what happened in our life the disease laid dormant waiting for the opportunity to present itself and it did a damn good job when it did. ADHD and Bipolar Disorder is what my son has. It affects the sweetest, smartest, big hearted, compassionate, loving and friendliest people in the world...it affected my son... Daniel has always been one of my greatest accomplishments and no matter what; he is the best thing that ever happened to me, January 29, 1999. He saved me then and he saved me now...He will never know how heartbreaking it was to watch him spiral up and down in a matter of seconds but he will know that no matter how hard it gets I will always be there to pick him up every time... I love you son, thank you for teaching me to be positive even when you feel as if your world is ending...You are an amazing little boy and I thank God for blessing me with you..."
When I didn't have anyone there to talk to or just to lend an ear. I would sit and write things I experienced as his illness progressed.
Have a great weekend!!
I'm a mother with an agenda to save her son from the grips of his mental illness and stop stigma so that those who suffer in silence can seek help without fearing the worse. Join me on this roller coaster ride..you're no longer alone.