Acts of Love
Mental Health Update

I don’t subscribe to the old adage, “God only gives you what you can handle”—or, more amusing yet, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” (Often falsely attributed to Mother Theresa, of all people.)

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There have been times I felt like breaking, and in those moments things were more than I could handle. But then someone came along and helped, etc, or maybe I was distracted by some other care, and the moment passed. Eventually, I got tougher and learned not to sweat the small stuff as much. And if I did sweat it, I came to realize that was a choice: my choice to spend my creative energy on little dramas. Sometimes I still do it…makes me feel like a normal human for a little bit.  But it doesn’t last long: its a totally guilty pleasure…until its not.

One learns a lot about perspective in a situation like ours…and how often its forced to change. I’m thankful for the years of psychotherapy in my early 30s. (Not that I don’t get top-ups again from time to time.) I learned a lot there about making choices, but I also learned that first, you have to SEE things as choices. It’s the path toward empowerment, I suppose. Or maybe its just a case of growing up in general. (At the time, I felt far behind everyone else.)

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Now…back to those catchphrases about God not giving you what you can’t handle and blah-blah-blah. I sometimes entertain the idea, just for fun, and wonder, if that were so, why I got a child like Justine. Or maybe why I’m not a better, stricter parent for her, if that’s what her strong will and intelligence needs to emerge a well-adjusted human.  She’s amazing and we are very close, but she is tough to parent, especially compared to her mellow brother. She’s got an argument and a button to push for every occasion. She is an alpha-dog, naturally wired to get out the door first. That said, I completely adore her, and am honored to get to raise her.

It’s good to talk to the other Kindergarten parents and those who have once had strong-willed 5-year olds of their own. I am reminded again that whatever we are going through at home is just a stage, a phase. It’s only temporary. With kids at home, parents have to constantly recalibrate: once we get on top of one behavioral issue, growth spurt, or interest-change, something else happens and we start all over—(we don’t really, but it sure feels like it at the time.)

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What does any of the is have to do with these pictures of Vernon? Here is my connection:

Today, Joe and Vernon and I were in a discussion about night-times at the Care Home. Unfortunately, he can be very agitated and paranoid if he’s woken by nursing staff in the night time. The doctor has prescribed Xanax, but now some of the night staff are nervous about going to his room, for fear of how he will act/how they will be treated. Joe is going around to the neighboring rooms, explaining the situation and keeping the peace.

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Joe does photograph like an angel might. It’s quite possible that’s what he is.

Vernon responded to the story with regretful tears. “It was an accident. I don’t like being woken up. But I don’t mean to hurt or scare anyone.”

We told him we knew that. That we were on his side and that most people at the home were, too. But then he said the thing that gripped me: “It’s just the stage I’m in.”

How strange. I just blogged about stages again yesterday, but never mentioned it to him. Does he understand recovery stages yet? Who would he have picked that up from? (This is a question I often ask my daughter too, by the way.) “What do you mean, Vernon? What do you mean by stage?”

“Oh you know…like a child goes through.”

“Do you mean the way you are acting now is temporary? Do you think you will get better?”

We then had a brief discussion about CHOICE—how one can either choose to move into a bad mood or a positive one, but how once you make the choice, the momentum happens quickly, and after that, its harder to change things again. I don’t know if Vernon is there yet, but we talked about it anyway. I the way your live your life has so much to do with choice in attitude. Maybe Vernon won’t have the memory power to remember this conversation, let alone choose his approach when the time comes again. But we talked about best case scenarios and practiced them out-loud between ourselves.

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The only reason I talked this way with Vernon today is that this is exactly the way I talk with my daughter.  We talk a lot about choice in behavior.  It helps a little, as she gets older and understands more.. Suddenly I realized how tough I’d become trying to mother her lately. It’s not the first time, actually. I have to say I’m grateful for a high-need child because now I can handle Vernon. I know a little better when to say “no,” though he demands things he shouldn’t have. I refuse to feel guilty. I know it’s just a phase, but how we handle this one together will make a big difference in how we handle the next ones together.

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But isn’t that the key…or the pot at the rainbow’s end—that there WILL be a next stage? Nothing is static. We are always changing. All of us. And we can only “not handle” things for a time…until we can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Acts of Love
Mental Health Update