It is the season of being THANKFUL.
Today, I am thankful for this CIRCLE OF LOVE that we’ve created.
I am thankful for all the women it has celebrated, for the bloggers it has introduced me to, for the community it has built.
Welcome Chrisa, to The Kir Corner.
I am so honored that Adrienne brought you here today to tell us about your friendship and to remind us that even when you are sure you are alone that you are not. One thing I love about the internet is the way it weaves other people and their stories into our lives.
I am so glad that Adrienne found you and your story.
Adding her story to our Circle, here is Adrienne.
When my youngest child, a gorgeous and mercurial red-headed boy named Carter, was a baby, I knew something was wrong with him. When he was two, I knew something was very wrong, and by the time he was 5, I knew I would be destroyed by the relentless demands of his illness and the treatment for that illness if I didn’t find some people who knew and understood my struggle.
Carter has one of the most controversial, reviled, and ridiculed illnesses in the US today: pediatric bipolar disorder. He is sick far beyond the caricatures in the media, and my husband and I, for all our failings, are parents who scarcely resemble those vilified on news magazines as lazy people looking to medicate their children to ease all their parenting woes.
And yet, in the early months and years of chaos and terror over our child and his insistence that he must die, must go to prison, must kill us while we sleep, we heard critical words. People at church and in the grocery store shared with us their opinions about our son’s behavior and our management of that behavior. Hallucinations were written off as parental over-concern about normal childhood imagination (though if you’ve ever seen a child hallucinate, there really can be no confusion). We were alone, awake all night as we tried to make decisions, weigh options, and always, always the long waits for providers to see us, the denials from insurance, the fight fight fight for some kind of help. When a 6-year-old child attempts suicide, there is clearly something deeply wrong, yet there is no medical system in place to respond to that crisis like it would if that same 6-year-old had a disease in his kidneys instead of his brain.
As I moved out in the world in every direction (in both my virtual and “real” worlds) to find support, I was blessed beyond measure to find other parents like us. Thoughtful, concerned, knowledgeable parents. Caring parents, people who knew without asking that we were normal parents who were great at some things and lousy at others and ordinary in pretty much all the other ways. They understood what living with a child far too manic to sleep could do to a family. They understood our violent frustration with a public school system that flat refused to believe our child was ill and not just badly parented, letters from board-certified physicians be damned.
One of the first people I met who understood me without an unnecessary expenditure of words and explanations was Chrisa of The Mindstorm. Her son Tim is older than Carter and I was immediately the beneficiary of the knowledge she had gathered in her years since Tim was a pre-pubescent boy with the same diagnosis that Carter has now. She helped me understand medication protocols, told me where to find information about our rights in the public school system, and most of all, encouraged encouraged encouraged. Sometimes, that encouragement has been gentle and loving. Sometimes, it’s been more like a giant cuss-and-swear fest (because no matter how well we handle it, and no matter the resources we have at our disposal, the system of care for children like Carter and Tim is radically unjust and inadequate). She’s been my friend.
More than that, though, she has been my inspiration. Chrisa is an advocate for eradicating stigma around mental illness like I’ve never seen. If she sees people with mental illness being harassed, made fun of, unjustly arrested, and even killed, she is a leading voice in opposition to that treatment. She complains with all the rest of us parents and adults with mental illness, but she’s always the first to contact the offending (however innocently; often people mean not harm but just don’t get it) party and call them out. I’ve watched her be dragged away by packs of angry internet dogs and seen her brush off her virtual backside and say, “Well, that sucked. What’s next?”
It’s a rare person who knows she’s right, and is also humble. She is a leader in the tiny but relentless (and growing) movement for justice for people with mental illness, and I am pleased to fall in behind her and follow. Tim and Carter, and the thousands of other mentally ill children and adults among us, many of whom are not able to speak for themselves, deserve a better world, better treatment, and a better culture. If we’ll listen to Chrisa, she’ll help us find a way to create all of that.
Chrisa will now be able to share another blogger with us next month and add to this amazing circle.
I didn’t know Chrisa before Adrienne introduced her to me, but you can consider me a new reader and a woman who sits in quiet awe of both of these strong, smart, influential women.
In the meantime, I invite you to get to know both of these amazing ladies:
Adrienne’s Blog : No Points for Style
Chrisa’s Blog: The Mindstorm
Thank you, both, for being here today.
If you want to know about the Story Circle you can read all about it here.