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Category Archives: childhood mental illness

Want to Read a Great Book?

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I’ve got a great book recommendation for you – it’s full of drama, inspiring characters who triumph over difficult odds, and it’s funny, too! I really think you’ll like it.

Only one problem……we haven’t written it quite yet!

(I’m not one to excel at getting to the point (cue husband laughing hysterically), but I’m making an exception. Here it is: Please support our Kickstarter project to write an awesome book, and then SHARE the project with your friends, contacts, Facebook lists, Twitter followers, and that weird guy who stares at you at the grocery store. Give him something else to think about. Ok, back to the long-form version of the post….)

That’s right, I’m writing a book! My co-author, Dave Mowry, and I are writing “No, Really, We Want You to Laugh”, a book about stand-up comedy and mental health.  Who woulda thought, right? I certainly never thought I would be either a) a stand-up comic; b) a passionate advocate for changing how we talk about and perceive mental illness; or c) running a Kickstarter campaign to fund a book about it!

But I’ve spent the last five years walking alongside my amazing young nieces as they have worked to rebuild their mental health after a rough childhood (GIANT UNDERSTATEMENT), and about 18 months ago I got recruited into an amazing program called Stand Up for Mental Health. Since then I’ve been performing stand-up comedy as a family member of people living with mental illness. I’ve also helped to facilitate more classes, and helped some AMAZING people take their tough experiences with mental illness and turn it into powerful, funny comedy. We’ve seen real transformation in people’s lives as a consequence, including our own lives.

One of those comics, Dave Mowry, thought what we were experiencing was important enough to share in a book, and I’m honored he ask me to co-author with him. We want the book to professionally edited, designed and prepared for publication, because we want our message of hope to reach a LOT of people.

See, here’s my co-author Dave and I:

Click now to check it out!

Click now to check out the book project!

The Kickstarter campaign will help us make that happen, and we need YOUR support to do it! We’re about a third of the way there already!

Who ought to jump on board this project?

– anyone who is living with mental illness or knows someone who is

– anyone who wants to combat the stigma and discrimination of mental illness

– anyone who enjoys comedy and wants to see it from a different angle

– anyone. Just anyone. OK, that might be a bit broad, but I REALLY believe that this book is going to be a great read, and will be very encouraging to a lot of people.

If the highlighted links weren’t enough, here’s another version. Click HERE:

You can help us out for as little as $10, which gets you a copy of the ebook! We made up all kinds of free perks, including hard copies of the book, front-row seats at our Launch Party (whoEVER thought I’d have a launch party????), or even a private comedy show for your business, your friends, or total strangers you want to treat.

So, whattya say? Come on, jump on board, it’s going to be FUN!!!!!

(And to those who have already supported us, THANK YOU! Wow, really thank you. Now go share it with your friends and family! 🙂 )

I May Be Coming for Your Guns

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Just keep your pants on, and your weapons holstered. Hear me out.

I favor gun ownership, I do. I grew up in a family of proud recreational and subsistence hunters, in a state where gun ownership was accepted and expected, and all kids took gun safety classes at public schools in the 4th grade. Somewhere I’ve got the iron-on patch to prove it.

So I favor gun ownership. Personally, I do think wanting to own a semiautomatic or automatic weapon for fun is ridiculous, especially when factoring in the scary “what if’s” of it falling into the wrong hands, but that is my highly subjective opinion. I also think effective gun legislation is a good thing for all of us.

But I would give up every possible gun law, every background check and every restriction on large capacity magazines if all related effort and resources on both sides could be dedicated to treatment and prevention of mental illness. Because the gun lobby is right (yep, I went there, probably the ONLY time in my life). There will always be criminals who kill each other and the occasional innocent bystander in the act of living their criminal lives. And those criminals will always find a way around a background check or reasonable waiting period. And if they can’t find a gun, they’ll find something else.

The nature of the human condition pretty much guarantees that there will always be domestic violence, angry flares between spouses or friends, and coldly calculated murders of one person by another for money or power. If there are no guns handy, other weapons will be and have been found since the beginning of time. Club, blade, poison, shovel – if determined, people will kill people.

But here is what we DON’T have to accept. We don’t have to accept young men with empty eyes and mental illness untreated and/or unrecognized by family and friends, allowed to ferment in an ugly, lonely brew of paranoia and anger.

Far too many times in recent months and years, we have looked at the newspaper photos, and heard a disturbingly similar set of quotes from family and friends. There were warning signs, they were worried, they never thought he would go that far.

Why aren’t we more heartbroken by these shattered souls? Why do we continue in blind partisan arguments about gun control while tacitly accepting that the shooters are beyond saving? Why is it still so ridiculously difficult for families to access prompt, effective and complete treatment for loved ones with serious mental illness?

If we won’t help these boys, if we can’t commit to recognizing them and helping them, then I am coming for your guns.

If we cannot change our societal approach to these lost young men, I am going to fight to take away their weapons of mass murder. If in the process I trample on your “right” to have your toys, or to buy more toys on a weekend trip to a gun show, so be it.

Because if we don’t, these lost boys will kill as many people as they can. If we will not fight to make them better, I WILL fight to limit the damages. Because people may kill people, but really big guns let them kill more people, and that’s not ok.

Do you hear me? That. Is. Not. OK.

If we cannot look the next victim’s mother or son or girlfriend or little brother in the eye and tell them we did everything in our power to treat the shooter, then we BETTER be able to say we made it as difficult as possible for them to wield high capacity weapons.

If a person is determined to run you over with a car, you do not make it easy for him to get an SUV or a tank.

If Adam Lanza had only had a handgun, he would have been able to kill far fewer six- and seven-year-olds at Sandy Hook.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it isn’t just about the guns. If Jared Loughner’s parents had been more educated on mental illness, on its treatment and the fact that there was help and hope for their son, maybe he would have been diagnosed and treated BEFORE shooting Gabrielle Giffords and nearly 20 others.

It’s also about how we MUST break the stigma of living with and treating mental illness:
  • We must prioritize it as a public health issue, not a private shame.
  • We must change the way we parent in our communities, so when families are struggling with kids with mental illness, we reach out to them in love, not judgment.
  • We must be willing to see mental illness in our own children, and treat them.
  • We must fund treatment for those who need it.
  • We must fund supportive housing to make it possible for them to stay stable once they are treated.

They are His children and they deserve our best, before they can do their worst.

When we’ve done all that, then you can have your guns, as many and as big as you want.
Note: I drafted this post six months ago, frustrated by reports that both Adam Lanza’s mother and Jared Loughner’s parents seemed aware of their son’s issues, but for whatever reasons were unable or unwilling to get them help. I was driven imagining the loss and heartbreak of both victims’ and shooters’ family, but I was never sure when to post these thoughts so as not to exploit any particular event or victims. In that six-month period, through last Monday’s shooting in the Washington DC Navy Yards, there have been 13 separate mass shootings, resulting in the senseless loss of 65 lives. While I don’t know how many of those shooters were mentally ill, I believe that all of them were to some degree. It seems that in America, there is no “good” time to post this.

Emergency Room Survival Humor

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Parenting a child* with serious mental illness has meant for us multiple trips to the emergency room. As anyone who has ever been to the emergency room can attest, you are not there to enjoy the ambiance. It’s not the I Really Prefer This To Shopping at Target Room, after all. You are tense, you are frightened, you are pretending everything will be OK, and you are forced to share space with strangers who are experiencing their own crisis when you’d really rather be alone.

That was me last week, waiting for another psych evaluation and admit, sitting in that cold, noisy waiting room at the exhausted end of a day that started with fire alarms at 4:30 a.m., fire trucks, another ER visit, and the teenager’s mental health crisis. (Indoor cigarette smoking against the rules, duh + teen having rough time = A BAD DAY)

(The first ER visit early that morning was for my Hero Husband’s burned fingertips, injured as he attempted to put out the fire and then carried a box of books outdoors that was ON FIRE, to prevent the imminent conflagration of our entire basement and house. His courage, and selfless straightforward actions to protect us? I. Have. No. Words. Well, one. Gratitudelovegratitude.)

This was the box UNDER the box the Hero Hubby carried out.

This was the box UNDER the box the Hero Hubby carried out.

Sign Language for "I love and will protect my family"

Sign Language for “I love and will protect my family”

(Also, don’t do that should you ever be in that situation. The AMAZING kind and professional police officers and firemen gave us that message loud and clear. Smoke inhalation will get you long before the flames will, so just GET OUT.)

(Also, GO CHECK YOUR FIRE ALARMS. Now, walk away from your computer and check them. I would not be typing this today had our smoke alarms not worked last week.) (I’m not kidding, GO CHECK THEM.)

So there I was, hanging out with the teenager as we waited for her to be called back, and my tired, giddy brain produced the following. It killed some time, and made us both giggle as we concocted it. Perhaps one day you can use it, and get a giggle or two out of a tough situation.

Inappropriate Ways to Amuse Yourself in the ER

  1. Engage in a loud argument with your companion about why your approaches to your treatment-resistant lice have failed. Scratch a lot while arguing.
  2. Have the same argument…..with a chair. (Note: if you or your agreeable companion are there for mental health issues, you get a free pass to do this. You are merely poking fun at your own related experiences, which is ok if merely inappropriate is your goal. If you are there for a non mental health situation, don’t do this. That’s just mean.)
  3. Begin a fierce, loud disagreement with your companion about which one of you has lost the bag of tarantulas.
  4. Pass gas enthusiastically and with abandon. Act like nothing is happening.
  5. If people talk loudly about THEIR ailments, share your opinions on their treatment options and prognosis. Include your beliefs on the use of tarantulas for healing purposes.
  6. Rowdy, unsupervised children in the waiting room? Teach them some favorite songs! “100 bottles of beer on the wall, 100 bottles of beer……” (Note: do this only when you are fairly confident you will be called back no later than bottles 82 or 83. Otherwise, you too may find yourself in need of a psych eval.)
  7. Mime Fun! Mime your symptoms, the weather, or your favorite episode of Law and Order for the audience. waiting room.
  8. Score some of those purple non-latex gloves, blow those bad boys up and express your creativity! Begin handing out Balloon Turkeys. Or Balloon Spiders. Or Balloon……Hands.

Do you have any good additions to my list? If they are Inappropriate but Generally Harmless, share them! You never know when we all might need them!

*Parenting it is, whether it is your birthed child or the child of your heart, as in this case of our niece/foster daughter. I have her permission to blog about our adventures together.

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