It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Talking About Your Disabilities with Your Kids

I was going to comment on Therapydoc's post, Your Depression and Your Kids, but now that I'm no longer depressed as of Friday night (ironic) and can write, I thought I'd make it a post. It also happens that this is the topic for the next blog carnival. TD seems to think that there is no possible way to be brutally honest with your kids about your mental state without negatively affecting their mental state. I disagree. I think being as evasive as she suggests can actually cause harm in the form of self-blaming.

[image description: a dad in a wheelchair reading a book to his daughter who is sitting on his lap]

Says you: Why are you talking about this? You don't have kids.

Says me: I don't have kids. I don't even have a boyfriend (as I said in my last post). I also don't want kids, never have, but as my mom's shrink used to tell her, "Never say never." As my stepfather says, "Life is full of surprises." (I'm sure you get the connection there) I have 2 disabilities, and things like this need to be planned ahead.

That's right, I've said it again. I have 2 disabilities. Both equally impacting. You have to start from the beginning you know, with why mommy uses a chair, crutches, AFOs, waddles, doesn't drive (thus can't pick you up from school like the other mommies), walks/talks worse when she's tired (don't let anyone ever tell you I'm drunk). I don't think anyone would disagree.

Why wouldn't you then handle psychiatric disabilities in the same way? With the same openness and care? The connections all over my brain are fuzzy and the connections between my brain and all my other parts are fuzzy too. They've been that way since the day I was born. Whether this disconnect was caused by an anoxic brain injury or a little "nugget" (for lack of a better word) passed down in my DNA doesn't matter. Fuzzy is fuzzy.

I don't think a day has ever gone by where I didn't know I have CP, didn't know what it was called. I think it's better that way. I can't imagine not knowing. I also know what not knowing does to kids, but for privacy reasons I can't discuss that situation here.

"When mommy was born she didn't stay in her mommy's tummy as long as most babies do. Mommies help babies grow inside their tummies and Grandma couldn't help me finish growing in there, so I had to finish up after I was born. That's harder to do. It's different growing outside of a tummy, you have to grow different, sometimes your brain grows different, and even after you're not a baby anymore you keep growing different." Then of course you emphasize that different is different, not bad, not good, just different. You have green eyes, your best friend has brown eyes, so and so is really good at soccer, and I come with a wheelchair and a nice waddle.

Then of course there's the other one. "Mommy's brain is different in more then one way. Mommy is bipolar. That means that sometimes Mommy's brain might make her really sad and sleepy for no reason. It might make me sad when I really want to be happy, but my brain makes that decision all on its own (emphasizing that it's nothing they did). Sometimes mommy's brain might make her talk a lot really fast and sleep very little (leave the word happy out of it. The last thing you need is a kid who confuses manic / hypomanic states with actual happiness). Everyone needs a good nights sleep. But don't worry, mommy goes to Dr Suchandsuch when that happens and s/he helps me out."

[image description: a brain]

In my perfect world my kid(s) will be able to put a face with that name. My hypothetical kids will have met said psychiatrist so that s/he can explain to them how they help me. If I have kids, when I crawl into bed I want my kid to poke their head into the room and ask me if I've seen / phoned / am going to see Dr Suchandsuch. When mommy's like this she does that. Kids don't need to know the triggers, that probably is emotional incest. Kids don't sit in on your appointments (you sit in on theirs and help co-facilitate explanations). But they need to know why on a basic biochemical level and they need to know that you're getting outside help. If they know grownups are helping then they know it's not their job. But the only way for you to know that they know this is for them to meet the person(s).

I also don't think it's wrong in the elementary school years to show your kids your WRAP. More when mom's like this she does that. Kids that age need concrete information, not abstract evasive information. That's how their brains are programed to process. "My brain's working too fast today / decided to make me depressed today. I'm going to the gym because it calms me down / makes me feel better." To tie in my other disability, "Going to the gym helps my muscles A LOT." DON'T ask your kids what they can do for you, but DO involve them in your WRAP. "I'm feeling depressed today and I looked at my list and decided I think it will help if we go out for ice cream after your homework is done." Kid hopefully knows that putting real clothes on and going out is an A+ strategy. I don't think this is "incest" because you're not asking them to come up with the solution, to "fix" you all by themselves. You're helping them to be able to process your differences effectively and letting them be involved to (I think) a healthy degree. Kids want/need to be involved.

Done with my spiel. I must say it turned out very child lifey.


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