Friday, November 4, 2011

Day 4....What I do after hitting "Publish"....

Today is day 4 of the WEGO Health Blog Challenge.  Today's prompt:  Lose your mind and dance naked in a blizzard!!!  No, I am kidding, actually, the losing my mind part would be more about how this day is  Today's real prompt:  What happens after you press publish?  Write about your post-blog-writing process.  Ok.  Maybe a little boring, but sure, I will let you into my crazy post writing process.

Well, what I do immediately after would depend upon the topic, but if you were talking about this post, or this post, or this post, generally what I do is completely freak out, and go "OMG!  Did I really just put something that personal out there for the entire world to see?"  Then I smoke a cigarette.  After I have calmed down a little bit, I reread it, go back and fix the typos that I missed the first twelve times I proofread it, freak out again, and smoke another cigarette.  (Yes, I am fully aware that smoking is bad.)  Then I post the link to my personal facebook face, my blog's facebook page (like me!!!  LOL), twitter, and my support group.  Then I freak out again, then I maniacally check my stats every few hours (read: every half an hour).  That's it, that is my post blog writing freak out process.


Do your blog posts make you nervous after the fact?  Please leave a comment, and find a way to follow!

This was written as NHBPM-30 posts in 30 days.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 3...Dear 18 year old me

Garrett and me, I was 23

Today is day 3 of WEGO Health's Challenge to post on my blog every day, using the prompts that I have been given by them.  Today's prompt:  Dear 18 year old me.  Write a letter to yourself when you were 18.  Be sure to tell yourself what to do more of, what to do less of, and what you have to look forward to in the next few (or several) years.

I love this prompt.  Love it.  I've wished for years that I could go back in time and smack me upside the head.  (LOL)  While, obviously, this post won't change anything (what is done is done), I believe this will be cathartic.  Here we go.

Dear 18 year old me:

On November 30, 1998, you turned 18 years old.  As I sit here, nearly 13 years later, I wonder what you would think if you knew what I know.  I don't think that you would have any basis for understanding it.  It would have absolutely no relevance to you.  At this point in your life, exactly (your 18th birthday, and the months directly after) there are things happening around you, that will change you, for the rest of your life.  Unfortunately, it will take many more years before you figure this out.

At this point, you already consider yourself to be an advocate.  You consider yourself to be an advocate for the homeless, and for those caught up in the criminal justice system.  On one level, that is true.  Over a decade later, it will still be true, in a sense.  However, at this point in your life, you do not have the sophistication necessary to realize that the homelessness, and the criminal offenses, are (a lot of the time, not always) not the problem.   They are a symptom.  The problem is untreated mental illness.

Right now, at this exact moment, your best friend on the planet, Jasper, is making decisions that will change and haunt you both for the rest of your lives, and you don't know about it.  He didn't tell you, to keep you safe and out of it.  Thank God for that.  Jasper is in the midst of manic episode, and he is suffering from extremely disorganized thinking.  I do want to tell you one thing-that new girl he's hooked up with?  The one you thought was bad news?  You were absolutely right.  She's trouble.  You are avoiding Jasper because you cannot stand her.  You feel vaguely guilty about this, but figure it will run it's course in a month and you'll explain it to him then.  What you do not know is that Jasper and his girlfriend are in the midst of a crime spree that spans over two months, starts with burglary, and culminates in armed robbery, a high speed chase, and a stand off with the police.  When you find out that he is in jail, and why, it will shatter you.  You will feel guilty about this for years.  You will blame yourself, over and over.  And yes, on some level, you might be right.  If you had called him up, there is a chance that you would have recognized that he was in the midst of a mental break, and gotten him the help he needed.  There is a chance.  But it's not your fault.  As Jasper will write to you for years, over and over again, he knew he needed help, he did not seek it, and he is responsible for his own actions.  It is not your job to save the world.  However, you will not make true peace with this until you are 26 or 27 years old.

Fast forward to 9 months after Jasper gets arrested, to the day he gets sentenced.  You enter the courtroom, knowing that it's going to be bad.  You're expecting twenty years.  If he gets twenty, he'll be gone for somewhere between five and eight years, before he gets parole.  You're scared and saddened by this, but you  are trying to be realistic.  You figure, hell, you've got friends that moved away when you were a little kid, 10 years ago, that you are still in contact with, it will be okay.  When Jasper gets sentenced to 50 years, your world literally turns on its axis.  5 or 8 years just turned into somewhere between 12 and 20.  If I could go back and tell you one thing, it would be this: DO NOT MAKE LIFE ALTERING DECISIONS WHEN YOU ARE EMOTIONALLY WRECKED.  Who knows if you would have listened-a lot of people will tell you that, and you will blow them off.

Within 5 months, you will be in an abusive relationship, and pregnant with Mikayla.  4 months after she is born, you will marry her father, and will become pregnant with Kastle.  Luckily, in 2003, you will come to your senses, and leave your husband.  You'll get together with Garrett, and your life will start to get a little better, for awhile.

Then Kastle will become school age.  You'll send him off to kindergarten, and he'll make it an hour before you get the call to pick him up.  Finally, you'll have to admit what you've known in the back of your head for years-he's not just willful, he's not just headstrong, and this isn't just a phase-there is something medically wrong with this kid.  Your son.  You'll learn about Individualized Education Plans, and the IDEA Act, and Section 504.  You'll take your son to his pediatrician, and she will flat out refuse to diagnose him.  She will tell you to take him to a pediatric psychiatrist.  You will procrastinate for over two years before you finally break down and do it.  Then you will wonder why in the hell you waited so long.  Then, you'll get on the roller coaster, and wish you could get off.  Diagnosis, medications, hospitalizations, therapists, it goes on and on.

In the meantime, some wonderful things have happened, and some horrible things have happened.  You married the love of your life.  You made some amazing friends that you will cherish for the rest of your life.  And you buried some people you thought you would have for the rest of your life-every single one through untreated mental illness.  While there are several others, Brandon is the hardest to deal with.  As I sit here writing now, he has been gone nine months, and I am no where near coming to terms with it.  Brandon's suicide is one of the hardest things you will ever have to find a way to accept.

Your dreams and your purpose have also changed.  At 18, you wanted to go to school to become a criminal defense attorney.  Life interfered with that, and the level of care that Kastle requires does not lend itself to being a student.  You simply do not have the time.  However, your dreams of advocacy still exist, just in a different form.  You have started an online support group for parents like you.  You have educated yourself on mental health issues, and become a source of information for parents that are just starting this process, and are afraid.  You have developed relationships with mental health activists from all over the country, such as Susan Schofield from Bipolar Nation Radio.  You are doing what you originally intended, but with a better understanding of the root of the problem, instead of focusing on the symptoms.

From where I am now, this is what I can tell you:  13 years is a long time.  It is also the blink of an eye.  During this time, you will know intense joy, and intense pain.  Hang on.  It's going to be a hell of a ride.

Love, Me

Garrett and I, taken at my sister's wedding this  summer
Garrett, Mikayla, and Kastle

~Jenny Ness

What would you say in a letter to yourself at 18?

This post was written as a part of NHBPM-30 health posts in 30 days.

Too many options-Day #2 of the NHBPM challenge

As you may know, I am participating in WEGO Health's National Blogging Month challenge.  I have accepted the challenge to write a new blog post every day for thirty days, using the prompt they have given me.  Today's prompt is:  My TV show.  Write about the TV show based on your life or blog. Wow, where to begin?  I like the prompt, but it seems that I have too many options.  First of all, I suppose I need to pick a genre.  Drama, reality, comedy, horror, documentary?  I suppose reality or documentary would be the obvious choices, although I am not convinced that anyone would be entertained by watching my life.  Therefore, rather than discuss a fictional account of my life, why don't I just discuss my life?  It makes more sense to me.

Cycling.  An innocent enough word, unless you are the parent of a child with bipolar disorder.  Then it becomes terrifying.  Right now, we are at the beginning of a manic cycle.  It starts out innocently enough.  Suddenly, your child only needs four hours of sleep every night, and if you're lucky, maybe a two hour nap in the afternoon.  However, (at least at the beginning) they are animated and happy, so you deal with the sleep deprivation by taking a nap while they are at school, and becoming close personal friends with coffee and Red Bull.  The time for panic hasn't come yet.

Then you hit the peak of the cycle.  Your sweet little boy becomes mean and aggressive.  He hits you, and kicks you, and bites you.  He throws things.  By now, if you're smart, you've already locked up the knives and scissors (if he was even stable enough to store them unlocked in the first place, which is unlikely).  You make frantic phone calls to his psychiatrist, who advises you to tweak the dosage on this or that med.  He might suggest (depending on the severity of the psychosis) an inpatient admission to the children's psychiatric hospital.  Your home, and life, become a battleground.   You live for the two hours that your son is gone at school, so you can frantically eat, bathe, make a quick post to your online support group letting them know that you are alive, and lay on the couch and cry.  You advise your friends and family to not come over, he's not stable enough for company, and it's not safe.  You might send your daughter to go stay with her father for awhile.  Your life begins to feel completely surreal.

Then comes the down slide.  If you didn't end up inpatient with the last portion of the cycle, here's what your reality becomes now.  Your child tells you over and over again that he wants to die.  He must be watched, 24/7.  Period.  He can't even be left alone when he is sleeping, someone has to sleep with him.  If you have to pee, and you are alone with him, you station him outside the bathroom door and make him talk to you the entire time you are in the bathroom.  Privacy no longer exists, for you, or for him.  To keep him safe, you have to observe everything he does-dress, bathe, use the restroom, everything.  You do the best you can, turn your back, or whatnot, but he cannot be left alone.  Period.  Luckily for us, this portion of the cycle usually only lasts a day or two for Kastle.

Then we hit "normal".  Our normal, I am sure, is far different than your normal.  Even during "normal", he's still having at least one meltdown every day, maybe as many as three or four.  While he doesn't require absolute constant supervision at this stage, he certainly requires more than a neurotypical nine year old would.  You're still handing out medication three times a day.  However, you can have people over, make phone calls, go to the grocery store, and do many other things that most people take for granted.  You feel like you have breathing room, a little bit of time to regain your sanity before it starts over again.

And that's it, in a nutshell.  The length of time it takes to go through this cycle varies widely.  It can happen within a day or two, or sometimes it takes months.  Our hope is that at some point, between medication, therapy, and getting older, Kastle won't have to go through this anymore.

~Jenny Ness

Does this change your thoughts about what a family with a mentally ill child goes through?  Did you have a different perception?  Please leave a comment, I'm always interested in what you have to say!

This post was written as part of NHBPM -30 health posts in 30 days.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I am participating in National Blog Posting Month, and I have accepted WEGO Health's NaBloPoMo challenge.    I have agreed to write one blog post every day, based upon the prompt that they give me.  I am doing this to push myself as a writer and a blogger.  I am also doing this because the best way I can advocate for my son is to try and teach the world about my son, and about children like him.  Educating the public is the best defense the mentally ill of this world have against discrimination.

Today's prompt is:

Title and synopsis of my future book.

That is a tough one.  The synopsis?  Easy.  My struggle to get my special needs child educated.  My struggle to get him the services he needs.  My struggle to help him understand how to interact with people appropriately. My struggle to get the world to understand him, to understand that he is a good kid who has problems.

Maybe a good title would be "My Struggle"?

This post was written as part of NHBPM-30 health posts in thirty days.

Special Thanks to Chrisa Hickey, author of The Mindstorm.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Have you ever lost it all? A guest post from Heather Reese

This is a guest post from Heather Reese from My Husband Ate All My Ice Cream.

Have you ever lost it all?

I have a friend that went through something horrible yesterday.  She sat in her house with two of her 8 kids, and watched as the bank of the creek in her yard got closer and closer to her home... until the rushing waters busted through her garage door and started pouring into her house.  They moved as fast as they could to move the pets upstairs to higher ground.  They got the cats and one pair of birds up there, but couldn't get to 3 other pairs in time.  They packed a small bag of stuff, and their parrot, and hiked a mile in the muddy, slippery woods.  All the while, carrying her two youngest children, the parrot, the bag, and her purse through the torrential rain. Finally, they got to her husband's car that was parked up the road, and headed to Jessica's mom's house, leaving their home behind, which had noflood insurance on it.  She is a WRECK.  (You can read the whole story here.)
She lives half way across the country from me, in Pennsylvania.  So, physically, there is not a lot I can do to help her.  But I did do this:

Last night, I started a facebook group aimed at helping her out.  Quickly, the number of members surpassed 50... then 70... and as of the time this was posted, there were already 84 members.  I realized that things were going to need to be much more organized, as people all across the country offered to set up donation sites and send money.  So I started a blog called Help the Martins.  If you live in PA, there is info on how to help locally.  If you don't live hear here, I have info on how to help anyways.  If you can so much as offer a well wish, prayer, positive thought, or words of encouragement, please follow the blog.

What you can do now:
*Leave their family words of encouragement in theguestbook.
*You can spread the word. If you  have a blog, post, and ask people to follow this blog, and join the facebook group.  If you are on ANY social network, PLEASE spread the word.  The more people know about this, the more likely we will have enough help.
*You can send gift cards by ordering them off of their Wal-Mart wish list.  You can order either Wal-Mart gift cards, or Visa gift cards.
*Visit the blog and donate money either directly to the family, or to the fundraising campaign, which will go towards shipping items from other donation centers, and people who have things to give but can't afford shipping.
But please don't just do nothing.  Especially those of you with blogs.  I don't care if you just copy this post and paste it on your own.  Please just spread the word.  If you do post about it, please put a link in the comments here.  If you don't have a blog,share this post on EVERY social networking site and email list that you have.  There is power in numbers.

Think about how you would feel if you lost it all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jasper Levi, Adult Offender # blah blah blah

My best friend is in prison...and it sucks.  Big time.  He's been gone for twice as long as I knew him on the outside, and yet, I still miss that little shit.  Every.  Single.  Day.  How does one maintain a friendship with someone who has been incarcerated for twelve and a half years?  Very carefully.  I buy more stamps in one month than most people buy in six.  I take pictures of really random, stupid shit, because I know Jasper will get a kick out of seeing it.  I cry.  I pray.  I smile.  I hope, and I dream.  Someday, he'll get out, and I won't have that void in my life anymore.  I'll have my best friend back.  My husband will have his childhood friend back.  My mailman won't look at me funny anymore when I get letters stamped "From a Correctional Institution".  Right?  He'll come home, and it will fix everything.

Except it won't.

It won't, because the world he left is not the world he is coming home to.  Best case scenario, he will have been locked up for 14 years when he gets paroled.  And that is if, and I say if, he doesn't get flopped (denied for parole).  Now, he has a fairly decent chance of making parole, but it's all a gamble, so we'll see.  So, 14 years.  He has been incarcerated since 1999, so before 9/11, before facebook, before smartphones, before a lot of shit.  This is a far different world than the one he left.

And beyond that, the issues that caused him to make the decisions that landed him in prison have not been fully addressed yet.  The percentages vary, depending upon which survey you read, but somewhere between 40% and 65% of all inmates have an untreated mental illness.  And then people act all shocked and shaken because our recidivism rates range between 50% and 80%, depending on the type of crime?!  Well duh!  If there is a problem, and you don't take the necessary steps to solve the problem, it isn't going to solve itself!  Jasper has been pretty lucky, because he has had consistent support from his family, and myself, during his entire incarceration, enabling him to work through most of his issues on his own.  He is a far better man now than he was when he went in. Most inmates don't have that support.  And when the system fails to get them the mental health help they need to make better decisions, they get out of prison...and crash and burn.  Then they go back to prison. I have volunteered with offender advocacy programs and programs designed to reduce recidivism rates for many years now, and I have seen it over and over again.  The only way the reduce our recidivism rates is through quality targeted mental health and addiction treatment.  Period.

So, Jasper will (hopefully) get paroled in 15 short months.  We are no longer the children we were when he left.  Will he have developed the skills that he needs to not repeat the mistakes he has already made?  Will he have corrected the thinking errors that caused him to lose 15 years of his life?  Will he acknowledge, and seek treatment for, his mental health issues?  Time will only tell.  Until it happens, all I can do is buy stamps, take pictures of random stupid shit, cry, pray, smile, hope, and dream.


Do you have any experience with the criminal justice system?  What is your opinion on the link between untreated mental illness and crime?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Judge not, lest ye be judged

So, I am at the grocery store the other day, with Kastle.  He is not having the best day, and he is starting to get really overwhelmed.  I can see the meltdown coming, and I am just trying to grab the last few things that I need, and get out the door before it happens, and BAM!!!!  Opps.  Too late, Mom.  Missed the boat on that one.  He throws his cheese sticks, and I end up chasing him down the aisle.  All in all, it was a pretty minor meltdown, I got him calmed down in less than sixty seconds, he picked up his cheese sticks, and we continued shopping.  Would have been a pretty minor event, except for...Her.  I do not know who she was, had never seen the woman before in my life.  She just happened to be in the same aisle we were in.  She felt the need to come up to me and explain to me what a horrible mother I was, and how I was raising a "nasty, brat child", and how if I really cared about my son, I would send him to Real Parents that would Really Discipline Him, because I was a Failure.  Now, I am the mother of a special needs child, who has a mental illness.  As such, you have two choices:  A)Develop a really thick skin, real quick-like and in a hurry; or B)Have a mental breakdown.  Because you will always be judged.  By everyone.  And not just by random strangers, but by your friends, your family, your neighbors, your children's teachers, damn near every person you come into contact with.  Honestly, it doesn't really bother me anymore.  But I just can't help but wonder what world that these people live in that they think they can just say whatever pops into their head, at any point in time, to any person, and it just doesn't matter?  Its ok?  Nobody is perfect.  You wouldn't like to be treated like that.  It can really hurt.

This scenario does not only apply parents with mentally ill children.  The bum you see begging on the corner?  He could be mentally ill.  Or he could be a vet that is disabled, and cannot work.  Or maybe you are right, he really is a drunk, but you still don't know what events in his life led to his alcoholism or drug abuse.  The pregnant teen?  She could be a victim of rape, or incest.  Or maybe she did use protection, and it failed.  Or maybe she did make a mistake.  Life is punishing her far worse than you ever could.  You don't have the right to call her a slut.  I could go on, and on with a million examples, but my point?  Everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.  Some peoples' battles are just more apparent than others.  Rather than call them names, or criticize them, why not hold out a hand?  

~Jenny Ness

When have you been judged in your life?  How did you react?  How have you judged others?  In retrospect, what do you wish you had done differently?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wow, I actually went and did it

So, I have been threatening to start a blog for years now.  I can't believe I actually did it (with some extra special help from Heather from My Husband Ate All My Ice Cream and Fancy Schmancy Blog Design).  My reasons for doing this are somewhat hard to explain.  My son is mentally ill, and life for us can be a challenge. I needed somewhere to express this.  Beyond that, our healthcare system is BROKEN, and I feel that people need to hear just how bad it can get.  But don't worry..its not all gloom and doom around here.  I am fortunate enough to live in one of the most beautiful states in the nation (YAY FOR MONTANA!!!!)  and we have a lot of fun.  More to come soon, stay posted...