Living a Lie

Standard

Living a Lie
By Bernadette A. Moyer

illusion

My husband is famous for saying “he/she is just living a lie.” Sadly we have known more than a few people like that, people that create a narrative to help justify their own poor behaviors. There are people that knowingly lie so they don’t have to accept responsibility for their circumstances and life choices.

We live in a world where “political correctness” often takes the place of harsh reality. And many of us actually bless it and go along with it. You can declare what sex you are! I recently filled out an application where I was asked if I was male, female, and other or does not wish to declare. Next thing we will be able to adjust who our parents are if we can fill out forms like a birth certificate and “declare” whatever sex we are then maybe the next step is we can also “declare” and decide whoever we want our parents to be regardless of who they truly were?

The definition of “mental illness” used to be defined as living in an altered reality and yet in our culture today we almost promote it.

I remember so vividly back in the 1980’s telling my mother that her husband was a child abuser and I will never ever forget her response to me, “we will never speak of this again” she said.

What she meant was I will never speak to you again. Think about that response? Not something like he would never do that or why on earth would you say that? But “never speak of this” she knew the truth and she lived more than 30 years with a lie. She was living a lie. It was easier for her to deny the truth than to face the cold harsh reality.

What made it even harder to witness was how she aligned herself with others in the family that would also provide cover for her and go along with the lie because the truth was just so hard to accept. Who on earth wants to be married to a child molester or have one in the family? In order for her to believe the truth she would have had to leave him and she wasn’t going to do that.

I couldn’t live her lie, I couldn’t live with it for me and I wouldn’t put my three children around someone that was known to me as a child abuser. There were no winners but I knew I did what had to be done. And even though I seldom spoke of it, let’s face it; it’s pretty embarrassing having a known child abuser marry into the family. Initially I didn’t want to embarrass my mother and I didn’t want to bring further harm to the child who trusted me enough to confide in me. Then one day you realize that by NOT speaking out and by not speaking the truth you have contributed to making yourself the scapegoat and a target.

livingalie

The problem with living a lie though is that seldom is it innocent and seldom does it just include or affect just one person. It has been said “you are only as sick as your secrets.”

They say that many abuse survivors go into an altered state to protect themselves when they are being abused. PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions or other threats on a person’s life. Many survivors can’t face the truth. It is just so painful and therefore some will create an alternate reality.

For almost 20 years now I have been a part of several support groups for estranged parents of adult children. I knew that pain from both sides. I knew it from my mother and years later I would know it from my daughter. I have been supported and I have supported many others through their shock and pain and disbelief. It’s messy. Most parents take it on themselves blaming themselves and looking at what they did, didn’t do and could have done differently. After all we were the adults, we were the parents we were the ones that raised them.

What I have uncovered in many circumstances and from speaking to parents as well as the adult children that estrange is that often it starts out simple enough, something was said and done or perceived as a wrong and the child decides to dismiss mom and dad from their lives.

But … and a big but as time goes by it becomes more and more difficult to return. Much has happened and typically the adult child has others in their ear it could be a spouse, a husband or wife a friend, a family member someone that usually has an agenda of their own. The adult child doesn’t want to be the “bad” one because what “good” adult child throws mom and dad away and erases them from their life? So mom and dad have to be the bad guys.

Recently I had an adult child confide in me that they literally sought out others in the family that would side with them. Anyone that already had issues was a new alliance in the estrangement. Sides are drawn and sides are chosen, again making any meaningful reconciliation virtually impossible.

The road coming back becomes littered with more and more lies … they lie to protect themselves, they lie about their families, they lie about mom and dad and in being a “victim” many reap the rewards of victimization. So the lies continue.

One lie typically leads to numerous other lies and sadly and eventually they end up living a lie … it has been said, “The only people who are mad at you for speaking the truth are those people who are living a lie. Keep speaking the truth.”

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Appreciation Doesn’t Coexist With Depression

Standard

Appreciation Doesn’t Coexist With Depression
By Bernadette A. Moyer

appreciation8

Our adult son is battling “severe depression” after his place of employment closed their doors, and he lost his job. One thing that stands out is how much his thinking has changed. Not that long ago he was happy and so appreciative. He appreciated everything. If you gave him a gift, even clothing he was thrilled with it. If you treated him to the movies or out to eat, he was happy and he was appreciative.

He respected and he appreciated his job too. It made him happy to have a place to go, to have connections to other people and of course to be earning his own money. He often worked 10-12 hour days in retail, he worked full time and he greeted customers and waited on them. He was very social there. When you watched him in motion you would see his joy. He was also doing this while being on the autism spectrum and no medications. He was active, always walking and going out to the gym to workout.

What stands out today is his lack of appreciation. And not just lacking it but his deep sense of entitlement. He is now like a walking encyclopedia on all the free programs that the government provides for people with disabilities even though he has been told by his doctor that he is “not disabled.” With the help of social workers he knows more about food stamps, rent vouchers, social security benefits, SSI, SSDI, form 500 and much more.

He says he wants to live “independently” when in reality he wants to live dependent on the government. Well intentioned social workers have put all kinds of ideas into his head. They did not know him when he was happy and productive and truly independent. They did not know him when he was appreciative and grateful.

The more he is handed the less he seems to appreciate and the more “depressed” he has become. The more he thinks he can get, the less he is interested in doing for himself. Today and with the team of his doctors and social service workers he is taking 9-different medications and 27 pills in a single day. He has gained more than 50 pounds in less than two months and while being hospitalized.

On so many levels it is so hard to witness such decline in someone who is so young. This entire experience that we have witnessed has made us see the connection between appreciation and gratitude and how they do not coexist with depression. Someone that is depressed is unable to appreciate what they have, they spend their time thinking about all the things they lost and all the things they don’t have. It also drives home for us the importance of how we think, how we all think.

If we can find things to appreciate and to be grateful for we can fight off depression. We can fight depression naturally with a gratitude journal or diary. We can fight depression with a gratitude jar. We can focus on all the things we already have rather than on what we don’t have.

There is no pill that will cure depression! There are many people that find relief in medication but pills won’t make a depressed person happy and they don’t take depression away. We can all be depressed if we want and yes I am aware that we are all wired differently. Some people are pre-disposed to depression. Sometimes it runs in the family genetic make-up. Sometimes changing how we think actually changes our brain chemistry. Like a car that isn’t wired properly and won’t start and run, a person who isn’t properly wired won’t start and run either.

We always knew our son was on the autism spectrum, and we take great pride in knowing that we parented an autistic child that made national honor roll and achieved Eagle Scout. He worked hard and so did we in our support of him. He made it into the United States Navy and he held down a full time job for over three and a half years all the while that we supported him and encouraged him and rooted for his success. He was so grateful. He was so creative and he was interested in other people and less self-absorbed.

When we love someone, anyone it is hard to witness them being on the decline, destructive and making poor choices. It is hard to watch someone, anyone with so much life ahead of them spiral so far downward when all you want to do is pick them up and help them and yet you know there is really nothing that you can do. You have done all that you can do. This is his journey and not ours.

The biggest takeaway for us is that with appreciation and with gratitude, depression is far less likely to take root and stick around. A happy person is a productive person and a thankful person.

Today and every day we pray for people with mental illness and that they may find the strength, and the desire to pull themselves up and find gratitude for all that they do have rather than focusing on what they may have lost …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

What about Brandon?

Standard

What about Brandon?
By Bernadette A Moyer

mental

Brandon was born into trauma with a birth mother who died just after he came into this world. He arrived 8-weeks pre-mature and with a twin sister. We met when he was 87 days old and along with his father and twin sister we immediately connected, soon after we would become family. I was happy to assume the role of “mother” and later “wife” to his father.

As a little boy he was kind, sweet and polite. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. In some ways he was easy, and yet he had some quirks. When he was a little boy he would literally shriek when it was time to get his hair cut. You would have thought that he was being tortured. It didn’t last. Later as an adult he would initiate his own timetable and keep up with his haircuts on his own.

There was never a child care center or a school when I wasn’t called at some point to come and get him because he was acting out in inappropriate ways. This was from age 3 all the way through high school and beyond.

When he was tested for “early detection for failure” he ranked average and above in intelligence and barely on the charts socially. He always suffered socially. As his mother I couldn’t see it. We easily got along. I found him easy to love. I accepted him as he was and encouraged him to succeed. Brandon always, always did whatever he wanted to do.

In elementary school he was retained, the decision was made to keep him together with his twin, he was not failing. This would be a decision that as his parents we would later regret. All through middle school he would achieve National Junior Honor Society and make the Gifted and Talented Art program. After he achieved honor society he would declare, “well I’m not doing that again, it was a lot of work” and he never again was an “honor student.” It would be his decision.

Throughout the years we would go through periods of calm bookended by one of his “odd behaviors” that would result in calls from his teachers. One time he pulled the fire alarm, he said he wanted to “make sure it worked.” Or something or someone in class would rub him the wrong way and he would have a melt-down, his melt-downs would show themselves in immature behaviors with dramatic language and tears. He would push things too far and then when he was faced with the consequences of his behaviors he would try to plead and say he was sorry. He was impulsive and he would act in immature ways. He knowingly or unknowingly caused a lot of stress in the family. There would be periods of time when he would seem to be okay and then another dramatic immature outburst. The outbursts were always when he wasn’t getting his way.

In elementary school he had a bad bike accident where he broke three bones. Many years later he disclosed that he saw something on an extreme bike show and wanted to try it and therefore it caused the accident. We thought it was a simple accident and were just so thankful he had his bike helmet on at the time.

His twin sister would come home and share with us his odd behaviors and melt downs at school or we would hear about them from his teachers and the school Principal. I connected him with a friend who was a drama teacher and he was in a play at one of the local theaters. His father was the driving steady force in helping him to achieve Eagle Scout.

In high school he became a Red-Cross certified life guard and also a kitchen aid and worked with me at a youth retreat house. He got along with most everyone except his twin sister who worked alongside of him. According to him, he never got along with his sister. He has some quirks seemed to be off in a world of his own and talked to himself incessantly. It wasn’t normal talk either but very dramatic talk although I could never make out what he was saying and when I questioned him he would dismiss me.

Before high school and after numerous phone calls from his teachers I pushed for him to be seen by a mental health doctor who after meeting with him declared; “he is a very likeable guy!” Well I already knew that and bit my tongue when I really wanted to say “could you dig a little deeper?” But I was not the biological mom and was sure I would be viewed as the problem.

It took a lot of support and coaching to get him to do anything tied to achievement. His demeanor was like that of Eeyore and he was slow in motion, everything was on Brandon’s time or Brandon’s way or you could expect a melt-down. I had suspected for years that he was on the autism spectrum with Asperberger’s he didn’t have many friends maybe one or two and no girlfriends. He is a healthy good looking guy and any girl that became interested in him lasted about a minute. Once he opened his mouth and said things that most people couldn’t relate to or showed zero interest in others, relationships never formed for him.

After high school he studied and passed the ASVAB and entered into the Navy. He lasted 5-weeks there before he had a melt-down and was sent home. I will never forget the day he was sworn in and how much I cried. I never thought this was the right place for him but was being a supportive mother. I wrote to him every single day. I will also never forget picking him up at the airport when the Navy released him, and how he ran right into my arms. He always ran right into my arms. (tears streaming now) When he was in pre-k they always had him at the front of the line at dismissal and with the teacher holding his hand and every day they would tell him not to run across the parking lot and yet everyday as soon as he saw me he would run to me. He was always so happy to see me and of course I was thrilled to see him too. Along with his teacher I would tell him not to run and yet he never listened.

He tried college a few times but never really seemed committed to making it work. It appeared to be something he was doing to “please” us and make us “proud” in his words. I would tell him over and over don’t do it for us, do it for you. He was floundering and really seemed to have no direction and no real passion. He said he wanted to be an “actor” but did nothing to make it happen. He is an artist and I believe is a very talented artist.

The longest stretch of success for him was working full time for over 3 and ½ years in a yogurt store at our local mall. He not only secured the job on his own but was very good at it right up until they closed their doors. A year ago he was working and he seemed happy and fine.

On the day that he lost his job, he posted disturbing video on social media and the police came to our house looking for him. When they found him they took him to a hospital and a psychiatrist would declare him “dramatic” and send him home to us within hours. That was in January and he wouldn’t have another episode until July. From July until October he literally spent between 2 and 3-months in the hospital and in a psych unit. The more “help” he has received the worse off he has been. Not only do they have him heavily medicated but in groups of therapy. He uses language like “I’m having a relapse.” He is not a drug addict or an alcoholic. He never once tried drugs and infrequently drank a beer. He is like a child and very trusting and vulnerable.

Several hospital stays would declare him “depressed” or “severe depression” yet this was not how he presented himself at home. At home he was happy, pleasant and easy to be around. He had a healthy appetite, went to the movies, to events, drew and painted interacted with our dogs, our neighbors his friend Eric and his father and me. Just like when he went to school, I never saw those out-bursts, he didn’t do that at home. I would hear about it, I believed it but I never witnessed it.

Every parent of an adult child has to let go at some point, you have to trust that you did all that you could and that ultimately it is their life. It is their life and therefore it is their choice.

Right now Brandon is back in the hospital and I am sad and angry. I don’t think that since they have been “helping” him that he has gotten better, he actually is more emotional, less stable, more dependent less independent. He lives in a locked down unit with mentally ill patients, I agree with the doctor yes, he is mentally ill but I also believe that the environment is making him sicker and sicker. The medication is not working as he cries more and has more melt downs, he is overly sensitive. Everything you say he turns into a dramatic episode for attention. He has been manipulating everyone.

The hospital and the doctor and social workers are enablers. First they say they don’t want to admit him and then he gets his way and they keep him for two and three weeks at a time. The last time he went in he posted a video on social media right from the admission waiting area and he was calm and seemed to enjoy posting what we was doing and that he was being admitted?

He is a talented artist reduced to painting bird houses and sitting around all day eating a poor and unhealthy hospital diet. Even a healthy person would be depressed in that environment. “Idle time is a devils workshop.”

The social workers in the hospital promised his housing, a group home, they tied him to social programs for money and for food assistance. They are making a fortune off his hospital stays and keeping him heavily medicated. He is worse off than he has ever been under their care and with their “help.”

Last week yet another social worker called me (this must be the 6th or 7th one) and she left me a phone message from a “crisis unit” and stated “he is enjoying himself and having a really good time here. Call me back to chat” she sounded like a high school cheerleader. I say to myself it must be me? How does a person in a “crisis unit” have a really good time and enjoy themselves?

What will happen to Brandon? Do they have the right diagnosis and the right prescription for success for him? Does he want to get better? What does he want? What is the end game?

I’ve talked with so many mental health care providers and read so much, the guy that made the most sense said “read about personality disorders” I really believe it’s a “personality disorder” he said. And yet today that is NOT what he is being treated for a personality disorder is NOT treated with medication but rather with therapy and requires a specialist for personality disorders.

A broken arm or leg would be so much easier, we could tell if it was healing and on the mend, we could see if what the doctor did was working. Sadly the care now being received will have no real marker for what success looks like. I know Brandon probably better than anyone, Brandon will get better if and when he wants to get better and Brandon’s life will look exactly like how and what Brandon is willing to accept for his life.

I never count him out though and am reminded of a summer at the beach. We were up at the boardwalk and he was off playing games. The game he played most had a prize of a $50 bill. I told him to stop wasting his money and only a fool parts with so much money playing those games. As I sat basking in the sun he showed back up and snapped a $50 bill in my face saying “say hello to a fool!”

He is nobody’s fool and if and when he is determined he will do exactly as he pleases just as he has always done. I just hope and pray that he is determined to get up and live.

Today I pray, I pray for Brandon … I miss him and I love him and I want all the best for him and I know that like he has always done, Brandon will continue to do as he alone chooses to do …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Our Health Our Responsibility

Standard

Our Health Our Responsibility
By Bernadette A. Moyer

health

You can be as ill as you want to be or in many circumstances, as healthy as you will yourself to be! My mother was a Masters educated nurse who always encouraged us to be healthy. Often she made statements like, “sick people are in the hospital and you are not one of them.” She worked for more than 30 years in hospitals from pediatrics to critical care units and later assisted living. The bulk of her career was in a Catholic hospital where all life was valued. She never wanted her children to be ill or require any truly unnecessary hospitalization.

I used to joke that “I wasn’t allowed to be sick!” Not in her eyes and in many ways it served me well. If you ever find me admitted to the hospital, I am ill, very, very ill. People die in hospitals and I don’t want to die and certainly not there.

And yes there are procedures and hospital stays that have turned people lives and health from bad to good, but it NEVER happens without the patient being part of the wellness practices. And YES there are hospital stays that have turned patient’s health from bad to worse. Just ask any medical malpractice attorney. A patient has to want to get healthy; they have to be willing to be a part of the process. If the patient is a child the parent has the responsibility. But there is no hospital or no doctor or no pill that will make us healthy if we don’t want to become healthy.

Since July of this year I witnessed our adult son admitted to the hospital for at least 6 different hospital stays. Most often he was escorted there by a “crisis team” after shocking public displays of odd and assorted behaviors. He is an adult and he alone is responsible for his care. I have come to believe that he likes being admitted and enjoys all the attention he receives at the hospital. It has been communicated to us that since July he has spent the better part of two months in a psych unit of a hospital.

Most people in the hospital can’t wait to get out, he loves going in. I am so sad and conflicted because I believe he does not fully appreciate what he is doing and the long and short term ramifications of his behaviors. I also believe he has all the power and that he will not become healthy until or unless he alone decides to become healthy. There is no magic pill, there is no magic doctor and there is no magic hospital that will bring us to good health if we don’t do the work necessary to be part of the process it takes to heal ourselves.

What I have witnessed is well-intentioned social workers, doctors and nurses that think they are helping him. What I have also witnessed is a slow and steady decline since they have all come together to help him. In many ways his attitude and his behaviors are far worse than they have ever been. The magic doctor, the magic pills and the magic hospital are not helping him at all. He needs to help himself and he is not doing that.

As a small child if he fell and skinned his knee and you babied him and coddled him his screams would become longer and louder and more dramatic. But if you addressed the wound and comforted him and eventually said okay now knock it off he would gently respond with “okay” it was almost like he took all his cues from how you addressed him. I learned early on how to manage him. Not a single one of his “crisis unit” like episodes ever happened inside our home.

The last day that he was admitted, he walked himself into the hospital and as he was waiting to be admitted he posted a video of himself on social media about where he was and what he was doing in the hospital. He clearly was NOT in any distress. And he also seemed to enjoy the camera being on him. If I had any lingering feelings about what to do seeing that post drove home for me that if and when he wants to get well he will and if he doesn’t want to he won’t. It is pretty clear.

Everyone is different some people are born with disabilities and illnesses that do require treatments and hospital stays. What I am referring to here is someone who has displayed an ability to be fully functioning and manage a full life. I am talking about mental health and seeing in the past what someone is capable of and knowing that if they alone decide, they will once again be capable of a fully functioning life. They may also decide not to be fully functioning. So much of the quality of our life is all about the decisions that we alone make for our lives.

Once we become an adult, our health is; our responsibility … and good health can only come about if we want it.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

All books by Bernadette on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Our Precious Mental Health

Standard

Our Precious Mental Health
By Bernadette A. Moyer

precious-mental-health

Our mental health is so precious. Our minds are the computer system of the body, what goes in is so often what comes out. Are we feeding ourselves happy and healthy thoughts or are we feeding ourselves negative and unhealthy thoughts.

We still live in a society that has yet to de-stigmatize mental illness. We are afraid of being judged by needing help and support for our mental wellness. Yet each one of us is so fragile and vulnerable. We could be born with a mental illness or we can experience an event in life that causes us to become mentally ill.

The first time I went to see a therapist I was only 23 years old, my husband died and I felt that I needed someone to talk to and to help me process my grief. Decades later an estranged family member would try and use the fact that I went to therapy against me? That somehow I was crazy? Looking back with more than 30 years of life experience I think I might have been “crazy” not to seek out the support of a good therapist during my grief in losing my first husband so unexpectedly and in being so young.

You never know what is going on in someone else’s mind. We think we can read people but the truth is that we never know what lives inside of someone else’s mind and thoughts. What are they thinking and what they are contemplating and what they might do in any given situation. People react and respond differently, we are all wired differently.

mental

We worry about how we look and how we dress, we worry about our education and our abilities to learn and perform but how often do we think about the state of our current mental health? How much of our mental wellness has to do with how we love and care for ourselves and how we love and care for others?

When was the last time we had a check-up from the neck up?

“It’s up to you today to start making healthy choices, not choices that are just healthy for your body but healthy for your mind.” – Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
Books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Homelessness and Poverty by Chance or by Choice

Standard

Homelessness and Poverty by Chance or by Choice
By Bernadette A. Moyer

homeless

Our news is flooded right now by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many people have literally lost everything in losing all their worldly possessions and many have lost their homes. Surely they didn’t choose to have a natural disaster take their home and virtually render them homeless.

But what about a culture of people that exists in just about every inner city and is homeless? We learn that so much of the inner city homelessness can be traced back to alcohol and drug addictions and abuses and some of it stems from some form or combined forms of mental illness.

We have people in our cities that are living on the streets and they have no money, no food, no clothing and no shelter. Is it by their own doing or undoing? Or is it an inability to properly function due to a disease that may very well be beyond their control?

The very first time I witnessed homelessness I was in the sixth grade, only eleven or twelve years old when we went to see a show in New York City. A man was lying on the sidewalk with just one shoe and he appeared to be sleeping with people just walked right over him as though he wasn’t there and didn’t exist. I was from a small town in Pennsylvania and grew up on a farm; my eyes were wide by what I witnessed. Not only was he sleeping on the busy sidewalk but no one stopped, no one cared and no one seemed willing to help him. It left a lasting impression.

Most of us can’t imagine not having a home and we can’t imagine living in poverty and on the street without our basic needs being met. We think that it is as simple as a choice. We have always given to Paul’s Place, The Franciscan Center and Our Daily Bread, all located in Baltimore City that support homeless people with food, clothing and other services. Just one of this Center’s is supporting 500 people a day for a free hot meal. For some people this will be the only meal for the day. I was stunned to learn just how many individuals, men, women and children who are dependent on others to meet their basic human needs and require basic human services.

There was a time when I believed that to be truly homeless, a person must have burnt every single relationship from family to friends and beyond. But the reality for many is that it is a culture and a learned behavior that often passes from generation to generation. Getting up and getting out of poverty takes incredible strength, determination and courage and a support system of caring individuals. It takes courage to face a new and foreign way of life, one where they are willing and able to accept responsibility for themselves. This can be scary for some who never witnessed this modeled behavior.

What about the people who are struggling with a disability, a health issue and may never be in a position to work and afford to care for them and contribute to their family. Then there are the “working poor” people that have jobs yet it still does not translate into self-sufficiency.

The people that lost their homes to hurricane Sandy and to other natural disasters never anticipated that they could wake up one day and literally find themselves homeless. What would we do if a natural disaster destroyed our home, where would we go and who would help us out?

I have always viewed our country, the United States of America as a wealthy and “fat” country with so much abundance and with a true sense of generosity. There is no reason why we should have any single person, our brothers and our sisters should all have their basic needs met.

Most of us can pray and we can donate our time and our treasure to help those in need. As we approach the holiday season with Thanksgiving and Christmas and in the season of giving and gifting, let us not forget that many are doing without and that “To whom much has been given, much is expected.” Luke 12:48

Written 11/2/12

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
NEW BOOK! Along The Way available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble