Friday, December 2, 2011

Light and Shadow

I –

Am light.

Luminous, blazing, bright as the full moon at Mid-Summer.

Warm as a hearth fire on a winters night.

Radiant, complete and whole.

You –

Are Shadow.

Empty, hollow, made from the leftovers of another’s glow.

Without substance of your own,

Incomplete and weightless.

You knocked at the door of my life

Wanting the warmth of my hearth fire,

Begging for the radiance I carry within me.

You thought that bathing in my light

would hide your lack of substance.

That standing in my radiance

would give you weight and form.

But that is not the nature of my light.

My fire laid bare all that was lacking in you.

Exposed you for the half formed thing you are,

and drove away the shadow you use to hide your emptiness.

The brighter I shone

The more you were exposed.

The more brilliant I became

The more you were diminished.

So you tried to dim my light.

With betrayal, with hurt

With disloyalty and with lies

But you cannot dim the sun.

You may have made clouds,

But they are as insubstantial as you are.

I will blaze forth again, and burn you aside

And you will retreat back to the shadow.

Where you belong.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Mom/Nurse nose trumps your MD license.

Those of you on Facebook (and really, aren't we all on Facebook?) already know that I've had an...shall we say...interesting afternoon.

Wyatt had a doctors appointment for a check up and his varicella and pertussis boosters today. Nothing out of the ordinary, no big deal, take him in, get it done and move on, right?

Yeah, not so much...

I picked Wy up at school, made the schlep into Kernersville to the pediatricians office and got Wy checked in. We went into the exam room, and Wyatt charmed the nurse and the adorable pint sized PA who examined him. Her name was Sabrina, and she would have fit in my purse, really, she was just cute as a button. She checked him head to toe - eyes, ears, throat, nose, reflexes, had him bend and touch his toes and checked his spine, did the "turn your head and cough", she was VERY thorough. Wyatt is now 4'9" tall and 97lb. At this rate he'll be taller than me by the time he hits 8th grade.

So after tapping his bumpers and kicking his tires, she said he was fine, and that the nurse would be back with his shots in just a minute. We'd been there for a little while and Wy needed to pee, so I sent him across the hall to the bathroom while we waited for the nurse.

Then I heard the words no mother wants to hear from her child as he's coming out of the bathroom.

"Mom, I think you need to take a look at this"

I'm thinking - Oh shit. Do I have to?

But I'm a mom, so of course, I looked.

His pee was the color of cranberry juice.

Now, I've been a nurse for a LOOOOOOONG time, so normally my reaction to things like that is "Hmm. That's interesting. Let me call the doctor." But that's when it's a patient, not my kid.

Now, to my credit, I didn't flip out, I kept my cool, sent Wy back into the exam room, went up to the desk and asked the other PA sitting there for a specimen cup and told him why I needed it.

"Hi, could I have a specimen cup and a cup of water for my son? He just passed blood in his urine and I want to get a sample."

It took a minute to register with him, he did the: oh...Oh..OH! thing and got me the cup and came into the exam room. As we were walking back to the room I started think about the last time this happened, which was when Wy had a strep infection (the same day his father and I went to custody mediation after the piece of garbage and his lovely attorney alleged I had a revolving door on my bedroom and was an unfit mother who didn't feed my kid. But that's a whole other blog.).

OK so last time it was a strep infection, but that couldn't be the case this time, right? I mean, the PA JUST examined him, she'd looked down his throat with her shiny little light, and was inches away from his face. If his throat was irritated she'd have seen it right? She'd at least have smelled it, right?

Just to ease my own mind I took a whiff of Wyatts breath.


There was some SERIOUS punky going on there. I know that smell, that was Strep, no doubt about it. The PA from the desk did a culture, we waited, and of course, it was positive.

By then Sabrina had come back in to the exam room. She was very apologetic, which was very sweet, and since I'm all about the advancement of education, I had her take a whiff of Wy's breath, so she'd remember the smell.

So now Wy's home from school tomorrow. The Appendix actually acted like a decent human being and offered to watch Wyatt tomorrow since he's off work and I'm not. ( I know there's something in it for him, he never does anything unless there's something in it for him, but I need to work, so I'm just going to accept the offer and deal with the fallout later).

The one bit of good news from today is that I got a callback for Annie, the play I auditioned for last night. There's a rotten, mean little part of me that's actually thinking that maybe Wyatt breathed on the other women trying out for Miss Hannigan and eliminated my competition. I know, I'm a terrible person.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I'm trying to wrap my head around this, but my sanity won't bend that far.

My wonderful friend Kimberly has a knack for finding really interesting and sometimes mind boggling things online and very generously sharing them. She posted a link yesterday that has me still dumbfounded - so much so that I felt the need to actually dust off my blog and write something about it.

Apparently in the state of Maryland, there is a group called B4U-ACT - that wants to remove pedophelia from the upcoming new edition of the DSM 5, meaning that it would no longer be classified as a mental illness. The rationale behind this is to remove the stigma of criminal behavior from "law abiding, minor attracted persons" and encourage tolerence.

Tolerence? Of WHAT? Of a sexual attraction to children? Of the presence of sexual predators in areas where children are accessible? Of the behavior itself?

This group states on their website that their goal is to provide mental health services for individuals who are sexually attracted to children. I can understand the necessity for this, and I'm actually not opposed to that. I think that these people need access to mental health services just like anyone else does, even more so than most because the impulses and behaviors they have are potentially harmful to others if they act on them.

The problem I have with this group has more to do with some of their other attitudes. In the words of their conference keynote speaker, Dr Fredrick Berlin of Johns Hopkins University -
B4U-ACT’s own website puts Berlin’s views front and center. “Just as has been the case historically with homosexuality,” he writes, “society is currently addressing the matter of pedophilia with a balance that is far more heavily weighted on the side of criminal justice solutions than on the side of mental health solutions.”

To me this is sickening and so VERY wrong. Homosexuality is not a criminal act, it takes place between 2 consenting adults. Sexual contact in the case of pedophelia DOES NOT. It is the assault of a child or adolescent by an adult, and causes sufficient enough emotional and physical damage to merit its own special classification of PTSD in pre-school aged children. There's also the issue of the level of repeat offense by pedophiles - in a 2001 study conducted by the Center for Sex Offender Management, the recidivism rate for: "Child molesters with female victims ranged between 10 and 29 percent. Child molesters with male victims ranged between 13 and 40 percent. Exhibitionists ranged between 41 and 71 percent."

On top of this is the fact that Dr Berlin has flat out refused to comply with Maryland state reporting laws regarding sex offenders. He actually came under scrutiny from the Maryland State DA for refusing to report sex offendors when he knew that they were molesting children in the 1990's.

So basically, the goal here is to remove stigma from pedophelia, change the name from child molestor to "minor attracted person" and make it OK for them to be around children, as long as they haven't been caught breaking any sex offense laws.

I understand the desire to show compassion, to treat the mentally ill with dignity and humanity, and 99.999% of the time I agree with it, but let's face it here folks: some people are just bad. Some people are not poor victims of circumstance, they're not helpless, they don't need pity or compassion. Just as it is in the animal world there are scavengers and bottom feeders who will prey on the defenseless and weak. Some people have been damaged beyond repair, and are beyond rehabilitation. They are a danger to others around them, and regardless of how terrible the circumstances may have been to make them that way, the point is that they ARE that way, and there's no fixing it. The only option with someone like that is to protect others from them, and to prevent them from inflicting the kind of damage that was done to them on to others.

I know that sounds really harsh, but it's reality. I work with the mentally ill on a daily basis and the vast majority of the clients we treat are harmless, and no more a danger to a child than you or I are. Many of them are actually loving parents who are getting help so that they can be there for their children.

But I've also worked with clients over the years who are a danger, people who would harm a child, who have harmed children in the past. I go out of my way to treat these individuals with the same level of care and dignity that I would treat any other client with, but if one of them tells me that they're actively molesting you can bet your ass I'm going to notify law enforcement. At that point I don't give two farts about "stigma" or criminal vs behavioral treatment, all I care about is that this person has harmed someones baby and they need to be in a cage.

To think that there are mental health professionals who get so wrapped up in the lofty moralistic debate that they can't see the potential threat that people with pedophelic desires pose to others is just astonishing to me.
It makes my brain hurt.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to Change a Toddlers Diaper

(This is a piece I wrote for my Freshman Comp class back in 2004. My instructor submitted it for the Freshman Writing Contest that year and it won in the Expository Writing category. I just found it sitting in a drawer and realized I've never posted this, and the paper copy is the only one I have, so I'm putting it up here. Because we all know whatever you post on the interwebs stays there forever.)

How to Change a Toddlers Diaper
1) Assemble the necessary changing supplies: Diaper, wipes, DVD episode of Blues Clues, a sippy cup of juice, toy cars, stuffed animal and a change of clothes (for you)

2) Locate the toddler. If unable to locate the toddler try looking in the following places: the laundry pile, under the bed or inside the refrigerator.

3) Once the toddler is located, transfer him to the designated changing area, preferably someplace with a television. This may take several attempts.

4)Turn on the television, and place the DVD in the player.

5) Remove the DVD as the toddler screams "WANT A DIFFERENT BLUES CLUES!!!"

6) Locate the desired DVD and place it in the DVD player.

7)Remove the DVD as the toddler screams "NO BLUES CLUES, WANT ELMO!!!"

8) Locate the Elmo DVD, scrape the crusted up Gummy Bear off it and place it in the DVD player.

9) Place the toddler on his back and remove the old diaper.

10) Get up, chase the half naked toddler, pick him up and return him to the designated changing area.

11) Repeat step 10

12) Repeat step 10

13) Repeat step 10

14)Hand the toddler a bag of Gummi Bears and the juice cup.

15) Wipe the toddlers bottom from front to back with the baby wipes and begin to apply the clean diaper placing the tabs in the back so that the toddler cannot remove the diaper without assistance.

16) Remove the Gummi Bears from your hair that the toddler placed there during step 15.

17) Now that the Gummi Bears are gone, hand the toddler the toy car.

18) Remind yourself to apply ice to the toy car induced lump on your head.

19) Repeat step 10

20) Finish applying the clean diaper to the toddler. (Reminder - be sure to place the tabs facing the toddlers back to prevent the toddler from removing the diaper without assistance)

21) Allow the toddler to return to playing.

22) Look down at your clothing - note the juice stains and Gummi Bear smudges. Silently pray that the smear on your blouse is chocolate.

23) Realize that the smear is not chocolate.

24) Change your clothing

25) Attempt to locate the toddler again.

26) While attempting to locate the toddler, pick up the clean diaper that the toddler has removed without assistance.

27) Repeat steps 1-26.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Whose rights come first?

A while back I had blogged about the Arizona shooting. Because I work in behavioral health nursing I've got a pretty keen interest in how the story unfolds, and so I've been following the case pretty closely. I'm excited for Senator Gifford, her progress in her recovery is nothing short of amazing, as is the recovery of all of the people wounded that day.

I've been very curious to see how the legal system would handle the case against Jared Loughner. He's been declared mentally incompetent, and is now being held in federal custody, in a secure psychiatric facility. He continues to be violent, has attempted to assault both his doctors and his attorneys on several occasions (which I can guarantee means he's also assaulted the nursing staff, but of course nurses are far less news worthy than doctors so that never even gets mentioned), and was refusing all medication. So, his psychiatrists, being trained medical professionals who have years of experience dealing with potentially violent delusional paranoid patients who have no insight into their illness, took the appropriate action, which was to order that Loughner be forcibly medicated.

For those of you who don't know how this works, this means that Loughner would be offered the option of taking his medication voluntarily, most likely in pill form. If he refused, he would be restrained for his and the staffs safety, and the medication would be given in the form of an injection.

I've had to administer medication this way on several occasions, and it's not something that anyone working with the mentally ill looks forward to. It's frightening for the patient and dangerous for the staff. I've been punched, kicked pinched and bitten administering medication to patients who were being restrained and managed to get loose. Forcible medicating is not something that's done lightly, and is always a last resort. It's only used when the patient is clearly a danger to themselves and others, has no insight into or understanding of their illness, and is unable to determine reality from delusion. Jared Loughner would have had to meet all of these standards before an order to forcibly medicate him would have been written.

Unfortunately, Loughners lawyers did what lawyers tend to do, and filed an appeal to stop the forced medication administration on the grounds that it was a violation of Loughners rights. At the initial hearing a judge upheld the doctors orders on the grounds that Loghner was not legally competent to stand trial for the murder of 6 people and the attempted murder of 13 others, due to his mental illness, and therefore was also not competent to make medical decisions for himself.

And here's where things start to piss me off.

Loghners lawyers appealed the decision, and a 3 judge panel agreed that he has the right to refuse his meds.

This is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. Loughner is SO delusional that he murdered 6 people, including a 9 year old girl and a federal judge, shot a US congresswoman in the head, and wounded 12 other people. He is so disconnected from reality that he is not competent to be held legally responsible for his actions, yet he has the right to make decisions regarding which medications he will or will not take?! He has the right to refuse medication that can treat his delusional state, thereby making him less of a danger to the other patients in this facility and the staff that has to work with him?

This is where the lack of understanding about mental illness by the legal system becomes glaringly apparent. Loghner is a newly diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic in his first psychotic break. There's no telling how long he's been in a delusional state, although based on stories from family and former friends and classmates it's probably been building for several years. Loghner has no understanding of what is real, he sees plots and conspiracy everywhere he turns, and he tried to KILL A CROWD OF INNOCENT PEOPLE. What more information does anyone need to prove that this man is in NO condition to make health decisions for himself?

If Loughners attorneys are so concerned about protecting his rights, then what about his right to participate in his own defense? He won't be able to do that if he's in a delusional state. Then again, that may be the goal - to keep him in a state of mental incompetence, so he's not able to understand the consequences of his actions, and therefore cannot be held legally accountable for them. It's actually a clever criminal defense strategy - if he's never brought back to reality, then he can never be held responsible. So what if he's a danger to the people who are attempting to care for him? So what if some staff member who has a family to support ends up being injured or killed bacause Loghner can't separate reality from his paranoid delusions? Isn't it more important that he be given the right to refuse to be treated, even though he's incapable of understanding the danger of that refusal?

I'm sure that his attorneys will be able to explain that to the next nurse or doctor that he assaults.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ow, Ow, Frigging OW!!!!!

"If you had been trying to damn your man by the Romantic method--by making him...submerged in self-pity for imaginary distresses--you would try to protect him at all costs from any real pain; because, of course, five minutes' genuine toothache would reveal the romantic sorrows for the nonsense they were and unmask your whole stratagem." --Screwtape
From The Screwtape Letters, by C.S.Lewis

Yes - I've had a toothache this week - I'm sure that if you missed my UMPTEEN postings on Facebook about it, this is a complete shock to you, but Yes, I've had a FREAKIN toothache this week.

For those of you that have never experienced the unique form of agony that is a dental abscess, first of all let me say Lucky You. Then let me conclude by saying Fuck off and Die.

Don't tell me about the time you stubbed your toe and ask me if this is as bad at that was, because it's a BAJILLION TIMES WORSE!!!! Imagine having your eyeballs pulled out with a dull, rusty pair of tweezers dipped in vinegar, while a 700lb man stomps on your fingers in spike heeled pumps. Then take all that pain, and put it in the space occupied by one tooth, and have it pulse to the same rhythm as your heartbeat.

Fun, right?

Normally I try to head these things off before they get to the Oh God Kill Me Now stage of agony. I've been dealing with dental issues ever since I was a kid,thanks to the crappy genetic dice roll I got in the tooth department. It comes from my Mom's side of the family, along with my freckles and turned up nose.

So, it's been a sucky week, what with the wanting to pry out my aching tooth with an ice pick and all. But silly me, ever determined to find an up side to things, I did realize that having pain like this really does put things in perspective, hence the opening quote. (And a special thanks to Scott Robinson for posting it to my FB page).

This week I haven't given a single turd about what my lawn looks like, or if the dishes are done, or what's going on with any of my neighbors. I haven't cared a bit about the Casey Anthony trial, what Charlie Sheen is up to, or what idiotic nonsense Michelle Bachman or Sara Palin have spouted. No celebrity gossip, no headline news, none of that garbage was anywhere on my radar, all I cared about was getting through the day so I could come home, medicate myself into a stupor and hopefully get some sleep.

I've been in full on, just let me make it through the next 5 minutes mode for 6 days now, and it has SUCKED like you would NOT believe. It's also got me thinking about what it must be like to have to live with chronic pain.

I've cared for a sizable number of patients with chronic pain issues over the years. I like to think that I've treated them with compassion, even though most have been pretty unpleasant people. After spending a week with a tiny little taste of what life is like for them on a daily basis, I hope that the next time I'm caring for someone with chronic pain, I'll have more patience for their temperament.

I'm going to curl up with wee glass of Jamesons and some bad TV now - until this toothache is completely gone that's all the silver lining I'm capable of seeing right now!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The danger of quack therapies and rushing to judgement.

A friend of mine shared an article with me today - it's a truly tragic story of a family that was nearly destroyed because of false allegations, shoddy investigation, a completely discredited autism "therapy" and a nearly criminal lack of understanding of the communication problems of a severely autistic child.

The story is about the Wendrow family of Michigan, and you can read the full 5 part Detroit Free Press piece here. It's the story of a family nearly destroyed because of allegations that the father raped and sexually abused his severely autistic daughter. These allegations were made based on the use of facilitated communication.

For those of you that don't know what facilitated communication (FC for short) is, it's the use of a keyboard and a facilitator (person) to help someone with severe autism who is non-verbal communicate. The facilitator supports the users wrist and helps guide their hand to the keys that they want to hit, so that the user can type and communicate.

FC is different from assistive communication devices. An assistive communication device is a keyboard or screen with whole words or pictures on it that the user can press buttons for to communicate what they want. It's what Kanzi the Bonobo Chimp uses to communicate. My own son used one when he was a toddler, along with a picture exchange communication system and sign language to communicate with me. An assistive communication device is operated entirely by the user, with no other assistance than to make sure the user is able to reach the device. With assistive communication devices, the user has to be able to recognize that a picture or word is representative of what they want to communicate. Communication requires the ability to attach meaning to symbols, gestures, expressions, words or images, and to use those to transmit information.

The problem with FC, is that every time the technology has been subjected to testing it has failed miserably. When an FC user (someone with severe autism, or in whats' classified as a persistent vegetative state)is asked a question with the facilitator in the room, the user is able to give a correct answer. When the facilitator is required to leave the room, not hear the question that's asked, and then come in and support the users hand to answer the question, the answer is incorrect. In other words, whether it's conscious or not on the part of the facilitator, they are guiding the users hand and answering FOR them. FC was considered for a time to be a major breakthrough for people with communication disorders, but it was proven in multiple studies over the past 15 years to be nothing more than junk science. In the case of this particular family, the daughter who was alleged to have made accusations of sexual abuse against her father and brother was not even able to answer yes/no questions by pointing to the words on large cards laid out in front of her. In later testing, her communication skills, both receptive and expressive, were found to be at the level of a 1 year old infant.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, American Association on Mental Retardation, and American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have all issued policies stating that the technology is not valid, and that it should never be used to confirm or deny allegations of abuse, nor should FC be used as a diagnostic tool under ANY circumstances.

There were several cases in the 1990's where allegations of physical and sexual abuse were made, based on information obtained through the use of FC, and with NO other evidence of any kind to support the allegations. Families were split up, children were put into foster care, parents put in jail until the FC was proven to be false.

In the case of the Wendrow family their 13 year old son, who has Aspergers syndrome was questioned for 2 hours, without his parents, court appointed guardian or an attorney present, was subjected to graphic descriptions of the abuse his father supposedly committed, was accused of being a participant in the sexual abuse of his sister, was lied to by the police (told they had DNA evidence of the abuse and video tape of him abusing his sister), and ended up being placed in a facility for juvenile delinquents for several months.

The thing you have to understand is that this was all based on statements that were supposedly made by the daughter through the use of facilitated communication, when she was assisted by the SAME FACILITATOR EACH TIME. There was NO physical evidence of sexual abuse, there were no video tapes, no DNA, the girls hymen was still intact!

Reading this article reminded me of the McMartin preschoolabuse allegations, and all of the other day care center abuse allegations in the 1980's. What bothers me so much about this particular case though, is the fact that the technology used to make the accusation had been debunked for well over a decade. Why is it that NOBODY in the prosecutors office bothered to check into that? Why is it that when they were told repeatedly by the sexual assault nurse examiner who examined the child that there was no evidence of abuse, they still continued to pursue the investigation? Why, even though they had an alleged victim with severe autism, did they let an investigator who had never handled a sexual abuse case before take the lead on the investigation.

Why now, after the case has been found to be completely without merit, and all charges have been dropped, has nobody from the prosecutors office ever once acknowledged ANY wrongdoing, or apologized to the family that is still healing from what was done to them.

It's appalling.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If I say I'm stressed about blogging can I get pill for that?

Yeah, I can hear some of you (Jan I'm looking at you...) getting ready to get mad at me again. Because the title should have been a dead giveaway as to what's on my mind right now.

We had yet ANOTHER client caught red handed forging scripts for benzodiazepines, using multiple pharmacies, and generally making a criminal out of herself. It's ridiculous - the level of benzo abuse, prescription drug abuse that we're seeing on a day to day basis is staggering, and it's only getting worse.

Did you know that one of the top 2 causes of accidental death in young adults is prescription drug overdose, (which is classified as unintentional poisoning) ? Not sports injury, not motor vehicle accidents, it's pills they get from their doctors. Pain pills and anti-anxiety medicine.

Why is this? Why are people in their late teens up into their 50's having so much anxiety that they have to take powerfully addictive, sedating medication on a daily basis to deal with it? Is life that much more difficult to deal with than it was say 20 years ago? Are we really under THAT much stress?

I don't think so. I think that by and large we've become a culture of people who throw up their hands at most challenges and want somebody to "fix it for me".

Tell me what to do, where to go, what to eat, think for me, give me a pill so I don't have to feel. Give me another pill so when that pill wears off I don't feel it, and another one so when I'm sleepy from the first pill I can wake up. Oh, and don't forget one to help me fall asleep when the pill I took to wake up makes me to jittery to fall asleep. It's ridiculous - we've become a culture of people who are completely lacking in any kind of coping skills.

I've written here before about depression and anxiety.. I've been through 3 major depressive episodes over the past 12 years, and I was on medication for all 3 episodes, because I needed it to help relieve the symptoms enough for me to be able to work through what triggered the depression in the first place. The last episode of depression also came with a whopping does of anxiety (PTSD from having my home robbed while my eldest son was here). I'm not ashamed to say that I had panic attacks and insomnia, and that they were so severe that I needed medication to be able to work and to sleep. I took the medicine, I saw a counselor, and I worked through what I needed to so that I could cope with the experience, resolve the anxiety, and STOP having to take the xanax!

What I DIDN'T do was turn a medication that was intended to help me work through an emotional mess into a lifestyle, or into a crutch to help me avoid feeling anything at all. I didn't expect someone else to solve all of my problems for me. I knew that I had some long, hard emotional work to do, I committed to it and I did it. I stumbled and fell a few times, I got into a very brief but HORRIBLY destructive relationship, but I kept getting up, and kept dealing with the emotional work at hand. I HAD to, doing this was the only way to heal myself, and to be healthy and whole for my kids.

I get so frustrated with my clients sometimes - I want to tell them "You're not ANY different than me, if I can get through what life has thrown at me so can you". I'm not talking about the clients who are seriously ill, not the clients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, I'm talking about the people who have the capacity to work through their emotional issues but choose not to. The ones who refuse to go to group therapy or counseling, who come in and say "Can't you just give me a pill?"

I truly believe that for most of us, happiness, and mental wellness is a choice. It's an active process that you consciously choose to commit to on a daily basis. Being emotionally healthy and whole is not something that comes in a pill bottle. The pills are tools to help relieve symptoms, but just like any other kind of tool, they aren't going to help you create your wellness if you don't use them properly. Expecting a little bundle of chemicals and food coloring to resolve all of your issues for you is just plain lazy.

Anything worth having is worth working for, and isn't a happy, healthy emotional state worth having?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Starting a new chapter

Last fall Wyatts father and I made an adjustment to our custody agreement. We decided that this summer we would start true joint custody, with Wyatt spending 1 week at his fathers house, and 1 week with me, and we'd begin doing this over the summer to give Wy time to adapt to the change before he started back at school for the fall.

So, here we are, starting this new chapter this week, and I'm already struggling with it a little bit. I know that ultimately this is a good thing for Wyatt - he's getting older, he's starting to head into puberty, and the extra time with his Dad is healthy for him. I may not always agree with his father, but there's no denying the fact that he does love Wyatt, and I firmly believe that boys need their father.

But I miss him already. It's so quiet without the sound of Spongebob or Youtube train videos in the background, nobody's asked me to make them popcorn or waffles, or take them to the train station, nobody wants to use the hose and pretend it's the Auteck 4000 car wash.

He hasn't been gone any longer than he would normally have been, but I know tomorrow when I come home from work he won't be here, and that's making me sad. One of my very favorite parts of the day is snuggling up with him before he goes to sleep, talking and cuddling, and laughing together, and I won't have that with him for a whole week.

My friend Karen and I were talking about this yesterday - she and her husband have that same custody arrangement with his ex-wife. Karen mentioned how this can be a real struggle as a parent - you love your kid, you miss them, but you also start to enjoy having the breather time, then you feel guilty for enjoying the free time from your kid. I know I went through that with John, my older son. I loved having him with me, I missed him terribly when he was with his father, and I had buckets of guilt over enjoying myself when he wasn't with me.

I've spent a while preparing Wyatt for this transition, but I think in doing that I forgot to prepare myself for what it was going to be like for me. Stupid, right?

I think what's going to help is the fact that I'm rehearsing for the show - the weeks that I don't have Wy I'll have that to keep me busy, but the down side is that I'll feel guilty about rehearsing when he's here.

This is really the double edged sword aspect of mothering. You want to do what's best for your kids, but you cause yourself some pain in the process. You do something for yourself, and you feel guilty about taking time away from your kids to do it.

If being a mother doesn't hurt at least a little you're not doing it right.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

WHEE!!! I spun back around again!

Yeah, it's a silly title, what do you expect? I just got off work and my cocktail hasn't kicked in yet.

Most of you know that I've been in rehearsal for a show - it's my first musical in over a decade, and I'm ridiculously excited about it. It's not just the fact that it's a great part, or that I get to work with one of the most talented group of people I've ever been lucky enough to share a stage with. (Seriously, I'm not kidding on the talent part, these folks are freaky good!) For me, a large part of the excitement is that I feel like I'm finally FULLY back to who I am at my core.

Allow me to elucidate...

The last time I did a musical was 1999. I was (at that time) very happily married to Wyatts father, Wyatt wasn't conceived yet, John was in grade school and thriving, I was living in upstate NY, and working in a great job at the VA hospital. I had everything I'd ever wanted for myself - a family, a good career, and the ability to continue performing(even if I wasn't doing it for a living any more). At that point in time I was probably the happiest I'd been in my life. I didn't know it at the time, but that would be my peak for the better part of the early 2000's. Within 2 years I had been basically forced into moving to NC, away from my oldest child, was the sole means of support for our family doing a job I HATED, was in an emotionally abusive marriage that was falling to pieces around me, and had a beautiful little boy who was in the process of being diagnosed with a life long developmental disability.

When you have all that happening it makes the whole "I just want to sing and dance!" attitude seem a little frivolous.

So I put all that on the back burner. I did V-Day, which was really wonderful, and for a cause that I strongly believe in, but from a musical theater geek standpoint, it was kind of like being given an appetizer and then being told the kitchen is closed. I would drive around singing along with Broadway cast albums, get up at Open Mic nights, do karaoke, but it just wasn't the same. I got cast in a play last year, but had to give the part up because of an asinine bid for custody on Waytts fathers part.

It's not that I resent having to stop performing - the reality is that Wyatts needs had to come ahead of mine, that's the deal you make when you become a parent. So I took care of him, went back to school so I could earn more and provide for him better, bought a house because I wanted him to have a real home, and stayed in my marriage to Tim for probably a year longer than I should have because I didn't want Wyatt to be without stability (A stupid decision on my part, I'M his stability, I know that now).

But I'm past that now - Wy's doing wonderfully, John has started on his own career path and is also doing really well, I have a job that I love, I've got a Grove that is a second family to me, and I'm finally back to performing again.

My home is peaceful, my children are happy, and I FINALLY get to FULLY satisfy my creative appetite.

I'm going to put my fingers in my ears now, so when the shit hits the fan I won't hear it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Mean Girl Effect

I was reading an article in the NY Times health section the other day on the cliquish behavior of women in assisted living and long term care, the constant re-establishment of a Jr High level of pecking order, and the bullying and cruelty that goes along with that behavior. It's something that I saw firsthand when I worked in long term care, and apparently it's a serious enough problem that it actually merited a research study.

I don't know that a study was necessary, personally I think they could have just asked my mother - her take on this type of behavior is pretty shrewd. She says that as you get older you just become more of what you already are. So, if you were a bitch and a bully as a kid, and as a young adult, you'll be a bigger bitch and a bigger bully as you become an old lady. If you cling to a small crowd that thinks and acts like you because that's where you get your security from, you'll continue to do that for the rest of your life.

The article stuck with me mainly because of what's been going on at Circle of Moms in the faith based blogging category. A few of the Christian bloggers started acting VERY un Christ like over the fact that Pagan bloggers were nominated for top 25 faith based blogs. Several of them got their saintly white panties in a bunch over the fact that Witches and Heathens and Druids (Oh My!) DARED to write about their faith! They called out the Christian Soldiers to try and keep ONLY Christian blogs in the top 25.

Of course we Witches and Heathens and Druids (Oh My!) responded in the only possible appropriate way. We outvoted the crap out of them. As of right now the top 25 Faith Based blogs by mothers contains 11 Pagan blogs, and #26,27,and 28 are all by pagan women as well!

The reason I connected this article to what was happening on the blog contest was the fact that there was such a sense of entitlement from the Christian bloggers, or at least a few of them. They had this overt attitude of "You don't belong in our club, you can't sit at our table", and that attitude wasn't reserved just for the pagan blogs, it was for anyone that didn't fit into their little clique, Jewish, Muslim, anyone. It was the online equivalent of the catty bunch of cheerleaders that sat in the back of the class making fun of the fact that you didn't have the "cool" shoes or the "right" purse.

I hated that shit in High School, and I guess my mother is right, because I hate even more as an adult. The bitchy, catty, "you're not good enough" attitude is just childish, and it comes from an overinflated sense of self importance which is actually a cover for deep seated insecurity. It's that same insecurity that makes these bitches plaster on big fake smiles and air kiss women that they secretly can't stand, because they're afraid if they deviate in any way from what's expected of them by the "right" crowd that they'll be ostracized. So they'll all rally around the head bully who decides which people are the right kind of people, and they'll pick apart anyone who doesn't fit that mold, and they'll secretly hate themselves for being so weak and pathetic, but they'll go along with it anyway.

Mean girls never die, they just learn to bully online.

And that's fine, those of us that were the target of that kind of behavior growing up have (for the most part) learned how to handle it. We've grown, developed our inner strength, built loving honest, stable friendships and relationships, and learned to love ourselves for who we are.

We've also learned how to outvote the bitches - take THAT Mean Girls!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Is this REALLY a mental wellness blog? Well...

Yeah, in many ways it is! A friend of mine just joked with me that me writing a wellness blog would be like her (a Jewish Redhead) writing a Black womans blog. I know she was kidding, and it was a really funny comment, but it got me thinking that the people who read this page may not have had access to some of the writing from my old blog, when I was in the process of dealing with the end of a marriage, having been cheated on, and working through an episode of major depression. So, in order to justify my status in Circle of Moms Mental Wellness blogs list, here's some of the writing I've done on a few things in that catagory.

On depression and loss

On self esteem and relationships

On surviving major life changes

On the challenges of raising a child with autism

On being in the moment

You see what I do there? I'm a crafty little devil - I reel you in with humor and slip a little lesson in there when you're not looking! So yes, I feel justified in classifying this as a mental wellness blog!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let's see how many projects I can juggle at one time...

If you see my Facebook page then you know by now that I've started writing on autism and parenting for This isn't something new, I've been writing on what it's like to parent an autistic child since Wyatt was about 3, and I try to pass on links and local info to people who can use it, but this is on a bigger scale. Examiner is a pretty big site, and their writers come up fairly high on the list of Google searches of their subjects, plus I get paid for doing this!

I'm also starting rehearsal this week for Pump Boys and Dinettes at Winston Salem Theater Alliance in July. It's my first musical in over 10 years, it's a great role, and i can't wait to get started working on it.

my last little new project is adding my name to the list of candidates for top 25 mental wellness blogs on Circle of Moms. Why mental wellness? Because writing this blog (sporadic as I can be) is part of what keeps me sane! I've added a button to the page so if you want, you can vote for me! C'mon - how cool would it be to have a blog called Suburban Chicken as a top mental wellness blog?

So why do I take on so many things at one time? Really, is my life not just finally settling down after years of school and busting my tush to get Wyatt on track developmentally, academically and behaviorally? What is it in my nature that makes me need to have at least 3 pans in the fire at all times? Am I desperately trying to make up for the fact that most of my high school career was spent cutting gym class, smoking in the bathroom, ducking out for liquid lunches or hanging out in the Choir room?

Nah, probably not, I had WAY too much fun doing all that to actually regret it.

I think that part of why I take on so many things is that I've spent so many of the past years focused on taking care of everyone elses needs. Now that I have time free to do things that are just for me, there's so many that I want to do that I can't choose just one, I want the whole damn buffet!

I'm probably going to have to pick and choose a little more carefully, but for now I'm pretty happy with what's on my plate.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Really, I mean it, this time the blog is going to post!

OK so you're all familiar with my pathetic attempt to post a blog from work earlier today. I tried, really I did, but our IE5 browser and our 3 gerbil powered server prevented me from filling the last 2 hours of my work day with a lively blog posting. But I'm home now, so that's no longer an issue.

So, as I attempted to say earlier - Yes, I'm posting another autism related blog. What, did you think you'd get through autism awareness month with just one blog posting from me?! Oh no, no, no my darlings, you've obviously forgotten who you're dealing with.

On Wednesday night my father and I attended a discussion on autistic adults acting as their own advocates. The discussion was sponsored by iCan house, which is a place for autistic kids and adults to go for social interaction groups and activities. It's a wonderful idea, and something I'd love to have Wyatt involved in, but at over $200 a month for their after school program, and over $300 a week for their summer day camps it's just WAY more than I (and most other families) can afford. But, their lectures are free, so I can go and pick up some knowledge, and hopefully apply it to meeting Wyatts needs.

So, Dad (who is always willing to learn something new to help Wy) and I went, listened to some really amazing young adults talk about living with Autism/Aspergers, and about how they learned to stand up for, and advocate for themselves. I got to ask them what was the most difficult thing about Jr high/High School for them and how they dealt with it, and I got a little peek at what Wyatt will be like in his late 20's. One of the men who was there was in his late 20's. he works at a local grocery store, and also at a local community college in the computer lab. Of all of the panelists, he reminded me most of Wy, in terms of his level of social functioning and his verbal skills. One of the things that most impressed me about him was how aware he was of what the difficulties of his Apergers were. He was very much aware of the fact that he had difficulty recognizing subtleties in facial expressions, and that he didn't understand sarcasm. These are both things that Wyatt struggles with as well.

By hearing this man talk about how he learned that these were things he would always have trouble with, it helped me realize that I was going to have to start working with Wy to help him recognize the areas that he struggles with.

One of the things that I think is always going to be a challenge is teaching Wy what he DOESN'T get. That's a really difficult thing to do. How do you teach someone who is color blind that there are colors that they don't see? How do you get someone who is tone deaf to understand that there are notes they don't hear? How do I help my little boy understand that there are rules to a game that he doesn't even know is being played, and that the game he doesn't know is going to be part of every aspect of his life for the next 6 years of school and beyond?

I listened to these young adults talk about how difficult school was for them, and it was as if I was living out the lyrics to "Killing Me Softly". Been there, done that, don't want it for either of my boys. But of course, we don't always get a vote when it comes to the things our kids will have to go through. So I gathered what I could from what these people had to say, and tucked it into my arsenal of weapons I'm going to pass along to the boy when he has need of them.

It doesn't seem like much of an arsenal - the whole "I have trouble understanding subtle facial expressions" arrow seems kind of dull when you shoot it out against the terrifying dragon of pre-adolescent scorn. But I know that Wy is a pretty confident kid. As one of his teachers said at his IEP meeting "Wyatt knows exactly who he is, and he really likes himself". So I have to hope that at least some degree of that follows him into the bog of hormones and insecurity he's about to wade in to next school year.

Of all the challenges I've faced with Wyatt over the last 8 years since he was diagnosed, none has frightened me more than him entering adolescence. It's looming on the horizon now, and I'm still scared, but I think we're both ready to face it. It's good to know that there are people who have come through the other side, and are happy and well adjusted, in spite of (or maybe because of) the difficulties they've come up against.

Friday, April 1, 2011

What I've learned in the last 8 years...

For those of you that don't know, today marks the begining of Autism awareness month. It's nice that once a year the media throws a spotlight on autism, really, it is. I don't resent attention being paid, even it's only for a brief period. (OK, I do resent when the attention is paid to sensationalistic, panic inducing, non-scientific crap like the vaccine/autism garbage, but still...) I think that raising awareness of the challenges that autistic individuals and their families face is a good thing. Increased funding for early intervention programs and special education would be better, but hey, I'll take what I can get.

So, for the next 30 days there'll be a steep learning curve, people will be flooded with information, and sometime around April 30th everyone will move on with their lives until next year, or until Jenny McCarthy publishes another hard bound pile of excrement and starts making the talk show rounds again.

For me though, the learning curve never stops. I've spent the better part of the last decade coping, learning, dealing, and adjusting to living with autism on a daily basis. It's been almost 8 years since I first heard the word autistic applied to my son Wyatt. In the time that's passed since then I've learned a few things - about autism, about parenting, and about life in general.

I've learned:
My child is not defined by his diagnosis - My son is an amazing kid : he's funny, affectionate, smart, sensitive, and very quirky. Most people who meet him for the first time don't realize he's autistic, they just think he's a little "odd". He's not cold or emotionless or withdrawn, he doesn't rock or headbang or self injure. He's not Rainman. He's not "An Autistic". He's just a 10 year old boy who who happens to have a brain that works differently that most peoples.

Don't believe everything you read - The amount of pure dee grade A crapola information that's out there about autism is STAGGERING. Really, there is so much bad science and flat out lies about how to best help your child that it's astonishing. If I had believed everything I ever read about autism I would have done one of the following: 1)stripped every non-natural item out of my home/pantry/closets/toyboxes, moved into a hole in the ground, breastfed him until he was 15, and only let him play with rocks and small clumps of unfertilized grass. 2) Realized that my life was now only going to be devoted to caring for a child incapable of loving me back or ever being the slightest bit independant, and started drinking heavily while posting incessently on mommy message boards about how the vaccine companies did this to my kid. 3) Taken a full on Greg Lougenis worthy dive into Mommy Martyrdom, given up everything in my life that wasn't centered around my kid (all while looking fabulous in a perfectly co-ordinated J Crew ensemble), and waited patiently for the 2 hour long Lifetime Movie "A Mothers Martyrdom" starring Valerie Bertanelli to be made about me.
Obviously I didn't do any of that. Instead, I focused my attention on learning everything I could from reputable sources (peer reviewed, well researched, evidence based sources), put the things I'd learned into practice with Wyatt on a daily basis, and we got on with our lives.

Keep your sense of humor, you're going to need it! - Being able to see the humor in Wyatts quirks is what's kept me from falling apart. Some day it's the ONLY thing that's kept me from falling apart. Parenting a kid who doesn't fit into the mold of whats considered normal is never easy, especially when your kid looks fine. I've written more than a few blogs about the dirty looks I've gotten from people when his behavior hasn't matched up with what his appearance leads people to expect of him. The best way I've found to deal with this is to laugh - at myself, at him, at the absurdity of the situation. If I can laugh at something, I can deal with it, and Wyatts learing the same thing. And dammit, he's a funny kid! Really - how many other kids do you know that read peoples name badges and call them by their name? Or eat Catsup like its soup? Or decide they're in love with a belly dancing troupe and invite them all over to his grandparents house? See? He's funny!

Flexibilty is essential - I learned a long time ago that I was going to have to be able to adapt to Wyatts needs, because he couldn't adapt to mine. It was much easier for me to take the extra 30 seconds to let him jump up and down in front of the automatic door, than to deal with the 45 minute long meltdown that would happen if I tried to rush him through it. That doesn't mean that he ALWYS gets his way, I'm not raising Charlie Sheen here. But when I can be flexible with him, I choose to do it, because I know that in the long run, it's just easier on both of us.

Pick your battles - My kid lives on crap food. I know this, and I accept it. My kid has to be the one to open the door at the store, he doesn't want anyone to hold it for him. I'm fine with that. My kid has to ride the elevators at the mall in the same sequence, we have to take the long way home from school every other day so he can see his favorite car wash, we have to get a reciept when we pay credit at the gas pump, and his Sprite can never have ice in it. I can deal with that. I have bigger fish to fry with him than making him give up routines that are safe and reassuring to him. Fish like keeping him working on grade level, teaching him that he can't kiss girls at school like Shrek kisses Fiona, helping him realize that you need to wait until you're actually IN the bathroom before you pull your pants down. You know, little stuff like that. So I pick and choose what battles I'm going to fight, and I try not to lose sleep over the rest of it.

Never take anything for grantedI think the most important thing I've learned over the last 8 years is that your life can change in a heartbeat. Everything that you believe is true and solid can be turned on its' ear, and you'll never see it coming, so the best thing that you can do is appreciate what you have, right here and right now.

OK, that's enough of me lecturing.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Polevaulting to conclusions.

I have a pet peeve. OK, I have multiple pet peeves; people who don't use their turn signal, old ladies who write checks in the express checkout line, the vast majority of Pop music,  but for today I'm going to stick to just one.

The peeve that's got me all ramped up today is alarmist blogs, specifically those that pertain to autism. Even more specifically, those that take scholarly research articles, skim them for the most frightening phrases and then draw full blown, terrifying conclusions from tiny unrelated pieces of information.

I was reading a blog on Autism Key today, written by Susan Moffitt. The blog is titled "Shocking Study Links Brain Erosion To Antipsychotics". You can read it for yourself here. The blog was based on a research article published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Here's the problem I have with Ms Moffitts conclusions -  she uses this research to claim that (and I'm cutting and pasting directly from her blog)

"Long-term use of antipsychotics must be stopped and their use on the still developing brains of children should be banned. There can be no justification for giving antipsychotics to someone who is not even psychotic."

First of all, calling for a complete ban on the long term use of antipsychotic medication is ridiculous. These medications, when used appropriately, allow people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to get relief from their symptoms, hold down jobs, stay out of jail or hospitals, and in many cases, function as productive members of their communities.I know this because I see it every day. I've seen clients come in psychotic, trapped in the paranoia and delusions that are caused by their unbalanced brain chemistry, and I've seen them emerge from that state after being properly medicated.

Ms Moffitt doesn't seem to understand that psychosis is a SYMPTOM of a mental disorder, not a disorder in and of itself. A patient can be suffering from a disorder that predisposes them to psychosis without currently being in a psychotic state.

The bigger issue with this blog of Ms Moffitts is that she's using the findings from this research to support her belief  that the brain shrinkage that was observed over time is a valid reason to eliminate the use of an entire class of medications. That's not what this study states at all. This is a quote from the abstract of the research study -

"Viewed together with data from animal studies, our study suggests that antipsychotics have a subtle but measurable influence on brain tissue loss over time, suggesting the importance of careful risk-benefit review of dosage and duration of treatment as well as their off-label use.  (Italics are mine

Did you catch that? The study suggests - not concludes, not proves, SUGGESTS. The sample size for this study was 211 patients with schizophrenia - that's a VERY small sample size. The patients had MRI scans begining at the onset of their illness and at different times over a 14 year period. The study did attempt to control for other potential variables that could have caused loss of brain tissue over time, but again, this was a very small sample size, consisting of only schizophrenic clients. The study does seem to indicate that there's a need for further investigation, and it also indicates that the level of dosage has an impact on the amount of brain tissue loss, but it certianly does not provide a basis for banning all antipsychotic medications.

Ms Moffitt does raise some valid points in her blog - antipsychotic use in children has skyrocketed over the past decade, and Medicaid does pay a higher rate of reimbusment for medication than it does for individual therapy. As the parent of a child with autism I'm strongly opposed to the use of medication to manage behavior issues. I think (and research backs me up on this) that behavioral modification is far more effective in the long term than medication, and I'm opposed to subjecting a developing brain to chemical alteration.

That being said, I still feel that Ms Moffitt has no business calling for the elimination of all antipsychotics based on her (rather weak) interpretation of a small research study that doesn't state any concrete conclusions.

She reminds me of someone.....hmmm, who could it be....Oh yeah - Jenny McCarthy.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Since we're changing the Zodiac, I thought I'd put my bid in now.

It's recently come to my attention that there's been a change in the eons old system of astrology that we've all used to guide our lives. Since this change has resulted in confusion, delay, and the collapse of several major world religions, I feel obligated to restore some sense of order and clarity to our now (even more) deeply fucked up world. To this end, I've decided to write my own zodiac, based on my non-existent, substantial lack of knowledge. It is my sincere hope that this system will eventually come to be regarded with the level of awe and worship it so richly deserves.

I'll list the signs, the starting and ending dates, their positive and negative attributes, associated colors and numbers.

1) Fluffy Banderchute  ( March 14th to the next Buffy The Vampire Slayer marathon on Logo TV)
Positive attributes: Freckles, minimal armpit hair, a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of Joss Wheadons entire body of work, the ability to sing Happy Birthday in at least 3 languages.
Negative attributes:  Occasional acne, a near fanatical aversion to folding laundry, strangely attractive to chickens, public drooling.
Associated Colors and Numbers: Puce and 867-5309

2) Lilith Bearclaw Morning Breath (January 10th of odd numbered years to the next time your car breaks down)
Positive attributes: A complete lack of bedbug infestation in your home, neatly trimmed cuticles, the ability to quote Proust in Latvian, very clean kitchen counters.
Negative attributes: An obsessive desire to mow your lawn at 4am on Sundays, occasional outbursts of the theme song to "Friends",  always smells like Taco Bell, a third nipple.
Associated colors and numbers: Tidy Bowl blue, and whatever number of RPM's a dentists drill turns at.

3) Tentacled Freshwater Trout ( Alternating Tuesdays to National Dress Up Your Dog Day)
Positive attributes: The ability to juggle, Bangs that don't do that stupid flippy thing when you forget to blow dry them, a passion for fruit, a complete lack of road rage.
Negative attributes: Always writes checks at the grocery store, is never able to figure out which tooth you're talking about when you tell them they have something stuck in their teeth, still wears Loves Baby Soft cologne in their 40's.
Associated colors and numbers: The color of that bridemaids dress you REALLY hated, a random number from the Dewey Decimal System.

There - I think I've covered everthing you'll ever need to know about yourself.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some thoughts on mental illness and the Arizona shooter

I was watching the news and I just saw a report about the Arizona shooters parent, asking how could they not know? Why didn't they get him help? Why didn't they see?

I'm furious.

How do we know his parents DIDN'T try to get him help? How do we know they didn't see that their son was ill?

I work in the mental health field, and every day I deal with families who are going though the pain of watching a loved one suffer from a mental illness. Here's some of the things I've learned:

Families don't always see that their loved one is ill. You'd be amazed at how well some people can hide their illness, and at how easy it is to not see what you don't want to see. How many of us would want to look at our son or daughter and think they might be a danger to others? How many of us would say "Oh they're a little odd, but they'd never hurt anybody"?

Many, many people with an undiagnosed mental illness will self medicate with drugs and alcohol. Doing this can mask their symptoms for a while, quiet the voices, calm the nerves, but over time it actually makes the illness worse.

Mental illness doesn't happen overnight. It's a decline from normal functioning, and the descent into delusion and paranoia can be a slow process, building slowly over months or even years. In many cases, by the time that families realize how ill their loved one is, it's taken a catastrophic event (an assault, or a suicide attempt) for them to see it.

You cannot force someone to get help if they refuse to do so. At the request of family members, I have sent the police out to clients homes on several occasions, or had Mobile Crisis visit them, only to find out that they had refused to be seen, refused to even let anyone in the door. Unless the person has committed a crime, or has threatened to hurt themselves or someone else, they cannot be forced to come in for treatment. If we can get them in to see a doctor, we can have them placed on a 72 hour hold, but after that, they cannot be held unless declared incompetent and involuntarily committed, which is NOT an easy thing to do.

Getting a newly diagnosed patient with a major psychiatric disorder to take their meds consistently is extremely difficult. It takes a long time to get many clients to understand that the illness they have is chronic, it's life long, and they will be on some form of medication for the rest of their lives. Part of my job consists of giving injections of long acting antipsychotic medications to some of our clients. These are usually clients who have not been compliant with taking pills, have had multiple hospitalizations, and for some of them, multiple imprisonments. Once these clients are on a regular schedule, and their symptoms are under control, they're VERY consistent about coming for their shots. They can feel the difference that the medications make for them, some of them are even able to hold down jobs, and have healthy, loving relationships. But it can take a very long time to get to that point. In some cases it can take involuntary committal, and being on probation before they get it.

What happened in Arizona is horrible beyond words. I'm heartbroken for the victims and their families. I have a son who is just a year older than the youngest victim. I also have a son who is a year younger than the shooter, and as a mother, my heart is also breaking for the parents of the shooter. I can't imagine the hell they're living in right now, and the idea of blaming them for what happened is just sickening to me.