Male Mental Health

Special Needs

Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to have disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled. ~ Wikipedia

I made the mistake of reading comments on an Instagram post in favor of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They were mostly positive. But, there was one naysayer who stood out for his initial lack of vitriol. He was just mildly snarky. But, it was like he had committed some heinous sin, instead of posting a disagreement rooted in ignorance.

He was immediately under attack. Mostly the responses remained as snarky comebacks. However, one of them made me cringe.

It sounds like your boss is good at hiring people with special needs.

I couldn’t scroll past without addressing it.

Back in the day, the insult used was, “retard,” frequently accompanied by a physically mocking action. Much like 45’s mocking actions regarding a reporter who experiences a physical disability.

Another one is, “riding the short bus.”

However you frame it, it’s showing a prejudice toward people with disabilities, especially intellectual ones.

How about how mental health challenges are referred to?

What are you, crazy?

Man, that was INSANE!

She’s so bipolar.

That one’s not right in the head.

Or the fact that so many movies and TV shows portray mental health patients as dangerous killers and all the shootings being reported as someone with mental illness, before an evaluation can be done?

The stigma and prejudices against people with physical, developmental, and mental disabilities is real and insidious. Just as we need to recognize, call out, and address racism, in all its forms, sexism, genderism, and sizism, we need to call out ableism.

It isn’t about political correctness, it’s about human rights.

For more on my perspective on ableism, go here.

It matters to me: Connection before Correction

Luna’s Head Start Home Visitor comes every Monday morning. She brings this bag that has her clipboard and paperwork, as well as activity boxes for Luna, and the Make A Reader book bag that she switches out each week. Luna gets so excited and happy when she comes and almost the first thing she does is to dive into the bag to discover what wonders are in there. One week it was string and wooden baubles to make bulky jewelry. One week was playdough. Big foam dice and balls of different shapes. Construction paper and stickers. Plastic barnyard animals. This week it was making paper jack-o-lanterns. There’s always something fun and exciting for Luna to discover.

Jerry and I were both home during this visit, but we were less engaged and kind of distant from each other and Luna. Luna has been increasingly uncooperative and not listening. Some of this showed through during the visit.

I have been struggling since last week with my emotions and my frustration levels have been increasing. I feel myself putting up walls and disengaging. Some of it may be in response to externals, but I also know that much of it has to do the the physiological and neurochemical things going on with the depression and the fibromyalgia. Jerry’s job and the disruptions in sleep and routine have us all off balance. This job isn’t a good fit for any of us and is amplifying some of the emotional and relational disturbances we’ve all been struggling with. The rational, logical, and expected thing is for Jerry to suck it up and be a man and take care of his family and do whatever it takes. Yet, I am watching him break apart and disintegrate. His unresolved grief over his dad’s death and what I believe to be undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues are intertwining with his paternal fears and love for Luna and the relationship conflicts he and I have are all combining to make him irritable, indecisive, defensive, and critical. So, in a phrase, he’s a hot mess. I’m not much better.

This was the undercurrent the Home Visitor was trying to work through with us this week. She did a good job at trying to engage us both and facilitating our interactions with Luna and the activities. After making a couple of the jack-o-lanterns Luna ran off to play in her room by herself, with the door closed.

That’s when the Home Visitor brought up a weekend seminar she had participated in about Positive Discipline and the concept of Connection before Correction.

She described one particularly powerful role-play activity where some of the group were the adults and stood up on chairs stating all the negative messages and negative consequences the kids would receive for not behaving. While this was happening the kids were running around doing the behaviors that the adults were trying to get them to stop. The second time around the adults were continuing to do their thing, but the kids were to go around the chairs the adults were on saying, “I’m little and I just want to matter.” The third time the adults got down off of their chairs and made eye contact and gentle touches while listening to the kids and connecting with them on an emotional and psychological level before trying to correct the behavior.

When she told me about the kids stating, “I’m little and I just want to matter,” tears came to my eyes.

I realized that is what all of my co-dependent behaviors are about and that Jerry’s intense reactions are about the same thing. The root of all the problems, dysfunctions, and bad behavior between us and toward my older children over the years have all come from this very deep belief and feeling that we don’t matter. In our efforts and attempts to make ourselves matter in some way to the people around us and in our lives, we have done much harm to ourselves, each other, and the other people we love, who matter to us in our lives. I have never felt I mattered and I’ve acted in ways that made my own children feel and believe they didn’t matter, even though they matter so much more than I can even express.

We had very different childhoods, but it was so much the same. We didn’t matter to the adults in our world. At least, they weren’t able to show us that we mattered to them. Because those messages happened in different contexts and we have different personality and biochemical structures, we learned very different ways of making ourselves matter to others. He grew up in a family of five kids and had his role to play. His coping strategy was to outburst and get the attention he desired. So he was appeased and soothed, catered to, then ignored during everyone else’s crisis du jour until his next outburst. I learned to forget and bury the feelings, escape into fantasy and romantic fiction books and later to follow the steps and the rules, figure out the formulas and be the one that got things done and knew the answers. He gets to matter when others take care of his emotions and I get to matter when I solve the problems.

Now, it’s time to figure out how to connect to Luna before correcting her behaviors. I also need to learn how to connect to Jerry and let him know he matters to me. I can’t correct Jerry. He’s an adult and it isn’t my job. I have to let go of that belief that I can correct Jerry and fix what’s wrong with him. Just like I have to let go of thinking that I have to fix what’s wrong with me. I have a God who loves me, loves us. I matter to Him and so does Jerry. What I can’t do, God can. My job right now is to receive that love, believe that we matter, and allow that love to flow through in a way that shows those around me that they matter, starting with Jerry and Luna.


Bloggers for Movember

Bloggers for Movember from Clown on Fire

My off kilter friend, Le Clown, from Clown on Fire is a stand-up guy. I’m pretty sure he’s also a sit down and lie down kind of guy too. After all, one cannot stand on one’s feet at all times unless one is a robot.  He is a Clown, not a robot.  Although I’m sure, after reading this, he will have a Le Clown robot action figure manufactured in order to spread and share his magnificence.

Moving on.

Apparently, in 2010 this non-robotic Canadian Clown participated in something called the Movember Digital Challenge, a Canadian effort to raise funds and awareness of Prostate Cancer by tapping into the proliferate digital media and the cool uncoolness of hipster dynamics.

Due to other factors in Le Clown’s life, he still considers prostate cancer a cause worthy of awareness and funds but has moved on to a different cause that is more personal and closer to home, mental health issues.  So, this year he has established Bloggers for Movember.

The reason for my shameless promotion of Le Clown today is because it is World Mental Health Day ~ a day to raise awareness and start reducing the stigma of mental health disorders worldwide and his efforts to establish and promote Bloggers for Movember, seeks to not only raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer, but it also:

“aims to reduce stigma, increase awareness and understanding of male mental health issues“

Since I have dealt with my own mental health issues and watched others struggle as well, this is an issue near and dear to me.  There have been and are men in my life who I have known are dealing with both diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health issues. The impact these issues have on them and those around them range from subtle and insidious to overt and prejudicial.

Therefore, I have volunteered to be involved in Bloggers for Movember and during the month of November 2012, I will have one or more posts regarding male mental health issues, from a personal perspective.

Please visit Le Clown and the facebook page for Bloggers for Movember. Share the links, spread the word, and help raise awareness, not just about prostate cancer but also about male mental health issues. Write. Read. Promote.