Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Children's Mental Health Awareness Week

May 6-12, 2012, is Children's Mental Health Awareness Week. It is so important to remember that little ones also suffer from the affliction of mental illness, like Anxiety Disorders and ADHD, to name a few. Children do not have the ability to express and articulate their suffering and/or their needs as well as adults. It is critical that adults are educated about, and are aware of, the signs and symptoms of illness, so that kids can get appropriate care in a timely fashion.

Me, at age 3
I first displayed some symptoms of anxiety as a 6 month old. I am told that, for some reason, I was unable to keep any food down without vomiting. Thankfully, my pediatrician at the time was quite sharp, and she suggested that I had what she called a "nervous stomach." A few weeks of medication calmed me down enough so that I could keep in my nutrition and stop the cycle. Problem solved.

I recall having my first anxiety attack as a 3 year old. The event is still very clear in my mind to this day. We were eating spaghetti and I spilled my glass of milk. Like any child, I did not want to get in trouble for spilling my milk, but my reaction was completely over the top. I was simply overcome with anxiety and could not stop crying. My mother also recalls this incident, and at the time she was taken aback by how upset I became. My parents kept trying to reassure me that it was alright, but apparently I was a bit inconsolable.

It was during this same time period that an interesting incident occurred at my preschool. My mom came to pick me up, and I was very distressed. Apparently, the staff had rolled me around on the ground to teach me that there was no reason to be afraid of dirt. When my mom saw how disturbed I was by this, she scolded the staff and told them to never do that again! Of course, they actually did the exact right thing. However, my mom had no idea about this, and it angered her to see me so upset by this event.

The truth of the matter is that Anxiety/OCD treatment in the early 1970's was probably not very good. Even if my parents had recognized the signs of mental illness, it most likely would still have gone untreated, or perhaps have been treated in unhelpful ways. However, today, it is a completely different scenario. New treatments are available for a whole range of mental illnesses. Moreover, though stigma regarding mental illness continues to exist, it has certainly improved. Much work still remains to be done in this area, however. We need to talk about mental illness. We need to educate about mental illness. Lastly, we need to protect, care for, and provide treatment to, our littlest and most vulnerable members of society with mental illness.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this..so important to talk and educate about mental illness. I was so afraid one of my children would have OCD because it runs in my family, but I talked to them about anxiety, ocd, depression, etc. because I want them to know it is not a shameful thing, and it is ok to come to me or my husband or to go to a doctor if they have problems. Hopefully they will pass that message down to their families and friends. I know my illness has made them more compassionate and understanding of these illnesses. The sooner you go for help, the sooner you can back to a healthy place. I think had I known there was such a thing as OCD, I might have nipped some things in the bud before they got so out of control.
    I think in general, people are discussing things openly now more often - in the older generations things used to be "swept under the rug". It still happens in some families but hopefully "educating " people will eradicate that so that adults don't see weakness in obtaining mental health care for themselves or their children.

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    1. Hi Krystal Lynn. Yes, absolutely, it is not a sign of weakness to seek help when needed. In fact, I rather think it's quite courageous, as treatment is often difficult and requires a lot of personal effort.

      How wonderful that you made it so clear to your children that you were always available to help them with any possible issues. I also think it's great that you openly discussed these things with them. Speaking openly has a way of removing shame and stigma. Thanks for your input!

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  2. Sunny, Thank you for an informative, call-to-action post. It's great!

    I feel so sorry for little ones who have to go through anxiety attacks, OCD symptoms, depression, etc. The really young ones don't know what's going on.

    My symptoms started when I was very young, too. My parents were not as understanding as yours. I was quite ashamed of my obsessions and compulsions (I would not have been able to call my thoughts and actions those at that time).

    Thank God things have improved. A friend of mine works with children in school who have emotional, behavioral and mental health disorders. She's a wonderful person, and I'm glad the children at the school have someone like that who would never make a child feel shame.

    I like the photo of you as a 3-year-old! So cute!

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    1. Tina, I just think about you as a little girl, feeling ashamed of your OCD symptoms, and it makes me want to cry. So heartbreaking. I'm very sorry you felt that way.

      I too am glad things have changed. I wish they would change even more though. It seems like mental health issues are not exactly a high priority for a lot of organizations (both governmental and non-governmental). If you look at each particular mental illness, it is only a small minority of people that are affected. However, if you combine all mental illnesses together, it is obvious that there is a large part of the population really struggling. I guess we need to deal with it one step at a time. Awareness is a good start.

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    2. I saw on a local news website tonight that Mental Health American, Central Virginia chapter, had a walk today to raise awareness and funding. The theme was "Do more for one in four." It said one in four people will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives. It also said the rate of suicide is higher than average in Central Virginia. They got a grant from the Virginia Dept. of Health to do suicide prevention services.

      I didn't even know about this organization. I might look into involving myself.

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    3. Until now, I had never heard of Mental Health America either. I like the slogan. In fact, that was the statistic I was thinking about when I talked about combining the total of all mental illnesses together. Really, that is a staggering number of people, isn't it? So why is there still so much stigma? I don't get it.

      Anyway, I went and checked out their website. Seems interesting, I will definitely check them out some more. Thanks for the info. I'm always interested to learn about the different organizations out there.

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  3. You are so right, children don't know how to articulate this stuff. I have suffered from anxiety as long as I can remember. I have very early memories of anxiety attacks like you do. Some of us just come into this world with all kinds of fears and phobias.

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    1. Yep, a lot of us just seem to be born with it, huh?

      I'm sorry you've always had this. Sigh. I'm sending you a great big hug. From one little girl to another. : )

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  4. I agree that it's heartbreaking to think of a child suffering from any mental illness and not getting the help he/she needs. Children need to be taken seriously and their parents should advocate for them. As you say Sunny, we need to talk about these issues, raise awareness, and educate, and hopefully this will reduce the stigma that still exists. Great Post!

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    1. Thank you, Janet. And thank you for your part in helping to fight stigma as well.

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  5. Hey, Sunny--Just wanted you to know that I am thinking about you as you wait for news on Anna. Hugs to you!

    Tina

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    1. Thanks for your concern, Tina! I was just posting about it as you were typing this comment!

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