Open letter to a depressed teenager

Mia-Von-Scha-kids2-150x150by Mia Von SchaTransformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life.

“Reaching the desired area,
The blade hesitates, quivering,
Then slicing slowly, meticulously
Into the soft, awaiting flesh.
The wound gapes,
Smiling at how it has relaxed the skin.”

This was the poem I wrote when I was your age, going through something like what you are going through now. I know it feels like nobody can understand. I know it feels like nobody has ever felt that much pain; nobody has ever felt so restricted and constricted and constrained; nobody can possibly know how dark the darkness gets. But I have been to the bottom of those unchartered depths; I have cried the disregarded tears that never seem to end; I have etched out the pain onto my wrists and thighs and screamed it into the darkness. I know how you feel.

And I know that it ends. It isn’t a permanent ending like the one you are contemplating; I’ll admit that it is a temporary one. That darkness can creep back in at any time, but it can come as a dreaded enemy or as a familiar friend. It doesn’t have to consume you. I have found a way to walk through it now, and it feels more like a stroll through a misty forest than a desperate flee through a dark tunnel. You can learn to do this too. You can find that inner light that will guide you through the blackest night. It is there already, it’s just hidden.

For you to be feeling this bad, you must have been misunderstood by the people around you. It isn’t that they don’t care, it’s that they’re not capable. They’re trying to see you through the filters of their own beliefs and mental structures that aren’t flexible enough to see you for who you are. They love you, they just don’t know you. That’s ok. It is enough to know yourself, to find yourself, to peel off those layers of expectation from everyone around you and allow that inner light to shine. I know you have it – of that I am absolutely certain. Every one of the seven billion people on this planet has a place in this world. Every single one has something to contribute. Including you. You may not even know what your own thing is yet, you may not know for some time to come, but it is there, waiting to be discovered.

teenage depression600.jpeg

So when you’re sitting at the bottom of the bottomless pit, ask yourself one thing: “If I could make one contribution to this world before I go, what would that be?” We all have an innate desire to make a difference, to change things in some way, to impact the world with our existence. And a lot of the time this desire gets squashed by the well-meaning people around us trying to tell us what is important to do with our lives instead of allowing us to push our way up through the soil and blossom into whatever it is that WE were here to do; instead of allowing us to give off our own unique scent that is quite different from what everyone thought it would be.

Don’t get me wrong here – there is struggle and challenge and difficulty as we push our way up through the soil. Life was not meant to be an easy ride. It is those very struggles that shape us and strengthen us and give us the tools we need to blast out into the light.

This very difficulty that you are going through right now is part of this bigger plan. You are in the struggle phase of growth, but it won’t last forever. You can push through, you need to push through, there is such beauty awaiting you on the other side that you cannot see now while you are still trapped in the darkness. Trust me, because I know. Trust me, because I have been there. Trust me, because you are worth it and the gift that you have for this world is still to be discovered. If you give up now we will all lose out on that.

So please, when it feels like the going is just too tough to bear, when it feels like your options have run out, when it feels like one more night will be one night too many, tell someone. Anyone. And if they’re not able to help or they don’t take you seriously or they don’t understand – tell someone else. And someone else. There is somebody out there in your world like me, someone who is familiar with that darkness; who knows it by name. They can guide you to the other side, they can hold your hand as you familiarise yourself with the darker parts of human nature, your own nature, our nature.

Whatever the darkness is in yourself that you find unbearable, there is another side. Every one of us has both the dark and the light, and there is nothing so bad that you can’t navigate your way to the other side of it, but sometime we all need some help. Sometimes it takes someone who isn’t afraid of the dark to help you to find the light. Sometimes it takes time to find the right person. But you will. Keep asking, keep reaching out, keep calling out into the dark until somebody hears you. We are out there, we are listening, we are waiting for your call.

Click here to find a list of therapeutic services for families, kids and teens on Jozikids.

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Teenage suicide – missing the signs

Kate ShandBy Kate Shand. Kate is first and foremost the mother of four beautiful children. After the suicide of her son in 2011, she started writing as a lifeline – her words became a book and in 2013 BOY was published. She recently completed a Creative Grief Coaching Course and now facilitates workshops on grief, loss, creativity and transformation. She also works as a freelance writer and editor. When asked to, she gives talks on Suicide and Grief and Creativity. In her spare time she paints and plays with clay.

Kate’s website has a very helpful RESOURCES page (articles, videos, interviews, books and websites) that covers the topics of suicide, teenage suicide, bullying, addiction and grief.

I woke up on Thursday morning (12 August) and saw a message posted to my FB timeline “Dear Kate, it seems it was also suicide like with your boy, same age.” Along with the mother’s message “My daughter, Klara (14) died tonight.”  I remembered the angelic face, blonde curls and clear blue eyes of Klara Göttert,  reported missing, which had gone viral the previous day. And I felt a sharp shard pierce my chest,  I’d been winded, like I’d never breathe again and I was taken right back to the day I heard the words “come home, he’s killed himself”.

My only son John Peter Shand Butler – also known as BOY or simply JP – was a quiet, shy, solitary boy. He chose to end his life at the age of 14 on 31 March 2011. A perfect storm was gathering and we were oblivious. It was years in the making. A combination of his biology, psychology, physiology, biography and genealogy.  The clouds were there. Sometimes we glimpsed them but we just didn’t know how to decipher them. My son didn’t shout out for us to listen. He was so very quiet with his call for help that I didn’t hear.

His increasing anxiety manifested as eczema on his hands and his face, and he started smoking dagga as a way to self-medicate and manage this stress. The storm was moving in. I sensed that JP was feeling disconnected and agitated but I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t act. I thought I had time. Except there was no time. While I was procrastinating, not acting, wondering what to do, wondering what was wrong with him – JP had already made his decision.

After suicide we search for signs. We want signs to be replicable. If we can only identify the signs we can avoid such a tragedy happening again. Yet the warning signs are but a feeling that can’t be articulated for how does one give language to the unimaginable, the unthinkable? Each child and each situation is unique, and so the warning signs will be different every time. A mother wrote to me – Yes there were signs I missed, or dismissed, or that I didn’t understand as being ‘a sign’, or that I didn’t understand as being ‘a sign OF SUICIDE’.

Kate and girls


Why don’t we know? The answer is simple – because we’re not looking for it.

My oldest daughter is very clear about what needs to be done. She says that parents and schools must talk about depression and suicide to children. Children must understand what depression feels like and that there is help available. That they don’t have to feel that way. The talk about depression must be as important as the safe sex talk. “Kind of like safe living” she said. Teenagers hide it all. They hide that they are smoking dope, they hide that they’re having sex, they hide smoking cigarettes, they hide that they’re bunking school. They are also able to hide that they are depressed.

I am wary of giving advice but I can say that if I had the time back and if I could do things differently it would be to ACT and not wait. Don’t think about it. Do something about it. I would listen to my intuition and trust my gut. If you think there’s a problem there is one – I read that somewhere. Get professional help, a diagnosis, therapy and if necessary medication. If you discover your child is using drugs, alcohol or self-harming, get him or her into a programme immediately. Sit down regularly for family suppers, have conversations with your children and learn to listen to them. I have a friend who was suicidal as a teen and he wonders if his parents had said to him “you are in a terrible long war, but it will end, and you will survive” would it have helped? They never said anything. Most importantly we all need to practice kindness. And as parents we must exert pressure on  school governing bodies  to develop informed policies for suicide prevention, to prevent bullying and to protect children from being shamed by teachers. If we work together – schools, home and the community – maybe then we can help save a young life.

(This article is an extract from a talk given at the National Arts Festival in 2014. The full talk can be found on Kate’s website)

Click here to find a list of therapeutic support services for teens and families

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Why is teenage substance abuse so dangerous?

Mich Robb2

By Mich Robb, a clinical & educational psychologist. He is the managing directory of MWELL ( Mental Wellbeing interventions) which specialises in help for addiction, substance abuse, trauma and other psychosocial interventions.

For many teenagers “having fun” at a party is synonymous with binge drinking and smoking weed.  Parents are often reluctant to interfere with this so called “adolescent” behaviour without realising how damaging and life altering this can be. They often don’t realise that the adolescent brain is much more vulnerable than the adult one.

Is there a difference in an adolescent brain and an adult brain?

Yes there is! The teenage brain is still a work in progress, and it continues to develop until early adulthood (when you are somewhere around 25 years old). The part of the brain that takes longest to develop is the part that sits just behind the forehead. It’s known as the prefrontal cortex, and it’s responsible for self control, and it manages other cognitive processes such as planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal reasoning, inhibition, and mental flexibility.

At this point, keep in mind that adolescents are at the stage of their lives where they are seeking and exploring independence. The areas of the brain that are responsible for governing emotions and rewards are more developed than the part that is responsible for inhibitions. This disposes them to risky behaviour (that displays their independence), and they don’t always consider the consequences of their actions as much as adults would like them to – or as much as they should.

Teenage substance abuse can interfere with normal brain maturation

If teenagers start using alcohol, drugs or cigarettes at this age, they are far more likely to become addicted than if they started later on in life – after their brains are fully developed. This addiction has damaging effects on the maturing brain.

Binge drinking can actually kill brain cells in the adolescent brain whereas less damage occurs in the adult brain.

Because of the developing brain, adolescents become addicted more easily than adults do.

A recent study of marijuana users showed that those who began using it in their teens had substantially reduced connectivity among brain areas responsible for learning and memory.

A large, long-term study in New Zealand showed that people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teen years lost an average of 8 IQ points between ages 13 and 38, even when they stopped using as an adult.

MWELL conducts research at schools which looks at the prevalence of mental health issues such as depression; anxiety; stress; anger; alcohol use disorders; and the use of other substances.  Our results at a leading Independent School in South Africa were :

  • 62% of Grade 9s reported drinking alcohol at least once a month during the past year
  • Over 12% were already at risk of moderate to severe alcohol related problems
  • 17.5% had smoked cannabis during the three months prior to completing the questionnaire
  • Early Intervention makes a difference

    These are shocking facts but these brain differences don’t mean that young people can’t make good decisions. Nor does it mean that they can’t tell the difference between right and wrong.

    It also doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions.”

    But it does mean that if we are aware of these developmental differences, we can understand, anticipate, and manage the behaviour of adolescents and be more constructive in our interactions with them.

    Remember that the earlier the intervention, the less harm there is, the less the likelihood of permanent risk or damage and the better the treatment outcomes!

    MWELL is one of several places you can go for help in Gauteng. Click here to find a list of places that offer support.

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    Review of Tech-Savvy Parenting: A Guide to Raising Safe Children in a Digital World

    Tiffany Markman latest feb 13. jpgReviewed by Tiffany Markman, copywriter, editor and mom to an almost-three-year-old, who tries to balance her workaholism with cuddles, books, caffeine & reining in her intrinsic kugelry. Follow her on twitter.

    In Tech-Savvy Parenting: A Guide to Raising Safe Children in a Digital World, parenting expert Nikki Bush and tech guru Arthur Goldstuck put their considerable brains together to guide us, ‘digital immigrants’, through an increasingly scary world.

    This world is peopled by ‘digital natives’ – our children – who are tech-savvy but not always life-savvy; application-literate but not always emotionally literate; conversing but not always listening. And we, the immigrants, barely speak the language.

    One of the reasons I really value this book as a reference work is that it’s comprehensive; containing the info, explanations, lists and additional references that a parent would need to dip into at each phase of his/her children’s development – both in terms of age and in terms of growing technological techsavvyinvolvement.

    For instance, my 3.5-year-old doesn’t give me grey hairs when it comes to over-sharing on Facebook or downloading violent games, but I do find it hard to manage her iPad use, especially before bed-time. And in-app purchases? My worst!

    In Tech-Savvy Parenting, you’ll find guidelines, tips and advice relating to:

    • The fact that kids are still conversing, but in multiple layers
    • The different categories and age-appropriateness of games
    • NetNanny (and other filtering software) and what to block when
    • When to give your kid a cellphone
    • How to manage the ubiquitous and annoying in-app purchase
    • Being honest with yourself about your own attentiveness
    • Online reputation, pornography and privacy issues
    • Practical parenting guidelines (that are tech-related), per age group

    Be warned: If you’re an active tech user yourself, you may find Chapters 1 and 2 a bit patronising. I’m a 30-something parent who fully appreciates the attractiveness and appeal of the small screen, interactive media and tiny devices. I get why my kid wants to play with tech, because I want to play with tech. I’m not the post office generation, nor the library generation – at least, I haven’t been for 20 years. So I only really got into this book from Chapter 3, which deals partly with gaming.

    Look out for: Lists – towards the end of the book – of common text message acronyms and emoticons, as well as useful teacher guidelines and digital policies.

    Bottom line?
    This book is great. Yes, it unpacks the technology, but the authors (both of whom are parents) never ignore the human element; placing children’s use of technology in the context of the relationship between themselves and their parents. If you have kids and don’t live off the grid, under a small wifi-less rock, in a remote corner of the Klein Karoo, you need to own this book. Serious.

    Tech-Savvy Parenting: A Guide to Raising Safe Children in a Digital World is available at all good book-stores and was supplied for review by Nikki Bush.

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    Are we raising self-obsessed children?

    Barry Bateman Family Portraits Dec 2012By Sholain Govender-Bateman – Pretoria-based New Media journalism lecturer and editor who worked for The Star & edited magazines. She is mum to two gorgeous girls, Isobel and Aishwari, and wife to Barry Bateman. Visit her on Twitter @sholain 

    I think that many of us parents are focussed on giving our kids the best that we can afford and making them confident and independent, teaching them to always seek the best for themselves… but how do we know that we’re not raising our kids to be so self-involved and narcissistic that they forget about other people’s feelings and lives and just carry on thinking that the world revolves around them well past toddlerhood?

    I don’t profess to be a perfect parent; in fact the whole point of this piece is to express my fears of raising self-obsessed, disrespectful children. However, I do think that hubby and I try our best to teach our children the value of what they have and the importance of respect. Will that stop them from always focusing on number one when they reach adulthood? I don’t know.

    We’re raising our children in a society so different from the one we grew up in. Millions of people are part of online communities and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter that encourage self-promotion, aka showing off.  Taking selfies (photos of yourself) and posting them online are so popular that it was literally Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in 2013!

    Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

    Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

    Of course, one can argue that people have always been self-serving…even if they are discreet about it. Even though you won’t admit it, whenever you make a choice, one deciding factor is how it will benefit you or effect you. Does this make us bad or narcissistic? Maybe not so much, but I think that we are grooming our children, voluntarily or not, to live their lives based on what other people think of them and to prove to everyone else that they are better looking, smarter and more spectacular than anyone else.

    I’m not a psychologist but I do think that I want confident children, but they should not be over-confident to the extent that they can’t accept criticism. I want them to handle failure with grace but I don’t want to raise them thinking that they are failures. And most importantly, I want them to love who they are without the need to prove their worth to anyone else or to feel the desire to change for other people.
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    Protecting kids on the internet pt 1 – guidelines for parents

    Mike Saunders

    By Mike Saunders, keynote presenter and consultant at TomorrowToday, a company which helps their client navigate the ‘New World of Work’. He teamed up with Tamryn Coats of  Ububele Psychotherapy and Educational Centre in Johannesburg, and created a short booklet entitled “Raising Digital Citizens – Parenting in the Digital Age”. Click here to download the booklet. 

    Our children are being raised unsupervised in a digital world, and parents are ill equipped to protect them. Here are some guidelines which I hope will help empower you to parent effectively in this digital age.

    Guidelines for Parents

    Take an active and informed interest in your children’s lives, online & in the real world. Talk to them about  their life online; that way if problems arise you’ll be the one they turn to.

    3  things to say in that conversation
    1. Never share an image or do anything on a webcam you wouldn’t be happy for family or friends to see.
    2. If someone threatens you online, tell someone you trust. You can talk to me about it and I’ll understand.
    3. If you do get into problems online, it’s never too late to get help. We will understand. You won’t be blamed.

    3 ways to open a conversation about online activitiesiStock_000027551089Medium-200x300
    1. I  wonder if someone threatens you online who you feel you could tell?
    2. How do you think you could get into trouble online?
    3. I wonder how you think Mom or Dad would react if you ever did get into trouble online?

    4  things to do if your child tells you they’re being blackmailed online
    1. Acknowledge the courage and maturity it took for your child to come and tell you.
    2. Believe your child and tell them you believe them. Their experience needs to be acknowledged and understood.
    3. Don’t blame them, and tell them you don’t blame them. Even if they’ve engaged in risky behaviour, understand that risk-taking is a normal part of adolescent development.
    4. Don’t immediately ban them from the internet. Although you may need to take short-term safety steps, the best way for children to stay safe is by learning how to negotiate the online world in a responsible manner.

    Don’t Panic
    If you suspect something damaging is happening in your child’s digital world, it’s important you adopt a level-headed and informed approach to what is taking place. A major reason why children don’t disclose online problems is the fear that they’ll have the technology taken away from them, thereby taking away a large part of their social lives.

    Become Tech-Savvy
    You will better comprehend your child’s online environment and its dangers if you at least have a working knowledge of the sites, social media and apps that he or she utilises.

    Develop Home Values for a Digital World
    David Coleman recently wrote an excellent article which outlined a number of things that parents can do to promote a healthy digital life for kids in your home.

  • Set ground rules for acceptable time limits for being online in one sitting
  • Set a nightly cut-off time
  • Young children should be supervised online
  • Use filtering software to minimise and eliminate unwanted content in your home.
  • Set ground rules for children sharing personal details
  • Remind children that the content they post is permanent
  • Discuss the internet occasionally to show you’re open about it
  • Teach kids how to treat people with dignity online
  • I would just add that using the filtering software on your WiFi or network router will apply the content filtering settings to your entire home, across any device that connects to your network.
  • Charging Stations
    One of the best ideas I have heard to promote healthy digital boundaries has been to have a family charging station. A place in the home where all family members charge their digital devices at night. This is outside the children’s bedroom and in a family room. This is a good idea for a number of reasons:

  • Stops ‘bored browsing’ at night which are the risky times for browsing unwanted content online or engaging in late night
  • Sleep better – even teens should be getting 9 hours of sleep ideally and having a device in their room often keeps them awake late at night in conversations with friends.
  • Relieve anxiety – in a world of instant response, texting creates an anxious environment. Not receiving an expected immediate response adds stress to young people’s lives as they wait for the replies.
  • Click here to find a list of related articles on zaparents.

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    Helping kids use cell phones responsibly

    By Zaheer Khan, a specialist in technology related security, an idealist but most of all indulges with computers, apps and new phones when not running around with his Light Saber and his kids through the parks of JoBurg
    Children and young people have always been keen to grasp the opportunities offered by new technologies, and mobile phones are certainly no exception.

    So, what is an appropriate age to buy your child a cell phone? More importantly is it safe for children to use and what are the long term effects on them.

    Buying a cellphone for under 12 yr olds makes no sense because:

  • at this age parents drive them around and have total responsibility for them.
  • these kids will not develop the social skills necessary for the real world as they constantly engage with technology and not with those around them.
  • I am not opposed to limited usage of a borrowed parents’ or siblings’ phone. Parents who see a specific need to introduce it to their children earlier should  take precautions to ensure that it becomes a tool and not just a toy that becomes abused

    Ways to Introduce a cellphone responsibly  :

  • As a tool for family communication where a cell phone allows parents  to do errands or other work  while their kids are busy with activities in the knowledge that their child can contact them if plans change.
  • As a tool to teach financial responsibility  and commitment
    If a child wants their own phone, let them enter into a contract with a service provider and take responsibility for paying the monthly fee until the contract expires.  Make it clear that the payments continue until the end of the contract even if the phone is lost or broken.  The phone can also be used as a disciplining tool where its privileges are taken away while the responsibility of paying the bill still continues.
  • Be aware of the risks involved which include:

  • Inappropriate content and contacts.
  • Revealing too much personal information
  • Cyber bullying
  • Sexting
  • Location based services
  • Premium – rate services and controlling costs
  • Late-night texting
  • Mobile phone theft / crime
  • Health concerns
  • Use parental controls
    Computers and other digital technologies like games consoles and mobile phones have parental controls. These let you do things like:
  • setting PIN codes on the phone so that other SIM cards cannot be used in the phone
  • enabling a phone PIN to block phone usage by a third party ,
  • enabling parental controls on the SIM card and handset via your service provider
  • enabling cellphone location tracking and automatic wiping should the phone be lost or stolen.
  • blocking selected websites and email addresses by adding them to a filter list
  • set time limits for use
  • prevent your child from searching certain words
  • Check the equipment’s user manual or manufacturers’ websites to see what controls you have access to. Contact your internet service provider (ISP) or mobile phone operator to find out about any child safety measures they offerSetting rules with your child

    The best way to set reasonable rules for your child’s phone use is to :

  • use the  phone yourself to learn how they use it.
  • talk often about what they use the phone for & who they talk to
  • discuss and set ground rules together
  • do not allow
    – Inappropriate behaviour ie being on the phone when having a guest over, or texting at the dinner table
    – use of abusive or threatening language in any online communication
  • To keep your child safe you should tell them not to:

  • give out personal information to people they only know online – this includes name, home address, landline and mobile numbers, bank details, PIN numbers and passwords
  • supply details for registration without asking for permission & help from you
  • visit chat websites that aren’t fully moderated/supervised
  • arrange to meet an online friend in person without your knowledge & permission (if you agree to let them, you should always go along with them)
  • give any indication of their age or sex in a personal email address or screen name
  • keep anything that worries or upsets them online secret from you
  • respond to unwanted emails or other messages
  • any picture-sharing via phone
  • right to review texts and messages
  • Parents should also remember that most smart phones are doors to the internet and that any risks posed by the internet similarly apply to cellphones as well.

    In conclusion

    We need to rely on our kids to teach us about the dangers facing their generation (technology and otherwise) – we teach them the basic values and morals, they teach us about technology, and together we figure out how to bring our values and morals to the new technology/situations in a way that is reasonable and not overly restrictive.

  • Click here to find a list of related articles on zaparents.
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  • The demon of depression

    by Penguin Mother, who has asked that her name not be published to protect herself and her child from the stigmatisation she describes in her story.

    This week memorial services will be held in Pretoria and Johannesburg for a wonderful young man. After a three-week search, his body was found in his car in the veld  near Pretoria.

    Stunned friends cannot believe that he would have taken his own life and his tragic death has affected all of those who knew him.

    His story has brought my own deep and painful memories to the surface and I would like to share the story of my own daughter, in the hope that this may be of help to parents and young people who have been affected by depression.

    My daughter began her matric year with the world at her feet. She had been elected as deputy head girl, captained 3 school teams and represented her province in 2 disciplines. She was beautiful, bright, popular and caring and she had so much to give the world.

    Her year was very tough and the responsibilities loaded on her were enormous. Yet she was adamant that she could do it all. She was an achiever. She never knew how to say “No” , or “ I need help with that” She pulled away and became more distant from our closely knit family.  I began to worry about her behaviour, and suspected that she was using drugs.

    Although these new and scary behaviour patterns weren’t entirely consistent with drug use – at least not from what I had read  – I knew her well enough to know that she was in some kind of awful trouble.  I agonized over whether I was being too interfering, or too controlling, or too suspicious, until my gut instinct told me that my mother’s intuition had to be acted upon.

    Our wonderful family doctor made a preliminary diagnosis of severe chronic depression and advised me to remove her from school and get her help urgently as she had been planning her own suicide.

    With the intervention of an amazing psychiatrist we were on the road to healing her dreadful, deep and destructive depression. She stayed out of school for much of the second half of the year and we wrapped her in as much love and care as we could. I was terrified to leave her on her own in case she was overcome with “the sadness” again, but we slowly built up our trusting relationship and we began to understand this disease and its awful effects.

    She wrote her final exams and went on to medical school. Her battle with depression will never be over, but she has the power and the ability to recognize the warning signs.

    My wish is that more people could be educated about depression and that the stigma of mental illness could be removed. If my daughter had been diagnosed with cancer, we would have been overwhelmed with support and sympathy and bombarded with information on modalities. Instead, we were constantly faced with negativity, denial and some frightening psychological diagnosis.

    I pray that our story can help just one person reach out for help.

    A family’s struggle with addiction

    by Katherine Farrell,  Idea generator, Creative Director, interface designer, mother to 2 boys, wife to a 3rd boy haha  … Find her on twitter

    Once upon a time I had the perfect life. Mom to two gorgeous healthy little boys – Ronan (5) and Darcy (3), happy marriage to a good man, nice house in the suburbs and a successful corporate job. One morning I woke up and discovered my husband was an addict and that I had been living a lie.

    I had been living in denial, a fantasy reality. Now my husbands’ strange behavior and our multitude of maxed out credit cards started to make sense.

    The first solution that I came up with was to divorce my husband and start looking for someone new to cast into the role of Perfect Husband (George Clooney perhaps?). And then someone asked me what kind of wife that made me. Did I not take the vows for better for worse, in sickness and in health?  Worst of all, I had been so addicted to perfection that my husband could not come to me for help.

    Then I realized, I really and truly love my husband and life without him was unimaginable. I had to find another way and so began my own recovery. It has been just over six months and now I see my husband’s addiction as a gift.

    I heard a statistic recently that for every addict something like 22 people are affected. If you consider the immediate family, the friends, the employer and employees – that’s a lot of people! So even if you are not an addict you can be severely affected by this disease. Therefore treating the system of people around the addict greatly improves the chances of recovery.

    Addicts survive because people rescue them, prevent them from suffering the consequences of their actions, lie for them, give them money and enable them to be dysfunctional. I found myself being SuperMom, twice the breadwinner and when the crisis hit I was so burned out from my everyday life I had nothing left.

    The main reason I am taking my own recovery so seriously is for my two little boys. I believe our children are born with unlimited potential but sometimes they have to shut down parts of themselves in order to survive in the family or society. I recently attended a co-dependency workshop (at Changes) and learned about the 4 roles that children create in a family – the Hero who overachieves and is super responsible, admired for their successes, takes over the role of parent. The scape goat who is always in trouble, a rebel who gets attention by behaving badly. The lost child who withdraws, isolates and keeps to themselves. And the mascot, the happy-go-lucky class clown that refuses to be serious.

    Addiction is often handed down generation to generation. I have met many Mothers with children in rehab – a pain I cannot begin to imagine and I often wonder if I will be in their shoes in 20 years time.

    I wrote this story for my children and my husband while he was in rehab:

    As High as a Kite
    Once upon a time there was a woman who met a man.
    She didn’t notice but he was hiding something behind his back. It was a kite.
    Together they made a home and started a family.
    The man went outside to fly his kite.

    One day the family needed the man and they called to him
    but the kite had lifted him off the ground and up into the sky and he couldn’t hear them.
    And as the kite pulled him closer to the sun he knew he had one last chance to let go
    but he was too afraid it would hurt to fall.
    So the kite fell back down to the ground alone.
    And when their child grew into a man he found the kite, picked it up
    and hid it behind his back.

    In recovery I have learned that I need to have spirituality in my life in order to find balance. I need to believe there is something bigger than me so I don’t have to have all the answers. I have learned that progress is more important than perfection – I try to make things a little better one day at a time. I have learned that my emotions are warning signs that I need to observe and I have learned to express them more appropriately or just contain them until they pass.

    I attend 12 Step meetings and I am working the 12 Steps of AA, a free, anonymous and confidential recovery programme that welcomes everyone who needs it. The AA literature is not available in self-help sections of your local bookstore, but the books are the most incredible insightful tools.

    My life coach (David Collins) said to me this week that all children want are parents who are relaxed, happy and loving. I am working as hard as I can to be able to give that to my children. I have let go of perfection, control and denial (although they try sneak back all the time). In place I have faith, serenity, responsibility for my actions and I am learning to stop taking life so seriously.

    I am grateful to JoziKids for covering the topic of addiction. It is a sensitive subject that a lot of people would rather not talk about. Children are taught to keep family secrets – we behave one way at home and another way when we go out. The only way out of this insanity is through open mindedness, honesty and a willingness to change.

    I still have the family, the house, the job – for which I am eternally grateful – but never again will I  pretend to myself or anyone else that  I am perfect.

    Reading and links:

    The disease called Perfection
    12 Step programmes:
    Alcoholics Anonymous
    Narcotics Anonymous
    AlAnon Family Groups
    NarAnon Family Groups
    Codependancy Anonymous (read the 12 promises)

    Heel skates for cool kids

    by Marvin Dieterich, a 13yr old who loves wheels, roller kidz, microscooters, skateboards and  bicycles.  Besides wheels, he also likes maths, reading, building things and baseball

    Have you ever heard of Roller Kidz?

    They’re really cool. My mom recently gave me a pair.

    Here’s how I  learnt how to use them:

    First my sister and I watched this video that shows you how to use them.

    Then I adjusted and fitted them  on my shoes ( they can be adjusted to fit on any shoe)

    Then I ventured onto the patio to try them out

    ………… until I’d mastered them enough to fetch my shades, beanie and ghetto  blaster. If you look closely you’ll see the flashing brightly coloured wheels.. cool wouldn’t you say?