Walking with a purpose. #MentalHealthMatters #EndtheStigma

Hello ALL,

I’m walking again this year to help raise money for NAMI Walks Washington. As most of you know who read my articles, know that I’m passionate about mental health advocacy and fighting against stigma. Last year, I had a small goal of $100 to raise for this organization. This year, I registered early so I can increase my goal in hopes to raise $1,000. I’m going to include the link here which will take you directly to my sponsor page. If anyone here is interested in walking themselves, you can go to NAMI’s national website and find a local walk nearest you.

myself & Lovey (President of NAMI Pierce) at the NAMI WALKS 2019

THANK YOU FOR BEING SO KIND AND SUPPORTIVE OF MY BLOG! I APPRECIATE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU!

-Erika B.

From my heart to your purpose. A poem… #MentalHealth #YOUmatter

I just wanna hug that person who people shunned away,

I just wanna love that person who was abused all day.

I just wanna show that person how much I care,

I just want them to know I’m here, I’m aware.

I just wanna give them acceptance they may have never received,

I really want them to know how much their believed.

Others have hurt them time and time again,

No wonder they trust no one, not even a friend.

It’s hard to explain the pain that they bear,

But I just want that person to know someone cares.

-Stigmasnomore / Erika

Thanks Again for being here!

This is from my heart to your purpose. You have purpose, you have meaning, you have a friend in me.

 

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Accepting the present. #MentalHealth #Grief #acceptance #love #change

In a discussion today, this thought came to me. When our loved ones life has been impacted and altered by mental illness, some of us tend to grieve the loss of the person we once knew them to be. The person before their life was impacted by this illness that came out of no where. This very illness that they have absolutely no control over or how it impacts the former abilities they used to exemplify without restraint or hesitation. I believe that’s where some of the frustration lies on caregivers. Because we have a sort of false sense of reality moving forward and keep expecting things to be the ways they used to be. Instead, we should realize life is now different.

Learning acceptance, and love for who they are now and not just who they used to be. Be accepting to the present way life is, instead of hoping for what it used to look like, this is the beginning of change. Understand that your loved one didn’t wake up “that day” deciding they wanted to have a mental illness that would disrupt their daily living. Oftentimes we try to “fix them” or “fix the situation” by unknowingly dismissing their candid feelings, which then leads to a huge misunderstanding or heated argument. I’m speaking from my own experience. That’s where the eggshell life comes into play.

Love them unconditionally and inspite of those moments when things spiral out of control or when their symptomatic and battling. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Not easy to watch our loved one suffer and battle a war that they didn’t enlist for to begin with. Love is and should be there without question. If it’s not, then I have no comment toward that, only my own views here. Everyone has a journey, every one wants to be loved and accepted. Some of us get sicker than others, and some of us have incurable diseases, minor ailments. Regardless this shouldn’t change the way love is given or love itself. Mental illness needs a cure and for the present time, in my home, the temporary cure, fix, is love and encouragement with forgiveness. Being able to forgive the words or behaviors that tend to flare up in those not so good moments. I will admit this way of life is not here by choice for either party and it requires tough skin, commitment and dedication. Make a commitment to be there for your loved one, they need your support so much more than what they express or don’t express. What looks like anger or a happy smile, could just be their “go to” mask.

Basically, I’m saying just because the outward appearance is in tact, and the disability is invisible doesn’t mean that the expectations should be pressing. Let me elaborate a little more so you can hopefully grasp what I’m explaining here. I have a son with developmental disabilities who was born on time and normal, but at the age of 2 months he suffered from cardiac arrest and seizures which impacted his growth and development. Since his age was so young when his life was impacted there was no other comparison of how he once was prior to him dying twice. His way of life is what we consider his “normal”. His development is only viewed as delayed by comparison of other children and statistics. Now had he been like the rest of my 3 children who had no known issues until way later in life then I would’ve had to accept and adjust to change from how he was to how he became. And with my youngest son, he has visible disablities so others can see he is challenged with things, such as his walk, his speech, his behaviors.

And with my oldest son, who was born normal, healthy and sailing through his growth and development. He reached early milestones of walking and talking when compared to that of others. Then many years later here came bipolar disorder! Which impacted his life, his views, his thoughts, his daily living. And it is not the same as before this illness decided to come in and hit him hard. But if you see him, he does not have obvious visible disabilities, and oftentimes the expectations presented to him are too much for him at certain times because of the symptoms that tend to flare up. Yet he tries very hard to work through, persevere, and prove himself capable. He isn’t the illness, but the illness is trying to hinder his development. He is intelligent. He is an athlete. He is hilariously funny at times. He loves music and was an honor grad. He is presently a college student. He is a believer of the gospel of Jesus and we are a Christian home. He battles everyday, as he explains to me. He dreams of becoming an Olympian thrower. And he has to work 100 times harder to achieve the same postive results as his peers, because of this illness. He is a normal young man, who is trying to beat bipolar disorder, just like someone who is battling chemo and trying to beat cancer. He is a developing adolescent, who is often misunderstood due to his inability to articulate his needs at times. He is still my baby boy, my son that I love dearly. He is changing just as we all have evolved and changed down through the years. His brain is what is sick with an illness that has no cure, YET. Plus let’s take into account he is finding ways to be independent and at the age where he’s still trying to figure out his purpose and future. So all I’m saying is regardless of the “disability, illness, disease, ailment, etc” being able to accept the present versus the past is what makes a difference. Well that’s helpful for me. Maybe not for everyone.

And to others who don’t get it, like some teachers, some first responders, even some medical professionals, there is NO ONE WAY across the board of teaching for ALL, there is NO ONE WAY of responding for ALL, NO ONE WAY of a single effective method. So just because “most” can learn, be rescued, or treated with ONE method, doesn’t mean that because you should dismiss that ONE who needs extra or different support. Sometimes you need to be that ONE to change how you teach that student, how you respond for help, how you treat that patient.

And to my fellow caregivers, parents, relatives of these loved ones, your either going to accept the process for what it really is or your going to live frustrated with always looking in your rearview.

Praying for change. Hoping for better days. Enjoying moments when life is good. Hugging often while I have opportunities. Laughing together. Creating new memories in the present. Loving each other.

Thanks again for listening, being here and following me. I hope to enlighten someone. Again, this is my journey, my views, my own opinions and what works for me and us. To each their own. Have a blessed day!

Another small piece of my world as Erik’s mom.

  1. FYI, just because an individual is NonVerbal. It does NOT mean they are deaf & you need to raise your voice, nor does it mean they are unable to comprehend given instructions.

There was once a time in my own son’s life that he did not speak. His development was at a different pace than that of his peers and other children his age. Heck, we didn’t even know if he would ever be able to walk or talk. But we had hope that God would answer our prayers.

This was him at his second Christmas, just learning to sit up. Boxing Producer, Don King, called us that morning to wish us a Merry Christmas, because he had learned about my son’s hairdo. That was a memorable moment in time.

It was around this time that his growth and development began to show delays in his physical capabilities along with his lack of speech. So instead we began to learn sign language by watching VHS tapes that was provided by his in-home occupational therapist.

I made sure I provided him with the best possible opportunities to gain strength through his upper extremities with hopes that he would one day walk.   I had him in therapy for speech, OT and PT.  He began school at the age of 3 in a wheelchair. That was a scary time for me. I cried that first day of sending him to school, following the bus all the way there.  He was unable to verbalize to me or others. Not able to advocate for his own needs and still in diapers.  Just some simple signs, like “more”, “eat”, “thank you”, and “done”. If he were to have a bad day, how would he be able to tell me? If someone were to mistreat him how would I find out?  All these terrifying thoughts ran through my head.  It took time for me to stop popping up at the classroom and calling nearly everyday.  He had a nurse ride the bus due to his medical history of heart arrhythmia. He also had an IEP for his special needs and accomodations for learning. He wore a helmet to protect his head because he had began having seizures, but they eventually subsided with lots of prayer.

Those were his younger days of elementary school. He got keep the same bus driver all the way through his junior year of high school. Amazingly, she became known to him like family.

I believe he was around the age of 5 when he finally began to walk independently but still with someone nearby. He transitioned from sign language and pointing, to expressing a few sounds, and with much therapy eventually he began verbalizing with words. His speech was not clear or concise at that time, but to us, we knew what he was saying (most of the time). He had come a mighty, mighty long way from where his life began and he would continue to reach milestones as time went on.

His name is Erik. And he’s my son whom I love dearly. He loves Jesus and he acknowledges that is his Savior, literally and spiritually.

My son is different just like anyone else. Unique in his own way, and enjoys his life to the fullest. He isn’t ashamed to be who he is. And he does NOT see himself the ways others do, as having “something wrong”.

He is 17 and he still enjoys watching PBS kids, Disney pixar films, and the wiggles, Barney and child rated shows. He is all about daily routines, and enjoys eating the same foods. He is a creature of repetitive habits and he loves socializing with others.

It’s highly likely he will still be watching Monsters Inc, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and other movies even into his adulthood. He likes to rock back and forth while sitting. And he absolutely loves to praise and worship the Lord.

 

He enjoys attending church and praying on the microphone. Erik is one-of-a-kind, hard-to-find, unique as a jewel.

He is in his senior year now, and was nominated as “Lord of the day” for his Homecoming Royalty. Although he is viewed and often labeled as having “special needs” he is very popular and well-known in our community. Let’s just say he is very confident and makes his presence known wherever we go.

We do our best to keep him active and he enjoys bowling, footgolf, dancing. He also participates in basketball and cooking classes. He has won bronze, gold medals for his regionals competition for Special Olympics in bowling and basketball.

Erik and Regan at Regionals.

Thank you for taking the ride along my parenting journey once again. And for allowing me to be his voice. My life wouldn’t be the same if he wasn’t who he is today. And I could care less about the naysayers.

Because I can’t “change the people” around me so I just “change the people around me.” -Erika

 

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