This is our journey & our normal. #specialneeds #AutismAwareness #MentalHealthAwareness #advocate #mother

If you don’t have time to read this entire post, then just keep scrolling.

If you don’t have a special needs child or a child with a mental health condition, then you have not a clue what it’s like in our world. So don’t speak on something you haven’t no experience with.  And don’t put us inside the general population of general parenting, yea there may be some commonalities but not all the way. We do what we gotta do to help ease our own daily challenges and frustrations and we don’t need you to advise us on what you think works. I don’t care even if you’ve accomplished a degree in child psychology because it still doesn’t and will not ever compare or measure up to the daily challenges that we live with, battle through, and sometimes pull our hair out about throughout the entire day and wake up to the next day and do it allover again.  It’s really NOT as simple or as easy as we make it look.  Behind closed doors alot of us parents, caregivers, have a lot to navigate through.  So after your few minutes of assessing a situation, and your input is to just spank him/her or some other punishment that you think works effectively, well it doesn’t. 

Some of us parents, have it harder than others, some of our children aren’t able to verbalize how their day was while in another person’s care, and they become just as frustrated about things as others would, only their unable to verbalize it to us, so we are left to figure it out based upon other behaviors.  Some of us have children who can verbalize their day, and yet they have behavioral issues that are sometimes unexplainable and outbursts that occur for no apparent reason.  Some of us have children that have destroyed our property because of their aggression and anger but we don’t talk about that.  Some of us have children who appear “normal” by physical appearance but their bullied because of how they sound when they speak.  Some of us have adult children who are still wearing diapers and aren’t toilet trained.  Some of us want to do things just like any other average family, but it’s not possible due to other factors. Some of us can’t work because of the needs of our children, the multiple hospitalizations, ongoing procedures, medication management, feeding therapies, etc. 

Some of us are at a point where we’re fed up with others saying insensitive statements.  Some of us have chosen to become advocates for others.  Some of us are tired of the jerks in this world, but who isn’t.  Some of us just want to be able to have a full nights sleep without our kid getting up at 3am and rewinding their Barney tape.  Some of us just want a day where we can breathe and have some quiet time.  Some of us just want to the freedom to relax and not have to always feel rushed because we feel tense because we know our child is getting ready to have a public meltdown. 

Most of us lack outside, trustworthy, adequate, appropriate supports.  And therefore we don’t want to just put our child into the hands of just any caregiver.  Some of us have to walk on eggshells.  Some of us have to avoid triggers that set our kids off.  Some of us are drained and worn down.  However, we get through it, and we learn as we go.  We make it look like it’s no big deal. 

Another fact, most others don’t know, is this, many of us special needs families don’t have very many close friends, many of us are left without that village to help us raise our children.  Few of us have extended family support and compassion.  Many of us don’t get included or invited to your typical gatherings, so we stick to our own familiarity of “special needs events” so we don’t have to worry about being a “bother” to others, so we don’t have to deal with the stares, or hearing whispers and laughter at us and about us, not with us or together.  Ask yourself this, how often do you see any special needs individual out in public on a day to day?  Like when your at the mall, in the grocery store, or dining out at a restaurant?  To be honest, unless our child is “higher functioning” than you don’t see any of us. 

There are so many different terms and labels and categories that in my own opinion and it’s become white noise to myself.  None bother me anymore.  I’ve heard: “handicap, disabled, delayed, special needs, downs, autistic, non verbal, high functioning, low functioning, and they fall under the spectrum” and that’s just a few.  In anycase, Our normal is “our normal”.  Understand this, years before we even probably had a thought of bringing forth children, we didn’t forsee our future like this.  I don’t think any parent has ever envisioned what it would be like to raise a family with a child that will require extensive round the clock supervision and care well beyond adolescence.  

If we’re all unique, all different, not one of us the same, than who are you to say, our children don’t fit in.

I think if I’m honest most of us special needs parents had visions of having a child who would be considered the “typical” child who is self sufficient on an independent capacity and can work a full time job, play regular sports, and possibly move out and get married one day.  Well the truth is, for some of us, our journey has taken us a different way, and that is no longer our vision.  Because it’s truthfully unrealistic.  All I’m trying to say here is this, don’t be so quick to put your mouth upon what “you’d do if that was your kid”.  And I do know this, I’d like to believe that all of us parents, absolutely wouldn’t change a thing about our child now that they’re here and even with all the challenges. 

We’re doing the very best we can to keep them educated, safe, loved, cared for, nurtured, disciplined, corrected, and encouraged, inspired and respected.  So please the next time you’re out and you see a situation where you might normally be so quick to throw in your 2 cents, instead remember reading this.  And if after all this, you have an attitude of “that’s their problem or I don’t care they still need to….” Or something to that affect, than your just a cold hearted individual who lacks compassion and most of all you lack trying to understand.  All you see is what’s occuring in the moment.

Thanks for those who will respect what I have to say.  And if your a negative Nancy, keep it to yourself and just know this, our truth is our truth, our journey is our journey, our normal is our normal, and our experience is what makes us experts in what we have lived to tell others who are just beginning their journey as a special needs parent and might be feeling confused and hopeless.  There is hope in Jesus and there is support and advocacy out there. 

I’m just one mom who speaks on behalf of some others.  I’m just brave enough to write and share what some still may not have the courage or feel the need to say.  I’m just a mom and this is just a small part of my journey with motherhood and parenting.  Be blessed! -Erika

Stigma, mental illness vs. demons & the church! #MentalHealth #ENDtheSTIGMA #BetheDifference

This is a message from me to the churches across the nations! Regarding Stigma in some churches.

I’m fed up with hearing these sad stories. I take it personal when I learn that others have been hurt by “a church”. It makes “the church” look bad as a body, as a whole. We’ve got to do better! Idc if you don’t agree with me because I’m speaking my truth which is the truth for so many others. But it’s disheartening to hear others stories from people I’ve met while becoming involved with mental health advocacy. And it’s even more disheartening to learn that they’ve been demonized by a church and ran off. All because some church doesn’t understand mental health conditions and the symptoms that fall under them. All because some church wasn’t equipped to handle them with care, compassion & understanding. All because the lack of discernment! The lack of being able to discern the difference between an individual who is battling an illness versus an individual who is actually demon possessed. I’m tired of hearing these stories.

Last month, I met a woman at a speaking engagement, who’s name I won’t mention because she is likely well-known, but she is an ordained minister who her church ran off, because they demonized her, called her out down to the altar and began trying to cast out demons. News flash, it didn’t work, because there wasn’t any demonic influence or demon to be cast out! All it did, was run her off from embarrassment after having been in that church for 30+ years and when she finally gained the courage to seek prayer this is what she experienced! All that oil and all those altar workers who lacked discernment and was attempting to cast out demons, when they should’ve been praying for her healing. In this moment she needed to feel loved and accepted, she needed to feel encouraged that she isn’t alone, she needed to feel embraced by those whom she thought would, she needed to know she was doing the right thing by asking for prayer, she needed to hear an encouraging word, she needed to feel included and not excluded. She needed prayer for healing and restoration from an illness she is battling, just like someone who is battling with cancer or any other life-altering disease! Instead, she was made to feel shamed, misunderstood, isolated, alone, and extremely hurt, and told me this is why she hasn’t been to any church since that time. She still believes in Jesus and she still prays and I know some of you might be saying, if she’s an ordained minister she should be way more mature than that and shouldn’t let people run her off, but I’m respectful enough to know this is her truth and her bad experience so I’m not the one to discredit her or dismiss her hurt and pain.

Some of you have a loved one or a friend or coworker who’s living with a diagnosed mental health condition and have probably been living in silence about it, due to shame and fear of stigma. And even you, yourself are afraid to open up and to talk to someone when your struggling at times. So imagine how she and others feel! Put yourself in her shoes. Or better yet, if you know how she feels then, let’s do better! Let’s be careful with how we minister to people. Let’s take better care of ourselves too.

Come on people, let’s wake up here! We’ve got to stop with this stigma and demonizing just anyone and then have the nerve to act surprised when someone shares how isolated they’ve been feeling for years, can’t trust anyone, doesn’t feel comfortable talking. People need to feel understood. If you don’t know, educate yourself, educate your ministry, educate your children & family, knowledge is power. In all your getting, get an understanding! Know the difference of demon possession and a mental illness. There is a complete separation here. If you lack discernment, then pray for it.

Of course, It’s possible that someone with a mental illness is also evil and worships Satan, but its also possible that someone with a mental illness loves and worships Jesus and isn’t evil. Know the difference here! And even more importantly Be the Difference here!

And while I’m on my rant, even if there was a demon to be cast out, would you even be equipped to handle that?! Most won’t and don’t even set aside time to fast and pray anymore. Be honest and fair with your soul. It’s time to wake up, and be READY!

There are tons of educational programs to gain wisdom, knowledge and understanding when it comes to mental health conditions such as the most common; bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ptsd ect and to learn the symptoms. So what’s your excuse?

-Erika Brooks

Thanks again for being here and for the continued supportive feedback.

Become involved with Mental Health Advocacy. #ENDtheSTIGMA #MentalHealth

Hi Everybody,

As many of you know, May is Mental Health Awareness month. And many of my followers should know by now that I’m very passionate about mental health advocacy. You can read my other articles to find out why and how I’m involved.

Last year, in 2019, this campaign was a huge success with several supporters from friends, coworkers, and people across the states. This year, I’m hopeful it will be just as successful. In this article, you’ll be able to see just a few of the people who supported during last year’s campaign. And you’ll be able to get a visual of what it’s like to wear such a powerful message on a t-shirt.

Each and every single time I’ve worn my shirt out in public, I’ve always received a compliment and asked where they can get one, well now is everyone’s chance to get their own! You can order here! (Remember the design is slightly different from last year’s.)

This year in 2020, I’ve decided to launch another awareness campaign and you’ve got a few different options to choose from at reasonable prices. The sizes range from youths small to adult sized 4X. Here is the link which will take you directly to the custom ink campaign page. This campaign is set to run for just 4 weeks, so once it closes no more orders will be accepted.


So go ahead and order your gear today, and get it in time for May! But you can wear it any day and this is a great way to help spread our message to END THE STIGMA! It’s also a great way to help honor & show our support to those who are in this fight every single day!

Please feel free to share this post within your community of followers!

Thank you for your support & much love to ALL! -Erika

Some of us are warriors without having served in a physical war or battle. #MentalHealth #Warrior

I just wanna share this thought, I dunno maybe its possible someone else might share in this same thought. Tomorrow is Veterans day. And we will honor our vets who served in the military, ones that went into battle for our country, ones who experienced & endured trauma, most returning home in a mental condition that they didn’t have before they left, leaving themselves and loved ones to cope with a new way of life as everyone moves forward, with some families having to be sensitive to the words that are spoken, places they go, exposure to things on television, a more heightened awareness of simplistic things and activities, conversations, odors, sounds and smells that have become so complex, creating an eggshell way of life.

I said all that to say this, my son has never served in a physical war for the military and never truly seen people dying in front of him, but he has suffered just as much mental health trauma without being in a physical war, he left for school one day many years ago, and came back home a completely different person, he has suffered much trauma inside his mind at times, he is working through his mental health battles and he too is triggered by certain things that would never have bothered him before. He suffers from night tremors, nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety every single time he has to leave the house to go to school or step foot into an atmosphere where there are large crowds. His diagnosis is bipolar disorder and he has experienced much trauma mentally and emotionally. Only someone else who has walked a similar journey could ever truly grasp what I’m talking about here. I consider him a warrior in his own right. I don’t need anyone to validate it for me.

He will probably never be acknowledged for his own heroism of simply treating others kindly while talking to someone who is suicidal, encouraging someone who’s depressed, giving his last to help another, all the while everyone only sees what they want. What they don’t know is the unseen battles he has endured in silence, while persevering through being hospitalized, ridiculed and yet graduating high school with honors, becoming a state champ for his sporting event. He will probably never be recognized for his achievements in ways that he is searching for, but I will always advocate for him and for his rights.

People only see what they are educated enough to see. They don’t recognize invisible disabilities within a person like my son and his character and personality can mask it well. He is a fun-loving, comical, person. Maybe that’s why this most recent battle he just went through wasn’t able to be recognized as a person in need of mental health first aid. He experienced another horrible episode of mania while away from home and on campus. As a result of his mental health condition that we know as bipolar disorder, he became severely symptomatic and extremely elated with his behaviors. Lots of people reported him as displaying odd behaviors and some made accusations that he was probably high on drugs, yet no one reached out on his behalf to help him. It wasn’t until he came home and I was contacted by the school that I learned he was in mania. Anyone who’s never lived with mania or been upfront, close and personally alongside a person experiencing a manic episode would probably panic on behalf of the individual suffering.

I wrote this article, not to dismiss any veteran of war, because I am extremely greatful for every vet who has volunteered to go through extraordinary life changing, life threatening events and the risk they chose to take to save civilians and fight for our country.

I merely wrote this article because with the same admiration I have for our vets, its the same way I view my son’s bravery and courage to keep living on beyond the many battles, traumas he has faced. And I only think of that comparison on a level of respect and compassion.

I was once seated inside of a mental health training along with several veterans, and there was a older vet who sat across from me and began to share his story of having served in the war and now living with the aftermath and PTSD but managing it the best he could. When I began to share with him about my own son, his response was so compassionate and kind, leading me to this very thought……..⏬⏬⏬

Two very different wars, two very different battles, but somehow it seems like very similar outcomes that bring the mind to feel in ways that no one else can ever comprehend. Thank you for hearing me.

So I thought about how much we have compassion for those who served our country by choosing to go to battle, but what about our loved ones who went into battle fighting a war that they didn’t choose, a mental health war!

#BipolarDisorder #MentalIllnessIsWartoo #MentalHealthWarrior #SeethePersonNotTheirIllness #Respect

Thanks for being here and much love, prayers, respect & support to you and your family! And a special thank you to our veterans. Always remember everyone’s journey, experience, story is very different and to be respected because its their own unique truth.

-Erika

Believe in You! #MentalHealth

You don’t need others to validate your choices.

You don’t need others to boost your self esteem.

Don’t give others the power to define who you are. You only need to believe in your self worth and remain confident at all times. Even thru failure you can find success.

You don’t need a fortune cookie to tell you good things about yourself.

You don’t need a psychic to tell you about your life.

You don’t need to blow out all the candles on your cake in one blow to make your wishes come true.

You don’t need a bunch of money to create wealth.

You don’t need a million followers on social media to be considered as important.

You should never allow any person to shatter your worth, your value, your ideas, your dreams, or your hopes.

You don’t need anymore excuses.

You don’t have to keep searching for confirmation or validation or accreditation.

YOU JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE IN YOU! AND GET AT IT!

I hope I was able to encourage someone tonight!

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Thanks for being here! -Erika

My voice, my views, but my son’s journey. When the wind blew bipolar our way. (Repost)

Tonight, I will be sharing a small chapter of my oldest son’s journey of life in his teenage years and becoming diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This article is through my views and facts as I know them. It is my voice of experience as his mom, caregiver, and advocate.

It all began during the middle of his 8th grade year. He had come home from school one day, not speaking and with a grimaced facial expression. Anything I said, he wouldn’t respond to, I would just get that same expression. I could discern something was off, not exactly right, and very concerned. My husband was in denial, and thought he was just playing around, because our son often would joke around. However, I knew my son wasn’t playing around and this was nothing to joke about nor was it a joke itself. I like to think of it as “mothers intuition”. It wasn’t until he was attempting to make a sandwich and turn on the TV that it was obvious he was in need of medical attention. To see that he struggled to make that sandwich and watch him begin to twitch while trying to turn on the TV, that was enough for me. I can remember my husband laying down to take a nap as he too had just gotten home from work. As soon as I came out to the living area and saw my son struggling with the remote and his face twitching, I knew in that instant, he needed medical attention and there was something serious going on, but I just didn’t know what. We immediately took him to the hospital ER and he was admitted. They ran several medical tests, labs, and everything came back negative except one small concern. But it wasn’t able to explain why he wasn’t talking and why he was having all these involuntary movements with his upper extremities.

Long story short, he was discharged after sometime in the hospital as having an altered mental status. And sent home with a sedative to treat anxiety attacks, since this was also what he appeared to be experiencing. He was referred to follow up with their social worker/pediatric psychologist for outpatient services.

After his uncontrollable symptoms had ran their course. He finally stabilized and was home, all things appeared to return back to normal for himself as well as our daily living. And might I add, this entire “thing” had flipped our entire world’s upside down, inside out and scared the living crap out of us all. It was as though, here we were sailing through life just great and then this “thing” came in and interrupted our world as we once knew it before. During this time his mental health was out of his control and required him to finish his 8th grade at home. I arranged with the school district to provide a home school tutor and created a 504 plan with accommodations for his educational needs.

For those who have no idea what I’m explaining please follow this article for more descriptive details of my journey. Never did I think my family, my son, would experience anything like this. Prior to this happening our family was blind to mental illnesses and our family was once “untouched”, “uninformed”. Some of you have absolutely no clue how difficult it is to watch your child suddenly become nonverbal, incapacitated and suddenly crippled mentally and physically. It was heart breaking and I felt like my life was moving in slow motion as I was being suffocated. I felt helpless, and afraid for his quality of life.

All I had in these moments was my faith in God which served as my weapon and continual prayer as my strength. His health had been severely impacted during this time, and it was scary because of the unknown future. He needed assistance to feed himself, tie his shoes, and walk at times. And I’m talking about a child who was born healthy, normal and on time. He was advanced in some areas of his growth and development as a toddler. He had always been highly active, involved in sports, and very independent. All the things he enjoyed before had all become things that he no longer could enjoy at times. He would still partake in doing them, but just couldn’t enjoy them as he once had. It was as though the wind blew and everything changed in the blink of an eye.

To be continued…

Church inclusion for special needs families.

This is my Facebook post on my personal account.

I know most people who are similar to my own family and its dynamics probably find it difficult to do any outside activities, depending upon our loved ones challenges. But down through the years of raising my family and my youngest child, I have had both failures and successes.

I have experienced those horrible moments of being laughed at, pointed at, talked about with the whispers as we pass by, oftentimes made to feel unwanted and misunderstood by his behaviors as a younger child living with developmental delays. It has always been my stance and his siblings to protect and watch over him. To use our voices to speak on his behalf or to stop the stigma that others may have thrown our way.

So with our life experiences and God as our center of hope, faith and love for others, it was impressed in our spirit to begin a ministry to cater to other families like us.

In addition to talking with other families we have met, mostly all feeling the same way as us, we began to see a great need within our own community for a special needs ministry. A service where these families can come and worship God together in the same sanctuary. Our loved ones can be involved with the service in their own way of expression. Whether it be them sitting, standing, running, jumping, rocking in their seat, walking the floor, clapping, shouting with a joyful noise, whatever their ability to praise God. There are no stares, there is no pressure to feel unwelcome for being “different”. Just a place where all families can come together in one place, God’s House and feel the love, and be able to meet others who can truly relate to our daily living.

The service includes everyone and offers a time for those who may want to share their story about their journey. Individuals are included for a time of prayer, scripture reading. Followed by music, a gospel message and invitation at the altar.

I would like to ask every person that is supportive of this ministry and has personal social media accounts to share this news within their community and with their followers. We hope to inspire other churches to grab ahold of this great need for those who have been overlooked and forgotten by people, but NOT by God.

We are NOT FORGOTTEN MINISTRIES. Come join us every 3rd Sunday afternoon at 1pm.

Thank you for the support. Blessings!

Inspiration & Hope that came from suffering & pain.

This will NEVER get old for me. It’s just a small part of my son’s journey.

My son’s news stories from 2014.

My son 4months old, after ICD implant surgery in 2001.

My son after surgery, removal of his ICD implant.

He is teaching me about living life to its fullest potential even when things are designed to get you down.  He has taught me how to have joy even in the midst of loss and tragedy. If only the world could know just how amazing this kid is! Nearly every person who has a chance to meet and interact with him, always says he is one of a kind.

I’m so blessed to have Erik as my son just as he is, developmental delays and ALL. And I would NOT change a single thing about him. He brightens my day. You would think as a mom I am teaching him about life, but he is indeed teaching me instead. He has compassion for others to the extent that he prays each night and mentions by name others who he has met or knows that are in need of something that only God can give to them. He just has such a confidence that I admire.  And he has a faith that is undeniable.


My son praying during the special needs service.

This kid could have mustard on his shirt, walk into a room of executives and still be confident to walk up, shake their hand, introduce himself and spark a conversation without feeling any shame. Seriously!

In spite of the sufferings along the journey, in spite of all the tears I cried, praying consistently down through the years for strength and endurance, I have to say, it’s evident that this has all been a part of Gods plan to teach me humility, patience, forbearance, compassion, empathy, how to suffer, giving me a testimony to inspire others, and to see the glory in the midst of it all.

Everybody always wants blessings but nobody ever wants to suffer. Everyone wants to skip passed the bad stuff and go straight to the good stuff. But that didn’t happen in my journey. Yet, now, in hindsight, I would not change a thing. I’ve learned so much watching Erik grow and develop at his pace. It’s because my family has Erik, that his siblings have compassion for others and without stigma or judgment. It’s because of Erik that we understand struggles and acceptance. It’s because of Erik along with my other children who battle mental illness, that I created this website called “stigmasnomore.com”. It’s because of God, our faith and HIS grace that we are able to share this journey with others.  It’s because of the suffering that others didn’t see, that we are blessed that others do see.

Thank you for being here. This next chapter is going to just keep getting better!

I am beginning to write my first book soon, so I hope once it’s on bookshelves, that you will buy it and help it become a best seller.

You can donate here if you’d like to help me with start up costs. ⏬⏬⏬⏬

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I want to tell everyone who reads this article, who is a parent or caregiver, always stay the course, and don’t measure your growth to that of others instead measure to your own. Everyone comes from different walks of life, each at their own pace. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t rush the process or you might wind up with raw results.  Just keep going.

Blessings!

NEVER let anyone limit your child’s development. #Specialneeds #proudmama

My son, Erik is a senior this year. He will be graduating this Thursday and he is so full of emotions.

He fractured his knee this past Wednesday at school during his bike club. So he is back in a wheelchair. He hasn’t had to use one since he was a smaller child. Back then it was from his developmental delays, today its because he fractured his knee somehow.

Myself, my son and one of his many teachers.

Prayers are appreciated. We have had to pay for a ramp since insurance didn’t cover the prescription. But the most important thing is that he is still in good spirits.

His teachers and therapists at school have been amazing! We are truly going to miss them all. He is going to miss seeing his friends everyday.

My son & his friends & Ms Falconer

My compassion for others who are wheelchair bound has increased even more because I am getting only a fraction of what they live with on a daily but I’m speaking from a caregiver position.

I’m sharing some inspiring video of my son at his classroom party and his senior awards night. He received two awards at senior awards night as Valedictorian and Superintendents scholarship award.


I love his spirit! Even when he’s down, he’s up.

And again, don’t you ever let anyone, I repeat, ANYONE tell you what your child will never be able to do! Because faith and a will to do, have the final say!

Thanks for being here again.