Cerebral Palsy and Abuse

March was Cerebral Palsy (CP) Awareness Month and April was Child Abuse Awareness Month, and I have been wanting to write this post for a while now. This post will cover CP and abuse and mental health issues as May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects the brain causing difficulty in movement. It can be mild, affect one side of the body, or severe. I have severe cerebral palsy and I can’t physically take care of myself at all. I didn’t breathe for 40 minutes after I was born and they almost gave up on me. I was in the NICU for a couple weeks and I wasn’t expected to live. But I did! I will be 40 in September!

But the lack of oxygen caused the brain damage that led to the CP. I can’t control my muscles and have spasms which are involuntary contractions of the muscles and involuntary movements. I am typical cognitively. I type with my nose and write books and these posts with my nose. My children’s book about my life with CP will hopefully be out at the end of the year. Getting the right illustrators has been hard but I finally found the perfect people to do it and they are doing a wonderful job with it!

Having a severe physical disability is hard but I refuse to let it ruin my life. I am a survivor and I hate pity! I crave acceptance and to be seen as a person! Sadly, many people are not able to see the real me. They see me as a child or subhuman instead of a competent person. I am so much more than my disability.

I prefer person-first language. I am a person with a disability, not a “disabled person.” I am a person with cerebral palsy! I refuse to be defined by my disability. Words like “handicapped,” “cripple,” “retard,” and “spaz” are very offensive to the disability community. We are people who deserve respect and rights and support. But again, despite making progress in this country, some people just refuse to accept and see us.

Children with disabilities are more likely to be abused and bullied. I was. Children that didn’t know me would make fun of me at school. I was also physically, mentally, emotionally, and verbally abused by my parents. As I have written in another blog post, I truly believe that both parents are/were narcissistic which is confusing because they did fight for me for the services that I needed and did care for and loved me, but there was also abuse at home. Some of the abuse that I experienced I recently found out through professional therapy that it was abuse and that I wasn’t protected like I should have been and have been put down even through adulthood. I am now protecting myself from those people and my husband does a wonderful job with helping me.

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What is sad is that in a Facebook group my abuse was questioned by some of the parents and these parents claimed that adults with CP are harder on parents. There’s no evidence that this is the case and all the people I know with CP have wonderful relationships with their parents because they weren’t abused by them. Never ever question the abuse of someone!!

Due to the lack of being able to do what typical children and adults are able to do combined with the abuse and trauma I have suffered, I battle anxiety, CPTSD, PTSD, and depression every day. Sometimes I have it pretty together and other times it is a struggle. The pandemic has heightened everything and I am struggling to get out of it again. I will though. Therapy is helping me.

Having CP is just something I live with like my mental health issues. I try to use my pain to help people. If I can stop one child from being hit or otherwise abused, I will keep advocating and educating people who are willing to learn. My pain and abuse doesn’t define me either but it is something that I live with.

I wish there was more acceptance for people with disabilities and mental health issues. I also wish that people understood that how we treat children will affect their mental health. If one isn’t a white, rich man, it’s still hard to get along in this society and this must change. There should be no stigma for the abused, people with disabilities, or people with mental health issues.

Let’s raise our children to be more aware and accepting. I hope my children’s book that will hopefully be out by the end of the year will help with creating a more zombie accepting world.

Isolation And It’s Negative Effects

With the ongoing pandemic going on, my husband and I have been in isolation for eleven months now, and in October,  the one place I could safely go in was taken away because of the rising numbers of COVID-19.  So except for rides and medical appointments, I have not been anywhere in four months.  There’s a little hope with the new president that takes the virus seriously and with the shots that may prevent COVID-19, but there’s a lot of uncertainty and people still don’t want to take proper precautions to limit the spread.

All this is leading to unprecedented anxiety, depression, and desperation for me and many others.   I am a trauma survivor with the serious side effects of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and CPTSD.  I am losing track of the days and I am feeling like time is going in a weird speed.  My trust issues and abandonment issues are becoming worse and I don’t want to push the very people who truly love me away.  It’s a scary, lonely place and I am continuing to work with a therapist to get through the trauma of the abuse that was heaped upon me. But even therapy is harder because I can’t go in person.

This has been leading me to think about isolating time-outs for children.  I know I covered it in this post I wrote a few years ago, but with this new understanding of isolation and what it is doing to my 39-year-old brain, I want to talk about it again.

Isolation can definitely cause negative effects on the child’s brain as well as adults.  Here’s research showing the effects of isolation on the brain.

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It can cause anxiety, depression, desperation, despair, anger, and hopelessness.  This article shows the research on the effects of social isolation.  We are social beings that need meaningful relationships.  As someone with a severe disability, even before the pandemic started, there have been many times in my life that I was in a room full of people but I still felt lonely because I wasn’t able to find a deep relationship with anyone there.  I communicate easier online due to my slurred speech, but I still require in-person interaction.

This all leads me to isolation and children.  While toddlers will be ok with this pandemic and the quarantine as long as they have supportive adults who are able to manage their stress, older children are definitely being effected by not having the same level of social opportunities that they used to have.   Sadly, suicide rates for children are increasing.  Some children live in abusive or dysfunctional homes and they have lost their outlet of school and other activities that give them a break from their home lives.

Due to the experience of being isolated from the world except for online, I have an even better understanding isolating time-outs. Using isolating time-out is damaging to the child’s brain. I am not talking about the quick break that we all need sometimes.  I am talking about forcing the child to sit quietly alone for a specific amount of time and then making it longer if he/she doesn’t sit quietly.  This is punishment and harmful.  It is essentially isolation.

While if a parent is still bent on using punishment, I would rather have the parent use time-out rather than spanking/hitting their children.   However,  isolating time-out doesn’t teach anything but that the child deserves to be alone until he/she can behave.  Children, especially young children, have no sense of time so they feel like it is forever.  I remember feeling that way when I was put in my room and I would scream with anger and fear.  I hated my parents.  It didn’t teach me anything.

My husband remembers his dad leaving him for a brief period of time and he felt anxious about when his dad would be back because even though he was 8-years-old and old enough to be left briefly, he still had no sense of time.  

As I mentioned in my previous post about time-outs, children are usually not sitting there thinking about what they did wrong.  Rather, they’re angry, confused, in fight or flight mode, and wondering how much longer they have to sit there.  Some may learn to berate themselves for messing up.  Some may learn to distract themselves during the time-out.

Time-in, however, allows for quiet time with a supportive adult even if he/she just sits nearby until the child calms down enough to talk through what happened.  The adult can use time-in to teach children emotional regulation, empathy, validation, and coping skills such as deep breaths or using words to help them express themselves in a healthy manner.

 I understand that we are all on edge right now but isolating children to punish them will only make the children feel even worse and may exacerbate negative behaviors.  We all need to give each other grace and empathy during this ongoing stressful time.

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Unconditional

How many things are truly unconditional?  It’s almost Christmas and we tell children that Santa will bring them presents if they are good.  We put Elf on the shelf so that they know he is watching them for Santa.  I know that some families play games with this toy but many people don’t.

Love is supposed to be unconditional but it often demands things from others or it’s removed when the child misbehaves—no matter how old he/she is.  Christian doctrine teaches that God is love but one must say the “right prayer” to avoid going to “Hell.”  I feel like true unconditional love is rare. I have seen both in my life and now it’s even more apparent with the pandemic.  Love for our neighbors means doing everything we can to protect them from COVID-19 by wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands frequently, and staying home for Christmas with immediate family.

And children should have presents just because they are loved; not because they were good.  The real St. Nick gave to the poor and helped the oppressed because he was kind and loving.  He didn’t expect anything from them. Here’s a wonderful video on the history of Santa.

Have you ever just given something to someone without telling anyone or given something to a complete stranger who needs help?  These have been the most rewarding experiences for me.  This is loving people unconditionally.

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I believe that respect is earned but love is not.  Love, especially for children, should never ever be earned.  This doesn’t mean that we have to be involved with toxic people.  Love them by walking away from them.

I understand that some people have very high-needs children and it is really hard but they should love their children for who they are.  Speaking from my own experience of being a very high-needs child as well as having a parent ask in a Facebook group about what to do to prevent damage from not being able to meet every single need, I believe that it is more important to explain to the child that we are trying our best and validate the child.

However, coming from an abusive, narcissistic home and struggling to come to terms with my own mother being narcissistic and and that she will never be able to be a good mom to me, what hurts is parents not talking about it in a healthy way.  I have severe cerebral palsy and even my husband can’t meet every emotional need I have and sometimes he gets frustrated which is human but it triggers me. The difference is that he is truly trying and admits to his shortcomings.  I do the same.

But with narcissistic parents, they don’t care and won’t admit that they are falling short.  In these cases and other abusive situations, the love is not unconditional.  I think as long as one has a good connection with his/her child and teaches healthy coping skills, the child may need help later on in life, but he/she shouldn’t have the same amount of pain and damage that us who were abused by our narcissistic parents have.

Accepting that one’s child is different than the parent is unconditional love.  When this happens and children have very different personalities than the parents, the best thing that parents can do is accept it and support the children.  Get involved with at least one activity that the child enjoys.  And share each other’s interests with each other knowing that it’s ok to be so different.  Yes, it is hard at times but the key is to validate and accept.

This Christmas, with so many people sick and dying from COVID-19, let’s remember the little Baby that came to Earth to try and teach us what unconditional love is.  Or if you don’t celebrate Christmas, please think about how you can make this world better by loving people instead of being selfish.

Have a peaceful Holiday season.  We remember all who we lost this year.  May 2021 eventually be a better year!

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Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, Mental Health, And Helping Children.

The past few months have been really difficult for me with the Covid-19 pandemic and being super high risk. It has made me struggle with dealing with my own trauma, trying to do what is right and safe regarding the trauma of having a mother who can’t give me what I need, but still wanting her and my other biological family to remain safe. I have felt isolated and anxious and depressed. Being so high risk due to my asthma and severe Cerebral Palsy (CP) has made me angry when I finally realized how serious this virus is for many and seeing how people just don’t want to do what we need to do to be safe!

Life with CP is limiting and even though we find a way to do stuff that I want to do, it’s not easy like typical people who are able to just jump in the car and go. My state is in Phase 3 of reopening and I got my first non-essential, non-medical outing this week to my tattoo artists and chosen family to finish my Samoset kitty tattoo that was started before the outbreak and lockdown started. I was only able to do it because they locked the door and my husband and I were the only ones in there besides the artists. Masks were worn and sanitizer was used even more.

844129F8-4D70-4689-83DD-2AC66EF7AA15 Samoset tattoo by Todd Bass at Triphammer Carbondale.

Throughout this pandemic, I have been aware of all the different aspects of it. My mental health as well as others have suffered due to isolation, people are losing everything, suicide is up. There’s so much to this pandemic and it is so sad that some elected officials are not doing everything they can to prevent this from being so out of control.

I know children and parents are struggling. I think the best thing to do for children is to create routines that are flexible and, if they are old enough, allow them to have a say in the routines. And as I’m sure you have already heard, answer questions honestly but briefly depending on their age and development.

This is scary for the children too. They have lost a lot and they may not be able to understand why. So I have heard a lot of regression in children’s behaviors have been happening from parents. This is so hard because I know parents are stressed out too. I recommend reassuring the children and finding an activity such as meditation or reading or yoga to help calm stress and fear. This is not an easy time for anyone.

Now we have a horrible murder of a black man, George Floyd, that has set off protests and riots in the midst of a pandemic. It is so scary and sad. Racism has got to stop!

I used to say “all lives matter” and even wrote a blog post in which I used “All Lives Matter” for the title of the post that covered every race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and, of course, children mattering.

Having a severe physical disability made me question, “what about other minorities?” I was a Republican slowly making my way towards Libertarianism at the time. I am now a Libertarian and while I still love Jesus, I’m no longer into mainstream Christianity anymore due to the legalism, bad church doctrine, and abuse, and hate.

I now understand the Black Lives Matter movement and right now this group of people desperately need our support, validation, and LOVE! Saying “all lives matter” doesn’t do this for black people who are hurting badly. Jesus immediately went to the people in desperate need no matter who they are. Jews didn’t hang around Samaritan people but Jesus did.

I know many Christians and conservatives won’t hear me because I was the same way about this topic and I had to figure it out for myself. But I am embarrassed by my ignorance even though I was trying to be fair and supportive and was trying to validate everyone but I was wrong. I support Black Lives Matter and peaceful protests except for the Coronavirus concern. I hope my story helps someone moving away from ignorance to validation and love over being “right.”

Our children are watching everything and need to be taught kindness and acceptance for all. There has also got to be a major change because most black families experience so much pain and violence in their lifetimes and parents of black children are even more likely to spank/hit and harshly punished because they fear that if they don’t teach strict obedience to authority that it could be their child that is murdered by a bad cop. But this spanking and hardship make the children more likely to act out and get into crime.

And while police lives also matter, it’s important to keep in mind that there are many good cops of all races and they don’t deserve to suffer. On the other hand, white cops need to remember that at the end of the shift, they are like everyone else. But black people still have to deal with the racism and can’t hide from it.

Please be safe and get tested for Covid-19 if you participate in the peaceful protests and quarantine yourself because we can’t make change can’t happen if we’re sick and in the hospital or dead.

May we strive for kindness and love and create this in our children. May peace, love, and light reign in our world!

Do You Resent Your Child?

I hear that being a parent is very hard work and I agree even though I am not a parent.  Most of my friends have children.  My husband has a son. Therefore, I see and hear about all the sacrifices that they have gladly made.  I get to witness some of these sacrifices my friends choose to make for their children.  It’s not always fun but they do it out of love.

Teachers also make sacrifices for the children in their classes.  I did.  I had to do my best to be at my best for the children I worked with.  Did I get exasperated when a toddler was high spirited or had behavioral problems and needed extra attention?  Yes!  Did I feel stressed out when I worked with infants and they all started crying at the same time with only my aide and me in the room?  Yes!

However, I never held it against them because I chose to be a teacher and I understood that they were just being themselves.  I understand how the child brain works so to hold that against them would have deeply hurt my connections with them.  Children are also very perceptive.  They can feel our stress and negative vibes.

I am severely physically disabled and I understand that I am a lot of work.  It must be even more difficult to parent a child with a disability because he/she requires even more care and can’t always do activities that typical children can, especially children with sensory issues such as aversion to loud noises.  Should it be held against a child if he/she gets overwhelmed by crowds or loud noises?  No, of course not, because it’s out of their control!

According to dictionary.com, the definition of resentment is:

noun

the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person,etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.”

So a person who feels resentment towards his/her children believes that the children have caused “injury or insult” to him/her and holds it against them.  These people are not able to let it go.  Let’s face it, children will hurt us sometimes but they usually don’t truly mean it.  And children are born with the ability to love unconditionally.

They didn’t ask to be conceived and born.  They didn’t ask to have an immature brain that doesn’t allow them to have total impulse control over their behaviors.  And children with disabilities didn’t ask for it either!

I know parents don’t ask for their children to be disabled or high spirited.  However, by choosing to become a parent, parents should be ready for anything even if this means asking for help when they are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do or are exhausted.  I understand that getting help and support isn’t always easy and our country has much work to do in supporting families of every type.  Organizations also need to step up the resources and support for families.  But help is out there.

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Your screaming baby isn’t screaming just to drive you to tears.  He/She needs you and may not be able to sleep.  It’s not the baby’s fault.  Your preschooler isn’t hitting you and having meltdowns just to embarrass you or make you crazy.  He/She just don’t have the ability to deal with big feelings without your help.  The child needs you to gently but firmly guide him/her through the process.  It’s not the child’s fault.  Your teenager isn’t saying mean things to you because he/she truly means it.  Teens still require help dealing with strong emotions and it’s not their fault. Children need discipline and care.

Your child with disabilities isn’t trying to hold you back because he/she requires your constant care.  The child needs you!  It’s not his/her fault!

Children learn a lot from the adults around them.  They must learn about empathy, grace, and unconditional love in order to give it back.  It’s true that parents will get angry, frustrated, and exasperated with their children.  They will need breaks and self care.  But parents have chosen to be the child’s parents, therefore, to hold everything against the child is not appropriate.  If a parent is feeling resentful of the children, then he/she must seek help from professionals.  If not, then the relationship with the children will be tainted and may even become abusive.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world.  Believe it or not, so is being a child trying to learn and navigate through this new world.  Respect the children and the children will respect their parents unless they have a mental illness that needs addressing. Respect begets respect.  Resentment begets broken relationships.

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20 Years Ago Today…

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June 10, 1999

This was me 20 years ago today. I graduated high school with my class ’99 with honors thanks to CHIP empowering me to stand up to everyone who thought I should stay in high school! I hated Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings because it was more like “Plan Steph’s Life” meetings, but Chip was my boyfriend then and came to these meetings with me giving me the courage to stand my ground. I don’t think anyone but Chip and I wanted me to graduate with my class. I would have been SO UNHAPPY not graduating especially when I was in the National Honor Society, and as you can see, graduated with honors!

I went on to Waubonsee Community College, and had a wonderful counselor who encouraged me to take Psychology which led me to be an early childhood professional with my Master’s Degree. No, things haven’t worked out exactly how I wanted but I am getting my children’s book illustrated by Candace Lyon, and I will get my 2nd edition (non-religious) of Gentle Firmness out on Amazon and keep advocating for children.  Eventually I will find my place.

I have always had to fight for everything, but I am blessed to have a wonderful man to fight with me to accomplish what I am supposed. I’m glad I don’t have a boring computer job that everyone but Chip tried to push me into!

May we teach children to never give up!

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Why I Share My Story Of Abuse

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month and anyone who knows me or has been following me or has my first edition of my book, Gentle Firmness, knows that child abuse is something I am extremely passionate about.

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Tattoo by Candace Lyon

I am a child abuse survivor.  I was physically, verbally, and emotionally abused by my dad and various other adults until I was 17 years old and finally told people that I was being abused.   All abusers make their victims feel shame and guilt.  One often thinks, “If only I did better,” or “It’s all my fault.”  I still struggle with this and have recently learned of additional abusive behavior that I’ve continued to endure as an adult that I was either unaware of and/or denied it was real.  Unfortunately, I continue to get confirmation that this abuse and manipulation is real and am putting a stop to it.

Mental illness runs in my family most likely due to the horrible cycle of abuse.  Genes may also play a part in the mental illness of my family.  My Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) score is a 7, which is pretty high, and I struggle with anxiety, PTSD, and depression every day. But every day I work towards healing and helping people.

To not share my story and pain would be like not sharing something that, unfortunately, is a part of me.  It would be like denying that I have severe cerebral palsy.  While I don’t allow either of these things to define me, I have wounds and scars from my trauma and I believe in using my pain to help others—others who were abused, others who are trying to break the cycle with their own children, and others who need to know that we’re not alone in this. And if I can prevent one child from abuse and heartbreak from the people who are supposed to love them, then it’s all worth it.

Another reason I share my story is to show that there is hope even when it doesn’t always feel like it.  Some days are harder than others for us survivors, but we are survivors.  There is no shame in getting help professionally.  There’s no shame in creating healthy relationships to support you.  Abusers and their defenders will make you feel like a horrible person for opening up about your abuse but don’t let them win.  This is typical abuser behavior.  Unless the abuser gets help, nothing will ever change.

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I hope also try to help people understand that even “normative spankings” are abuse in that corporal punishment can make children at a higher risk of being physically abused.  When a parent spanks/hits a child and the child doesn’t obey, the parent may decide to spank/hit even harder.  This is a risk for physical abuse even if one doesn’t consider corporal punishment as abuse.  No child ever deserves to be hit.

And countless other studies show that corporal punishment is harmful to children and it often includes emotional and verbal abuse because the child is told how “bad” he/she is and how he/she “deserves the spanking.”

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My dad hit me because of my spasms, which are involuntary muscle movements due to my severe cerebral palsy.  He also hit me for other things.  He was verbally and emotionally abusive as well. He passed away in 2003.  

After extensively researching narcissism as well as conferring with a colleague that knows more about this mental illness than meI do, I now believe that both of my parents very likely had/have this disorder.  In addition to refusing to admit they were/are wrong, they exhibited/exhibit other key characteristics of narcissism such as a lack of empathy, “an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships” (Mayo Clinic, 2019).

I have been over-analyzing my own behaviors because I am absolutely terrified of getting this mental illness.  It’s important to realize that it’s human nature to occasionally be selfish and self-absorbed.  It is also human nature to want recognition for accomplishments or to not to want to always admit when we are wrong.  Sometimes, like children, we want our own way and lash out when we don’t get our way.  This is not narcissistic as long as we recognize these tendencies and can admit that we do some of them occasionally.  I know I do these things sometimes but I always admit it.  I will always apologize if I am in the wrong.

To have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), one must exhibit at least 5 or more of these characteristics to an abnormal level and not be able to admit that he/she is doing any of this.  People with NPD will deny that they have it and will make their victims believe that it’s the victims’ fault, not theirs.  And as with any kind of illness, there is a spectrum wherein each individual lies.  Some people have narcissistic tendencies and some have NPD.  Unfortunately, because people with narcissistic tendencies or NPD will absolutely not seek help for this mental illness, it’s very difficult to diagnose.  These people usually seek treatment for depression or anxiety but not narcissism (Bressert, 2019).  In addition to this, NPD and other personality disorders can have the same kind of characteristics.

It has also been suggested that the stigma of mental illness can be associated with narcissism (Arikan, 2005, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/aadd/5cd265bcaeeaff77d9ce4fe16abf4ad39dc8.pdf).

I forgive my parents and other abusers and their defenders, but I cannot remain silent.  This is now a part of my story and I will tell it in a respectful manner.  Because people with NPD or narcissistic tendencies are masters at manipulation, one must put up strong boundaries and stand firm.  Otherwise, through manipulation that isn’t always obvious, these people will break the boundaries.  Walking away from them is the best way to protect oneself and hopefully get them to get help.  But nothing is guaranteed with this mental illness.

One can and must forgive his/her abusers because the forgiveness is more about setting oneself free from harboring anger and resentment towards them.  However, this does not mean letting the abusers off the hook.  I can’t do this myself.  Forgiveness also does not mean that you have to reconcile with them.  It just means you are able to work through the pain and heal.

I also don’t believe that all abusers are narcissistic or have a mental illness.  The cycle is so hard to break especially when the community is actually encouraging the abuse and the silence of the children and adults.   I’m aware of many abusers and/or pro-spankers that have realized that they were wrong and have apologized for it.  They change the way they parent or interact with their grown children.  Change is possible!

I am learning how to not be in toxic relationships with people who continue to hurt me.  This is far from easy but having healthy relationships is crucial for healing and recovery.  Getting psychotherapy is a must.  And I heal from getting tattoos so I recently got the tattoo below.  It was very emotional for me but reminds me that I am a SURVIVOR!  I need this on the days that feel impossible to get through.

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Narcissistic survivor tattoo by Todd Bass

Gentle parenting is prevention for child abuse. If parents understand typical child development, then I believe that they are less likely to spank/hit or otherwise abuse their children.  Therefore, I will never stop sharing my story.  It is a part of my healing process.  I don’t do it out of spite.  I do it because I understand the pain and struggle after trauma and abuse.

May we value children and stop child abuse someday for good!

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References:

Arikan, K.  (2005).  A Stigmatizing Attitude Towards Psychiatric Illness is Associated with Narcissistic Personality Traits. Psychiatry Relat Sci Vol 42 No. 4 pp. 248–250

Black, R. (2019).  Personality Disorders: A Guide to the Ten Different Types.  Retrieved https://www.psycom.net/personality-disorders-10-different-types/

Bressert, S.  (2019). Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder/

Goodtherapy.  (2018).  Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE).  Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/ace-questionnaire

Psychology Today.  (2019).  Narcissism.  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/narcissism

Mayo Clinic.  (2019).  Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662

 

4 Key Tips for Gentle Parenting When You Have a Disability By Ashley Taylor

Another post from Ashley Taylor about gentle parenting with a disability.

Being a parent is never easy, but when you have a disability, several aspects of the job can become a whole lot more complicated. For the approximately 4.1 million parents with disabilities throughout the country, the usual questions of parenting are compounded by worries about how they will keep up with their child, keep them safe, and educate them. Whatever your disability, the following tips can help you deal with these questions as they arise.

Focus on Home Safety

As a parent, one of your most important jobs is keeping your child safe and healthy within your home. Parents with disabilities have to be particularly careful, as they are not usually able to keep up with a small child’s energy or react quickly enough if something dangerous is about to happen. Therefore, the key to parenting is prevention.

There are a few key safety modifications that can make the everyday tasks of parenting easier and safer. These can include adaptable products such as chairlifts, modified sinks, and adjustable furniture such as changing tables and toilets. When you have a small child, a child safety gate can be invaluable, as it keeps them out of dangerous areas and can help you keep track of exactly where they are at any given time.

Learn to DIY

Any piece of furniture or kit you can think of for raising a child has a wheelchair or disability-friendly version out there. However, these can often be very expensive. For example, cribs for disabled parents that open from the front can cost about $2,000, but if you can DIY (or know someone who can), you can easily make one yourself.

Another area where DIY helps is food. Opening baby food jars can be difficult for people with cerebral palsy, arthritis, or similar disabilities. Making your own can be both healthier and easier as long as you have a good food processor. These recipes can give you some inspiration.

Teach Them Compassion

Your children will experience a rare benefit from growing up with a disabled parent: They will automatically develop empathy and compassion for those who are differently abled. However, you should still actively teach them about these matters as well.

This article by Parent Map outlines the ways in which parents can speak to non-disabled children about disability. While it is written from the perspective of a non-disabled parent, much of the advice still applies, such as being open to answering questions and teaching them that not all disabilities will look exactly like yours. 

Also, you can use your disability to teach them about compassion in other areas of life. Growing up with someone who is considered “different” will help them see the many ways in which “difference” is used to mock, bully, and demean people. You can use this to start a conversation about bullying and how they can prevent it, both in themselves and the people around them.

Know Your Rights

Parents with disabilities will sometimes run into problems with social services or the law because people wrongly believe that they are unable to take care of their children. This isn’t necessarily likely to happen, but it is still a good idea for you to be informed of your rights as a disabled parent. This toolkit by the National Council on Disability is an invaluable tool for this.

Parenting with a disability doesn’t necessarily mean everything is suddenly harder, but it does mean you have to think about certain matters more carefully than other parents. You will have to plan your everyday life in more detail and remain aware of how your experience is shaping your child’s world view. However, a disability will never stop you from having a beautiful, supportive, and loving relationship with your child — if anything, it can sometimes bring you closer.

 

Christmas, Bullying, And Raising Kind, Compassionate Children.

I can’t believe it’s Christmas time again. Well, it was when I began writing this post.

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy helping others in need all year-round, but especially this time of the year.  There are so many people in need and we are called to help them.

Unfortunately, this time of year also brings out the greediness in many.  You usually see this on Black Friday (which starts on Thanksgiving night now) and just before Christmas when people fight over the products that they must have.

Our children are aware of all of this.  They are also aware of when we are unkind to each other and them. Conversely, they’re also aware of our kindness and compassion for each other.

This is why I was sickened and angered by this dad who forced his daughter to walk to school which is miles away while he videotaped her in order to punish her for bullying.

Punishment is also a form of bullying because it teaches children how to force people to do what they want.  It is a temporary, ineffective solution to any behavioral issues, but especially for bullying.  Most bullying is the result of bullies feeling powerless because there’s either too much control in the home, i.e. authoritarian parenting (very controlling and punitive), or not enough care and acknowledgment, i.e.neglectful and permissive parenting. Some children (and adults) are so desperate for control and power that they will target seemingly weaker people. They push and push until they get the reaction they want and then they feel powerful being over the other person.

While I completely understand the seriousness of bullying as I have been bullied and made fun of my whole life, and I just dealt with a cyber bully, I feel like the dad just reinforced the bully mentality by making his daughter walk to school and video it. 

What did it teach her about kindness and respect? NOTHING! And his demeanor was very punitive and bullyish. Forcing her to walk in the cold while he followed her in his truck and videoed the whole thing is punishment, not a consequence of her actions. And SHE was also bullied herself. Think maybe she was trying to exercise power over others like they had done to her? There is no excuse for bullying, but you have to understand all the reasons why a child is behaving in a certain manner so that you can work with him/her and teach him/her.

Children learn what they live.  As I said, I just recently had a cyber bullying incident that I had to report to Facebook.  Both children and adults get behind their screens and say things that they usually wouldn’t ever say to the other person’s face.  I have not been a bully but I have been harsh online and have had to apologize for my behavior.  Saying anything cruel and calling names is bullying and verbal and emotional abuse!

It’s very important to realize that people of any age that act poorly usually feel poorly.  If one feels good about oneself, usually they don’t have the need to exercise control or get a reaction from another person.  There’s no need to purposefully hurt another person when you have healthy self-compassion.  Bullies are trying to get/do one of two things:

  1.  Exercise control over a weaker person to feel powerful and inflict pain so that someone else can feel the pain that they are feeling.
  2. To get a negative reaction from the victim as well as attention from others.

I would be very upset if I had a child and my child ever bullied another child. Social media and other media outlets are showing bullying to children. So the first two things I would ask if my child was being a bully is “What have I been doing to contribute to this?” And, “Why is my child feeling like he/she has to bully?” There is a reason for all unwanted behaviors.  I would work on the connection between my child and me.

I would limit screen time for my child and insist on knowing every account they have.  Many children and adults have secret accounts for bullying and other inappropriate things that they don’t want anyone else to know about.  It is crucial to be an active participant in our children’s online activities.  We need to stop cyber bullying and teach children that cyber bullying is also never okay.  If they see online bullying, they should put an eyeball 👁 emoji in the comments.  And cyber bullying must always be reported!

I would have many long discussions with my child about why it’s NEVER ok to bully. I would read books with him/her about people who were bullied. I would role play to teach kindness. I would have him/her do community service with me.

Teaching children unconditional kindness is so important.  Unconditional kindness is when we do something kind to someone without expecting any type of reward or credit for it .  This is true kindness.

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Another critical thing I would do is teach my children about all different people and not do anything to criticize differences.  When disability, culture, religion, age, race, and sexuality differences are understood, there’s less bullying because children learn that we’re all humans and we deserve equality and respect no matter what!  This is why I wrote my children’s book about my cerebral palsy which is currently being illustrated.  When we understand someone very different than us, it leads to kindness and compassion (unless the person is mentally ill and unable to be kind).

Finally, I would take the child to and from school and check in with her/his teacher until I could trust him/her again. Gentle parenting is more work than just punishment. Most parents don’t do anything because they don’t know how.

This is an excellent article about helping bullies become more empathetic and compassionate with others.

Understanding what drives bullies is crucial to both stopping and preventing it.  Teaching children empathy and compassion is so important. And Christmas time is a great time to really teach this so it will continue year-long.  When children see and are involved with more giving than receiving, they’re taught about empathy for people who aren’t as well off as they might be.  It also teaches gratefulness and that they are not entitled to get anything.

Christmas and New Years’ is a time to get involved with different charities.  It’s also a time to reflect on our relationships with our children and other people.  Children need our love and a deep connection with us.  They need to see healthy relationships with people.  This is vital for teaching empathy, compassion, and love towards others. They also need us to teach them healthy coping skills for their negative emotions.

I believe most bullies can be reformed if they are worked with for a while.  It may not happen overnight but we have the power to show them what empathy and compassion looks like. We can soften a harden heart by helping them deal with their own pain that is causing them to bully. We can teach them gently that greed and entitlement are bad.

Here is another excellent article about how to deal with bullying.

Children who witness bullying should always report it to a trusted adult.  If they are being bullied, they should do their best not to react and walk away to report it.  I believe teaching children self-defense is also important.  Taekwondo and karate are wonderful ways of accomplishing this!

This Bible verse came up in my devotional recently during my cyber bullying incident. It comforted me and applies to everyone even if one isn’t a believer.

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35, NASB).

As we enter the new year, may we use gentle parenting to prevent bullying and raise kind, compassionate children!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and will have a happy, healthy, blessed New Year!

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No Mud, No Lotus

 

For my birthday, I got a beautiful hand tattoo which, is in and of itself, a major accomplishment for someone who has severe cerebral palsy, with the phrase, “No mud, no lotus.”  I really wanted it on my hand in order to always be able to see it and take comfort in it.

This tattoo is especially meaningful to me after everything I’ve been through.  There has been so much darkness and pain, and yet, I am growing and fighting my way to the light out of the mud. This phrase was part of a recent meditation session and it really hit me hard because that’s how I feel. I am growing and changing; doing my best to become a better person while acknowledging that I am far from perfect. I’m learning to love myself and get away from toxic relationships even when it hurts.

I’m trying to be like Christ without all the religious stuff. Without the mud (darkness and pain), there’s no beautiful lotus. I’m trying to get to the blooming flower and I AM getting there. There’s always going to be be pain and darkness throughout life, but it can always eventually turn into something beautiful!

For the Christ-followers, bad things happen in the world because sin and satan are in it. We are not born evil.  God is the Author of only good things.  Children really need to be taught this so they don’t think they are inherently bad or that God causes “bad things to happen.”

 

Since today is mental health awareness day, this morning’s meditation session was wonderful!   I still struggle with anxiety and PTSD. This week has been especially rough for my bathroom anxiety.

It’s sad that physical pain is widely acknowledged and supported, but when it comes to mental health issues, there’s still a stigma which can, and often does, make people feel isolated and alone. Nobody expects you to “get over” physical illness or pain, but they certainly expect you to hurry up and “get over” emotional pain.

I truly believe emotional health begins at birth or even before. Children are able to pick up on our vibes. Therefore, they definitely require responsive, respectful care to be able to have a better chance at emotional health.  After all, emotional health is just as crucial for a healthy society as physical health is.

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