Thoughts on Parenting from a Former Child

A guest post by Diana Calvo

Today we’re welcoming Diana Calvo to The Space Between! We have focused on mental health with a few of our previous guest bloggers, and we come back to this important topic today. Diana is a life transition coach and co-author of Amazon International Bestseller “Expect Miracles“. You can read her full bio here. In her article, she shares thoughts on healing ourselves and a technique parents can use to identify their own triggers. Diana also happens to be Julie’s friend since third grade. Yes, she has stories! We hope you enjoy her insights below…

Recently The New York Times published an article about teaching mindfulness at school, as one method for dealing with mental health issues in children. The article got me thinking about children and mental health, and more specifically, my own mental health as a child. I can’t help but wonder how having access to mindfulness teachings might have changed the course of my life.

Mindfulness at school is one thing, but what excites me more for the future of children’s mental health is the idea of a parent dealing with her own mental health issues, and appropriately discussing her experience with her children. Breaking the cycle, in other words. If a parent is also willing to explore his spirituality – whatever that might look like – and share that experience with his children, we’ve now identified the most impactful formula there is for leaving our children a world that is better than the one we were born into. Mental health plus spirituality is a powerful force for healing.

Now, I’m not a parent, but I am a child of parents with mental health issues, and I know from my own experience how devastating my mother’s narcissism and my father’s personality were on my own emotional development and mental health. Before I began my own journey of healing, I spent a lifetime – 40+ years – in a state of suffering related to the subconscious choices I made, and beliefs I adopted, while I was in their care. A combination of psychology and spirituality has been my personal path to liberation from this trauma. Today I’m deeply interested in the alleviation of suffering, and that’s why the mental health of children, and their parents, is of interest to me.

One time, in the context of a healing circle, I had the privilege of witnessing the mother of a newborn baby girl expose some of her fears about parenting. A lot was happening with the baby that the mother didn’t understand. She believed she needed to have all the answers, and then felt inadequate when she didn’t. A discussion followed: What if the baby didn’t really need a mother who had all the answers? What if the baby would benefit more from having a mother who was willing to sit beside her own fear, rather than run from it?  What kind of woman would this little girl grow up to be if she was exposed to an adult who was skilled at coping with uncertainty? 

Continue reading “Thoughts on Parenting from a Former Child”

Recharging Your Batteries Isn’t an Option, It’s a Necessity

by Susan Silverman

Motherhood—and parenthood in general—is hard. Period. End of story. I know this isn’t rocket science. We have read countless books, articles, blogs, and websites that say this. In this 24-7 unpaid career (I am referring to financial payment, not the payment we get in wet kisses and too tight hugs), we put our families first—first comes our children then our significant others. In last place, we put ourselves; but only if we have enough energy, time, or even willpower.

I have said to my husband regularly, and unfortunately to myself, “I can’t go to the gym because Little One needs dinner.” Or “LO won’t let me out of her sight. How can I go for a manicure/see friends/take a walk around the neighborhood?” Yup, these are common statements for the last two years. Much of it has to do with not trusting my husband with our child (which is my fault); but as parents—and specifically as a mother—it is engrained that we come last to the needs of everyone else.

But I’m here to tell you that taking care of yourself is more important. Without having a healthy you—physically, spiritually and emotionally—you don’t have a healthy family. Period. We all need to make time for ourselves. And believe me, this is so difficult, which is why I’m holding up a mirror as I write this. The fancy-dancy term for this is “recharging your batteries.”

As I have written previously, I live in the United Kingdom due to my spouse’s civilian job with the Department of Defense. The most challenging part of this life is the lack of family, friends or mom’s group to rely on to give me a hand, especially when I need just an hour to myself.

Last summer I was lucky to find that our military base had a daycare spot available for the summer. (As background, children at this daycare are enrolled full time and parents are charged for it. However, if an enrolled child goes on vacation, their spot can be made available for others to rent.) My husband and I jumped at the opportunity.

Before I continue, let me address the elephant in the room. Yes, I am a stay-at-home-mum and yes, my husband and I put our child in daycare for the summer. As a woman who chose to give up her professional career and is part of the United States military life overseas, I am seen as my husbands’s wife” or LO’s mother”—nothing more. When our family followed my husband’s career overseas, I gave up my professional identity to being a full-time-mum, a job I love but it is just not all of who I am. There is more to me than being a mum.

Continue reading “Recharging Your Batteries Isn’t an Option, It’s a Necessity”

The Funny Thing About Mental Illness…an Interview with Deena Nyer Mendlowitz

I’m so happy to introduce my friend Deena Nyer Mendlowitz as our guest this week. (bio here) Deena  is a former colleague from the social expressions industry. We sat through many not-funny  meetings about funny greeting cards together.  She is that friend who deeply believes in you and will encourage you in any pursuit. She’s also the first person who got me on stage to read my writing. (And that’s a serious accomplishment!) Her work in Cleveland (and elsewhere) to destigmatize mental illness is inspiring. Through comedy and candor she is educating and encouraging discussions on the way we perceive and treat mental illness. She is a mom and a creative force. We are grateful for the chance to interview her on The Space Between.

 

Note: The specific mental illness Deena refers to when speaking about her own experience is  Chronic Suicidal Ideation.

Deena, tell us a little bit about your creative pursuits at the moment.

Currently I host and perform in three shows monthly. I host my own live comedy mental health talk show, Mental Illness and Friends. I also host and perform in This Improvised Life, which is on the third Wednesday of every month at Happy Dog East. It is a live show that mixes true life stories with improv. I also host Dana Norris’ Story Club Cleveland Show the first Tuesday of every month at Bottlehouse East. People tell true stories from their lives based on a theme.

 At what point did you realize you were dealing with mental illness and not “just” emotions or phases or whatever we tend to pass these things off as? 

Five days before I was set to graduate college I attempted to end my life. Before that I’d never really even seen a therapist, besides after my grandmother passed away to talk about my profound sadness at that. The suicide attempt seemed sudden and out of nowhere, but really these were feelings I’d been contending with and fighting with and dealing with, all internally for years.

Since that day it’s just been a continued mission to build up skills to gain more resources because to me that’s how I fight this disease. There’s a quote that really shaped this:

“Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.”

I realized that I couldn’t have a lot of control over the pain, but I can have a huge amount of control over building up my resources.

Continue reading “The Funny Thing About Mental Illness…an Interview with Deena Nyer Mendlowitz”