When it’s “Not my problem”

One of my most painful memories from the emergency department was a mom dropping off her toddler and claiming the Safe Haven law. She walked out in tears. Refused to give us her name. Did leave the child’s name. We were able to track down family members. And DCF. And the police. Eventually there were about ten family members in the room with this drooling babbling almost two year old. The DCF worker was trying to establish who would take the baby among the ten adults present. The room went totally silent. Then it was like a buzzing of bees. “I have kids already,” “I’m in school,” “I work full time,” etc. etc. Not one of those family members who so quickly came down to the ED took responsibility for that beautiful baby.

If you’ve read my blog you know I really try my hardest not to judge other people. Because being judged is not fun. But in that moment I was judging the crap out of that family. Especially now that I have kids and a niece. If I got a call that my niece needed a new home you bet your ass I would be there in a heartbeat. Because she’s my family and she is my problem to solve. I have two year old twins. Would I want another child if I had a choice? No. But I would never let a family member of mine go into state custody over coming to live with me. But that’s how I roll I guess. I have a deep sense of loyalty to my family and my friends. I’d make it work. My wife jokes because she thinks I’ll just come home one day with a stray kid. Because she knows if I was in that situation I’d grab that baby and be like I got you.

How many times a week do I sit with a kid who is being bullied. Who tells me the teachers know, the other kids in their class know, and no one does anything. I believe them. Been there. At what point will we teach our children to step up and say “Stop.”

The level of indifference in our communities astounds me. Facebook groups are incredibly active regarding social justice, yet my wife and I still got severely side-eyed big time in a more conservative part of our state recently at a Job Lot with our kids.

Within the past couple months someone in a FB group I’m in wrote about why Christians receive a bad rep and that it’s not fair. It rubbed me a certain way. Not because I am anti-Christian at all. But because it felt like a white person complaining about a Person of Color being suspicious or skeptical of a white person. It’s easy for a person of Christian faith to say “But I’m not homophobic or racist” talking the talk. It’s the whole walking the walk that gets more complicated. Who’s going to stand up for a lesbian family being discriminated against? Especially if the discrimination is subtle. I can remember so many times facing discrimination and it wasn’t private it was very public with good people sitting by and watching, hearing, and remaining silent.

I offend people sometimes because I don’t shut my mouth when it is socially expected to do so. But I’m not going to change that because there have been too many times when no one opened their mouth for me. So I will continue to call people out on their bullshit. I will loudly call out discrimination. I will set the example for my children to not turn the other way when kids are being bullied in front of them. I encourage you to do the same.

Silence makes you complicit.

Silence is easy. Speaking up and fighting the fight is tiring and scary. But I keep remembering that little baby on the stretcher surrounded by people who would end up walking away from him. Breaks me a little. I won’t be that person who walks away.

13 Reasons Why it Still F*&%$ With My Head…

Hey it’s me. The blogger. Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why (On Netflix) was horrendous for me to watch. I had to because all my freaking clients were triggered by it. And I then had to tell their parents to watch it. Then I had to meet with their parents about it and explain that yes shit like this does actually happen. Yes there is this secret teenager world and yes bad shit happens in it.

  1. Most disturbing scenario for parents…my kid is being bullied or my kid was brutally assaulted and they were told by the school their kid would NOT have to see the perpetrator. But guess what they do. They end up in the same classes. They end up on the same freaking stage at graduation. ALL the time. I see it every day. It sucks. It feels so wrong and it feels like the anger of the victim and the shame of the victim is forgotten or invalidated or both.
  2. Sexual assault and date rape happens. Then these girls have to go to school and see the guy that did it. For maybe another four years. They may never tell me the name of the perpetrator. They may be telling me for the first time ever. They tell me quietly, with shame, with tears, and there’s nothing I can do. It’s the most powerless feeling in the world and when I tell the parents they feel that times a thousand.
  3. School systems are systems. They want kids to come and learn and behave and leave. They don’t want to have to pay for anything extra. They will not assume responsibility for the bullying in the halls, bathrooms, lorckerrooms. They will turn a blind eye as a child is punched in the head repeatedly in front of them.
  4. Guidance counselors are human. They don’t always provide guidance in the best interest of the student but rather in the best interest of the school. I’ve experienced this as a student, as a provider, and now as a viewer.
  5. Teenagers have this completely insane superpower that no matter what crazy shit is happening they can still compartmentalize, put it aside, and go have fun and make out at a movie theatre. Let them. They need it.
  6. Teenagers literally think no one else has ever felt the way they are feeling. No matter what you or I say nothing will change their mind. So just let them feel it.
  7. We all knew the kids in my school who had abusive parents or whose parents get high. Teenagers now know the same shit. But there’s that whole code of silence. So don’t ask them, because they likely won’t tell you a damn thing. But just know that they know.
  8. Social media bullying happens every second of every minute of every hour of every day. The shit kids today, starting as young as they can hold an iPhone and download snapchat, have to cope with and defend themselves against is incomprehensible to all of us who grew up with flip phones. When I tell parents to look through their kids insta, finsta’s, snapchats, kik’s, WhatsApp, and to look for apps that are blockers to parental controls, they generally stare at me like I have three heads. If you have a child with a smartphone you need to know what these things are. You need to go through your kids phone. And it terrifies the shit out of me that NO ONE does this. Also, take it out of their room starting at 6 pm or 8 pm. Jesus grow a pair and give them a break because they won’t give themselves one. They need you to parent their phone use. I am so careful about not judging parental decisions but this is the one space I do. Take their damn phone. They need you to.
  9. Teenagers don’t use condoms as much as they should. It’s terrifying. I’ve had so many teenage clients have abortions and have babies. Buy them the freaking condoms instead of putting your head in the sand.
  10. Athletes are prized and placed on a pedestal. Every other child in school who is good at drawing, writing, singing, acting, dancing, etc. They are all made to feel less than. Even though they are the ones that go on to become politicians, teachers, nurses, doctors. They are the kids that become something. Yet they are defined as being less than for the first eighteen years of their lives because they can’t kick a freaking soccer ball. Athletes get away with shit other kids don’t. I know, I was one.
  11. Guys are allowed to fuck a lot of girls and not be called whores. They are allowed to sleep around and still shoulder up to high school administrators and parents and get scholarships. Girls who have sex with even one person can be labeled as sluts, whores, and are treated essentially in the opposite fashion.
  12. One of the top two reasons this show fucks with my head is because it is so true to life. And because so many people watching it like to believe it’s not true to life. I’ve seen literally every single one of these scenarios play out in reality whether in my own life or in my career with my clients. If I could have chosen to not watch this damn show and to not have it come out with two seasons I would have. But I don’t like looking away from shit, and so many of my clients were talking about it, I had to watch it. The guidance counselor takes the blame for every adult who missed that girl’s cry for help. Yes I’ve been an adult in a kid’s life listening to their cry for help and telling them not to kill themselves. I’ve also been the kid, struggling to help myself and help my friends questioning if I had any friends at various times, and questioning whether we should all live another day.
  13. The top reason this show fucks with my head is because I have two toddlers. They will one day be teenagers. They will see abuses, drunk people, high people, bullying, they will potentially be bullied or God forbid bully some one else. They will have smartphones that I will spend my life monitoring the shit out of. They will be these vulnerable beings who think they are adults but are still kids and they will cause me to battle parenting them, loving them, and falling asleep every night praying they choose to live no matter what they face.

When I made my therapist cry…bullying and my Cat.

When I was in nursing school I went to therapy for the first time. I had recently broken up with a long term boyfriend and was feeling very isolated and depressed. The therapist was at my school, he was clearly very experienced and had been doing individual therapy with college students for decades. I felt very comfortable with him and felt nothing I could say would ruffle him. About three sessions in he asked when in my life I felt true grief.

I didn’t really understand the question, and he rephrased and said “When have you cried? I mean true gut-wrenching cry?” We had been working on the wall that I kept around my emotions, as I was and still am to a degree, able to compartmentalize my emotions. I remember thinking about it and then I said only twice that I could remember. Once when my Grandfather died, and once when my cat died. Then I started to move forward with the conversation thinking this was a dead end. I remember he sorta waved his arms, and was like “Wait, one of the two times you’ve ever cried down to your soul was when you cat died? Tell me more about that.”

So I did. My cat came into our home when my mom was pregnant with me. He slept in my bed every night after I was born until I was seventeen. We put him to sleep on December 23rd, 2002. He was 21.

Through fifth grade when I was bullied for an entire school year by a group of girls he was literally my only friend. He would sit next to me on my bed while I cried every day after school. He was a big cat, bigger than some small dogs, and very intuitive. He would follow me around the neighborhood if I was out playing with other kids. He would wait at the road if I went into a neighbor’s home. He waited at the fence for me to get off the bus every day. He saw me through middle school hell and was there for me when I started dating and growing up in high school. He was a constant in my life for seventeen years. He at times was my only reason for being.

It seems so silly looking back on it. It seems ridiculous that though I was surrounded by a family and eventually some good friends, all it took was chronic bullying in fifth grade to devolve me into a soul who felt totally alone. Kids take this crazy unspoken oath of silence. I couldn’t tell anyone about the bullying. My teacher knew, but didn’t intervene. I never told my parents. I suffered silently and Cookie was the only one I let in. He was also the only one who comforted me. He truly showed me unconditional love. His entire existence seemed devoted to my existence, and it was incredibly powerful. He was there for my first broken heart, he was there for so many happy and also painful times in my life.

When I talk to kids now in my practice who are bullied my heart just aches for them. I know the pain that builds over time as day after day you have to face the same people with the same insults. I know the isolation, the fear, and the feeling that you can’t tell anyone because adults only make things worse.

I explored all those memories with my therapist and I remember the day we had to put Cookie to sleep. He was in pain, he had tumors, and he came and laid on my lap on the couch as I cried because I knew it would be the last time he would lay his big furry head on my knee. He looked so peaceful. I remember he closed his eyes and purred and it was like he was telling me it was going to be okay, that his job was done because I had made it through high school and I had this big future ahead of me already having been accepted to my top choice university.

I held him as our veterinarian gave him the injections. He let out a small meow, and then was gone. He looked peaceful in death and I was glad his suffering was over. I remember telling my therapist about his last meow and I was sobbing at that point, and I looked up and he had tears streaming down his face. I remember I stopped crying because I didn’t think therapists were allowed to cry.

He looked at me and said, “It’s just so profound that your one friend, your one true friend, was a cat. He sounds remarkable.”

And he was. Cookie dying marked the end of my childhood. I graduated high school that Spring, and moved on to college never looking back. I think back and I hate that he died, but I think it was for the best because it would have been incredibly hard for me to go to college knowing he was at home.

When clients tell me about pets I take them very seriously and I never put down anyone’s reason for being whether it be a cat, a snake, a friend they’ve ¬†only talked to online, etc. Everyone in middle school needs a lifeline. I was lucky to have Cookie as mine.

Some years later I was in a shelter in upstate New York looking for a cat. They sat me in a meet and greet room and brought in a few nice looking cats. I wasn’t feeling a connection with any of them. Then the girl brought in this ratty little thing (I learned after three baths she’s white, I thought she was brown) with double eye infections, a ratty tail, and she set her down on the floor. The cat walked over to me and crawled right into my lap and laid her little head on my knee and purred. I told the girl I would take her.

She follows me everywhere, sleeps with me every night, drives me batshit crazy, takes showers with me, and is trying to crawl onto my lap over the laptop as I type this, and I just can’t help but think it’s my Cookie back to life in the form of Rajha. Rajha has seen me date men and then has been here from the start of my relationship with my wife. She was with me through the horrible fertility journey and pregnancy. Now she knows my sons, sort of hates them, but knows them. My sons yell “Rawa Rawa” as they chase her through the house. Pets at their core provide unconditional love. Cookie and Rajha never gave two shits about my sexual orientation. They existed to solely bring love into my life. That is a gift to be treasured and mourned when it is lost.

To those people who have lost a pet, I know your pain. It’s profound, and it’s okay to mourn the loss. To those people who identify your pet as your reason for going on, been there. To those kids out there facing the daily grind of bullies. Hang in there.