Joan E . Childs shares a personal story of loss and connection to Liza Long

I read the blog written by Liza Long with heartfelt sympathy and interest.   I too am a mother recovering from the loss of a daughter who suffered from mental illness.  No, she was not a murderer, a criminal or an evil person.  She was a loving devoted daughter, sister, friend and clinical therapist holding both an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and Ph.D. in psychology.  She loved life, her work, her patients, her family and her friends.   She was sick and suffered from Bipolar I Disorder for ten years before she leaped to her death on July 2, 1998.  She was thirty-four years old.

Pam fought her illness tenaciously.  To her, they were demons brought to her by a demonic force she referred to as the devil.  They took up residence in her mind, and as the years progressed they slowly devoured her mind, her spirit and her life.  Pam did not choose to jump; the demons pushed her out the window.

Mental illness takes many forms and many diagnoses, most of which take a skilled psychiatrist to determine, as many mental disorders have co-morbidity, (symptoms that resemble another diagnosis’, such as schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder.)  It takes the time to obtain a differential diagnosis.  Until a diagnosis is made, a treatment plan cannot be implemented, not unlike any other illness.

Pam was the eldest of my five children.  She never revealed any symptoms of mental illness until she had her first break when she was twenty-four years old.  By this time, she was half way through her doctorate, working at the John Bradshaw Center in Hollywood, California as a therapist and was considered to be a “wizard” therapist.  The center was an in-patient treatment facility for recovering addicts and mood disorders caused primarily from abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment during their childhood.  Pam was a leading therapist, running groups and seeing the patients in individual sessions.  Her work was heralded by the staff, the patients, and John Bradshaw.

The illness insidiously crept in upon her slowly, steadfastly and with a force that ripped away all reason and rationality while it wove a delusionary system that was unshakable.  As the years passed, Pam was no longer the same vivacious, charming, charismatic young woman that made everyone who knew her fall in love with her.  As the invasion of this illness progressed, all that was before was no more.  Instead, only a shell of a woman who had seemingly lost her mind and spirit remained as my daughter.  Her soul passed before her body.

In my book, WHY DID SHE JUMP: My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder that was just released on June 16, 2014, I describe how this illness became her cancer; resistant to all treatment as her belief system prevented her from taking the medicine prescribed.  However, when she did, she turned into a zombie, unable to function and barely get out of bed.  In her twisted mind, she concluded that the medications were agents of the devil and managed to avoid taking them.  As a result, her illness gained strength and her mind lost contact with reality.  Oh, there were lucid moments, but the prevailing theme was insanity by the loss of reality.  The examples will be revealed in the book as well as the torture we, her family were all subjected to.  The worst of it was that there was no place for her to get the treatment she needed.

I wrote a letter to Oprah that became the preface to my book.  I described the trials and tribulations in depth, blaming the health system in our country as one of the leading causes of her death, claiming that my daughter was unable to obtain treatment that could have easily saved her life.    I urged Oprah to do a program on this issue stating that this was not just my child, but everyone’s child who has been stricken with this hideous disease.  I copied it to Hillary Clinton, our congresswoman Elaine Bloom at that time, Senators Bob Graham and Connie Mack.  None responded.  The Miami Herald published my letter, thanks to Sue Reisinger who felt a need to share this tragedy with her readers.

This was sixteen years ago.  Now we are facing a nation who has the worst record for healing our mentally ill citizens.  We had to wait for one tragedy after another to occur for people to start screaming about guns and the atrocities committed on innocent people, worst of all little children as well as the atrocious care of the mentally ill.  My beautiful daughter fell through the cracks because there was no facility that she could be given proper treatment.  How many lives to we have to lose before we get it?  What price do we have to pay to have our voices heard?  My daughter was not rich, nor was she poor.  She worked for a living, was raised in a home with a father who is a physician and a mother, a clinical social worker.  Yet with the vast network of friends and colleagues, we both had, we were rendered helpless, powerless and finally hopeless in securing the help she needed.

I don’t own a gun and no nothing about them.  Frankly, I would be terrified to have one in my home.  I live alone and cannot imagine ever using one, fearing that my life would be more at risk having one in my hand, than not.  Perhaps I am gullible, but owning a gun does not make me feel safe.  In fact, I would feel more vulnerable because the gunman would most probably be a better marksman than I.  Guns are only part of the problem.  We need to change our culture and cultivate more loving, caring and sensitive communities exhibiting kindheartedness to our fellow man.  We must provide a safe environment where our loved ones stricken with mental illness can go to get help.  Psychotropic drugs and therapy do help, but in order to maintain treatment, patients have to be in a long term treatment center as opposed to being admitted for 24-48 hours in a psychiatric ward In some hospital only to be released within a day or two, which by the way, makes them worse.

My story is not just about my loss, sorrow, grief and despair.  It is the story of our country, which loses thousands of loved ones every year either by suicide or homicide because they were not cared for in an environment that could support their healing.  It’s time for a real change; change in our health system, change in our gun laws, and most of all change in our culture.

FAIR FIGHTING RULES by Joan E. Childs

 

Joan E. Childs presents FAIR FIGHTING RULES! Check out www.joanechilds.com Image provided by https://pixabay.com

Everyone knows that there is no intimacy without conflict; unless of course, you agree never to disagree. Then, you don’t have a healthy relationship; you have codependency. In healthy relationships, neither party subjugates their feelings to please the other. Conflicts need to be externalized and resolved. Couples need to have rules to argue by. Here are ten fair fighting rules that I learned from John Bradshaw that can be seen in his book: BRADSHAW: ON

THE FAMILY: BE ASSERTIVE
Learn how to ask for what you need and express your feelings. Unless your partner hears from you what you are feeling and/or experiencing, he can never read your mind. It is important to express your truth even if it means hurting your loved one or making him angry. It takes courage to confront someone you love, but if you don’t, nothing gets accomplished and your resentment grows, hurting both you and the relationship. If your dude can’t handle your feelings, perhaps you don’t belong with him or you need to be in couples therapy to help work them through with a professional counselor.

STAY PRESENT AND IN THE NOW
It is important to hear what your partner is saying and for him to be willing to hear you.
Going back in history and collecting data to make your point of what is happening now, is not as effective as being specific about what just occurred. If today’s problem is a re-occurring theme that you let swept under the carpet for fear of his response, then perhaps you can give him an account of several instances when this occurred, but from now on, stay in the moment with current issues. Collecting stamps and storing them up, often causes you to blow your top and come out acting like a shrew.

AVOID LECTURING
Nothing turns a dude off more than having you lecture him and force advice down his throat. Lecturing is a sure way for him to check out. It will surely remind him of his mother or father, depending who did the lecturing when he was being scolded as a child. Use the CHANGE MODEL I wrote about in my other article or that you heard in the recent video.
Remember lecturing is an invitation for a fight.

AVOID JUDGMENT
Guess what? Judgment is another sure way to invite a fight. Whenever you throw judgments around, it will spin right back to you. Judgments and criticism can be interpreted as shame, creating further distance between you. Remember to stay in the I (CHANGE MODEL). Use self-responsible statements.

HONESTY AND ACCURACY
Nothing works better than being honest. Changing the facts to massage your point, exaggerating to make a point, or stretching the story only creates a stronger defense from the other side. Remember, the brain does three things with information and perception: it distorts information, it deletes information and it generalizes. It is very important to be as accurate and honest as you can. Three people can see an accident and all three can report it differently. This is because we all wear different filters when we perceive. Try hard to be rigorously honest. It’s your best bet.

DON’T ARGUE ABOUT DETAILS
Another sure way to lose his interest is to detail him to death. Dudes want the bottom line. Just make it brief and to the point. If he needs more information, he will ask for it. If you repeat the same things over and over, add insignificant details to magnify the case, you will lose your dude to something that interests him more. Sometimes less is more!

DON’T ASSIGN BLAME
When you make him at fault, he will find a reason to make you at fault. If you use the CHANGE MODEL, you will avoid blaming. Remember, it’s not a blame game. Unless he abuses you, ignores you, or is MIA, don’t blame. If he does any of the ones mentioned in the above sentence, leave him!

USE ACTIVE LISTENING
This is a biggy! It’s real easy to unload a ton of shit on him; it’s harder to listen. And listen with a third ear. That takes practice. Most chics want to jump in and battle with their tongues. If you learn to listen, you may be surprised. Your dude may something you might have missed by jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Good listening is at least 50% of communication. Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s what you hear.

FIGHT ABOUT ONE THING AT A TIME
Many people have the bad habit of leashing out a laundry list when they argue. Remember, the goal is to stay with one thing at a time. If you present him with a list of character defects and instances that occurred last year, or maybe 5 or 10 years ago, he will either become defensive or check out. Many chics carry a gunnysack with them when they fight and stack up evidence that includes every infraction that occurred in their entire relationship. This is never foddered for resolution.
HANG IN THERE. GO FOR A SOLUTION RATHER THAN BEING RIGHT.
There’s an old expression: Would you rather be right or happy? Staying in there battling it out with effective fair fighting tools will be your best ticket to intimacy. Sure you will have differences. Who doesn’t? But, communication begins with discussion; not sex. Sex will not resolve your issues. Sex can be more exciting after the fight, but only with resolution. Many couples use sex as a distraction to the discussion; NOT A RESOLUTION. Use your tools to fight fair, and your sex life will improve!

If you still have difficulty resolving a conflict, you might want to consider setting up a session with a couple’s counselor. I have spent many years working with couples and I am thrilled to say that I use a technology designed by Hedy Schleifer called Encounter-centered Couples Therapy. I am a graduate of her three-year Master Class and have applied this methodology to hundreds of couples who have learned new ways to communicate and resolve issues that have played over and over in their relationships. I invite you to contact me if you want to learn how to “cross the bridge” to your partner’s world and re-connect to create a healthy, mature and sacred relational space.

Just contact me through this website and I will be happy to set up an appointment for you and your partner.
For further information, visit my couple’s therapy page on my website to learn more about healing your relationship.