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.

WHERE IS YOUR OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL? LOOK INSIDE by Joan E. Childs, Inspirational Keynote Speaker

WHERE IS YOUR OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL? LOOK INSIDE BY JOAN E. CHILDS, INSPIRATIONAL KEYNOTE SPEAKER

 

Not everyone can win an Olympic gold medal, however, everyone has a gold medal inside of them.  We are all champions.  We are all winners, even when we sometimes lose.  The gold can be found inside us if we take a deep look and follow our bliss.  Olympic gold medalists are athletes who have committed themselves to their goals, some since childhood.  Not everyone knows their goals in childhood, but those who do, follow their dreams to reality.  The common denominator in gold medal champions like swimmer Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, runners like Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price, English Gardner, Elaine Thompson, Mo Farah, gymnasts like Simone Biles and all the others who gold medaled found their “zone”, that place that brings their wholeness together in one giant force.  It’s in that place that the flame within burns and connects with universal energy.  It takes years for those moments to happen.  Those years are filled with commitment, fortitude, determination, hard work, self-worth, a dedicated coach, mind/body/spirit connection, people who love and support you and sometimes, just plain good luck!

Not everyone can be an Olympic gold medalist.  Not everyone can sing like Barbra Streisand, dance like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Suzanne Farrell or Anna Pavlova.  Not everyone can be an entrepreneur like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg nor a talent like Elvis, Michael Jackson or Prince.  We are each a shining star in our own destiny.    The trick is to allow it to express itself and commit to its life force.  And sometimes even doing all that is necessary and having the best of everyone behind you is not enough.  The truth is, we don’t always make it to the top.  However, what is most important is that we don’t need a gold medal to prove our worth.

Gold medals come in different fashions.  I may not be a wizard therapist but in my world, I give my best to my clients when they walk through my doors.  My daughter, Monica never graduated from high school.  She had learning disabilities in elementary school that was not diagnosed and treated the way they are today.  She received her GED and went to vocational school to become a hairdresser.  Today, after many years of personal and professional growth, she is a “hair designer” with a waiting list to get into her salon.  She stayed committed to the process, learning by apprenticing, trial and error and determination to be the best she could be.  That is a gold medalist.

When Susan Boyle walked to the center stage wearing a frumpy, unstylish dress and looked like she used an egg beater instead of a comb and brush declaring that she wanted to sing like Elaine Page, the audience snickered and looked at her in disbelief.  When Simon asked her name and age, she responded wearing a cherubic smile that melted the audience’s doubtful effect.  Tossing her hips from side to side, she replied, “I’m forty-seven and I’ve never been kissed,” she said in her Scottish brogue, “…and that’s only half of me.”  The audience broke their state of cynicism with a chuckle that morphed into a howl.  When Simon asked why she had come to Britain’s Got Talent, Susan’s response was as natural and spontaneous as when she told her name and age.  “I want to be a professional singer and always wanted to sing before a large audience.”

“What stopped you?”

“I never had the chance.  Perhaps now I have”.

“What are you going to sing for us?”

Looking directly at Simon with the innocence of a child and the confidence and pride of a seasoned artist, she spoke:

“I’m going to sing I DREAMED A DREAM from LES MISERABLES.”

Simon rolled his eyes, flashed a doubtful glance and gave her the cue to get started.  From the moment she belted out the first note, the audience was captivated.  Simon’s smile spread across his face.  Amanda covered her open mouth with both her hands in astonishment.  Pier bit his lower lip, gulping in disbelief and together with the audience, dumbfounded and mesmerized, they all rose in unison with a standing ovation, cheering even before she completed her last note. Susan Boyle seemed unaware that in the next ten minutes her life would change forever.  In ten minutes Susan Boyle had transformed herself into the singer she always knew she could be, and the world was eager to celebrate her stardom. Taking a bow, she strolled off stage, only to be prompted back to hear the results.  Hearing that she received all three “Yes’s”, she threw her arms in the air, stomped her feet and in the most humble manner, thanked the audience and gracefully blew them a kiss.

Perhaps I wasn’t totally accurate on every word that was exchanged between Susan and Simon.  But for sure, I am certain that in those few moments when the world had the unexpected pleasure and privilege to view her on national television, Susan Boyle catapulted to fame becoming the woman she was intended to be; evidence that the ordinary is extraordinary!

There is a Susan Boyle in each of us. There is an Olympic gold medalist in each of us. There is that need to become what we are intended to be.  It is true that if not for Britain’s Got Talent she may have gone her whole life unkissed, unmarried, and undiscovered.  However, she had to have the belief she had a special gift, take the risk to make it happen and the rest was up to fate.

Not unlike Susan, we all need the same thing if we want to follow our bliss.  Susan Boyle’s relationship with herself and having the faith that she could make it happen is something we must have if we are to make our dreams come true.  Walt Disney manifested his creative ideas; most of which he heard were absurd and preposterous.  Albert Einstein was relentless with his need to understand and develop the Theory of Relativity and Obama did it with a belief that change can occur; most of what many of us thought would never happen. Susan Boyle did it too.  It took courage, faith, and love of self, perhaps the most important relationship of all; to love oneself and to trust oneself.  Not unlike Disney, Einstein and Obama and all the other dreamers living among us, Susan Boyle showed us once again that anything is possible.

I always tell my clients that when a person decides to commit, the universe will cooperate.  Take the first step forward, and trust that the world will be the wind beneath your wings.

 

Joan E. Childs, LCSW

 

 

“Conversations with my Dog, Motik” by Joan E. Childs

Motik

Motik, (a Hebrew word meaning “sweetie”), my 10 year old Pekingese”Conversations with my Dog” by Joan E. Childs

 

Motik, (a Hebrew word meaning “sweetie”), my 10-year-old Pekingese, recently ruptured a disc for the second time in four years.  After a week of going to my regular vet with an inconclusive diagnosis, he advised us to take him to a specialist who could ascertain a diagnosis and treat him properly.  On Christmas Eve day, 2011, my daughter and I rushed him to a neuro-surgeon some 20 miles away from our home to learn that he had to have surgery.  Within a week we brought him home and after a quick recovery, he had since been well. On July 2, 2016, it was another trip to the neurosurgeon; another $3500.00 MRI but this time a different neurosurgeon as well as a different disc.  After learning the rupture was considered to be “moderate”, the decision was made to treat Motik conservatively.  This required medical boarding at the cost of $55.00 per day.  He needed meds and cage rest for a minimum of one month.  I was about to board a flight the day after I had taken him to the hospital.  I was picking up a cruise ship and deliberated whether I should make the trip to Amsterdam with my daughter for 20 days or stay at home while Motik was hospitalized.

The doctor assured me that he would be taken care of and by the time I returned, he would be ready for discharge to convalesce at home.

“Even if you stay at home, you will not be able to help him or see him while he is under treatment.” Dr. Frank said.  Dr. Frank was a young, well-spoken, and compassionate man. His professionalism and manner convinced me that I could trust his advice, although he was careful to say it was a “personal decision.”

I heeded his advice and left for Amsterdam.  The staff was remarkably caring and emailed me twice daily as to his condition.

Twenty days later I returned to a dog that was ready to return home.  I paid the bill that now was an additional $1100.00.  But, seeing him well, took the sting away from my pocket and put a smile on my face.  My little man was coming home.  I was overjoyed when I put him on my lap while Monica, my daughter, drove home those 20 miles.

“The worst is over”, I said, feeling greatly relieved that he would return to his old happy self.

His recovery lasted only one week.  I heard the familiar, ominous “yelp” after we returned from our nightly walk as he entered the front door.  That “yelp” drove a knife into my heart.  I was not prepared to go through this again.  Two days passed without a drop of water or food.  I knew we were in trouble.  It was a Saturday afternoon and I was in a dilemma.  Should I bring him back to the neurosurgeon, or to my regular vet’s office?

My choice was made to get him taken care of as quickly as possible so I drove him with my daughter to my local vet.  As luck would have it, he was away so I saw a vet unknown to me.  I explained what had happened including his history and my concern.  She was very pleasant and reassured me that they could keep him, hydrate him and give him the proper care that was needed.  The cost for the overnight medical boarding would be $148.00.  I had no choice that eve, but called the neurosurgeon’s hospital and was told that their medical boarding fees were $250.00 per night. It was a no-brainer, so I decided to have him stay the night as he needed emergency care that they could provide.

On my way home I received a call from the neurosurgeon who told me that they would be willing to board him for the previous fee of $55.00 per night, so the following morning I picked up my disheveled, frightened little man, and once again, with my daughter drove down to South Miami, but not before I was handed an invoice for $367.00 in charges for the previous night.

It gets better.  The neurosurgeon told me that they would try once more.

“Three strikes and you’re out.  The next relapse would mean surgery.”  The look on his face was sympathetic.  He said they would try once more and see if they could resolve the issue medically.  I drove home with Monica in a state of despair, however, hopeful.  Another week and another $700.00 including hospital boarding and meds had been successful.

The following day I applied for an equity loan from BB&T as they were offering a rate of 2.4% for the first years and 3.5% adjustable thereafter.  The vacation, plus the time away, combined with the medical costs exceeded my budget for animal care.  I had another dog and cat at home, and this event was over the top.  However, I had no options.  This was my baby and I could not let him suffer or euthanize him.  I was told that if I cage rested him for another 4 weeks, chances were that he would be good for another 5-6 years.

My neighbor, Adele, a saint, angel and blessing provided me with a crate large enough to house Motik with his food and water. She came daily to assist with his home boarding along with sharing a glass of wine.   I had been given strict, militant instructions not to take him out except for a 5-minute walk 3-4 times a day.  This was to be the biggest challenge of my life.

Motik accustomed to a 20-minute walk 3-4 times a day had to adapt to a 5-minute walk.  Although he had no problem urinating 5 times in 5 minutes, he was not used to pooping in less than 20.  The staff was adamant about the time, so wherever we were in 5-7 minutes of our walk, I had to pick him up and carry him home, up the stairs and place gently back in his crate.

For the first week, he did nothing but cry and scream.

“Get me out of here!  NOW!” were the unspoken words in dog demands.  Over and over, hour after hour he relentlessly shouted those phrases in barks, howls, screams and dog cursing.   I thought I was going to lose my mind, so occasionally I let him enjoy a 10-15 minute rest on the bedroom carpet where I lied down with him so he would not need to stretch his neck to look up at me or jump.

My conversations began.

“Motik, this is not a punishment” I would say.  “I need to keep you confined so you will get better and we can go back to getting you the way you were before.”  He listened intently but became sad each time he had to go back into his crate, which to me, was a prison.  We both cried for the first week.  I don’t know who cried more; him or me.

I marked off the 28 days on the calendar as each day passed.  I shortened my work schedule so I could be at home with him as much as possible.  It seemed as though Minnie, my one-year-old Shih Tzu and my 2 and a half-year-old Hemmingway cat understood our precarious situation and never interfered with his recovery.  They stayed downstairs and Motik, upstairs in his crate.

As the sixth morning approached and I awoke exhausted, drained from the undivided attention I had to give him including his six meds, five of which were in pill pockets and one by syringe, I dreaded getting up to start the day and routine.  I awakened bleary-eyed and anxious.  This would be another rough day I thought.

I opened the crate to a very sad face, with a look of eagerness to get the hell out of there.  I picked him up, tucking him under my left arm to go down to the landing and switching arms as the railing changed sides. Once down in the living room, I placed him outside in the lanai to put on his harness and leash so as not to have him even go down the one step from the foyer to the lanai.

It was steaming hot even before the sun came over my house on the preserve where I live.  We began our five-minute walk followed by the carry back to the house.  I placed him once again back in his confined space and went to take care of getting Hemmingway and Minnie their breakfast followed by Minnie’s walk.  When I returned, I expected the same shrilling sounds that had become familiar over the last five days, but instead, much to my chagrin, there was no sound.

I prepared his breakfast, disguising the meds in the pill pockets, but he refused to eat.  I left the food in the crate for the hour and a half as prescribed by the staff, and when I returned, all the food was still there.  Disappointed, I took it away but managed to hand feed him the pill pockets with the meds.  I was aware that for the last few hours, he had not made a sound.  I was at first concerned, but when I went up to visit, he was relaxed, tucked in his bed fast asleep.

As the day progressed, he remained quiet and settled.  I began to realize that I had trained him to be a spoiled, demanding, little prince who always had his way.  By following the advice of the doctor and staff I had re-trained him to know that I was the boss!

It’s not over yet, but we are on our way to full recovery!  I told him that if he stays quiet and behaves the way he is supposed to, I would take him for his usual and customary 20-minute walk again and give him the hugs we both miss so much.

Another 24 days to go before it’s over.  I have to keep strong, with tough love to get my little man back to wellness.  So many lessons learned by both of us.  Sometimes we must be tough to show our love, even when they don’t understand the reasons.  (This applies to kids too!)

I don’t know who suffered worse: Motik or me.  Wellness takes patience, consistency, and discipline.  I had to work hard to keep walking the line, but I tried to convince myself that it will be worth it.

A note to my readers:  I had five children in eight years.  I was divorced when the eldest was 11 years old and the youngest, just 3.  I don’t remember a time that I suffered as much during the years I was a single mom with five kids as these past few weeks trying to heal Motik.  I’m sure there were, however, time heals all wounds, so hopefully, time will do the same again.

Stay tuned to hear more as the days pass forward.

THE REINVENTED ME! (At almost 77)! – Joan E. Childs

Joan E. Childs, LCSW & Inspirational Keynote Speaker

Joan E. Childs, LCSW & Inspirational Keynote Speaker

 

What does it mean to be reinvented?  What does it mean to keep changing and growing?  What does it mean to fulfill your dreams and aspire to reach your full potential?

These are the values that matter to me.  So, at 3 months short of turning 77 years of age, I decided to create a new career to augment the work I have been doing for nearly 40 years.  Forty years ago I was divorced with five children all under the age of eleven.  I was a single parent, living without child support for nearly a year trying to keep a roof over my family’s head.  I had been awarded the house in my divorce settlement but did not have enough money to maintain the debt service.  The child support had been garnished by the IRS from my ex-husband’s bank accounts along with his declaring bankruptcy.  I took the $18,000 I was awarded in alimony and invested it in graduate school. So, in 1975 I went back to school to obtain an MSW.  I was 38 years old when I graduated Barry College in 1978 and had no idea where or how I would begin to get on my feet and support my family.  I was twisting in the wind not knowing how I could manage.

Raised in the 50’s, the last era of innocence in this country and coming out of the Victorian era, entering the women’s movement, I was unprepared to meet the challenges that faced me.  I was too busy raising the children and surviving to consider anything else but to fight my way into a new brave world, leaving behind the norms and values of my time.

Nearly forty years later I can look back through a rear view mirror and see myself forging a trajectory that was not always in my conscious awareness, but instead in the deepest part of my inner self.  My muse pushed, prodded, fostered and generated the energy and the fortitude it took to take me to where I am today.

In 1998 I lost my beautiful 34 year old to suicide.  Pam did not choose to leap 15 stories to her death.  Her illness, bipolar disorder, pushed her out the window.  That same year, 6 months before she passed, I lost a husband followed by my best girlfriend who passed away from breast cancer she had been battling for more than 14 years, followed by my father.  Two months later, my mother-in-law passed and then Pam.  That was the hardest year of my life, never to be forgotten.  However, that was the year I made the most important choice of my life.  Were these losses going to make me a victim, a survivor or a Phoenix, the mythological bird that rises from the ashes to become larger than life?  I chose the last because that was the ONLY choice I had.  I took the pain and transformed it into power.  Survival wasn’t enough for me.  I had to find meaning in Pam’s life and death.  I had to find a way to take the shame and stigma out of mental illness.  My mission was to help other families who suffered the same tragedy as I.  If I could do it, so could they.

So approaching my 77th year, I made a decision to reinvent myself again.  Not unlike Madonna and so many other creative people, I decided to re-engineer myself once again and launch a new career as an adjunct to my private practice and bring my message to the masses.  Unsure of what to call myself, or what to title my message, I ruminated until one day my muse, that goddess that resides within all of us, came to me as she had so many times before. A title was born: Life After Loss: Victim? Survivor? Or the Phoenix?  The choice is yours.

The loss comes in many respects.  We can lose a loved one, the worst being a child as I have.  We can lose our health, our jobs, our money, our marriage, our relationships, our beloved pet and our peace of mind.  I decided to expand my thesis from losing a child and/or loved one to any loss that causes grief.  I decided to write my next book that will be released in 2017, SEVEN STEPS TO LIFE AFTER LOSS.  My hope is to share my story, courage and healing with others who suffer losses and help them grieve until acceptance is achieved.  I want to give hope where grievers feel there is none.  I want to give solutions where grievers believe there are none.  I want to give courage where grievers lost their desire to move on.  Not unlike John Walsh, Joe Biden, and the parents of the murdered children of Sandy Hope, I have chosen to become a Phoenix and make the life and death of my daughter matter.

Stay connected to my website and read the blogs that will be posted.  Write your comments so I can receive your feedback and find the answers to the questions you have.  I have re-invented myself to become the person I was intended to be.  So can you!

 

The Re-Invented Me (at 77)… It’s Never Too Late!! Launching My New Campaign!

Joan E. Childs, LCSW

Joan E. Childs, LCSW & Inspirational Keynote Speaker “Fit, Fabulous,Fierce and ready to Speak”

Hey everyone!

Just a brief note to let you know that I am launching my campaign this week to introduce myself as an inspirational keynote speaker.  I am ready to speak and I will be pitching my book, WHY DID SHE JUMP? My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder along with my brand: Life After Loss: Victim, Survivor or the Phoenix.

I will keep you posted on all upcoming events; where and when I will be speaking.  In the meantime, please stay connected with me by visiting my website, while I keep you posted on all social media.

I am looking forward to sharing my message with all of you in hopes that I can help other families who are trying to cope and heal from loss and find the courage to take the pain and transform it into power as I have.  In addition, my mission is to take the stigma and shame out of mental illness.  There is not a family who does not have someone who is suffering from mental illness and it’s time we understand that it is a disease that needs proper treatment!

Thank you all for your support.

Joan

WHY DO PEOPLE COMMIT SUICIDE? – Joan E. Childs

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/images/Logo.png

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/images/Logo.png

This perhaps is the most common question asked after someone commits suicide and the most difficult one to answer. In her recent article, Sanity Break, Therese Borchard likens suicide to sneezing: something you can’t help, an impulse that has a life of its own. Although I agree in some cases; not in all. There are so many mitigating circumstances as to why someone chooses to end their life, that one simple answer is not enough. In the case of my daughter a clinical psychologist who leaped to her death from her father’s 15th story window, I am convinced that she was in a delusionary system unaware of that impulse when she made that choice. She was the victim of bipolar I disorder, an insidious illness that I believe was her executioner. By the time her illness reached the level of paranoia and delusional thinking, I don’t believe she was present at the time of her death. Her brain had ruptured, causing her to lose all conscious processes, perhaps not too dissimilar to Ms. Borchads’ belief, however, not exactly like a sneeze. In addition, I have worked with many depressed clients who have shared their suicidal ideation with me and clearly had a plan and desire to end their lives. Some were saved through the process of medical management and therapy, and some left well thought out notes explaining their reasons with apologies for hurting loved ones left behind. So in my thirty-seven years of clinical practice as a psychotherapist, I am not sure that suicide is just like a sneeze; sometimes perhaps, certainly not always.
I am convinced that suicide is perhaps one of the most threatening issues we are faced with as a nation. We hear about ISIS as a threat to our country, but what about bipolar disorder, depression and suicide? There are more than 6 million people in our country who suffer from bipolar disorder, and more than 9% have depression. There have been more than 40,000 suicides a year and the 10th leading cause of death and 2nd leading cause of death in the young adult age group of 16-25 according to the CDC. There are more suicides in the US than homicides. There are twenty-two suicide deaths committed daily by US veterans. Not that ISIS is not a serious threat, and perhaps not even something to be compared to, but suicide is a threat that we can predict and substantiate with statistics and yet more time, energy and media coverage is dealing with the possibility and perhaps the likelihood of a threat from a demonic force that perhaps may cause a tragedy if something isn’t done to prevent it. Well, not unlike ISIS, if something isn’t done to prevent suicide and create a better mental health system, we are going to see more deaths from suicide right here on our shores then the impending deaths that are yet to happen. We need a strategy for suicide prevention as much as a strategy to disempower ISIS. Our kids, husbands, wives, lovers, grandparents, daughters, and sons are jumping out of windows, strangling themselves, blowing their brains out or slashing their wrists every day on our shores yet more attention is given to ISIS than to our mentally ill citizens living, working and fighting for our country. I think there is something wrong with this picture!
Joan E Childs, LCSW
Author of WHY DID SHE JUMP? My Daughter’s Battle With Bipolar Disorder

LIFE AFTER LOSS: VICTIM, SURVIVOR OR THE PHOENIX? My choice! by Joan E. Childs

onlyono__s_new_tribal_phoenix_by_fameflame-d4q9v0mOn July 2, 1998, where this story begins.  LIFE AFTER LOSS: Victim, Survivor or the Phoenix?  My choice… My 34-year-old brilliant and beautiful daughter leaped to her death from the window of her father’s fifteen-story apartment. After the shock and grief swept through me like an emotional tsunami, I realized I had choices. Would I become a victim of this nightmare? Would I manage to survive and live my life in quiet desperation, forever swallowed in thoughts and images of her plunging to the concrete below, or would I find a mission and purpose for my life and meaning from her death? As a mother of five children and psychotherapist for nearly 40 years, I chose the latter and decided to take my story and rise from the ashes of my pain and suffering and regenerate to help others who suffered the same tragedy.
VICTIM, SURVIVOR OR THE PHOENIX is my story. It is the story of how I moved on from my loss and grief. It is a story of heartbreak and despair that morphed into victory. I, like many others before and after me, made a conscious choice to become a Phoenix, not unlike the mythological bird that rises from the ashes and renews itself to become more powerful than ever before. The ashes became the fertile soil for my rebirth. I felt that if I could do this, so could others. My mission is to share my story in order to give hope and courage to others who suffered loss and grief. It is also to wipe away the shame and stigma of mental illness.
Not unlike John Walsh, who’s son Adam was kidnapped and murdered, or Nicole Hackley, Dylan’s mom, and Mark Barden, Daniel’s Dad, and all the other parents who lost their precious children in the horrors of the Sandy Hook Massacre, as well as the husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, moms and dads, children and grandchildren who died on a battle field in some God-forsaken land, giving their lives to their country, and all those who passed away from terminal illness, accidents, murder, or suicide, I chose the path of the Phoenix. They too created meaning for their lost loved ones, never to be forgotten.
My book, WHY DID SHE JUMP? My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder chronicles her story from diagnosis to death and the trials and tribulations we all endured along with her suffering and the sub-standard mental health system we couldn’t overcome. It was only after my first book signing event that I realized the need and importance of sharing my experience and knowledge with others who suffered the loss of a loved one. It was only after this event that I saw the hunger and yearning for information about mental illness and its manifestations in our culture causing more than 40,000 suicides a year with nearly one million attempts.
Adversity escapes no one. It’s part of life. It’s how we cope with our loss and grief that determines if we become a victim, a survivor or a Phoenix. The choice is ours.

THE ART OF AUTHENTICITY – JOAN E. CHILDS

town-sign-924570_960_720The Art of Being Authentic
The Art of Being Me
The Art of Loving Yourself
Part 1

The poet says, “What I am is me, for that I came.” To go to your death, never knowing who you are, is the greatest tragedy of tragedies.
Not being an art aficionado, however recognizing the basic elements of art with all the great artists, is to see a reflection of who they are in the works they produce. In fact they have no choice. It’s a compulsion for their true selves to be expressed in their work. If denied their authenticity, they clearly could not produce the greatness that we are all fortunate to share throughout the centuries. I recall in the movie, FRIDA, when Frida asks Diego Rivera if she was as talented as he. Diego replied, “You Frida, are even a better artist than me. I paint of what I see on the outside. You paint what you see on the inside.”
Not unlike great artists, great musicians, writers and the like, we who may not be artists as such, are artists in our own being. We must be ourselves, mainly because everyone else is already taken. What do I mean by that? We need to reflect what is within us; who we are, how we feel, our perceptions, our visions and our I am-ness.
It was Socrates who said, “A life unexamined is not a life worth living.”
So much of our lives have been lived in what I call survival roles, the adapted self. The adapted self, suffocated much of our authentic self. This is a gradual, insidious progression over time due to assignments and expectations of our family, teachers, social norms and mores, cultivating a need to adapt in order to matter and in some cases, to survive.
Somewhere within each of us lies the essence of our being. Without it, nothing really matters and nothing really works. Relationships suffer if we are not in our essence. Our work suffers, our families suffer, our mental and physical well-being is compromised. Relationships become “the killing fields” when our relational space becomes polluted. That space is where we live and our children play. It doesn’t improve unless we clean up the space. We can’t clean up the space unless we are in our essence. When two people are in their true essence, time is eternal, says, Martin Buber. When we don’t know what to do, what to say, how to be, we feel awkward, uneasy and uncomfortable in our own skin. We would rather be what others may want or expect us to be rather than reveal our true selves, fearing we will be rejected or shamed. This is a learned behavior. We weren’t born like this even if our nature is to be introverted or shy. This is a survival self; an adapted self, a false self; not our authentic self. To really be free; to know our soulful content, to know our purpose in life, not to be defined by what we do, but rather, who we are; that is our true self; who we truly are.
I grew up in the last age of innocence, the fifties, in Miami Beach a city that practiced apartheid, but we didn’t know it. We did not even know the word. There were colored and white fountains, colored and white bathrooms. The “colored”, later to be referred as black, were not even allowed onto Miami Beach without a pass after 5:00 PM. Sign on the public buses stated, “Colored to the back”. We never even knew that was wrong. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I developed a social conscience. We lived in a bubble. Miami Beach was a special place; the 50’s a unique time. We thought we were going to marry, have children and live happily ever after. When reality struck, we were in shock. I suppose it was the assassination of John Kennedy that ended the age of innocence, followed by a raging, reckless war that woke us up to a new reality. The world had changed and has not stopped since, gaining momentum as the years pass.
I grew up in a time that as kids, we listened to our parents. We were more fearful of our fathers than the principal. We were free to skate in a park on Friday nights, never concerned about being mugged, raped or shot. Guns didn’t exist in my world. Drugs didn’t exist. Pot was a cooking utensil. Coke was a soda. Girls didn’t sleep with boys until they were married and if they did, they risked their reputation. Thing weren’t perfect. We had our share of dysfunction as most families, to a greater or lesser extent. Yet, those were the happiest times of our lives. We went from the age of Victorianism to the sexual revolution followed by the New Age, which morphed into the “Me Generation” that grew into a culture of addiction. The values we grew up with were replaced with narcissistic, self- serving, ego-driven, materialistic “stuff”. With that exchange, we grew into multi-generational addicts that was driven by our lost selves. Now replaced with technology, our authentic selves are being supplanted by computers, I pads, cell phones, and other robotic creatures that are destroying our humanness, and our I amness. We need to pull ourselves out of this mess, out of this black hole and find a way to be present to our inner self, to our partners, our children and our friends. God help us if we lose ourselves to technology. What a world this will be!
Next blog: PART II – OUR NEEDS

FLYING SOLO – JOAN E. CHILDS

osprey-bird-in-flight_flying soloALONE AGAIN…….NATURALLY
Just got dumped? Filed for divorce? Your fiancé got cold feet and cancelled the wedding? Ex-wife wants to reconcile? Found out your honey had another on the side? No good guys/gals in sight? Don’t worry! Being solo for a while might be a refreshing surprise; that is, if you know what to do.
Staying sane and single can be a challenge, but can offer some pleasant surprises. Here are 7 tips to make the ride a pleasant journey.
#1 Begin to think of you first. Start making plans that include activities that you love to do. Sign up for a ski class, tennis class, yoga class, dance class, Spanish class, computer class, etc. Choose anything that you have wanted to do but your relationship swallowed up your time and didn’t allow for personal stuff to take center stage.
#2 Think vacation! Travel alone on a single’s cruise or a Club Med, or ask a friend or family member to get away for a few days. Sometimes, just a change of pace and scenery, can be liberating and help your healing.
#3 Take some time to discover you. Spend some nights alone and find that waking in the morning without a bed partner can be tolerable; perhaps even pleasant. For sure you won’t die! Try using meditation, say positive affirmations to yourself, (i.e.: I am a worthy person; I deserve happiness and joy; I am complete and lovable.) Take baths, pump iron, stretch, work out, read a book and watch old movies to entertain yourself. Gals its cheaper and more satisfying than spending time choosing an outfit, primping, applying make-up, and wearing shoes that kill your feet and your pocketbook. Guys, think of all the money you’ll save while taking time out to know yourself and going out with yourself. Go ahead: Veg out, chill out, zone out and have a good cry. It cleanses the soul! Journaling is a wonderful way to discharge your feelings and sharing time with good friends who are supportive and listen well is the best. It’s a great way to know who your real friends are. If you get challenged critically, judged or stone-walled, move on to new friends or a therapist who can provide an opportunity for personal growth and development. This break-up just might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. You may not see it now, but in time, as you look back you will realize that it was for the best. One of my favorite sayings, is “If God doesn’t open the door, stop banging on it! What’s behind was not meant for you!”
#4. Exercise! It worked for Forest Gump and it will work for you. Bike, run, walk, work out, swim or participate in a sport. Exercising is like exorcising. Revving up those endomorphins is a great release to rid you of bad feelings. Masturbation is not a bad idea either! You’ll meet a better class of people!
#5. Spend some quality time with your girlfriends. In the end, you’ll discover they matter the most anyway. Boyfriends come and go; husbands do the same; kids grow up and start their own lives, but girlfriends are forever. Furthermore, no one understands a chick’s pain better than another chick. Maybe you’ll have to pay for your own dinner, but the nurturing, empathy, understanding, support and friendship is well worth it. Dudes simply don’t have the programming in their brains to do what your girlfriends can do. A champion fight or basketball game will take precedent over a“let’s talk” every time.
#6. Pamper yourself. Get a massage; change your hair color or style, sign up for a spa day, relax! Nothing works like treating yourself like a princess.
#7 Check out some dating sites. See what’s out on the market. Most therapists would agree that spending alone time for a while is the best medicine, but nothing works better for enhancing self esteem than finding a dude who thinks you’re gorgeous and wants to get into yours pants. Remember, you are vulnerable, so you don’t want to put all your emotional eggs in a new basket, but it sure feels good to know that there’s a dude with a hard on just waiting for a response from you. One word of advice: Don’t let hot sex replace a good solid healthy adult relationship. Too often women make the mistake of confusing sex with love once they go between the sheets. If you have this problem, be aware. Chicks tend to project what they want to see on a dude when it’s not really who they are. So beware!
In reality, there really is no quick fix to get over a broken heart. Time, talking out your feelings, and having faith that things happen the way they are meant to be, are your best resources. Learning to let go, forgiving your dude and most of all, forgiving yourself for anything you might blame yourself for. Never look back with regrets. Shit happens, we go on to something that may be better than what we lost and we hold our heads high with dignity and the knowledge that we are too good to feel this bad!
When I went through a heartfelt break-up, it was my inner adult voice that I kept hearing. She spoke to me like a Wise Old Women residing in my soul. I know this archetypal energy exists in all of us. It was she who told me to write. So writing became my release, my nocturnal companion. It was writing that nurtured my wounds and discharged my pain. When my last lover chose to close the door to what I thought would be my last chance at love, I took to writing to a book. Still in process, it gives me a vehicle to let go and accept what I thought would be impossible.
Whether you write, paint, play an instrument, sing, dance or act, find your bliss, use it and I promise it will bring you the relief and transformation you yearn for. Trust that you have all the resources within you. Just look inside and give yourself permission to use what you already have. We already know what we don’t know that we already knew!