In Disability-Land, Friendships Can Turn Toxic

For parents of complex kids, unsolicited criticism can be particularly painful--especially when it comes from people we respect.

When The Apple Falls Close to the Tree

In many cases, children with clinically significant psychiatric symptoms have a parent or other family member(s) with the same, often undiagnosed, issues.

10 Notes for Parents of Complex Kids

You thought you were a doer, a go-getter, indefatigable and unsinkable? Think again. And welcome to the club!

Overprotective Parenting Doesn't Work

As it turns out, negotiating real-life, reasonable risk can be a very good thing for kids. It can teach them that they have power in this world--or someday will. That they’re competent. And that sometimes, if you really really want something to happen, you have to MAKE it happen, without mom or dad’s help--even if it’s scary to try.

Your Kid Has a Mental Health Disorder?

I know it sounds corny, but Love helps. It does. Platonic or romantic or filial or parental or sibling love. Doesn’t matter, it’s all a healing balm. Spread it around generously. And wrap your wounded hearts in a gauze of generosity and forgiveness--for yourself, for each other, for the universe that dealt you a crappy hand.

Committed to the Language of Mental Illness

Words like "mania" and "Lithium" and "psychosis" can hurt a hell of a lot--especially when used in reference to your child. That’s why it’s a good idea to get to know the words you think may be coming after you. Knowing them can sometimes give you power over them--and over the things they represent.

Genetic Testing for Kids With Mental Health Disorders?

If medical professionals are going to treat your heart disease, or your teen's bipolar disorder, with medications that won’t help and may even hurt, then they're not doing the job they signed up for. That's where genotyping can help.

An Anguished Choice to Help a Suffering Boy

Sending a beloved child to live away from home can truly be an act of love, paradoxical though that may seem to most parents.

Can a Daily Dose of Mozart Squelch Depression?

I believe music heals inner wounds. Maybe the burdens we hefted would have been lighter if we’d only summoned melody, and harmony, and counterpoint, and the timbres and colors of all kinds of vocal expression, into our lives when we needed them most.

Ditch Your Inner Bot

The Mombot has escorted me through seven of the nine circles of hell and pulled me back out in more or less one piece. She has made me temporarily numb to pain and fear and galvanized me with endless energy, so I can get the job at hand done and collapse later, when it’s more convenient.

Suicide Is Not a Moral Issue!

Why do we dredge up the old, tired, moralistic language to describe death by suicide, but not death by somatic illness? Depression is no more a choice than cancer. It is just less quantifiable. Depression, perhaps more than most bodily diseases, is permeable. Shape-shifting. A moving target. It eludes us when we try to understand and contain it.

Is School Making Your Kid Sick(er)?

Feeling like part of a safe and welcoming community means as much to a child or teen as it does to most adults. Your local school district might be a prize-winning one, but if it is crushing your kid’s spirit, who cares about prizes?
Illustration by Garth Williams. E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Words are not Things

I have struggled with using the phrase “mental illness” in my writing for as long as I've been publishing about disorders of the psyche. It is not a good term. It conveys only the most general kind of meaning. And it does not do justice to the fact that mental health disorders come in practically limitless shapes, depths, and colors.

We Are All Adam Lanza's Parents

The conditions under which people who are severely mentally ill live; their lack of access to appropriate, affordable mental health care; the social stigma that makes asking for help difficult; the sheer financial cost of addressing this problem, at a personal, local, and national level--these are issues that affect every single one of us.

OMG, What a Slacker Mom!

Most children who act out in highly atypical ways probably can’t help it. Nor can their caregivers necessarily prevent it--even if said children have been receiving therapeutic treatment for years.

Help--Stress is Eating My Brain!

Let’s face it: stress sucks. It’s one of the warts on the underbelly of life. Relationships, the places we work, our finances (or lack thereof), and so on--they all breed angst. If you don't fight it, prolonged stress can take over your life--and make you sick.
How Animals Help Regulate Mental Health

How Animals Help Regulate Mental Health

I speak from experience--my own and my child’s--when I say that sometimes the Fluff Therapist beats the psychotherapist and the psychopharmacologist, hands down. You should retain both of these, of course--but what’s great about Ginger or Max is that their caseload is guaranteed to be really, really low. And it goes without saying they take your insurance.

What Mental Illness Costs, Part III

There are no promises in the world of mental illness, not even probabilities--only possibilities. No doctor or therapist or clinician of any kind can really give you a prognosis, or tell you how a medication or modality will work on your kid. Not if they're being honest with you. So the child you love is probably also a source of unalloyed, ongoing stress.

What Mental Illness Costs, Part II

Here is the dirty little secret of psychiatric disability: no matter who you are or where you live, eventually it catches up with your wallet.

What Mental Illness Costs

There are times when the two full-time jobs you have to do, one for love, one so you can pay the hospitals and clinical practices that circumscribe your world, prevent you from self-care of any sort--and you suspect you might not have brushed your teeth in more than a month.

The Parent Trap

While "The Parent Trap" operates on the principle that crisis and discord are more interesting than harmony, and allows the former to occupy center stage for a good while before banishing them to the cellar, the "What To Expect" books gloss over the dysfunctional, the fretful, and the sad, in pregnancy and in young families’ lives.

On the Physics of Absorbing Unexpected Blows

If you are human, you have squared off against adversity. Sometimes you've won, sometimes you've lost.

Do Depressives Make the Best Artists?

However you slice it, there's ample evidence that fretful minds and roiling psyches are sufficient conditions for the creation of compelling art.

5 Reasons To Check In With Your Child’s Guidance Counselor

Childhood anxiety and depression often make their first appearance in response to school-related triggers.

In Praise of Oddballs and Unexpected Flavors

I have always told my kids that it’s good to be a little crazy. Crazy is INTERESTING, I remind them. I've had to say it to save face, because we are basically a family of oddballs.

Words That Hurt, Words That Heal

That was the day four lives irrevocably changed: Ben’s, my husband’s, our daughter Saskia’s, and mine. It was far from our first day of struggle. But it was the first day Lars and I finally grasped that we were parenting a child with some kind of mental illness.