Aug 12 2014
At my son’s friend’s middle school, a student came down with leukemia after fall semester. Fortunately, he went into remission in spring and was able to return to school. All the students were called to an assembly before he returned to explain why this student would be without hair, what had happened to him, and how they could best make him feel comfortable and assist him with the transition back into school. The school also planned a walk to raise money for childhood leukemia.
This boy walked into school and was immediately accepted. This is the model for which we should strive for all of our children facing any kind of health issue.
Over a year ago, my family faced a frightening medical situation. Almost overnight it seemed my 11-year-old son’s body started to shake and convulse, his speech became slurred at times, he started to repeat curse words over and over, and his body made odd movements and noises. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 7 2014
As a social worker, I have always been about combating the stigma of mental illness. As a human being, I have been passionate about it. As someone with an actual diagnosis of depression, it is always on my mind.
Why is there still a stigma?
I do not want my daughter to grow up whispering the word, “depression;” I want there to be open conversations where people can talk about illness–any illness–and not feel isolated as a result. When someone talks about controlling his or her diabetes, that is more accepted than someone talking about depression. It scares people. But why? Obviously society and environment has created this. Why is it that I have to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars to my psychiatrist because my health insurance has a deductible and then will only cover 80% (which is actually a good deal!)? When will this stop? The more it is talked about, the more mainstream the conversation will become. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 6 2014
After all the late-night/early-morning work I did covering the Winter Olympics (in addition to my standing freelance assignments and that whole parenting three kids thing), I promised my husband that I would take some time off afterwards and not do any work at all. (Well, except for my standing freelance assignments and that whole parenting three kids thing).
My husband didn’t believe me. God, apparently, didn’t believe me, either, because, literally less than 24 hours after the Ladies’ Long Program ended in Sochi, God decided to make certain I kept my promise to take it easy by striking me down with a case of shingles.
For those unfamiliar with shingles, it’s caused by the chicken pox virus that has been lying dormant inside you probably since elementary school flaring up and making one half of your body feel like it’s on fire. There are also some blood-red blisters (in my case along the back and above the rib-cage; but that can vary from patient to patient) that eventually erupt and scab over for visual effect. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 19 2013
I’ve had issues with anxiety and depression all my life. According to my mother, I was the only newborn in the maternity word who refused to eat and just screamed her head off, instead. The pattern continued when she brought me home, as I never slept for more than an hour’s stretch at a time and suffered from what the doctors kept insisting was colic long past the period when colic should have been merely a horrible memory. As she remembers it, I basically didn’t eat or sleep for the first two years of my life. (“Don’t force her,” one doctor advised. “She’ll eat when she’s hungry.” My mother tried that. I didn’t eat for 48 hours. Then I asked for a slice of bread. Then I didn’t eat again for 48 more hours. She gave up.)
And things didn’t get any better once she tried taking me to nursery school. I didn’t eat or sleep there, either. I did scream, though. My mother eventually ended up pulling me out and staying home. Because, as she explained, “It’s one thing when you drop a child off at school, they scream for 20 minutes, then stop. It’s another thing when you drop a child off at school, they scream, and, when you come back eight hours later, they are still screaming.”
So, I was a high-strung little girl. To put it mildly. Read the rest of this entry →
May 21 2013
In the field of social work we use fancy phrases like “caregiver fatigue,” “compassion fatigue,” “secondary traumatic stress,” and “vicarious traumatization.”
They all mean somewhat different things, but they’re all pointing to the same phenomenon: the ways in which doctors, EMTS, social workers, nurses, and increasingly, teachers–anyone who tends to the wounded and traumatized on a regular basis–can, and do, get exhausted and burnt out. They may become depressed or angry, they may turn to alcohol or drugs to manage difficult feelings, and they may have a hard time with sleep, focus, and ability to attend to daily tasks, among other things. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 27 2012
“Whoops. That’s another nickel in the therapy jar.”
“If I have to spend another day at home with a sick kid, I’m going to end up on the psych unit.”
Most parents I know have made those jokes, or similar ones. I certainly have. As someone with a fairly sarcastic sense of humor who has spent a good deal of time on both sides of the therapy couch, the potential problems with this particular joke never really occurred to me. Then I had kids. And then Sandy Hook happened, and the all-too-often neglected conversation about mental health treatment was revived. Then a friend pointed out that perhaps such off-hand remarks about therapy might be doing more to stigmatize the issue of mental illness rather than normalize it. She’s absolutely right. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 24 2012
Claudia Gold is a pediatrician, writer, and perhaps most importantly, a mother. She took some time out of her busy writing schedule to share her experience negotiating the challenges of balancing family and work.
How many children do you have? How old are they?
I have a 14-year-old son, an 18-year-old daughter, and a 24-year-old stepdaughter.
What kind of work do you do? Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 28 2011
Wouldn't it be nice to have a GPS for life, not just for roads?
On our most recent road trip, my family was having trouble with the GPS. For some reason it wouldn’t register where we were at that moment, so we couldn’t get it to come up with the directions to take us where we wanted to go. I kept frantically canceling and re-routing, and the GPS would tell me, over and over, that it was “calculating route.” So much so that my daughter, age 2, would parrot back: “ca-coo-ating wow-te.” We eventually got where we were going, but it took a lot of wrong turns.
Sometimes parenting seems that way, doesn’t it? Like you take one wrong turn, make one mistake, and before you know it those wrong turns have snowballed into a mess and you’re lost, off of the highway and into a swamp somewhere. Wouldn’t you love to have a child-rearing GPS to tell you when you’ve missed the turn, and help you recalculate your route?
Enter Mental Health GPS. No, I’m not kidding. This actually exists and is an amazing, free service provided by the UJA-Federation of New York. (I’m sorry if you don’t live in the New York area, because this is mostly a local program… but check out the Jewish Federations of North America or google the words “Jewish family services” to see if there’s anything similar in your area.) Mental Health GPS is a consultation service that helps parents determine how to best help their children, with anything from stress or anxiety management to eating disorders to bullying to substance abuse. They have competent family resource specialists to help connect families with the best services for their kids. They navigate the system with parents to help them find the best care possible their kids. Oh, and did we mention that this service is FREE? Read the rest of this entry →