Mental Health and Hormones

This might be an odd topic to discuss, but it’s actually very important in terms of adolescent mental health particularly if there is a biologically-based brain disorder on the table.

What happens when puberty strikes?

Let me get this off my chest.  I hate the word ‘puberty’.  I don’t know why.  It’s a weird word, isn’t it? I don’t even like to say it aloud.  “Puuuuuuuuuberty.”  No.  Just…no.

What else can I call it? Game Day? The Dawn of a New Age? Rites of Passage? Pledge Week? These all sound like terrible movies, cults, or something that happens to you at a Greek Week event.  But, isn’t that what puberty feels like? I digress…

Everyone warned me that puberty would be an über nightmare for Grace as opposed to the standard nightmare that the neurotypical folks experience because the sudden surge in hormones might possibly increase the intensity of her diagnosis–schizophrenia spectrum disorder.  I winced.  It is a valid concern because onset of puberty is often the time when schizophrenia and bipolar spectrum disorders emerge.  If you have a child who has a childhood-onset diagnosis, then what might puberty change or exacerbate?

So, how has it been?

Well, the first thing to note here is that Grace has been taking Abilify since she was 11 years-old, and Abilify affected her sexual development.  She didn’t experience any signs of puberty until she was well into her 15th year.  That’s late.  It was concerning.  We were almost referred to an endocrinologist.

The second thing to note is that her symptoms were in no way exacerbated by her diagnosis.  She was a very typical teenager if ‘typical’ is a thing.  In other words, her behavior and thoughts were well within the bell curve for what I would define as normative although she has favored emo-angsty self-expression for about a year.  It’s like living with a character from a knock-off John Hughes movie.  The month prior to menarche (another word that should never be used), however, she became an asshole, and no one knew why.

Also, she wanted to snort and mainline sugar.  I had to practically build a wall between her and the kitchen just to keep her away from anything potentially sugary–even granulated sugar! She hated everything as well.  She was rude.  She wanted to be left alone.  Everything was bad.  And, she cried all the time.  She is my third daughter.  I’ve seen all this before but not quite at this level.  A friend commented, “Wow, she just hates everything.”

Well, when her first period arrived, it all crystallized, and her mood cleared up.  It’s damn hard being a girl.

We did not, however, have any psychotic symptoms.  We did not have a surge in mania.  It was fairly typical.  Everyone in the house gets a bit moody and upset as their hormones ebb and flow.  Doireann cries.  Eadaoin gets punchy.  Grace hates everyone and everything.  I feel irritable.  It is life.  You learn to go with the flow (sorry about the pun…).

The good news? There was no apocalypse, and that means a lot because more than a few people prognosticated the end of the world for Grace when Shark Week hit.

So, should you be in a similar situation, wondering how your child will do when the surge of hormones bathes their brain in all the colors of the moody, developmental rainbow, have hope.  Sometimes things go smoothly and everything works out.

Just as you hoped it would.

 

 

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Possible Etiology of Schizophrenia

I’ve posted quite a few scholarly articles on mental health, in part, because it’s cool.  I like to know what’s going on in the body and what current research is being done.  I have two other reasons.  Wouldn’t it be great to know why people aren’t feeling well mentally (etiology) and, hence, remove the stigma?

How much stigma is around dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s? Behaviorally speaking, it looks a lot like a brain-based mental disorder.  Why? Brain-based mental disorders and Alzheimer’s both involve the brain becoming “ill”.  We don’t see adults on television shows saying things like, “Oh, that old person is so crazy! They got dementia! Let’s just lock ’em up in the Looney Bin for the Aged.” I’m not at all implying that ageism is not a problem in American society.  The elderly are not treated with nearly as much respect as they deserve.  What I am saying, however, is that certain brain-based diseases are widely accepted by the general public as legitimate illnesses requiring medical intervention.  It’s even generally understood that those diseases affect other parts of the body, in large part, because the disease in question began in the brain.

So, if one were to see an older person engaging in odd behaviors in public, one doesn’t usually jump to conclusions and say things like, “That person must be high.”  No.  More often than not, members of the general public will say, “I wonder if that person has dementia.  Do they need help?”  Even if someone is relatively uneducated, the notion of dementia is so well-known that I’ve heard people say things like, “Oh, does that person have that thing that elderly people get where their brain starts to go? I hope I never get that.  I don’t want to die like that.”  There is a general awareness that a brain-based illness exists in the elderly population and that a brain-based illness can manifest as odd behaviors.  The age of the person is what provides the context.  Also, rarely are people afraid of the elderly so fear is not present to drive judgment.

For those of us in the know, we are fully aware that bipolar and schizophrenia spectrum disorders are biologically-based brain disorders.  One can liken schizophrenia to Multiple Sclerosis in terms of how it originates in the brain and goes on to affect the entire person.  There have been many theories suggested over the years as to the possible etiology of the disease.  Personally, I’ve liked the theory around pruning because it was the only one that adequately explained the loss of white matter in the brain.  When I tell people what happens to the brain of someone with schizophrenia, they are usually shocked.  The loss of white matter and neural connections is what is causing most of the positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms.  This is indeed a neurodegenerative disease.  Once someone fully understands the disease process of schizophrenia, they usually feel less inclined to stigmatize people who carry that diagnosis much like they don’t stigmatize a person with MS or Parkinson’s disease.

Here is a new landmark study to help you in your efforts to educate yourself and others on the possible etiology of schizophrenia.  Yes! That’s right.  The etiology. In short, it’s a pruning problem.

Schizophrenia risk from complex variation of complement component 4

If you don’t feel like wading through this study, then Gizmodo succinctly summarized the study in layman’s terms here:

Scientists Have Finally Found a Biological Process behind Schizophrenia

Here’s a snippet:

“On the surface, the culprit behind schizophrenia sounds a bit odd. It’s a variant in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC)—a set of proteins that decorate the surface of your cells—that binds to foreign molecules and presents them to the immune system. But McCarroll’s new study, which looked at the DNA of nearly 29,000 individuals with schizophrenia and 36,000 without, showed that this particular MHC variant causes the expression of a gene known as C4 to go into overdrive.

And it so happens that C4 is present at neuronal synapses, the connections between neurons that transfer chemical and electrical signals in your brain. On a cellular level, too much C4 can reduce the number of synaptic connections, a process known as “synaptic pruning.” On a human-scale, this can lead to schizophrenia.”

There you have it.  The more educated we are about the etiology behind mental illness, the more we can educate others, thusly, removing the stigma and bringing the general public up to speed.  If other neurodegenerative diseases are acceptable and not stigmatized, then biologically-based brain disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder should be found among them.  It just takes education.

A lot of education.

The State of Grace

I wonder if any of you are wondering how Grace is doing? Or Eadaoin, Doireann, or Milly for that matter.  Even me.  I disappeared for a bit.  From this blog anyway.

Life is never short of roller coaster-like.  At this point, I have chosen the front car, and I’m determined to ride with my hands up while screaming the entire time.  I’m going to be that girl.  One may as well truly commit to “the ride” so to speak.

Grace is doing remarkably well.  In fact, she is so stable that her psychiatrist is left scratching her head and saying, “I’m not touching anything.”  The last time that Grace experienced any psychosis was before she started taking lithium.  As Grace has said, “This lithium sure is awesome.”  Yeah, it can be.  Her psychosis was most evident when she was in the sixth grade.  Unbelievably, she will be starting high school in the fall.  I cannot believe that I’ve maintained this blog since Grace was in the sixth grade.

We have had zero trips to the Behavioral Health ER since sixth grade.  No inpatient treatment since then either.  No day treatment.  I want to sit back and figure out why in hopes that this might be replicated, but I don’t know if it can be.  I think that schizophrenia spectrum disorders are a lot like autism spectrum disorders.  When you meet one person on the autism spectrum, you’ve only met one person with one representation and/or experience of autism.  It feels almost impossible to generalize their experience to others.  So it would seem with something like schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type.

So, why is there stability in Grace when everyone in the field tells me that there should not be? I can only describe factors that might contribute to her stability.  I can’t provide concrete answers, but neither can the experts:

1.  Grace was diagnosed quickly.  Within two months of her first psychotic episode, we had the correct diagnosis.  This is almost unheard of.  Our journey getting any kind of diagnosis was rather painful, and you can read about the journey here.  Nonetheless, once Grace was psychotic, I moved quickly and used the resources available to us at the time.  Grace was already in an In-Home Crisis Management program wherein a therapist visited our home as many times as needed in order to help Grace achieve stability.  This was one reason I was able to hook Grace up with resources so quickly.  We were already in the system.

2.  Grace saw two psychiatrists who were not afraid to aggressively treat her psychosis.  They also were not afraid to diagnose her with schizoaffective disorder.  They wasted little time in trying whatever medications they could to achieve rapid stability.  Grace was a rapid cycler during her hallucinations.  Suicidal ideation is highest during rapid cycling in people with mood disorders.  Grace was suicidal during this phase.  This was when she was admitted into an inpatient treatment setting for medication management.

3.  I researched the hell out of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder so that I could have discussions with Grace’s clinicians about her treatment.  Grace saw pediatric psychiatrists.  What I discovered is that pediatric psychiatrists knew little about long-term treatment of psychotic disorders in children.  They talked about therapy, but they had little understanding of what treatment approach would be most effective.  The therapists were of little help as well.  No one knew what to do or how to proceed.  I had to fill in the gap or no one else would, and that is a heavy burden to bear as a parent.

4.  Biologically based mental health disorders are brain-based.  So, I looked to treatment plans for stroke patients to get a sense of how people who have lost gray matter are rehabilitated.  Many people who have lost gray matter due to stroke return to their lives somewhat impaired but fully functional again.  What if this held true for people with bipolar disorder but, more specific, people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders? Schizophrenia is neurodegenerative meaning that white/gray matter is lost due to the progression of the disease.  Could the brain compensate for the losses by rewiring itself? How might the brain be encouraged to do this? This was my primary question.

5.  The kind of therapy that was clearly the best choice for Grace was skills-based.  Due to white/gray matter loss because of the disease progression, Grace’s working memory and, consequently, her executive function skills were diminishing rapidly.  Her affect was affected and had become flat.  She was also losing ground in her social skills.  Milly, her sister with an autism spectrum disorder, had become more socially adept than her.  So, through a state grant, we were able to have a therapist come into our home for two hours weekly and do skills-based therapy with Grace.  The skills covered everything from breaking down everyday tasks into steps (executive function) in order to accomplish them to more emotionally based skills such as, “When I feel frustrated, what can I do with my feelings?”  I made a chart for Grace’s wall that held little cards.  On the front of each card was a feeling such as ‘sad’ or ‘bored’.  On the back of each card was a list of skills that she could utilize to “ride the wave” of that feeling until it passed.  That is one example of a skill–learning distress tolerance.  Distress tolerance is so important in managing both the negative and positive symptoms of schizophrenia.  Learning coping strategies ties for first place here.

6.  Grace attends a school for students with needs that differ from your average student.  In fact, this school does have a program for truly gifted students as well.  Grace’s program is for students with emotional and behavioral disorders.  She was one of six students in her class with high needs.  Her school is also very skills-based and uses the Nurtured Heart approach in its classroom management.  One of the most important things to remember when it comes to managing biologically based mental health disorders is stress management.  Eliminating unnecessary stress is key in promoting well-being.  Changing the school environment was an obvious choice although not an easy task at all.  Grace’s high school will also be within this intermediate district.

7.  Diet matters.  For example, caffeine interferes with lithium absorption.  Grace, therefore, consumes little to no caffeine.  No soda! We are careful with what she eats, and I can’t say this enough–healthy fats.  The brain needs it.  It’s not possible to heal a brain without healthy fats.  Also, sugar is not her friend.  Sugar and schizophrenia are mortal enemies.

8.  Assume competence.  I do this with all my kids.  I assume that they are competent and able to do whatever is asked of them until they prove that they cannot.  It might look harsh to the outside observer, but, most of the time, they can actually do what I’m asking.  It might be hard.  They might not like it.  It might require ten times more effort for them to do what is a cinch for someone else.  But, can they do it? More often than not, yes.  This is what I want them to see.  Their limitation does not necessarily have to limit them.  It might slow them down.  They might have to arrive at the same point as everyone else from a different direction, but they, too, can get there all the same.  Assuming competence is one of the best things I’ve done for my kids.  When they finally do hit the boundaries of their own abilities, then we know where to focus our therapies if that limitation is something that can be overcome.  And, there is nothing more exhilarating than watching a person overcome something that they never thought they could.

Assuming competence is what has led Grace to overcome a lot of self-perceived limitations and, thusly, learn to take risks.  When a person is able to change their personal narrative from “I can’t do that” to “I might be able to do that,” things change.  They are willing to entertain possibilities and try new things.  They are willing to listen to other people give them suggestions.  Suddenly, when a doctor offers a suggestion, the doctor might be onto something.  There is hope.  And, ultimately, it is the cultivation of hope that keeps all of us going because we all have limitations in our lives.  The presence of those limitations need not rob us of our hope for a good future.  Tenacity and perseverance are forged in circumstances just like Grace’s, and she’s got them both in spades, in part, due to her life experience.

Today, she can babysit.  She can put on a puppet show.  She can problem solve.  She also still hallucinates with insight that they are not real, and she experiences hypomania and very mild rapid cycling.  She is aware of what it is and requests to take a lithium earlier in the day.  There are still bad days to be sure in which she levitates around the house like Creepy Susie, but now she is aware of herself and tries to do something about it.  Developing insight is one of the best skills a person can learn, and I am constantly engaging her on a deeper level so that she continues to develop that insight.

Currently, there is no cure for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  It is not, however, a death sentence.  There is hope.  Your life and the life of your child will never be the same if this is your child’s diagnosis, but it doesn’t mean that it’s over and done with either.  Different doesn’t mean bad.  Difficult doesn’t mean bad.

It does make for a bigger life with a lot more twists and turns, but, like I said, I’ve committed to the ride.  Front car.  Hands up.  I am going to enjoy this because it’s my life.  It’s our life.  And, most important, I want her to love her life as much as I love her.

Very Cool

This is definitely going on my Cool Info page.  Researchers in Tel Aviv have found a way to possibly detect schizophrenia by taking a tissue sample from the inside of the nose making early detection possible.  This is very cool.  I did not know that we had neurons in our nose.

New finding could lead to early detection of Schizophrenia

A Meditation

I was pondering the state of the union last night (i.e. thinking about my marriage).  This blog covers a lot of ground.  Keeping the magic alive is easier when you aren’t caregiving.  I’ll be honest.  Caregiving sounds almost pleasant.  Even when I think about caregiving, I picture bringing a piece of pie to my grandmother.  That’s what the word conjures in my imagination.

Say the word ‘caregiver’, and I see myself offering gentle care to quietly needy people.  Or, nurses offering water to patients.  Or even mothers and their young children–the primary caregivers.  These images are not congruent with reality when it comes to giving care to an individual with mental illness.  I don’t know what life is like for someone else.  I can only speak for myself.  Mental illness is a game changer.  A permanent mental health illness diagnosis like schizophrenia is a life changer for everyone.  Schizophrenia diagnosed in a child? Our entire family has been changed by Grace’s diagnosis.  Doireann’s personal essay for college entry was about how her life and Weltanschauung had changed since schizophrenia entered our family.  She, too, has been a caregiver.  Eadaoin has been a caregiver.  Even Milly has been a caregiver.

We have all had to learn to offer care to Grace despite our own abilities in the moment or even desires.  We’ve all had to give things up.  Caregiving becomes 24/7, or, at least one parent has to step into that primary role.  That’s me.  I am the case manager, caregiver, and on-call emergency contact at all times.  I can makes plans, but those plans are subject to cancellation at all times.  There is no family to call for back-up.  My husband is my back-up, and if he’s out-of-town or unavailable…

A few years of this creates bone-deep exhaustion, and my husband and I just want to lie down and vegetate.  We’ve achieved something spectacular if our feet touch.  “Oh look, our toes are touching!”  It takes concentrated effort to make knees touch.  Caregiving is exhausting when you’re the therapist, the case manager, the heavy, the parent, and the end all and be all for a vulnerable person.  It’s even harder when there are others standing in line behind that person who need you, too.

But, this is life.  How do we make our circumstances work for us to propel us forward rather than oppress us? This is a question that I ask often.  Not everyone cares for a mentally ill child or even a child with special needs, but everyone has a battle to fight.  Everyone.  Every single person with whom you cross paths has a personal dragon to slay.  Some have more than one.  Some people’s lives are overrun.  In any case, this is what makes humans alike–suffering.  Your station, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and anything else don’t preclude you from suffering.  In this, we can all come together and agree.

The view I have chosen to take then is one of personal development.  It’s easier to see it in my children than in myself.  My daughters are now keenly aware of the mistreatment of others particularly those who are vulnerable.  Doireann, who learns empathy through experience, is now almost ferocious when others make ignorant remarks about mental illness.  She has made it her goal in life to educate others admitting that she was once a person who knew nothing about mental illness.  Eadaoin has always been sensitive to social exclusion, but she is far bolder now with her friends if they mistreat a peer in school with special needs.  She goes out of her way to befriend and express affection to her special needs peers, educating her friends and acquaintances on how to treat everyone.  Milly is the biggest surprise to me.  Milly has begun to defend her special needs peers at school.  Elementary school is very difficult socially for anyone who is different.  It is not uncommon to see children running away from a child with Down’s Syndrome yelling, “Monster!” Something like this happened in front of Milly, and she scolded her neurotypical classmates explaining that all special needs children were just like they were.  They just had different needs.  It was wrong to mistreat them, and then she played with one of these children during recess.  She explained to me that one of her friends apologized for making fun of a particular child and never did it again.

Compassion.  This is the fruit of suffering.  There is really no other way to learn it.  Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes.  Compassion is the drive to do something about what you feel after you’ve done so.  It is active.  It is never passive.  Suffering and ordeal grow compassion in us.  When we can approach our painful circumstances through the lens of character development rather than a “Why me?” paradigm, then we are far more empowered to move forward rather than stagnate.  The members of our family who are as affected by those circumstances can learn to see themselves as empowered as well.  Suffering can be looked upon differently–a portal to greater understanding, kindness, patience, and personality development.  We can’t really give that to our children.  Life develops that in us, but we can frame it for them so that they can see it more quickly in themselves and others so that ordeal becomes valuable rather than loathed.

If we are looking for opportunities to become better and more mature with a better developed character, then suffering is your gateway into that process of development.  This is what I’ve learned.  Resisting that process leads to more suffering.  Embracing it and going with the flow quickens our development leading us to the most unlikely place.  Gratitude.

At some point, we will actually be grateful for the events that we once tried to escape.

Life is so brilliantly odd that way.

 

 

An Ontological Discussion

I’m back! Where was I? My precious laptop died.  The hard drive failed.  My Mac was sent off to the Genius Bar for an entire week.  O the pain! My husband was very pragmatic about it:

“You’ll be fine.  We have three iPads.  Just use one of those, or use your phone.  You’ve got a Smartphone.”

My response?

“…..”

I feel the need to defend our possession of three iPads.  My husband works in the IT field.  He was given all those iPads through occupational opportunities.  “Show up at this event and get a free iPad!” He once went to a Microsoft roundtable discussion and walked out with a free laptop.  I don’t understand how that world operates, but I do appreciate the swag.  He was even given the MacBook Pro I now call mine.

Anyway, I am not 25.  I cannot write blog posts from an iPad.  I’m one of those old people who requires a keyboard.  Even a tiny Bluetooth keyboard.  Something!

It’s not a bad thing to go silent for a while.  I was cut off from the Internet essentially, and I was more present because I didn’t have the distraction of my shiny laptop.  So, what have I learned in the brief time that I was offline?

Milly is finally seeing a pediatric psychiatrist.  When I step back and read this I shake my head.  I have three children seeing psychiatrists.  Good grief! Is that really necessary? Remember that neighbor down the street who was gossiping about my family with other neighbors? She yelled at me from her front steps and screamed “Munchausers!”  When she emailed me later to justify her behavior, she told me that she knew that all my children were medicated; she didn’t agree with that.  I must have “Munchausers” if I’m medicating all my children.

Her obvious ignorance regarding factitious disorders aside as well as the perpetuation of misinformation amongst the women down the block, there is a valid point hidden here.  Is it good to medicate children? Grace is medicated.  Eadaoin is medicated.  Milly is medicated.  Doireann is not.

I used to think like my neighbor.  I refused to take medication myself.  My mother took so many drugs.  I didn’t want to be like that.  I grew up around myriad pill bottles.  My mother had Multiple Sclerosis, and she had a pill for everything that ailed her.  In the early 80s, there weren’t a lot of treatment options.  She also struggled with a major depressive disorder in addition to a personality disorder.  I grew up around mental and physical illnesses.  I wanted to walk a different path.  I wanted to be my mother’s foil in every way.  So, when I got my first migraine at 27 years-old, I didn’t want to take medication for it.  Surely there was a better way to manage it.

I went to a homeopath.  I went to a naturopath.  I saw chiropractors.  And, I suffered.  Everyone had different opinions as to why I had migraines, and they were all adamant that they were right.  I tried to do everything that everyone told me to do.  I never improved.  Eventually, I began to experience 20 migraines a month, and my OB practically dragged me to a neurologist.  I needed medication and testing.  I was terrified.  I hated neurologists having been forced to see them when I was younger due to a seizure disorder.  I wanted to be done.  Thus began my journey into the weird world of the brain and better living through chemistry.

If epilepsy runs in your family, as it does in mine, you have almost double the risk for developing migraine with aura.  Oh.  Well, that sucks.  Maybe I should have visited a neurologist sooner for my migraines.  I have a seizure disorder.  Migraine with aura in women causes white matter lesions which can permanently alter brain structure.  Uh…that seems important.  So, taking Excedrin for Migraine and sleeping it off isn’t a sound practice? We should not be doing that? Why? Those structural changes can put you at risk for stroke later in life.  Add an autoimmune disease like SLE to the mix and the results can be even more serious.  A migraine is not a headache.  It’s a neurological event that requires the care of a neurologist.  Not the dude at Walgreen’s stocking the analgesic aisle.

I’ve made my point, right? I was an idiot to wait so long to see a neurologist, but I was afraid.  I was afraid because I’d been forced to see neurologists before, and they were all asshats.  That’s right.  All of ’em.  Neurologists, in general, tend to treat patients like walking brains.  They are known to have a terrible bedside manner largely because they are so smart.  Neurology is a very hard speciality, and it draws the clinically-minded physician who should probably be in a lab dissecting brains rather than interfacing with humans with pulses.  I wasn’t properly diagnosed with a seizure disorder for years because my seizures were idiopathic.  A brilliant neurologist finally diagnosed me based upon posturing in my left hand.  From that posturing she knew the type of seizures I had and predicted that my EEG would be “clean”.  Up until that moment,  I felt crazy, and I was weary of being examined and sent on my way with a clean bill of health even though I knew something was wrong.

But we keep trying.  We are tenacious.  We don’t give up just because we don’t like it or because we are scared or because it’s hard.

This is what it’s like with our kids and even ourselves when we talk about mental health.  There are some horrible mental health care providers out there.  Let’s just say it.  There are! I’ve met some really bad therapists and psychiatrists.  There’s a reason One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was written.  I’ve met my share of Nurse Ratcheds and sadistic psychiatrists.  Do we let them determine our progression in life or our choices? Do we abandon our path and camp out somewhere just because we’re afraid? Do I refuse to get help for my daughters because I’m afraid of what other people will think of me or even them? Do I cower or let my daughters shrink because a few women down the block gossip about us?

One day, medication may not be the right answer for Milly or Eadaoin, and I’m open to that.  I am, however, out there in the world banging on doors.  What is going to move them up the spectrum of functionality? Three weeks ago, Milly was crying every day, overwhelmed with fear and anxiety.  Today, she isn’t.  She’s able to try to take risks.  She has moved up the spectrum of functionality.  Can she self-regulate? Well, she tries.  It took her an hour to calm down last night after a disappointment, but she did calm down eventually.  She is able to talk about her feelings with more ease rather than hide under her desk in her room.  On a very basic level, this is why we use medication in terms of treating mental health issues.  We are attempting to augment a deficiency so that we become more functional in hopes that the side effect profile of said medication will not add to our deficiencies.  While the drug is in use, we take advantage of therapy in order to learn new skills that will compensate for our natural deficiencies so that when we stop using the drug we will not feel our deficiencies as much as we did before.  The drug is a buffer and a life preserver of sorts that allows us to learn to properly swim in whatever sort of sea characterizes our life.  If our life is like choppy waters, then we must acquire the skills to swim in that.  If our life is like that of a vast ocean, then we must acquire the skills to learn to swim in that.  If we live on an island with few resources, then we have to learn to live there.

Why would we deprive our children, ourselves, or anyone else from acquiring functionality or judge someone for attempting to engage in this growth process? Why should we fear? My neighbor judged me harshly because she insisted that schizophrenia was really just caused by a food allergy.  I was the stupid one for consulting a doctor.  I had “Munchausers”.  I should have been seeing a chiropractor who specialized in applied kinesiology.  She is entitled to her opinion but not her judgments.  None of us are.  I don’t walk in your shoes, and you don’t walk in mine.  I have no right to hold your decisions against you when I don’t even know how you arrived at the space in your life that you now occupy.  I’m not privy to your deepest desires or the movements of your heart.

What I do know is that it’s far easier to judge someone than to love someone or even come alongside someone who is suffering.  But, I think that goodness is the answer for what ails us.  It will always trump judgment.

I was at a conference last year, and a speaker pondered:

“What if the problem today isn’t drugs or terrorism, unemployment or poverty but rather the lack of goodness in the world?”

It’s an interesting question, and you don’t have to agree with the conclusion.  I, however, see more and more that cynicism, criticism, anger, and fear-mongering don’t bring lasting change in my life, the lives of my children, or even the world at large.  Goodness? Kindness? Moving away from always trying to be right to attempting to understand? You may not see change right away, but, on a foundational level, it feels like a better way to move through life.  It seems like a more appropriate response to life’s weightier circumstances.  It seems like a way through when we’d really just like to go around and avoid altogether.  Life, however, can’t be avoided, can it? We must all stand and be counted at some point.  And, if we have vulnerable people depending on us to care and advocate for them, then our reasons for standing up become that much more significant.  Defining ‘goodness’ isn’t easy, is it?

Take my laptop away for a week and this is what happens. Ontology strikes again.