From Isolation to Connection: You Are Not Alone

We are Tina and Serena, the Mental Health Mamas, and we are here to assure you that You Are Not Alone. Are you a Mom, Dad, Grandparent, Foster Parent or any other caregiver of a child who struggles with their emotional health? Do you ever find yourself feeling isolated, exhausted or overwhelmed in your parenting journey? Do you wish there were more people who understood what you are going through? This is the podcast for you! In this, our very first episode, we talk about our hopes and intentions for the podcast. We also discuss the prevalence of mental illness, the flip-flopped pandemic world and a few of the good things that have shown up along the way.

Notes and Mentions


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Transcript

Serena: Hi Everyone! I’m Serena.

Tina: And I’m Tina

Serena: And we are the Mental Health Mamas.

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Tina: Welcome to our very first podcast! We are so excited that you’re here! We did it, Serena!

Serena: We did it!

So, first a quick disclaimer; we come to you not as mental health providers or experts in the field, but rather as the parents of kids who struggle with their emotional health.

Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You can find mental health resources in our show notes or on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.

Serena: OK, so now that that’s out of the way…we sometimes like to refer to ourselves as “just parents”. Although, if you listened to our trailer, you’ll know that we’ve made up some credentials to provide a bit of validation for the hard work we do all day.

Tina: As an EBE or Expert by Experience, what I know for sure is that there’s no substitute for professional mental health support. We have been connected with and supported by many amazing health care providers over the years.

Serena: We have as well. AND those of us who have experienced it know that having a child who exhibits behavioral health challenges can be a very lonely and isolating experience. Even the most amazing mental health provider doesn’t actually know what it’s like to raise a child with a mental health challenge unless they have personal experience.

Tina: And we are here to tell you that YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE.

Serena: We know that when our children don’t fit neatly into a box, we often feel not only isolated but maybe exhausted, frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, confused…and the list goes on. It’s something that is so very hard to talk about.

Tina: Absolutely. I read an article once, when we were pretty deep down in it. It was written by a mom whose child had just been hospitalized. She had said that if her child had been hospitalized for a physical health issue, neighbors would have shown up at her door with casseroles. Instead, people including her family and friends, avoided talking about it and they didn’t bring her any casseroles. When your child is diagnosed with a mental illness, asking for and receiving support feels very different.

Serena: That’s so true. But here’s the thing...we all have mental health, just like we all have physical health. We cannot ignore our brains and only care for our bodies. And here’s a quick statistic for you. According to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, 1 in 4 adults suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder in any given year. That’s 25% of our population.

Tina: And here’s what we know about mental health in kids: 17% or about every 1 in 6 youth ages 6-17 experience a mental health disorder. We also know that the average delay between symptom onset and treatment is...wait for it...11 years.

Serena: Let’s think about that for just a moment. If you have a child that first exhibits symptoms of a mental health disorder at say, age 10, on average, that child may not receive treatment until they are 21. We also know, from personal experience, that when our kids struggle, we struggle. I wonder how many of those parents received some sort of support themselves?

Tina: That is a great question. I know I did not seek professional support. And it seems like an excuse (which I guess I’m judging myself there), but it just seemed like there was a lot going on at the time. I was “going” to therapy a lot with my child a LOT and it was my job to make sure that I took the time to do that. And, in turn, did not take care of myself. I did feel like the therapists we saw supported me as well as my child. I also think, to circle back to the casserole thing, I probably didn’t think I needed support since I have a great, what I would call natural support system with my friends and family. When it didn’t seem possible to lean on these folks (and to out myself...mostly because I felt the heavy weight of stigma that was so very real for me and my family) that I didn’t reach out to those, those natural supports, those people.

Serena: Yeah, I would say that I too have leaned on my kid’s therapists for support. And Tina, I’m recalling that you didn’t receive any what I would call, “official” parent support, until your family hit a wall.

Tina: Right. Several times, in fact. I got an official peer support person through a program that we enrolled my child in after hitting the wall a few times. I remember this person saying to me, “I am here for you. Not for your child. What do you need?” And I don’t know what my face looked like, but my brain was saying, like, what? I had NO idea what to say because nobody literally ever asked me that question! I found that I spent all of my energy at the time taking care of my child and NONE on my needs.

Serena: Yeah, in my own experience and truly what I’ve observed in others is that that’s kind of normal, right, for parents of kids who struggle. It’s so hard to find time for ourselves.

Tina: Absolutely.

Serena: So, let’s talk a little bit about our hopes for this podcast.

Tina: And one of our hopes is hope! We know how hard it can be to be “down in it” as I’ve said and how hopeless that can feel. We have both been fortunate enough to have people in our world who have helped us to remain hopeful even in the depths. And can we talk about connection for a moment?

Serena: Yes, connection. Connection is so important! Tina and I have been lucky enough to connect with each other and also others who have been brave enough to normalize and share stories, their own stories, in bits and pieces, sometimes just enough to help us feel connected. Again, please remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We are working on a variety of ways in which you can connect with us in the future. And for now, please connect with us by subscribing to our podcast, sharing it with others and please send us your thoughts by email. We love to hear from you! You can email us directly from our website: NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.

Tina: We really would love to hear from you.

We also, in this podcast, want to normalize the conversation around mental health and what life is like when our kids struggle. Breaking down those stigma barriers drives connection with others. Remember, 1 in 6 and a quarter of the population.

And we will be real. We will share stories about our experiences and others like us. Our approach is always strength-based and hopeful, but we are also not going to sugar coat it. This is real life. For real.

Serena: Absolutely.

So Tina, I wonder if we can take a moment and talk about how much life has changed over the past year for all of us?

Tina: We are all experiencing life in very different ways and finding new ways of connecting. People are reacting very differently to this time in history.

Serena: Yeah, it’s so true. I noticed an interesting thing when I think about the schools moving to virtual instruction last March. And I’ve talked to a lot of different families and in some ways there’s been a kind of strange “reversal” for some kids. So, in other words, there are kids who were struggling to get to school regularly or maybe complete their school work or maybe just struggling to get through the school day who are actually thriving in the virtual environment. AND, I would add to that, there are kids who may have been very successful in school and maybe never struggled a day before, they suddenly find themselves having a hard time with online schooling.

Tina: Mmhm. It’s such a good reminder that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all when it comes to our kids and that any family can find themselves struggling even if they never have before. We are totally trying to normalize this.

Serena: Yeah. I would say each of my three kids, they each had a very different response to the move to virtual schooling. One of my kids was perfectly happy to stay at home, and the second one did OK academically but really struggled with the lack of in-person socialization and my third, she had a really hard time because she excels in that hands-on environment that isn’t possible right now.

Tina: Yeah and as you’ll learn, both of my kids are twenty-somethings and are struggling in their own ways. But the common is that, you know, they are living in an incredibly technology dependent world and I think people think of that as lack of socialization in what we think is normal ways. And I am finding both of them craving in-person interactions.

Serena: Yeah, I do hope that when we come out on the other side of this that we can remember the things we’ve learned along the way like the effectiveness of differentiated learning. And it’s really highlighted how we have not paid enough attention to individual needs and there are so many things that families have been told were impossible that, somehow, were suddenly figured out.

Tina: Mmhm. Like, teletherapy!

Serena: Yes! Yeah, I keep hearing from therapists how surprised they are, pleasantly, by more consistent attendance from families and from families about how convenient it is to connect with a therapist literally from anywhere.

Tina: Yes. So many complications actually getting to that appointment. Families, like mine have asked for this before and you know I really appreciate that the kind of “Powers that be” have seen that this is possible and that it’s really working! And if something is working or isn’t working, it’s OK to have your voice heard. Families know what they need and should trust their own expertise.

Serena: Yes.

Tina: Is there anything in particular, Serena, that you’ve been missing during this time?

Serena: I would say, adventure! Even though I’m a home-body and enjoy spending time at home, what I miss is being able to just hop in the car with my family and explore new places without having to, kind of, carefully plan out our safety. I do look forward to a time when we can do this again without thinking about crowds or food or bathrooms, outdoor space or whatever. Just hop in the car and go! How about you Tina, what have you been missing lately?

Tina: Well, as you know Serena, I am a hugger and I really like connecting with people in person. I am not a home-body. I’m the opposite of a home-body. And I’m really missing that. You know, to be very conscious of where I go and who I see. The grocery store does not feel normal because, as weird as it sounds, that’s a social place in this town. You see people that you know and you talk to them. And it’s really really hard.

Serena: So, I’m curious if you’ve found any ways to kind of meet some of that need?

Tina: Yeah, I’ve been really consciously trying to connect with people who make me happy and who I have a deep enough connection with that I can do that online, and it will feel somewhat normal. I still can’t hug which is hard, but you know I do find looking into people’s eyes with your mask on does form a connection that I don’t think we always have had. Does that make sense?

Serena: Yeah, that’s a really good point and something I hadn’t thought about before. Yeah.

Tina: So, how have you, you know, fed your sense of adventure, Serena?

Serena: So I would say we’ve tried to be really creative and had more, sort of short, safe mini-adventures, if you will. We’ve tried too, to focus on what we CAN do safely which honestly feels so much better than dwelling on the things we can’t do. Because there’s a lot we can’t do right now. So that means, you know, lots of time outdoors when the weather is good exploring by foot, we did some camping in the backyard, flying kites, picnics; things like that.

And as I, you know, the other day I was thinking and I had a bit of a revelation. I’ve been thinking about my daily routines and kind of the things that give me energy. So Tina, what would you say are some of your daily or weekly routines, some of the parts of your routine that you feel good about or maybe that give you energy?

Tina: Mmhm. I’d say, a few things. Coffee just really energizes me for sure. I think also finding projects that I can sink my teeth into, something that I can see, you know, feeling accomplished by looking at whatever that thing is. I also think taking care of myself in healthy ways, eating right, taking a walk, reading a good book. What about you Serena? What gives you energy?

Serena: Well, so, it occurred to me that many of the things I love most like enjoying a good cup of coffee (which is something we have in common), having good/connective conversations, reading a book to my youngest at bedtime, and coming together to eat dinner as a family...we are still doing all of those things. So I do miss the adventures and connecting with people in person, and I realize that there are so many things that haven’t changed at all.

Tina: And I try to stay positive, especially around my kids. I find that being a model of all of the things I preach (I try not to preach, but I know I do)...being present and in the moment and putting one foot in front of the other. One of the things that we have all learned is that we have NO control over what will happen during this pandemic. We can only control our own world and the choices we make in each moment.

Serena: That’s so true. Yeah. And I think about how we’ve all had to make some really tough decisions lately based on little or no information. And there are no right answers, honestly. And this is a good time to remind you and us that we are all just doing the best we know how to do.

Tina: We are today and we will continue to invite you to take good care of yourself while you’re taking care of your people.

Serena: And if you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe to our podcast, leave us a review and share with others! You can also find more content on our website, NoNeedtoExplainPodcast.com

Tina: Thank you so much for enjoying our first podcast. And we do hope to see you next time!

Serena: Bye!

Tina: Bye!

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