Tag Archives: parenting

Life got better. From Suicidal Ideation to Scholastic Art Award for Photography.

The information and photography in this post is shared with permission from Preston Blackburne. It is our hope to continue to spread the message that Life Gets Better. 

Yesterday, I watched my 16 year-old son, Preston, accept his Scholastic Art Award, a Silver Key, that he won for his photo “Into the Digital Age.” The ceremony was held in the Pickney Hall on the campus at Central Oregon Community College in a large auditorium with several hundred people. He stood amongst his schoolmates, while his photography teacher and mentor, Mr. Fox, handed out each award. I struggled to hold back tears. No one knows Preston’s story like I do…

In the fall of his freshman year, he fell into the black hole of a “severe depressive episode”. I learned of how broken he was when he exhibited dangerous behavior and admitted to suicidal ideation that required immediate emergency intervention. He spent several days at our local hospital on a one-to-one psych hold, waiting for an inpatient room to become available in Portland, 4 hours away. Fortunately, time has allowed some of the painful details to fade and the memories are no longer so vivid. I do recall that I kept telling him how much I loved him and I wasn’t upset with him. There was no judgement from me and frankly I was proud of him for being brave enough to save his own life. All of a sudden parts of my own dark, depressed past shifted into place and I knew what to say, when to shut up and how to make the hard decisions to get him the help he needed.

His psychiatrist is an incredible man. Previously, I was personally resistant to using medications for depression and anxiety. During our decision making progress about which modalities to use for Preston, Dr C made a great analogy. He said to me, “If someone is drowning, do you just hand them a life-jacket and hope for the best? Or, do you give them the life-jacket, throw them a life-ring, call the Coast Guard and others with expertise to help?” Obviously the latter. He started medication, which has been modified as the crisis episode passed, that he still has chosen to continue to take. The mundane details of his inpatient hospital stays, he had two of them, aren’t important. Just believe me when I say I’ve seen this kid at his lowest points. One noteworthy moment is when he came out to me as bisexual. I said “So?” It was such a nonissue for me. I want my kids to know love and I don’t care what parts their partner has. I honestly could NOT care less. Despite all the emotions Preston was experiencing, he slowly began to believe, with some testing, that I do love him unconditionally.

At the end of Thanksgiving weekend in 2013, he showed again that he was in crisis and when we met with Dr C on Monday morning, Preston asked to go to residential treatment. That isn’t something you say “No” to. It was overwhelming and took a lot of work to arrange but we did just that and he had to wait, as an inpatient, for the bed to become available. Going to the Children’s Farm Home run by Trillium Family Services in Albany was what Preston needed. I drove the several hundred miles at least twice a week, once to visit and once to participate in family therapy. Through this process, I learned what expectations I had set and behavior that I had shown, that was damaging to Preston’s spirit. I took responsibility. I apologized. I committed to changing. (Other people in his life were unable to take less ownership of their negative contributions and those relationships have suffered.) I rarely yell now and I’ve changed my expectations about school success. Preston knows that we expect him to go to school every day, do his best by completing assignments. We no longer press about getting a specific letter grade. Instead, we encourage him to develop good behaviors and habits that will help him be successful in life.

He has really embraced the life he is building for himself. Preston has a diverse group of friends and shows them the same love and acceptance that I showed him. As a family, we have moved away from concerning ourselves with the gender binary and often have open discussions about the LGBTQ community. Life is open and honest and Preston knows he can show us all of himself. I’ve told him time and time again that I am not scared of his truth. I will be here for him no matter what.

Due to his hospital stays, he ended up without credit for the first semester of his freshman year. It was a difficult hole to dig out of, but within the last two weeks, he has completed the last credit recovery classes and is caught up!!!!

As Preston has grown into his own person, he has started sharing his artistic talent with the world. His artful expression that gets the most energy is his photography. He has some incredible photos that you can see on his website gallery https://prestonblackburne.wix.com/preston-blackburne#!photos/c1zeq . It’s a work-in-progress, but his site shows he is getting his feet wet.

He has some incredible photography mentors that include, but are not limited to; Doug H., Brian Z., and An V. With the encouragement of his photography teacher, Mr. Fox, he entered three photos into the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest for 2016. There were 300,000 entrants nationwide in grades 7-12. His photo, shown here, won a Silver Key. The accomplishment of winning a Silver is admirable in it’s own right. However, when you know where this young man has come from, overcoming the obstacle of major depression and suicidal ideation, it means even more. Just two short years ago, at this time, he was just going back to school after missing 2.5 months of school. Preston was able to go into a grocery store and get our shopping done, without having to rush back to the car in a panic. He’d only just started sleeping in his own bed, alone in his own room. Life gets better. Fast forward to yesterday, he wove through the crowd in the gallery, with his girlfriend of 15 months, to see his own photo hanging on the wall with the rest of the Silver Key, Gold Key and Honorable Mention winners. He was relaxed and seemed 100% comfortable in his own skin. As he told me, artists can dress the way they want so he was wearing jeans and one of his two Millenium Falcon t-shirts. His best accessory was his easy smile. I tried really hard not to be all mushy and cry. I failed. As I sat in the college auditorium, with his younger brother, Logan and my parents down the row, I felt overwhelmed by the feeling that he had ARRIVED! Life has gotten better.

I know that thinking “what if?”, is usually a useless past time. However, I can’t help but thinking what Preston, and the rest of the world, would have missed out on, if he hadn’t made the commitment to save his own life. Regardless of my decisions, which medical providers or facilities he went to, his success at life is because of the pain he walked through, that he faced and dealt with.

I’m so grateful that he has shared his talent and made his photography publicly available. I share his story so that other hurting people can have hope that life gets better.IMG_7715.JPG

“Into the Digital Age.” Photo by Preston Blackburne, Age 16, Scholastic Art Silver Key Award Winner 2106.

“May their faith in You, renew.”

At the moment, and for the last 30 minutes or so, I’ve been overwhelmed by emotions. I’ve laughed, cried and felt so full with Love and Light, I could burst. It’s been a challenging few days. Work is busy and I stumbled into bed on Friday night painful and exhausted, just sure I’d have to lay low all weekend to regroup. I prayed as the night wound to a close that I was grateful for the energy I do have. Living this new life of positivity is so much better than being cynical and expecting defeat. We’ve had another rash of challenges with our teenager about being dishonest about homework, not completing work, blah blah blah. It’s frustrating for him and us and it’s only 5 days until his next therapy appointment where we can talk as a family and get some ideas. In the meantime, we have dialed back some privileges and I’m supervising the homework. While I’m supervising the homework, I’ve cruised FB to keep myself entertained.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen the same event post from my dear friend, Leo, show up on my news feed. Leo is one of the truest, most genuine people I have ever known. We’ve known each other a long time. If I recall correctly, my mom encouraged to get to know Leo. (At that time, Leo was living as a woman, following the gender of his body parts, rather than his own identity.) I remember being 19 and very isolated from many of my friends because I was pregnant with Preston. This did not stop Leo from getting close to me. Leo has ALWAYS championed the cause of the lost, lonely and down-trodden. Before we knew if Preston was a boy or girl, we decided rather than call my unborn baby, it, we called the baby, Peabo. This still cracks me up. Unfortunately, many of the other people in my church community were unable to see past the pregnant teenager and see a lonely young woman who needed support. My family did a great job of rallying around me, and my mom has let me know that every unmarried, pregnant young woman who came after me, has been outwardly loved and supported. I’m sure it was the trail my parents would have chosen for me to blaze, but I was strong enough to do it and it was part of my journey. Leo has remained part of the church I attended as a young person and they have done an amazing job of accepting his transition from female to male. I am SO proud of the whole church. My parents still worship there. These two people that taught me to love anyone, no matter what, walk that walk, literally. When some people reach the age of 70, they begin to slow down. Not my mom and dad. One of the photos of my parents that evoke the most emotion from me, is the one that shows them walking in the Portland Pride Event, with Leo and other church members. To be able to show THAT photo to my bisexual teenage son and remind him that those are HIS grandparents, made me so proud of them. There may be some things growing up that they did that I didn’t like, but their teaching me to love everyone, prepared me for Preston’s coming out. I can’t even put into words how much it meant to me that Leo was still part of Preston’s village after all of these years. I couldn’t ask for a better role model for him. To Love God and share that Love is an incredible thing to be known for. Despite only seeing each other at church when I’ve gone home for major holidays, we’ve not seen each other, except for our connections FB. Today, Leo posted an AMAZING picture of him, radiating joy and love, at the Portland Pride Event. He also shared the Event Invite for a special service at my old church in Beaverton, tomorrow night. It is a service that outwardly acknowledges and welcomes, all members of the LGBT community. I’ve seen the invite before but just couldn’t figure out how I would make it work to drive 400 miles roundtrip and likely not be home before 12:30 am, before needing to work that day. However, this time, when I saw the invite I was struck with the feeling that I couldn’t NOT go. I was overwhelmed with KNOWING we were meant to be there. So, tomorrow, Preston and I will go back to the church where he was baptized, and worship and celebrate with old and new faces.

We even plan to be there early to sing in the pick up choir. I’ve watched the song we are going to sing, “For All The Children,” on a YouTube video, several times today. I’ve cried every single time. My favorite part of this song written by David Lohman are these lyrics; “Oh, we pray for all the young lives cut short by fear and shame, so afraid of who they are and whom they love. May the message now be banished that Your love in for the few, may their faith in You, renew.”

I don’t know how to get through to Preston about homework and lying and all that crap. I do know how to show up for him, and stand beside him and share God’s Love and Light with him. Tomorrow night it will be in one of those familiar pews, in a place from my past, with people who share the joy of the hope with a future together, hand in hand in hand in hand and hand.

My favorite Bible verse in this “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, ” plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

With love and more love, Rebecca

Too angry to figure out what I want to write.

I am so angry, I can’t even figure out what to type. I type. I delete. I retype. I type more. I delete. That which is supposed to be my outlet is self-censored as I worry what other people think. Of me. Of my subject matter. Of my strong emotions. So many things are swirling around inside me fighting to be the priority. They are like dark shadows clawing to the top to get to center stage. Today it is anger. I am really, really angry about feeling like I am being manipulated. I am angry that a child should not have so much power to upset the balance of the household. I have regret and remorse but most of all I am angry. I am angry that this life is not my own. That all of my adult life has been about being a parent. I am angry at myself that I made many of the bullshit choices that my teenager is making, and it tortured my parents. My heart breaks for them that I potentially made them feel this way. A strangers baby, no less, that they were willing to claim at their own. I am overwhelmed by the possibility of coming years of lying about homework, manipulation and lack of responsibility. My mental health or illness, ruled their world. Maybe this is karma but I don’t think I believe in that. I don’t think I deserve this for what I did to them, but maybe I do. They are the most loving and patient people I know. I am not them. I am angry and so I go to see the therapist once a week now to talk about the drama, manipulation and lying. I don’t want to live on this f*cked up roller coaster, how did my parents survive mine? I want some easy answer. I am angry at myself because I have no clear answers on what someone could have done differently to make me change my ways. Thousands and thousands of dollars in treatment/therapy and yet here we are, still stuck in a rut`. I was so convinced that I parenting differently would someone make for an honest teenager that did their homework. One that didn’t hold their entire family hostage around project due dates and emotional holes dug by incomplete assignments. I never imagined feeling this twisted up and physically ill from homework after I had gotten my high school diploma. The only one whose success mattered back then was mine. Now, I’m the parent and feel responsible for making him see the error of his ways. I’m left feeling used, like I’ve paid too much attention to his turmoil. I’m worn and want a break from it. I realize that isn’t what parenting is. It’s sacrifice. It’s showing up and showing interest. It’s having the same discussions and lectures over and over again. It’s providing wisdom and yet when the psychiatrist comes up with it at $375.00/ hour it’s suddenly genius and the new plan. The teenager who didn’t need/want therapist appointments now thinks they are a good idea and he should have gone more often. Really? Seriously? I’m past being disgustingly positive and optimistic. I’m exhausted. Right now, I commit to not being negative. If I don’t have something nice to say I’m going to hide here in my room with my laptop, my music and my tears. Fortunately, my husband isn’t burnt out like I am and is willing to commit to weekly therapy appointments. Maybe I should have let someone else take a turn long before now. Before I was exhausted and angry and bitter. Before I found myself picturing the drive home, and wanting to just cruise on down the highway. I could run away. I could. It’s disappointing, I know. The joy that comes with being their mother, should over shadow the drain. There is two of them but the older one takes all that I have to offer. I don’t really feel like this angry shell of a person should be called Mother, I think I’ll call myself Other. Only three more days until my next therapy appointment.

Trying to exhale.

*This is a draft of a post I never completed. Leaving it unfinished and unposted makes me feel like it’s unresolved.*

This evening (weeks ago) we had a discussion in our house that made me feel like I was snatched up in a time warp and dumped upside down into the chaos of last fall. I felt like all the air was sucked from the room in a nanosecond and replaced with the blackest sludge. My head spun and I thought I was going to throw up. It was all I could do to get to my room before I burst into tears and collapsed on the floor. While I have been diagnosed with PTSD in the past due to an abusive relationship, I’ve never experienced such tangible reliving of a nightmare memory. Sparing the details, we all fought hard for the life of a family member battling severe depression and eventually, months later came out the other side. Scarred, not unscathed, but as survivors. Tonight was the first time that for one moment, I truly thought we could end up back there. (It scared the shit out of me. I can’t think of a classier way to express it, sorry.) The episode back then seemed to come from nowhere. All of the grown-ups were surprised and caught off guard. What I saw and heard today is what I think I missed last year. A teenager getting overwhelmed by school and assignments and homework and time management and being dishonest about what he has or hasn’t done can turn into a really big deal, very quickly. It’s only the second week of school and yet again assignments are incomplete, not turned in and the snowball is rolling down the hill. I want to melt that damn snowball into water so it splashes harmlessly around his feet! I tried to say the right things, encouraging things, non indulgent things, provide practical solutions but I was left feeling like all I did was make it worse and I’m clueless. In the midst of crisis, I handled things that no parent should have to take command of. I made life-altering decisions. It was the sacrifice that my tattoo refers to. The sacrifice of the parent for the child. The price I paid was high.

*That was the last of the unfinished post. The part that follows is in real time.*

This week has been more of a roller coaster. Thursday, I was on the way to see my therapist, the ONE hour of my life that is for me. While driving down 3rd, my phone rings and Preston’s school counselor is on the other end of the line. “I have Preston here, is this a good time to talk?” NO! No, it’s not a good time, a voice screams inside my head. I deserve to have time to focus on my own needs. In order to keep it together as the mother, I need to have time that is just for me. His counselor said that Preston is behind in his homework and has been lying about it and now he feels like giving up and is depressed. This doesn’t surprise me. Does it disappoint me? Yes. She asked if I had been looking on Parent View at his grades. No, I haven’t. I want to be able to ask him and for him to choose honesty over deceit. It made me very angry and resentful that once again he is choosing to lie and not complete his assignments. We don’t ask for grades. We expect him to complete his assignments. This is a cycle of behavior that infuriates me. I was only able to have 1/2 of my regularly scheduled therapy appointment because I had to go to the counseling office and meet Preston and his counselor. AJ, God bless him, agreed to go there too and was waiting when I got there. I didn’t say much during the meeting. AJ, being in better control of his emotions, did most of the talking. It’s very discouraging that despite how much I’ve put into helping Preston succeed at living, that he continues to sabotage himself.

Clearly, we haven’t been able to communicate effectively. For fear of saying the wrong thing, I haven’t said much. In an effort to be my best self and have the most to offer the children, and myself, I have scheduled weekly appointments with my therapist to manage my resentment, anger and anxiety. I know better than to just vent to my blog without help from outside.

Be well. Rebecca