Just my thoughts on a few topics:
www.dictionary.com defines addiction as:
I unfortunately know way too much about the so called justice system. I also know way too much about politicians and their perceptions about crime. I have to wonder sometimes if any of them have ever even talked to a person in jail. How can they sit up there at the Capitol pretending to know what causes crime or the best way to deal with it when they don’t even bother to do some research? No child dreams of going to prison one day. No child dreams of being addicted to drugs. No child dreams of robbing a house or joining a gang. Maybe we should be concentrating more on preventing crimes by finding out what really leads people to do bad things. Find the point in somebody’s life when things went wrong.
I talked to a Senator last year who told me that murder has been a crime since the beginning of time and even though punishment for it can be death itself, people still commit murder. I agreed. Changing the punishment doesn’t prevent the crime. People know that cooking meth and having drugs in their possession is a crime, yet they do it. Why? Could it be that they have no real coping skills for when life goes wrong and they turned to drugs as a way to numb themselves? Could it be that they were raised in that environment and don’t know anything different? Could it be that the education system has failed them to the point where they graduated from high school not knowing how to read or write and selling drugs seems to be their only way to make money?
The commercials for the Governor’s race are hitting the airwaves on a regular basis and they all promise to be “tough on crime”. Why? That has been the approach for years and it is obviously NOT WORKING !!! Why not be smart about crime? Why not try out the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”?
Our society has been teaching kids for years that when things go bad you just need a drink, to pop a pill, or to indulge in something to make you feel better. The mental health field has moved away from teaching people how to work through their problems towards handing out prescriptions and continually blaming somebody’s past for their actions. Why not teach coping skills and life skills so that people can work through their problems instead of ignoring them and just hoping that they go away? Changing brain chemistry is often not for the better and there are links to an increase in crime rates for people on psychotropic meds. Let’s start looking towards the causes of crime and trying to prevent the problems before they happen.
It was the family secret for as long as I can remember. It was the reason why our friends weren’t allowed to spend the night. The reason why we never had slumber parties. The reason why we didn’t sit down as a family to eat. It was the reason why Derek picked me up from our first date from my great-grandmother’s house and why he has only been in the house that I was raised in two times. Once when we were dating … and on the day that I was arrested.
My father comes by hoarding naturally. His mother was a hoarder of sorts. She saved every scrap of fabric she ever owned along with bread bags, soup cans, and butter tubs. She made house shoes for every member of the family each year out of those fabric scraps and I can still remember what it feels like to wear them. I have heard that people who lived through The Depression tended to keep things, because they knew a time when they had nothing. Maybe that was why my grandmother treasured every little scrap, but it doesn’t explain why it was that way for my father. Maybe he learned the behavior by watching her. Maybe there is some sort of genetic link that causes a person to value useless objects more than they value people. This might explain why I was destined in some way to develop hoarding tendencies when I was on Paxil. I was the product of the perfect hoarding storm.
We moved to the country when I was fairly young under the guise of needing a bigger house, but I think that it had more to do with needing more space for junk. My father has a metal building the size of a small warehouse that is cram packed full of junk. At one point there were paths between the piles, but over time the paths disappeared and the objects on the former paths were just stepped over or stepped on. Presents from “Santa” were hidden in the building, never to be found again. Years later my mother told me that I had asked for a pair of white pom poms from Santa one year. I never saw them. They are still there. Hidden. Probably made into a nest by a rodent by now.
My mother comes by hoarding pharmaceutically. When we first moved to the country, the house was spotless. Everything had a place and was kept in it. I vaguely remember it and have seen pictures for proof that it did exist at some point. A clean house. An uncluttered house. Pictures of rooms that didn’t have piles of laundry in the middle of the floor. Pictures where there wasn’t a sink full of dishes. Pictures of rooms that weren’t stuffed with shopping bags full of clothes that still have the tags on them. My mother’s prescription drug issues started when Prozac first hit the market and was hailed as a miracle drug that could solve all her problems. Knowing what I know now about SSRIs, I can now see her behavior as being manic most of the time. She was always planning a project and would spend all sorts of money on craft supplies and stuff for projects for the house that would never be finished. Bags and bags of that stuff. I guarantee you that its all still there and will still be there whenever I have to dig through it and haul it off after they are gone.
My sister and I used to watch the hoarding shows that are so popular now. We don’t watch them anymore. It’s just too painful. It has been turned into some sort of a freak show and I don’t know why anybody would subject themselves to that kind of public scrutiny. I know that they promise to help them clean up and to continue therapy, but we very rarely see any follow up to know whether or not those things happen. The main thing about a hoarder is that you cannot force them to change. You cannot force them to give up their stuff. I know. I have tried. I remember filling my car in high school with black trash bags full of junk and trying to get to the dump before my dad got home, only to be caught and have to hold a flashlight out in the driveway while he dug through those bags and yelled at me for throwing away “good stuff”.
I don’t really know what causes people to hoard, but I do know that I was so close to being one of them. When I was on Paxil, I would have manic shopping trips like my mother. Just buying things to give me some small moment of pleasure … never considering that I didn’t need it or couldn’t afford it. When I was tapering off of the Paxil, it suddenly occurred to me that I had a linen closet full of things that I had hoarded; shampoos, conditioners, bubble baths, body washes, lotions, candles, room sprays, etc. After I was off of the meds, we didn’t have to buy any of that stuff for close to two years.
The hoarding was the family secret, but it was one that I refuse to repeat with my children and yet another reason why I am glad that I am now med-free and not subjecting my kids to the things that I was raised with. Nothing good can come from a relationship where one of the people values stuff more than they value people.
Love/Pain (my abusive relationship)
If he had punched me in the face on our first date then I would have known better than to go out with him on a second date, but that’s not how abusers operate. They follow the same pattern. They are cut from the same cloth. Every story of domestic violence and abuse that I have ever heard all start out the same. “He was so nice when we started dating.” Of course he was, that’s how they lure you in. That’s how they make you believe that they are one of the good guys and that they are going to love you and take care of you. It’s all part of the act.
I have read studies and articles that say that domestic violence is actually on the rise, especially for young girls in first time relationships. Nobody ever talked to me about how a boy should treat a girl. Nobody ever talked about how you are supposed to talk to each other. My parents were not a good example of a good relationship. I didn’t know any different. He told me that he loved me and I believed him and when those words of love turned into “if you loved me then you wouldn’t act like that” then I never realized what was going on. Abusers have a way of turning the situation around and making it the victim’s fault, “I wouldn’t have to hit you if you didn’t make me so mad all the time” and because the victims are so beaten down and have very little self esteem left, they believe it to be true. You start watching everything that you say and do. You start dressing how he wants you to dress. You start talking to only the people that he wants you to talk to. You start wearing your hair how he wants you to. You do anything and everything to try to keep the peace, because you are brainwashed into believing that this is what love is and this is how all couples act. You hide the bruises. You make the excuses. You live the lie.
I wasted my entire senior year on a loser who professed his love for me on a daily basis and he showed me his kind of love by beating me with a baseball bat, punching my arm to the point of leaving bruises the size of grapefruits, and holding a shotgun to my head. He loved to drive me out to the middle of the country, take away my shoes, get the shotgun out of the back of the car and threaten to shoot me if I ever left him. After the first time, he swore that he would never do it again and I believed him. I believed him the time after that … and the time after that … and the time after that. He was a master at promising that it would never happen again, but he was also a master at making me believe that I was so worthless, fat, and ugly that nobody else would ever want me. I am 6′ tall and at the time I weighed 140 pounds. That look might be great on the runway …. but it was not a good look for me. He controlled basically everything that I ate and would remind me on a daily basis that I was fat. He didn’t even seem to mind when my gums started bleeding and my hair fell out from the rapid weight loss. I realize now that by making me feel bad, he was making himself feel better. It was his self esteem that was the problem, not mine. He was not an attractive person at all. I guess it was the initial niceness that lured me in, but over time every single thing about him turned ugly and I was too ignorant to see it.
Former girlfriends of his tried to warn me, but I would tell them all, “oh he doesn’t act that way to me”, because in my mind I was going to be the one to change him. I was going to be the perfect girlfriend and that would make him the perfect boyfriend. If only I would act better, dress like he wanted, and stay away from the boys that he was jealous of, then things would be just fine. I don’t know what it was that made me wake up one day and decide that I wasn’t going to take it one more day. I called him and broke up with him and never shed a tear over it. He continued to call my house for weeks and weeks and even followed me around town …. until I met Derek.
A week after I broke up with the abuser, I met Derek and it took just one time of the abuser seeing me with Derek to leave me alone. I have wondered how different my life would be if I had stayed with him and never met Derek. I also wonder what exactly it was that made me realize that I deserved more from a partner, a lover, and a friend. What would make the girls that are being abused today realize the same thing? Where are we failing them? Why aren’t we teaching kids how to respect each other and not become abusers or victims of abusers? Why aren’t we setting a better example?
Tips for Parents (based on my own experiences)
Know where your kids are at all times – don’t just think that you know where they are – really know where they are. If you cannot get them on their phone (and they all have them) then you get your butt in the car and you drive to wherever they said that they were going to be.
- Make them verify where they are at. Most cell phones are now picture phones. If they say that they are at a friend’s house then call them up and tell them to go take a picture of something completely random (the cat, the kitchen sink, the door knob) – always keep them guessing and let them know that you will be checking on them.
- Check their cell phone records. The phone company can give you a monthly print out of all of the numbers that were called and a listing of all of the numbers that text messages were either sent to or received from. Go over the phone bill with them – if they can’t remember whose number is on the bill – then you call that number and find out yourself.
- Make them give you the password to any social networking sites that they might have pages on (MySpace, Facebook, Beebo, etc.). They are your children and there is no such thing as privacy as long as they live in your house.
- When they talk on the phone (using the house phone) – pick up another phone in the house and listen in on the conversation. You will be amazed at what you can find out.
- Make them give you the password to their email accounts and instant messenger accounts. You can buy computer programs that record emails and chat logs – buy them. You are the adult – you pay the bill so technically it is your account and you have every right to see what they are saying to their friends.
- Stop trying to be your child’s best friend. They don’t need another friend. They need a parent.
- Don’t condone underage drinking. Buying alcohol for your kids or allowing your kids to go to bars does not make you the cool parent – it makes you look like a fool and it often ends up making you the parent of a teenage alcoholic or a dead kid. I know that is blunt but it is the truth.
- Install alarms on your doors and windows. Kids sneak out. The parents that thought that their daughter could do no wrong were the parents of the daughter who snuck out and went partying. She snuck right back in every single weekend – right through the front door. She bragged about it at school. They never had a clue.
- Do not allow your 13 year old daughters to date. That is just disgusting. They will have plenty of dating years – there is no need to start that early. I knew of so many parents who allowed their pre-teen and young teen daughters to date junior and senior boys because the parents thought that it was cool. Gross !!! Teenage boys have one thing on their mind and a young girl will give in just to get the attention. Teen pregnancy comes from boredom and not really knowing where your kids are.
- Keep the family computer in a high traffic area of your house. If they have a laptop then you only allow them to have it when you are in the same room with them. Any other time, you keep it somewhere where only you know where it is. Add a password to it and don’t tell the kids what the password is. When they need the computer, you log them on and when they are done, you log them off.
- Make your teenager get a job. Boredom causes problems.
- Know your kid’s friends and their parents and be comfortable enough to call those parents up if your child is missing.
- There are going to be parents who read this stuff and cringe at the thought of intruding on their child’s life. Well all I have to say to that is “You have been warned”. You are the parent so BE the parent.
- Teachers and school administrators are not your friends. There is no reason for you to be sharing your personal life with them in any way. The purpose of school is to learn and the teacher’s job is to teach. It is that simple.
- Do not go over to a teacher’s house for any reason – EVER.
- Do not give your cell phone number, house phone number, or address to a teacher.
- Do not give your social networking page password to a teacher.
- Do not joke around with a teacher.
- Do not say inappropriate things to a teacher.
- Do not take your anger out on a teacher.
- Do not ask a teacher to give you a ride anywhere.
- Do not buy gifts for your teachers and do not accept gifts if they try to give you one.
- Be responsible for your own actions. If you want to be treated like an adult then act like one. By the time you are in high school, you are old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. Don’t do things that you know you will later regret.
Tips for Teachers (based on my own experiences)
- Never give your home phone number, address, or cell phone number to a student. Never Never Never !!!
- Never ask a student to come to your house for any reason. No babysitting. No yard work. No working on floats or school projects. Nothing. Make this a rule and never deviate from it. A good principal will back you up on this and will allow time and space to work on school projects at the school. If you are too lazy to drive up to the school to work on these things after hours – then you need a career change.
- Never discuss your personal life with your students. If they ask then tell them that you have a policy of never discussing your personal life with your students. If that makes you the mean teacher – then so be it.
- Never allow a student to be alone with you in any situation. If a student has to have after school tutoring or extra help, then ask another teacher to come into the room and stay until the student has left. Schools should actually have rooms set aside for after school tutoring and all of the teachers and students should congregate in that one room each day.
- Never allow a student to borrow anything from you.
- Do not display personal items in your classroom – especially pictures of your family.
- Never allow a student to drive your car.
- Do not allow students to ride with you to ballgames, livestock shows, school events, etc.
- Do not buy gifts for your students and do not allow them to buy gifts for you. This is more for middle school and high school. I understand that elementary teachers buy small Christmas gifts for their students and most little kids love giving gifts to their teachers. That is fine. Just remember to not single out any particular child and to get them each the same gift.
- If a student shows up at your house, do not let them in the house. Call the principal and tell them that a student is there and if the student refuses to leave then call the police. I know that this sets you up for revenge but it shows that you reported the unwelcome advances.
- If a student ever says anything inappropriate to you (in person, on the phone, via email, etc.), report it to the principal immediately. I know that this sets you up for revenge but it shows that you reported the unwelcome advances.
- Never discuss a student’s personal life. You are not there to find them prom dates, give dating advice, or help them find the perfect car. You are there to teach.
- Discourage students from talking about their personal lives in front of you. You do not need to know who slept with whom and who got drunk over the weekend. Plus by not knowing anything about their personal lives then you are not ever in the position of having to report illegal activity to the parents and/or the police. Ignorance is bliss so just stay out of it !!!
- Do not post on social networking sites. If you think that you must have a page in order to share pictures with family and friends then put one on a family friendly site that teenagers do not frequent and make sure that the site requires a password to view your page. Never give a student that password. If a student ends up with that password, then change it. Do not view the pages of students on these sights either. You have absolutely no reason to be on their pages.
- If you are new to the profession, research the schools that you apply to. Small schools usually have small school gossip and politics plus there will be a good chance that some of your students will have relatives on the school board – it is impossible for you to discipline a student whose parent is your ultimate boss (I speak from experience here).
- Research any psychotropic meds before taking them. It is estimated that 30-40% of all educators take some form of these drugs. I know that teaching is a stressful position but taking a drug does not cure the problem. These medications are documented to cause poor judgment, exuberance, excessive spending, impulsivity, reckless behavior, and abnormal thinking. Somebody who is exhibiting these types of behavior should not be influencing children. Please educate yourself.
(Superintendents, Principals, and School Board Members)
- Develop policies that limit or forbid out of school contact between teachers and students (no cell phone contact, no computer chatting, no emails, etc.)
- Be more involved in the daily activities in the classroom – make an appearance in each classroom AT LEAST once a week.
- Do not allow “down time” in a classroom. Teaching time is for teaching – not playing games, or listening to mp3 players, or texting on cell phones. This goes for the teachers and the students. You will find that the teachers who complain the most about rules like this are the ones who are not doing their job. I know because I used to be one of those teachers.
- If your budget allows, install cameras in every classroom. This is as much for the teachers’ protection as the students’. Plus if teachers know that you might be watching then they instantly become more effective teachers.
- Do not allow the teachers to joke around with the students in inappropriate ways. My daughter came home telling me about how a teacher was joking around with a little boy about him wearing a bra. Comments like that are totally inappropriate and should not be condoned.
- Discipline ineffective teachers who are not actually teaching. Having kids read a chapter each day and do a worksheet is not effective teaching. Watching movies two or three days a week is not effective teaching. Allowing students on computers to play games is not effective teaching.
- Do not be friends with the teachers and socialize with them outside of school. You are their boss and you are there for the benefit of the children. It would be impossible to be objective and give criticism to a friend so separate yourself from the beginning and don’t go down that road.
- Do not support incentives for teachers based on student test scores. Test scores are a snap shot in time and do not necessarily reflect the teaching ability of the teacher. If a teacher is trying their hardest and is doing a good job then you will know it, if you are doing your job.
- Develop policies that forbid a teacher from ever being alone with a student and make parents aware of those policies. Teachers should not ever be allowed to drive a kid home from a ballgame or school event. At least two sponsors should also go on every single field trip; this prevents a teacher from being left alone at the school with a kid while they are waiting for their parents to pick them up.
- Get off of your butt and walk around the school on a regular basis. Sit in on classes. Be seen in the hallway and the restroom. Let the students and the teachers know that you are watching what is going on.
- Do not allow non-learning activities during school time (this includes sporting events). This may not make you popular with the coaches but everybody needs to remember that the primary purpose of school is to learn.
- Be supportive of teachers who might need to take a leave of absence in order to wean themselves off of mood stabilizers, antidepressants, antianxiety meds, etc. It is a long tough battle but it is worth it in the end. People on these types of meds are literally ticking time bombs – believe me you would rather be supportive of a teacher wanting off of these meds than be in the news for some sort of scandal or tragedy at your school.
- Only hire fat, ugly, old teachers for junior high and high school. I am only partially joking about this one. Teenage boys (and some teenage girls) will hit on and flirt with anything that has a pulse. If you hire young, attractive teachers then you need to be prepared to handle either the unwelcome advances by the students or the rumors. If a young, attractive teacher is even remotely nice to a student then the rumors will start flying.