… from the bungalow


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Take Care of Each Other, Goddammit: A simple, three-step guide to maintaining your sanity (Blogger Idol Week 8)

[This was my post for Week 8 of Blogger Idol. The assignment was to get on our soapboxes and write about something we feel passionately about. The original post was shared over 160 times on Facebook, received hundreds of views and received a perfect judges’ score.
Enjoy the post.]

Two-thirds of my immediate family live in another state. Three-fifths of my mom’s immediate family are deceased. I have a few friends, but most of us have moved to different towns. So when I do need help, it feels like asking too much of the few people who would be in a position to offer it, and that’s only if I suck up my pride long enough to consider asking for it. I wrote a post on this subject a few months ago called Where’s My Village?. I admitted to more than I really wanted to in that post, but for me it was worth it.

But why is that? Am I afraid of appearing weak or incapable? Why should I have so much pride? I know I’m not alone in this kind of behavior. We don’t want to be the runt of the litter, we don’t want to burden others, people have their own lives to worry about, etc.

Wait, did I really just say that? Their “own lives”? This is part of the problem. As a society, we have become increasingly independent and proud, but independence can turn into isolation. We want to be seen as strong, like we’ve “got our shit together,” but people sometimes lose their shit. And, usually, no one even sees it coming.

Ben Barnhard-AP

An undated photo provided by the Barnhard family shows Ben Barnhard. (AP Photo/Barnhard Family)

I’ve read two articles in the past handful of days about parents of kids with special needs killing their child. Murdered. And I wasn’t seeking out these articles. They just came across my desk, as it were. The first one, which I talked about in Tragedy in Maryland, was a murder-suicide. This psychiatrist and single parent to a boy with ASD couldn’t handle life anymore and decided to spare her son the trauma of losing his mother to suicide. The second article I read was about a man who decided just a few days ago to decapitate his 7-year-old son who had cerebral palsy, then left is dismembered body at the curb for garbage pick-up. Continue reading

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Tragedy in Maryland

I read an article today that just about wrecked me. I considered for a moment sharing it on the wall of my Facebook page, but decided it deserved more attention than that. This touches on two topics that are very important to me: special needs and suicide.

This is obviously not a reporting blog, so I’m not going to report on this article so much as share it, along with some of my thoughts, and hope to open a dialogue. The headline of The Huffington Post’s August 8, 2011, article read, “Margaret Jensvold, Maryland Mom Who Killed Son Ben Barnhard, Agonized Over School Costs.” You can read the article here.

Ben Barnhard

An undated photo provided by the Barnhard family shows Ben Barnhard. (AP Photo/Barnhard Family)

This is devastating. The divorced mom, a psychiatrist, was completely overwhelmed emotionally and financially while caring for her son with special needs. The school she placed him in cost around $50,000 per year. Apparently mired in despair, she wrote a note about being unable to handle the education system, and that she wanted to spare her son the lifelong trauma of losing a parent to suicide. She then shot her son in the head, then killed herself.

That last sentence makes me feel ill. Typing it felt wrong. This is not a reflection of judgment. This is my reaction as a parent of a child with special needs. Without judgment, then, and in the interest of self-awareness, here are my thoughts:

Firstly, logic (in my mind) does not allow for this outcome. The thought of taking my own life, if I were to entertain such a thought, is immediately thwarted by the thought of my children’s lives. If I were to then think of taking their lives (my fingers are resisting even typing this right now) in order to “spare” them from the trauma of losing their dad, I’m pretty sure I’d immediately throw up. And since I wouldn’t put them through the trauma of losing their dad, nothing would happen. It’s as simple as an “if, then, else” statement. Value=false.

However, I’m also not going to sit here and condemn her, not that I’m justifying in any way what she did. But I cannot even fathom the extent of her despair to not only consider that the death of her son and herself was the only option, but to actually act on it. It’s unimaginable, and it’s beyond tragic.

As difficult as things get with my own special little guy, there is nothing–nothing–that would bring me to that place. OK, that part sounds a bit like a judgment, but it’s my personal stance, and I’ll stand by it.

What are your thoughts about/reactions to this?

~ Chris

P.S. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-TALK.