Cate Luther

@cate-luther | contributor
Cate Luther is a happily married 52-year-old mom raising a 13-year-old daughter who has whole alphabet soup of diagnoses, among them Bipolar Disorder and Autism. In April of 2016, we added brain tumor survivor to the mix. Ever since she was little, Princess has been a drama queen in training, hence the title of my blog.
Cate Luther

Going to the Hospital for a Mental Health Crisis vs. a Surgery

My daughter has been in the hospital twice this year. Once for the removal of a brain tumor and once for mental health challenges. Both of these stays were unexpected. Both started with a visit to the ER. However, once we got inside the ER doors, the similarities ended. At the first hospital stay, my daughter was treated like royalty the entire time. She was given a coloring page, crayons and a stuffed animal to cuddle while the doctors determined how to treat her. At the second hospital stay, a guard was placed outside her examining room to make sure she stayed safe. No one took the time to explain to her why the guard was there. She was given some graham crackers, juice and a TV remote while the doctors determined the next steps. At the first hospital stay, once it was determined she’d need to spend the night, a small bed was set up for me in her hospital room. Her roommate’s mom also stayed the night. Nurses doted on my child and assured her everything would be all right. At one point they tried to set up an IV in her arm. They lovingly explained what it was and why she needed it. Ultimately, she did not keep the IV in the first night. The nurses sure gave it a good try though. During the second hospital stay, the hospital we started in did not have mental health services for children there. My daughter needed to be transported via ambulance to a nearby behavioral health hospital. The EMTs were kind and explained why she needed to be strapped in. I was allowed to ride in the front of the ambulance while my husband followed along behind. Once we arrived at the hospital, there was some confusion as to where the gurney with my child was to go: the adolescent side or the youth side. Since there were no beds on the youth side, my daughter was taken to the adolescent side. She was placed with teens, some of whom were four years older than her. After vitals were taken that first night at the behavioral health hospital, my husband and I were shown the door. We were not allowed to stay with her. Thankfully, this was not her first stay in this type of hospital so we were not shocked we could not stay. It was still a bit terrifying for my child as she had never been to this hospital before. She did not know the staff. We had to trust they would take care of her. Initially, we were told my daughter would go back to the youth side with more age-appropriate peers. That never happened since there was a bed shortage. During most of her stay at the behavioral health facility, the teens on the adolescent side showed a lot of kindness towards my daughter. My daughter At the first hospital, a children’s hospital, everything was explained to my child. The staff listened to us when we told them my daughter’s autism and bipolar disorder might make procedures challenging for her. After many explanations by many nurses, my daughter decided to keep her IV in. The Licensed Vocational Nurses who sat with my child around the clock trained each LVN who came after them what worked best for my child. Following surgery to remove a brain tumor, her doctor came every day to see her. He didn’t even take Sunday off. Since I was there almost all of the time, I was able to talk to all of the medical professionals who worked with her. Together we came up with a plan. When my daughter was in the behavioral health hospital, I only talked to the doctor one time. I talked to him on the phone since he saw my child outside of the two hours my husband and I were allowed to visit her. The visiting hours there are set and not able to be changed. One of the main differences between these two hospital stays was how many people were made aware of them. Both were under life-threatening circumstances. However, during the stay at the children’s hospital we took to Facebook and called numerous friends and family so they could support us. During the stay at the behavioral health facility, we only told a few close friends and family. When my daughter had a brain tumor, I knew it was socially acceptable to reach out to everyone, to rally the troops. They came through with many prayers, phone calls, meals, gifts and cards. When my daughter had a mental health crisis, I didn’t feel comfortable publicly sharing this. I was afraid not everyone would understand our situation. No one would question why my daughter needed brain surgery, but they would question why we felt she needed to be 5150’d (involuntary psychiatric hold). I felt a sense of duty to protect my child and my family from the naysayers. As a result,  there were very few prayers or phone calls. No one offered to bring meals. No one sent cards or gifts. After my daughter’s discharge from the children’s hospital, we celebrated publicly. After her discharge from the behavioral health hospital, we celebrated quietly. I understand why many things are different at both hospitals. I don’t understand why my child, myself and other parents like me have to face mental illness alone. My prayer is one day in the very near future, much of the stigma surrounding mental health challenges will be gone. I’m sure I am not alone in wanting more support for myself and my daughter. Hopefully, my girl can be part of this change. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay

Cate Luther

Doctor’s Simple Test Helped Save Our Daughter’s Life

I know you’re humble and meek, and you were just “doing your job.” However, I think you do it better than the average doctor. When you took the Hippocratic oath, you meant it. For that, I am grateful. Let me back up a bit. As you may be aware, in late March — Easter weekend to be precise — my daughter started to limp and showed signs of weakness on the right side of her body. I called your office late that Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, it was too late to get in to see you. One of your staffers referred my daughter to urgent care for her right-sided weakness. Since she takes several medications for her mood disorder, I thought it could be tardive dyskinesia (TD). After I got off the phone with you, I took my daughter to urgent care. They determined rather quickly they couldn’t do the proper testing there. Instead, they referred us to our local hospital’s emergency room. The ER doctor did a few tests and ordered lab work. He consulted with the on-call psychiatrist and gave my child a diagnosis of TD. He prescribed a medication that was supposed to lessen the severity of the side effects of the offending medication. As is standard operating procedure, he recommended we follow up with my daughter’s personal psychiatrist. Based upon the results from the ER, my daughter’s psychiatrist of almost six years concurred. We then began a regimen where we began to titrate down on the medication that was causing TD. At the same time, she increased the medication that was supposed to lessen its side effects. A month later, my daughter’s symptoms not only didn’t lessen, they grew worse. It didn’t make sense to me. I did what any mom would do — I consulted my mom friends. One suggested the cause was possibly neurological. She implored me to get my daughter seen right away. With our HMO insurance, we had to get a referral from you before we could see a neurologist. This is where you came in. You played an integral role in getting my daughter the care she needed. When you saw my daughter in your office, you did one test they didn’t do in the ER. It was a simple pin-prick test. You told my daughter to close her eyes while you poked her along her right leg. You started with her foot, moving all the way up to her upper thigh before my daughter uttered the words that said it all: “Let me know when you are going to start.” You and I stared at each other in disbelief. It wasn’t possible. My daughter had little to no feeling on her right leg. You saw something else they missed in the ER: The partial paralysis on the right side of my daughter’s face. My family and I had mistaken it for just a cute crooked smile. With a sense of urgency, you looked me in the eye and made me promise to take my daughter to the ER of the children’s hospital. You told me she would need an MRI. I honestly had no idea what we were in store for but did as you instructed. My daughter and I stopped at home to quickly pack her overnight bag, since you had told us she would probably have to spend the night. That would be the first of eight nights in total she would spend there. The next morning my daughter was wheeled off to the MRI room, and I followed right behind the gurney. It wasn’t long after my daughter was back in her hospital room that a nurse practitioner called me aside and told me the disturbing news no parent wants to hear: “We found a mass in your daughter’s brain. The surgeon will be up shortly to discuss it with you.” I felt my breath leave my whole body. I wanted to faint. The only thing I knew to do since my husband was at work was to rally the troops. I called him and asked him to leave work as soon as he could. Then I called family members and friends to ask them to pray. I was in a state of shock. The neurosurgeon showed up within the hour of our devastating news. He showed me where the tumor was located on the left side of her brain. He also showed me it had a cyst that was pushing on the brain. Most of all, he showed me compassion and confidence. Those were two things he showed my family and I over and over again during the next seven days my daughter was in the hospital. In the midst of what seemed like chaos to me, this doctor — Dr. McMiracle in my book — was a very calming presence. The next morning the children’s hospital’s team did its best to ensure the operation to remove the tumor and accompanying cyst went smoothly. Finally, after five long hours, the surgery was over. The surgeon deemed it a success. A follow-up MRI the next day would confirm this. Thankfully, the pathology report determined the tumor to be a grade one, which meant no radiation or chemotherapy would be needed. My daughter will be given subsequent MRIs in the coming months and years to monitor her brain. For now, we’re blessed she’s made a remarkable recovery. From now on, this children’s hospital will be the standard to which I will measure all hospitals. I’m thankful I listened to my gut and to my friends. I’m grateful you performed a thorough job of assessing my daughter. We owe her life to you and her amazing surgeon. Thank you for “doing your job.” Follow this journey on Raising a Drama Queen. The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lindsay Jolly

How to Handle Your Child Being Bullied

Friday afternoon I put my jacket on and stopped halfway from my house to the bus stop like every other day. It’s my sons favorite thing to do. He asks me all the time to stop right there so he can run really hard and crash into my arms. He calls it his “Brock Entrance.” I knew something was wrong the second he got off the bus. Brock didn’t run that day, but his smile wasn’t gone. He came right up to me and said “[blank] choked me on the bus today.” My heart dropped. My breath caught.  My eyes started burning. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I have to be strong for my child. I put his hand in mine and walked to our house. I had him sit on the couch and tipped his head back. That’s when I noticed the faint purple marks and scratches under his chin. Inside my momma bear was slowly roaring to life; outside I was calm with my usual smile when I see my son after an eight-hour school day. I asked him, “What do you want for a snack today? Apples or big gooey chocolate donuts?” He picked the donuts, because you don’t exist in our house. Your memory fades when his foot hits that last step on the bus. You take up enough of his time outside of these walls  —  you don’t get more of him. This is our time, and my time to remind and show him that love is a stronger feeling than hate. My son has autism and developmental disabilities, and he is so, so loved. He has a mom, dad, puppy, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and friends who always make sure he feels that love the second we are in his presence. But when I think of you, after the hurt and anger at the injustice you caused my son fades, I just feel sorry. There’s a big part of me that hurts for you, too. I can’t help but think of what you must be going through to have that much pain inside you’d take it out on my child. The child who always finds a reason to smile and sees the good in everyone. Lindsay’s son, Brock. I believe one of the best parts about being a mom is having the power to help take pain away from my son. I get to do that, and I am doing that. The most important thing I’ve learned if your child is a victim of bullying is to remind them they are in no way at fault, and to always let an adult know what’s going on. I always make sure to spend time after each school day discussing Brock’s day with him. I call it “the highs and lows.” I have him name a few things that were the high points, and a few things that were the low points, because I want him to know he can always come to me for anything good or bad. Whenever he names a low point, we discuss ways they can either be solved or improved. Communication is always key. And now, he’s no longer going to be the person you take your frustrations out on. That ended Friday afternoon when he took that last step off the bus and chose gooey chocolate donuts. Brock is going to go on like Brock does  — with a smile on his face and without a care in the world. And I hope, beyond all hope, when the next Brock comes around, (because there will always be another Brock) that you remember one thing: in the long run, the only one you’re hurting is yourself. Memories fade, but there will always be big gooey chocolate donuts to help pick up the pieces. Follow this journey on Brock’s World. The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Cate Luther

Act of Kindness: Walmart Employee Stood Up For My Daughter

My daughter and I encountered an amazing champion the other day. I’ve been wanting to write about our experience, but I’m a little embarrassed we even needed her help. You see, my daughter has bipolar disorder. Normally she runs and jumps like most other children her age. But recently, one of the medications we’ve been giving her to stabilize her moods makes the right side of her body numb. The most noticeable part of this is that she walks with a limp. We’re trying to get rid of the offending drug, but since it will take awhile for the effects to lessen, she lives with the limp for now. She’s pretty good about not letting the limp get in her way. I’ve noticed that it gets worse when she’s tired or has walked a lot. Knowing this, I was not surprised when she asked me if she could use an electric cart at Walmart on a recent shopping trip there. Since we hadn’t used one before, we asked the women at customer service if she could use one. I was polite and explained my child had a limp. After looking at us quizzically, both employees said no. They told us that the carts were only for adults. Soon after, I was stopped by a Walmart employee. She had heard the whole exchange a few minutes previously. She felt that we were discriminated against. She informed me the carts were there for anyone who needed them. Then she confirmed this with her manager. I made sure to get the manager’s name so when we went back to get the cart, I could tell the women at customer service. My daughter and I placed our order at the in-store McDonald’s and waited at the counter. The next thing I knew, our new hero was riding up on the cart. It wasn’t enough for her to tell us she felt we had been wronged. It wasn’t enough for her to confirm with the manager that my child was entitled to a cart. No, this kind and caring lady went further out of her way. She secured and brought the cart to my child. My heart was singing at the actions of this compassionate woman. She didn’t need to hear our story. She believed us and wanted to make things right. Once we got our food, my daughter happily climbed aboard her new ride. Since my mom had had to use a cart like this in her later years, I knew how it operated. I gave my daughter a quick tutorial and we were off. My daughter was so happy to not have to worry about her leg slowing her down. I stayed close by her assisting her as needed while we shopped. At one point, the cart stopped working so we flagged down another employee who called guest services to bring another cart. I don’t think the employee who initially denied my child the cart was too happy to bring out a replacement cart. She did though. When we were done with our shopping, guess who was waiting to ring us up? Yep, our new friend. While I was finishing paying for our purchases, I chatted a bit with our helper. I thanked her profusely as I explained why we needed the cart. She wished us well and sent us on our merry way. I’m not certain how long my daughter will have this limp. I hope it won’t be permanent. Whatever the case, I’m glad there our people like the employee at Walmart, who go out of their way to make sure my daughter has what she needs. The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected act of kindness, big or small, that you’ve experienced or witnessed in an everyday place. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Cate Luther

Act of Kindness: Walmart Employee Stood Up For My Daughter

My daughter and I encountered an amazing champion the other day. I’ve been wanting to write about our experience, but I’m a little embarrassed we even needed her help. You see, my daughter has bipolar disorder. Normally she runs and jumps like most other children her age. But recently, one of the medications we’ve been giving her to stabilize her moods makes the right side of her body numb. The most noticeable part of this is that she walks with a limp. We’re trying to get rid of the offending drug, but since it will take awhile for the effects to lessen, she lives with the limp for now. She’s pretty good about not letting the limp get in her way. I’ve noticed that it gets worse when she’s tired or has walked a lot. Knowing this, I was not surprised when she asked me if she could use an electric cart at Walmart on a recent shopping trip there. Since we hadn’t used one before, we asked the women at customer service if she could use one. I was polite and explained my child had a limp. After looking at us quizzically, both employees said no. They told us that the carts were only for adults. Soon after, I was stopped by a Walmart employee. She had heard the whole exchange a few minutes previously. She felt that we were discriminated against. She informed me the carts were there for anyone who needed them. Then she confirmed this with her manager. I made sure to get the manager’s name so when we went back to get the cart, I could tell the women at customer service. My daughter and I placed our order at the in-store McDonald’s and waited at the counter. The next thing I knew, our new hero was riding up on the cart. It wasn’t enough for her to tell us she felt we had been wronged. It wasn’t enough for her to confirm with the manager that my child was entitled to a cart. No, this kind and caring lady went further out of her way. She secured and brought the cart to my child. My heart was singing at the actions of this compassionate woman. She didn’t need to hear our story. She believed us and wanted to make things right. Once we got our food, my daughter happily climbed aboard her new ride. Since my mom had had to use a cart like this in her later years, I knew how it operated. I gave my daughter a quick tutorial and we were off. My daughter was so happy to not have to worry about her leg slowing her down. I stayed close by her assisting her as needed while we shopped. At one point, the cart stopped working so we flagged down another employee who called guest services to bring another cart. I don’t think the employee who initially denied my child the cart was too happy to bring out a replacement cart. She did though. When we were done with our shopping, guess who was waiting to ring us up? Yep, our new friend. While I was finishing paying for our purchases, I chatted a bit with our helper. I thanked her profusely as I explained why we needed the cart. She wished us well and sent us on our merry way. I’m not certain how long my daughter will have this limp. I hope it won’t be permanent. Whatever the case, I’m glad there our people like the employee at Walmart, who go out of their way to make sure my daughter has what she needs. The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected act of kindness, big or small, that you’ve experienced or witnessed in an everyday place. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Cate Luther

Red Flags for a Child Counselor

Back in 2010 when my daughter was really struggling in school, my husband and I were encouraged to seek out a counselor to learn how to better parent her unique needs. We were blessed because the very first counselor we saw was a perfect fit for our family. She counseled my child and really our whole family for almost five years. But last January, this beloved and trusted family therapist moved her practice out of the area. We probably could have followed her if we wanted to drive a minimum of two hours for our weekly visits, but that wasn’t realistic. When I first started looking for a new licensed marriage and family therapist in February, I ran into road block after road block. The best therapists were either out of our price range, did not accept our insurance or did not have any current openings. The rest never even returned my phone calls. Upon the advice of my daughter’s home/school district appointed counselor, we decided to take a break from the search since we already had so many supports in place at school. Additionally, my daughter was doing so well that she did not appear to need a family therapist yet. Then in late July/early August my husband and I started to notice our girl was sliding into instability. At this time, I began my search with renewed vigor and urgency. One of the therapists who was kind enough to return my call told me she was booked, but gave me some names of female counselors who saw children. We had two visits with one of these counselors. We courted her, if you will. But eventually, I had to tell this counselor that while we were thankful for her services, we’d be looking for another professional who met our needs better. Finding a therapist who is right for your child is not unlike finding a mate you plan on spending your life with. After all, a good therapist could become a part of your family for a long time. As my husband and I were courting this therapist, there were five red flags that told us we had not found the perfect match for our family: 1. They make judgments about your child’s behavior. She compared our child’s behavior to that of a 2-year-old’s. Aside from being an insult, a judgement like this wasn’t helpful — and did not curb that behavior. 2. They give advice that didn’t meet your child’s needs. Upon our therapist’s advice, we increased the amount of money my daughter had to pay back when she took change that did not belong to her. But this made our child even more non-compliant. I gave this advice a good “college try,” but this philosophy did not work for our situation. 3. They have little or no experience working with children who have the same diagnosis as your child. While giving us an intake survey, this therapist asked if my daughter was awake for three to four days at a time (a common symptom for adults with bipolar disorder). I responded that we had never witnessed this with our daughter. Then I told her that my daughter, like many children with early-onset bipolar disorder, was a rapid cycler; she gave me a look that told me was a novel concept to her. 4. Your friends tell you they see one or more red flags. Like many parents I have friends that I confide in. Some of these are parents of special needs children. Others are parents whose judgment I trust. I always ask their opinion on things when I’m not sure myself. Often in the midst of a crisis, we think the professionals know best — but this isn’t always the case. In this instance, no less than three friends told me that they did not agree with the therapist’s strategy. 5. Your gut tells you this is not the therapist for you. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. I often tell parents not to stick it out and hope things will get better. In my experience, they don’t usually improve. It is best cut your losses and move on. This will save a lot of heartache on the child’s part because they won’t have a chance to form a strong bond with the new therapist, and it will be easier to transition to a new one. I decided I needed to take my own advice here. Fortunately, I have another therapist that we will start courting beginning on Saturday. I am hopeful this will be a better fit since this particular professional specializes in applied behavioral therapy, a technique that my daughter’s school has used successfully with her. If not, I’ll start my search again soon. My daughter is counting on me to find her a therapist that can help her be the best she can be. Follow this journey on Raising a Drama Queen. The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Megan Roach

When You Have to Redefine Your Expectations Because of Mental Illness

Since I was in the fifth grade, I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I even wrote it down in my “School Days” book. Well, I wrote down social worker and teacher, too, but I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I love helping people and I love learning about medical things, so I figured being a nurse would be the best profession I could choose. But when I was diagnosed with major depression at age 14, things got harder. For a few years, I was trying to just survive. Still, I went to college with the exact purpose to become a nurse. But when I went to my first pre-chemistry class, I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the anxiety. I went on to complete a degree in liberal arts, and then got a bachelor’s in psychology a few years ago. I tried and tried to become a nurse. When that didn’t work, I tried to become a medical assistant, but that failed as well.  I completed the schooling but couldn’t stay with a job due to bipolar disorder, anxiety and borderline personality disorder. I’ve realized over the years I’m just not meant to be a nurse, but I’ve always been ready to help others. After having suffered from mental illness for 19 years, about three years ago, I began to change the “suffering” part to “living well” with (although I still have bad days and suffer on those days). I began seeing  my therapist every week, seeing my psychiatrist regularly, got on a good “cocktail” of meds and began taking them as scheduled. I also began running and participating in races, went on two meditation retreats and began sharing my story. It took a ton of work, but I’m now doing better than I’ve ever been before. My main goal has always been to help others, and even though my illnesses didn’t allow me to be a nurse, I’m still helping others. If sharing my story of success helps one other person, then I have done my job. As any person with a mental illness will tell you, getting and staying well is really hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It takes a lot of hard work, patience (which I do not have a lot of), relying on your support system, following a routine and finding out a lot about yourself and working with that. I did all of that and continue to do it, and it was worth all the effort I put into it. It makes me proud I stuck to it. And if I can help anyone else realize they, too, can get well, I like to be called an inspiration.

Cate Luther

Mom's Story: Long Wait Times to Find a Child a Bed at a Psych Hospital

My daughter’s been blessed with pretty good physical health. She’s rarely sick and hasn’t had to miss much school due to illnesses. Her mental health has been almost the opposite. Even though she’s been stable over two years now, she’s missed a lot of school due to behavioral health challenges. She was diagnosed in August of 2011 with bipolar disorder, but it wasn’t until over a year later that she had her first hospitalization. In October of 2012, my husband and I were attempting to get our daughter ready for school. She was having a hard time transitioning back to a school routine after summer, and it was difficult getting her ready for school every day. We saw a lot of aggression and self-injurious behaviors during this time. Finally, one morning, I made the dreaded phone call to our local police to ask for assistance. I truly was hoping we could eventually make it to school that day. The officers who came out didn’t really know how to help us, but they were able to diffuse the situation. My child calmed down enough so we were able to transport her in our vehicle to an emergency room in a neighboring city. As is typical of any visit to the ER, my daughter was seen by the triage department before being taken back to the ER’s psych ward. It was a scary place for sure. At the time we had insurance through my work that was pretty amazing. We only needed the doctor on call to approve hospitalization for my girl. For all of her future hospitalizations, she was on government insurance. We had to jump through many hoops to get approval on each of those occasions. The problem we had this time was not with getting someone to agree that my daughter needed hospitalization — it was finding a bed. The hospital we went to didn’t have a place for an 8-year-old with mental health issues. We had arrived at the ER around 10 a.m. that morning. By 6 o’clock that evening the nurses still hadn’t found a bed close by. I finally spoke up and asked what the hold up was. It was then that I discovered they had only been looking in the county we live in. I implored them to look into other counties. Finally at 9 p.m., a bed was found in different county over 100 miles away. I didn’t care, I was elated one had been found. My husband and I called our therapist who then called the facility to make sure it was a quality hospital. Once the decision was made, we signed tons of paperwork to pre-admit her. I think it was almost midnight before we were told the ambulance that would be transporting our daughter had arrived. At this point my child was calm and almost angelic. The ambulance workers buckled her onto the gurney just to make sure. This was a new and terrifying experience for all of us, so I rode in the back while my husband followed behind in his car. I recall it was about 4 a.m. when we arrived at our destination. It was eerily quiet and dark in the hospital corridors. When we reached the youth unit, we signed more paperwork while the nursing staff took our daughter’s vitals. Sometimes, when a child is admitted to a hospital, the parents are allowed to see where their child will be staying and in most cases, will be offered a bed to sleep on. In behavioral health hospitals, this is not the case. We were ushered out while our precious baby was whisked off behind a set of locked double doors. As we stumbled out into the pitch black darkness of the early morning hours, numb and in shock, I looked down at my watch. It was 5 a.m. I still hadn’t slept a wink and was suddenly overcome with exhaustion. My husband and I had no clue where the nearest hotel was. We both looked up at the same time and noticed one right across the street from the hospital. It was a godsend, an expensive godsend, but a godsend nonetheless. I don’t know why I thought it would be easy to see my daughter that first morning. It was one of the roughest days I had ever experienced up until that point. As the double doors closed at the end of our visit and we left, our beloved child cried gut-wrenching sobs. I knew she was where she needed to be. I knew she was safe. Still, it was hard. The hospital staff encouraged us not to visit every day so we went back home. Over the course of the next 10 days we saw our daughter as often as we could. I talked with her social worker every day. When she was discharged, we couldn’t find an outpatient program close to our home, so my daughter and I stayed at a nearby motel at the facility she had been inpatient in. As it turned out, my girl was still unstable and required more hospitalization. She was accepted back at this wonderful hospital since she was in their outpatient program. She stayed for another 10 days inpatient before resuming their day treatment program. While at this facility, the social worker acted as a liaison between myself and the school, and myself and the doctor. I later learned this is the exception, not the norm at most behavioral health hospitals. In fact we never experienced this level of care and concern again. The entire nursing staff worked with our family and our child in a loving, but firm manner. It was rough leaving my pride and joy in the hands of strangers, but at the end of my girl’s stay there, they were almost family. For that I am truly grateful. As I reflect back on this first hospital stay, I learned a few things about myself and our mental health system. I learned I’m stronger than I think I am. It was incredibly difficult to leave my child crying behind the double doors with strangers I had just met in a strange city. I learned about the shortage of beds in our psychiatric hospitals. It’s unfortunate there aren’t enough beds for children my daughter’s age in all of our county. I also learned how important it was to ask for help. Unlike most families in our situation, we had some incredibly supportive friends. Members of our church family gathered donations that significantly helped us. These funds provided us with gas money for traveling to and from the hospital and money for eating out. These same friends also helped provide us dinners when our daughter returned home again. Many parents are ashamed to admit their child needs this kind of hospitalization, so they stay quiet. We spoke up and stated what we needed. Should you ever find yourself in a similar situation where your child needs to go to a behavioral health hospital, I encourage you to reach out to friends and family. They may not be able to visit your child, but they can offer practical things like gas cards, gift cards to your favorite fast food restaurants or even taking your other children for play dates. Together we can end the stigma surrounding mental health by speaking up and supporting each other. Follow this journey on Raising a Drama Queen.

Cate Luther

When My Daughter Asked Me If She Could Marry a Boy With Disabilities

The other night, right as we were winding down for the evening, my daughter and I were chatting in her room about life. All of a sudden, she asked me a question that startled me, but didn’t shock me. She said, “Mom, is it OK if I marry a boy with disabilities?” Without skipping a beat, I replied,”As long as he treats you as good as your father treats me.” I may have shed a tear or two. Just moments before my daughter had uttered those words, I received a text from my husband asking if I’d purchased the latest People magazine. He knew I’d had a rough day. He’d had a long day as well, but he also knew I needed a pick me up. Why was he out running to the store mere minutes before our daughter’s bedtime? It was because he knew our child needed soft tissues for her tender, allergy-afflicted nose. When we were dating, my husband promised me that if we were blessed to have a little girl, he would be the kind of father I never had. The one who loves his daughter so fiercely. The one who would take away all of her pain if he could. The one who would treat her like a princess. I’m proud to say my husband has kept his promise. Growing up my father didn’t have a big presence. In some respects, I don’t fault him for that. He suffered on and off from mental illness my whole life. He wasn’t there for most of the important events of my life. He missed out on my first date, my first kiss, and so many more firsts. He even refused to attend my wedding. Thankfully, I married a man who makes me feel like a treasure. He’ll stop at nothing to make sure that he never loses me. Over the course of our 17-year marriage, he’s had to make a lot of sacrifices. Currently, he’s teaching in a city 50 miles away from us. He is up before the rooster crows and home long after the sun sets. He knows this is what he needs to do to provide for our family. I know it’s not easy for him. That night when I was chatting with my daughter about her future husband, I explained to her how her father was such a good man. She also knows my father had many flaws. She is aware of some of the heartache he put me through. But today she’s dreaming of her own future. I’m so glad she doesn’t see herself (she has autism and bipolar disorder) or others with disabilities as less. That makes my heart smile from ear to ear. Once I told her she could marry a boy who might have challenges like her own or any other boy with disabilities, her innocence shown through. She looked up at me and replied, “That’s good ’cause there are at least two boys I like right now.” I had to stifle a little chuckle at that response. Cate’s husband and daughter. The Mighty is asking the following: What do you want your past, current or future partner to know about being with someone with your disability, disease or mental illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Cate Luther

When My Daughter Asked Me If She Could Marry a Boy With Disabilities

The other night, right as we were winding down for the evening, my daughter and I were chatting in her room about life. All of a sudden, she asked me a question that startled me, but didn’t shock me. She said, “Mom, is it OK if I marry a boy with disabilities?” Without skipping a beat, I replied,”As long as he treats you as good as your father treats me.” I may have shed a tear or two. Just moments before my daughter had uttered those words, I received a text from my husband asking if I’d purchased the latest People magazine. He knew I’d had a rough day. He’d had a long day as well, but he also knew I needed a pick me up. Why was he out running to the store mere minutes before our daughter’s bedtime? It was because he knew our child needed soft tissues for her tender, allergy-afflicted nose. When we were dating, my husband promised me that if we were blessed to have a little girl, he would be the kind of father I never had. The one who loves his daughter so fiercely. The one who would take away all of her pain if he could. The one who would treat her like a princess. I’m proud to say my husband has kept his promise. Growing up my father didn’t have a big presence. In some respects, I don’t fault him for that. He suffered on and off from mental illness my whole life. He wasn’t there for most of the important events of my life. He missed out on my first date, my first kiss, and so many more firsts. He even refused to attend my wedding. Thankfully, I married a man who makes me feel like a treasure. He’ll stop at nothing to make sure that he never loses me. Over the course of our 17-year marriage, he’s had to make a lot of sacrifices. Currently, he’s teaching in a city 50 miles away from us. He is up before the rooster crows and home long after the sun sets. He knows this is what he needs to do to provide for our family. I know it’s not easy for him. That night when I was chatting with my daughter about her future husband, I explained to her how her father was such a good man. She also knows my father had many flaws. She is aware of some of the heartache he put me through. But today she’s dreaming of her own future. I’m so glad she doesn’t see herself (she has autism and bipolar disorder) or others with disabilities as less. That makes my heart smile from ear to ear. Once I told her she could marry a boy who might have challenges like her own or any other boy with disabilities, her innocence shown through. She looked up at me and replied, “That’s good ’cause there are at least two boys I like right now.” I had to stifle a little chuckle at that response. Cate’s husband and daughter. The Mighty is asking the following: What do you want your past, current or future partner to know about being with someone with your disability, disease or mental illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.