When she discovered that her daughter was cutting she had to choose between allowing her to remain a victim, or showing her how to overcome the Sheeple Mentality.
Sheeple: noun. A group of people who identify as victims and are most at home among others suffering similar misery, oblivious to their toxicity, or negative influence. A crowd of people who believe blanketed indoctrination into a group soothes the sufferer.
My child had a problem. In the rolodex of teenage problems, it was a biggie and it scared me. Lauren was cutting.
I was sworn to secrecy as she was embarrassed, and I suspect it was the first time in her young life that her own decision-making ability had knocked her cold. I was frozen, terrified, horrified, and I wanted with a vain yearning as deep as the centuries to rewind time, back to the place when she’d contemplated, before she had done anything to herself. I had been placed on a raft and pushed outward from the sea of parenting to find myself afloat, helpless in a vortex of agony because I could not reach my loving hands out to heal.
In secret, her problem hidden from family and friends floating on the outer fringes of our life, my fiancé and I drove her to counseling. Counseling would fix her, oh, I needed that worry stone to clutch. Once counseling was completed we could bury this whole situation as a family and move on.
We went to a psychologist, a person in whom I placed blind faith, who could return us to the right path.
When Lauren and I visited the psychologist, I was reassured because I was handing off control and if anything went wrong, also transferring blame. I guess I needed that, my kiddo needed it, too. In retrospect, I needed the sheeple mentality, and maybe we all do now and then, maybe it’s a method to get us moving into battle. Yet, like any weapon when the battle is over, it needs to be laid down.
Counseling went awry quickly. The coddling started and the broad diagnosis of depression and low self-esteem. Then the wallowing ensued. It was dangerous, and fed into the beast that my daughter carried with her like a baby in a snuggie. After two sessions, we stopped using the psychiatrist because I could sniff the gun powder, and I nudged my dear girl away, while I faced down the hunter. I fired the therapist without hesitation.
I had been led to believe this counselor was a person with a vested interest to see my child well again. So I cut myself the narrowest break. It was great to explore feelings and validate them, but nothing was offered to help Lauren combat these feelings, to rise above, to conquer and slay the beast.
The counselor spouted off about her own alcoholic mother and feeling worthless, the epitome of victim. She rambled on about her childhood, creating a co-dependent relationship with my child, and I’m sure, others. What she aimed to teach the beautiful flesh of my flesh was how to smolder in guilt, how to become a member of the sheeple, those who receive comfort by suffering together, because they don’t understand the outcome of these groups is to increase kindred pain.
Disgust, outrage, fury. I was consumed with hating this therapist. She was a sheeple, through and through.
I am well-versed in the methods of disposing of sheeple, if you will. But I have to temper my temper, because I will reach into you and turn your insecurities inside out so everyone can see who you really are if you hurt my children. The conversation was short.
An iota of pity at her insecurity and need to belong wanted to rise to the surface in me, but I battened it back with more rage. I know now this therapist was a victim, too, helpless to assist herself and her unwitting patients out of the hole she’d dug. Now I reflect on what I said, and my heart softens the slightest, even as a tinge of anger remains. I’ll get rid of it soon. Life’s too short for energy-sucking madness.
But that experience with the therapist aside, I disagree with the sheeple mentality. I have been accused of being a hard ass, unfeeling to my children, but I am trying to grow people here, people!
I am offering the child-size armor I think every kid needs. The power to be strong and share opinions in a constructive way, the direction needed to have disagreements. Where has that gone? I respectfully disagree with everyone winning in sports, with the umbrella recommendation all ADHD kids need medication, with the boomerang generation, with repeatedly rescuing your kids. I disagree with not examining situations requiring more attention to get to the root of truth ala the poisonous therapist.
As a parent, mother, daughter, fiancé, worker, and person, the continuing sapping of strength, the loss of balance between speaking your mind and settling for what the masses believe, is evident.
I want our children to take their stand mid-pendulum, to learn from what we have gone through in the past, when we had no choice but to explore our truths. Pro Choice vs. Pro Life, republican vs. democrat. We had to check it out, mine the information offered for reality. If you know it, and you agree, go with it. If not, learn about it and decide. Decide for your mental health and everyone else’s. Contribute something to the conversation. Inside and out, accept and demonstrate integrity and conviction.
I want our children to be comfortable in the middle where a choice for you is not the same as another’s and that’s okay. Compassion and an understanding of individual circumstances, yours and others, will leave you better off, with a sharpened sense of navigation to resolve whatever you’re fighting: bullying, cutting, peer pressure, addiction, developing a work ethic, eating disorders – every single challenge can be overcome.
In this age of everything goes and kid-gloving, I witness people seeking excuses, neglecting the necessary step of gauging their own internal compass on outcomes, skipping the measuring of their mood, temperature, hormones, frustration, or bias. I note people wearing college degrees as medals of valor and turning a reluctant eye and heart toward real life leadership, prizing books and institutions and discouraging the liberated mind percolating with unorthodox thoughts.
The victim patch is freely given by many, comes in multiple forms, is worn by legions of people, those who concur society should bless you to feel a certain way, to heal in a predetermined length of time. I wish, oh I wish we acknowledged the power within ourselves to rise above anything. And when Lauren was hurting I bargained, wheedled, insisted, prayed for resolution more than I ever had.
We are all guilty from time-to-time of adopting the herd mentality; it slathers over everything from gender identity to rape to feminism to the tearing down of the traditional tapestry responsible for the creation of our society, state, country, and world, a world still spinning despite major flaws. A soothing toxicity exists in the sheeple mindset, it’s quiet and somehow peaceful in the sheeple population.
It’s validating, as my child and I discovered, because it gives you a place to belong, but it is also perilous if you don’t identify the intention of the person or population. I have been guilty of embracing peril before seeking truth. Never again will I allow that to happen. I am thankful one sham psychologist made me cognizant of my own power as a parent.
Lauren did let me tell her story. It was first published on The Good Men Project under a pseudonym to protect her from judgment and misunderstanding (her words). So people would have no inkling that my magnificent, intelligent, gorgeous, amusing daughter could succumb to the peer pressure of her own sheeple.
And then a news station in Canada called GMP about her article and Lauren was asked to tell her story on the air.
I smiled and soothed her, making it clear that it was entirely up to her. I had insisted on her involvement and guidance throughout the process of writing her story and we would handle this event identically. I would not be angry, or frustrated, or think less of her, regardless of how she wanted to proceed. I just loved her and would be proud of her no matter what.
However, I had a responsibility to tell her something very special.
She was in a position to make a difference. To reach kids contemplating cutting. And I had a chance to reach parents as lost as I had felt. She was being given the opportunity to face her own divine power to hurt herself and heal herself…and others. To learn how amazing sloughing off any doubt of her voice would feel, how moving people to good decisions is empowering.
She wanted to talk to the news station, to let the world know her real name and her regrets. And love, she needed to broadcast how love turned her around, how love made her realize she is a miracle. What she did was the opposite of acting a sheeple. Standing out on the ledge and gathering people to inform and accept each other, my beautiful girl reflecting everything right in the world by sharing her intimate tragedy.
Weak moments are okay. But as the saying goes, don’t unpack and live there. How should we deal with pain we are not supposed to feel? How can I teach my children to fly if I can’t?
I long for my children to be able to trust in their ability to recreate themselves into phoenixes after every scorching situation, to rise from the ashes without fail. I am trying like hell to show them how it’s done. I’m trying like hell to embed in their subconscious that every person has a story, deserves our caring attention, every circumstance requires thought before action. Every child hurts and every child is made of the same pieces: a yearning to be loved, fear, anger, hope. Even the bully identifies with these qualities and when he is deficient in one, he fills the absent slot with the devastation of prey.
It is not your job to apply salve to this great world’s injuries, yet don’t internalize helplessness, don’t mistake self-doubt for punishable weakness, I chatter on as I tie the garbage bag in the kitchen, as I pick pieces of child litter off the floor, I prophesize before we say good night. It’s just one more thing to share with them before they leave home.
I am a victim until I pronounce myself a victim no more. Living this way reinforces your center and steadies your spirit. It is a great way to live! Give it a shot, kids!
Lauren did. She is an iridescent Phoenix rising, casting renewed light and vitality.
**Hilary and Lauren’s story, “I Found Out My “Good Girl” Was Cutting – How We Healed” was published under a pseudonym at Lauren’s request. She has since elected to come forward and work with her mother to tell their story to help other teens and their parents.
Photo: Flickr (altered)/James Emery