Notes and Mentions
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Tina: Hey everyone, I'm Tina.
Serena: And I'm Serena, and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Tina: Welcome to No Need to Explain. We are so glad you're here.
Serena: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Tina: We come to you not as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health.
Serena: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You'll find a variety of resources in our show notes, and on our website noneedtoexplainpodcast.com.
Tina: As we have talked about on the podcast before, maybe a few times, maybe a few more than a few times, there is a lot of stigma around mental health struggles, and one of our goals from day one on this podcast is to help kind of tamp down or eradicate that stigma and normalize the conversation around mental health.
Serena: Right, and as parents of kids who struggle, along with that stigma, often we feel judgment from others and we judge ourselves as well, and we think that maybe we've done something wrong as parents. There's a lot of feels wrapped up in there, a lot of guilt, a lot of judgment. This is certainly something we've heard echoed over and over again in the parents and other parents that we've supported as well, the sense of kind of not being enough, not doing enough, and somehow we're to blame for the struggles that our children are experiencing.
Tina: Yes, and today we have a guest who has experienced a lot of judgment and is joining us in normalizing the important conversations around mental health and addiction. Lori Britt comes from a family filled with mental health challenges and addictions, passed down from generation to generation. So when two of her children, one by birth, one she took in, began to struggle, she was not unfamiliar with this territory, but when they were incarcerated, Lorri wasn't prepared for the emotional tailspin of grief, shame, anger, and loneliness that she found herself experiencing. Now she's emerged with a heart for helping others navigate the chaos of similar circumstances and making sense and healing. Lorri, welcome to the podcast.
Lorri: Oh, thank you very much for having me.
Serena: Yeah, so as we mentioned in the intro, you are very open that you come from a family with mental health challenges and addictions. So tell us a little bit of what your life was like as you grew up.
Lorri: My life growing up. Well, my mother was a prescription junkie. How that looked was her doctor gave her lots of medication for headaches and it was really quite common back then. However, it made her very non-functional as a parent. And she just kept using them and using them and using them. So she was fairly absent. And when she was present, she was a rager. She was a rageaholic. So that was dysfunction in itself. And then my eldest sister ended up taking care of me, we were six years apart. And then my mom also came from an alcoholic home where there was abuse. So she didn't really know how to show her love and have trust. So of course that gets passed down. And my father comes from both of his parents being alcoholics where they were very absent as well. So he was quite shut off. So dysfunction was definitely our day-to-day life.
Tina: So let's shift a little bit and talk about your boys. So you birthed one boy. When did you get the second boy? And how early did you realize that they were struggling?
Lorri: Drake is the boy that I birthed. And I knew really early on with Drake that there were some challenges he was going to have in his world. Christopher came into our world when him and Drake started to bond when they were about six. But he really spent more time with us probably at about 12, 13, he went away for a while, 15, 16, and onwards. And their bond. You could just tell by the way they connected and the things that they did that there was some issues. Like they they struggled with fitting in in society. They had a hard time adapting to rules. They definitely strummed along on their own own beat for sure. But it was it was apparent very young with Drake. And Christopher, he was already well in it by the time he came with us.
Serena: So you saw struggles kind of all along. And I know from our previous conversation that you sought help for them, right?
Lorri: Oh, I definitely tried to get help for them. Unfortunately, there just wasn't a lot of help. I mean, I had a lot of people tell me that they had problems. I had a lot of people tell me that they had ADHD and that they didn't listen and how destructive they were and disruptive they were. And they had labels for them, you know, as all those things yet they had no tools. There was no tools to help them. There was no tools for me to help them be better or to help them adapt to who and what they were. I went to Child Development Center. I looked for counseling. I did anything I could find for boys. There there was not a lot. So I did a lot of reading. I did a lot of research. And I did a lot of hands-on learning.
Serena: So now we're going to fast forward really quickly here through a lot, right? And to the point at which they were both incarcerated, they're at the same time. And I can't even begin to imagine what that must have been like for you as a mother. So you've written an excellent book. It's called My Heart Behind Bars, in which you go into detail about your experience. And for people who want all the details, they should get the book. But I wonder if you could share, you know, a small part with our audience of what it was like for you and how people in your community reacted to the situation.
Lorri: It was, it always makes me want to cry. It was devastating. It was, it was probably one of the hardest things I ever went through in my life. I, um, you know, you raise your children and you do your best and, and you see them daily. And it was like they were ripped out of my world. And so it, for me, it was completely devastating. Having my day-to-day life disrupted like that was horrible, not being able to help them, right? I mean, I could only do so much. I could only phone for a lawyer. I couldn't go rescue them. I couldn't save them. And all of us as parents always want to keep our children safe. And I, I couldn't, right? So you feel bad in that. And it was very publicized. It was on the radio. It was in the news. And people had strong opinions on why they thought these boys had made these decisions. And sometimes I'd be at work and someone, it would come on the radio and someone would say things like, oh, can you imagine what that mother's like? Or you imagine how that home life is? There was plenty of times I wanted to be like, yeah, I'm that mother. I'm that home life. But I couldn't because I'm at work and I?m a government worker. But I wonder if they knew what they changed the perception of who these kids were because they had this belief that they came from a bad home or a welfare family or a single mom or they had a vision of what they believed these children were and who I was. And it was completely wrong. So it was tough. It was really tough, which is one of the reasons why I wrote the book. I just don't think anybody should be that lonely in grief.
Tina: Yeah. Yeah. And you know what we know to be true is everyone has a story. And what we know about people's stories before we judge is so little, right? You know, nothing, right? We know nothing. And I think all of us have experienced that where we hear people talking about others and they know nothing about those people or their circumstances. So let's try to, and now I've never experienced having a direct family member in, you know, in prison. I'm just curious, let's let's shine some light on what tell us more about what that was like, for example, to visit them. Tell us a little bit about that.
Lorri: Well, when I could visit them together because they were incarcerated for a while, so I didn't always get to go to the same prison. When they were incarcerated at the same prison, it was in Victoria, BC and it looked like a big castle cold, yucky. You know, you think when I think of a castle, I always think of the Queen's place, you know, the palace and how beautiful it looks. It's nothing like that. It's cold, it's dark, it's gray. And so when you walk in the doors, your heart sinks because it's so negative and it's so low energy. There is a group of people sitting in a little room and nobody makes eye contact. It's like the, you know, that worst smell in the hospital where it makes you want an up chuck. It smells like that and is sterile like that, but it has the heavy and darkness of a graveyard. It's, it's super unpleasant. And so you proceed, you make no eye contact. Everybody's there is full of shame and don't want to talk about why they're there. And then they lock you in a room. And when they lock you in that room, I think every person probably cries their first time because you're trapped. And in that, I used to think, I'm only in here for an hour. My boys are in here for years. Like this is how they must feel. And I only am dealing with it for an hour. It's, it's not pleasant. I think how I would describe it is, it's like running into a brick wall. You know it's going to hurt like heck. And yet you get up and you do it again and again. And no matter how crippled you get in doing it. And no matter how hard it is, you do it again and again. Because you're the only thing that can be there for them. So it's painful. I'd like to say the first time is the worst. I would be lying to you. Every time you go see your child in prison or someone you love, it's painful. It doesn't get any easier.
Serena: And you talked a lot in the book about really being conscious of kind of not showing your emotions as you're supporting your boys that you had to kind of stuff things down.
Lorri: Yes, 100%. I was told I wasn't allowed to rubber neck. That's what it was called. Because you don't want to leave them vulnerable. So my boys were quite tiny. They went in when they were both just 21. And you can't allow them to have a weakness. When they're in and there's weakness showing then somebody else can take control of that. I try not to think too much about all the things that can happen in prison because it will make you sick. So you just try to do is everything that you know that you can to protect them with what you know. So I couldn't cry. I couldn't let my daughter cry. I mean, we'd have little moments, but you pull it together because if Drake or Christopher were to see it, then they would it would disrupt them and it would make their time served more difficult.
Serena: And you know, I'm curious too about, you know, so you kind of kept us a secret, right? Well, they were incarcerated and has that shifted for you in your community? Do you talk about this? You know, I mean, you've written a book. So it's obviously not a secret.
Lorri: You mean, keep it a secret that they were in prison?
Serena: Well, so it sounded like, you know, through your work, you know, that you didn't want to know.
Lorri: Yeah, that wasn't my what when I was at the till I wasn't allowed to tell because I'm a government worker. We have government rules. So I wasn't allowed to create conflict within the customer service.
Serena: Got it. Okay.
Lorri: Um, no, and I really, I didn't, I didn't really keep it a secret unless I was working and I wasn't allowed to speak. Okay. Other than that, I, I'm pretty vocal.
Serena: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. So, um, as we know, um, and we were literally talking before we started recording, parenting never ends, right? Our kids just, uh, it just changed us, right? As our kids get older, um, I have a friend who says bigger kids, bigger problems. Um, we know that the past since this time that we're talking about has not necessarily been a smooth one for you and your family. Um, but we also have learned, I think we didn't know this before, but we, we've learned through our work and through time that it is possible to be okay, even when our kids are not. So we're curious what kind of things that you do to take care of yourself.
Lorri: Oh, I do a lot. I probably do more than the average. I don't know what everybody else does, but I like have to full all indulge. I have to do things with my hands a lot to release the energy. Otherwise, I get too wound up. So I paint, which I did start when the boys were in prison and I paint a lot and I love baking. If I can make bread, cinnamon buns just anything that is deal with dough hands on doing. I'm in it, but I also took out some frustrating times, right? So I do golf, so I can hit the balls because man, that feels good when you're having a rough day. And then I do archery, which I love the, the thug of it hitting the target. It, there's something in it that helps me release and feel great. However, besides those things, I, I obviously, I go for lots of counseling. I hired a psychologist, I meditate, I read, I learn, I journal, I really had to look at my emotions and my behaviors and make sure that I wasn't reactive because when they first went to prison, I was kind of reactive when people would say things. So I really had to learn how to chill.
Tina: Yeah, that's understandable, right? You've got a lot of feels that go along with all of it and they're really real. So, so yeah, so you've been on quite a journey and have learned a lot along the way. You are what we referred to, we Mental Health Mamas as experts by experience or mamas with lived experience. We totally make that up because we don't have any letters by our name in a perfect world when your boys received what they needed from the time they started to struggle. What would that have looked like, you know, in a perfect world, what would they have gotten and how can we better support our kids and families so they don't have to experience what you've experienced?
Lorri: I believe that society has shifted already a little bit and that they are far more open and receptive to people being different. I believe that the school system has started to shift where before it was set up where only 20% of the students would be successful. I believe that they've now brought in more teachers' aids. They're aware that more people have a challenge learning. So in my perfect world, if my boys got everything they needed, they would have had assistance in school, they would have had more doctor hands on, there would have been boys. I mean, a boys counseling, a boys group, a boys anything. There was no boy anything when my boys were little. So that I think is changing too and do you think they now have some men's group and men's counseling? But they would have been able to heal their wounds and be able to evaluate themselves. They would have got some tools and some skills to help look at themselves and it wouldn't have been, you know, boys don't cry and boys don't need help, be a man. Those wouldn't be the messages. It's okay to be sensitive. It's okay to have those feelings. It's okay to not be okay and still be worthy of a good life.
Serena: Yeah, that's powerful. So tell our audience where they can find your book and if they want to connect with you, where do they find you?
Lorri: I have a website. It's called loribritt.com. I have little sections where I just blog about whatever because my life is pretty chaotic as we know. And then you can also read about stuff about My Heart Behind Bars. And then for the book, I think there's a universal link. There's Amazon. I think Amazon right now is the best place to get it, either Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. I know Barnes and Noble has it. The U.S., you guys have a lot more sites available than we do in Canada.
Lorri: But I do know that Amazon seems to be the popular spot.
Tina: And before we end, we're curious, is there any message you want to send out to listeners that something you have not said yet or we haven't asked you?
Lorri: Oh, you're giving me a free reign. That's dangerous. I always have lots to say. No. I think we cover a lot. I think my main message is that I just hope people don't feel alone. Like I'm not a stranger. Even if I don't know people, I'm not a stranger. I've probably felt what you felt or have been through what you've been through in some form of similarity. Maybe your boys didn't go to prison, but maybe you had a suicide or maybe you had a drinking and driving or maybe your child had a sex change or do you know what I mean? There's all sorts of things that encompass shame and grief and mental health challenges. I mean, mental health and addiction go hand in hand. So I guess the only thing I would want the people to know is that you could reach out to me anytime. You always got a friend in me pretty much as Woody would say.
Tina: Yes, exactly. And you are not alone, which is a strong message that we definitely send all the time. So Lorri, thank you for joining us today and helping us have this really important conversation, giving us some perspective. We really appreciate that you're sharing your story in the world and bringing more support to other families out there.
Lorri: Well, thank you so much for having me.
Serena: Yeah, thanks, Lorri. And so podcast friends, we are as always grateful for all of you listening and supporting us. We know you have so many choices out there, and we really thank you for spending some time with us today. If you're enjoying the podcast, you can help us out by visiting Apple Podcasts, leave a review and subscribe while you're there. You can find more content on our website. Noneedtoexplainpodcast.com, connect with us on the socials or call us. We have a voice number. Tell us what you think of the podcast, or just call to say hi.
Tina: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you were also taking care of your people.
Serena: Thanks for listening.