(Cross-posted at My Left Wing)
You know, in the 2+ years that I've been here, I've lived through many a "Blog Event". I missed the run-up to the 2004 elections, but I hear reference to it still to this day. I got here in the aftermath of the 2004 Presidential election, and saw some of the recriminations and arguments. I lived through the ensuing Pie Wars, mass bannings, the kerfuffle over conspiracy theory diaries, the "is it a hoax or isn't it a hoax" consuming conversations. Recently it's been the civility wars, saturated with questions of whether or not this user or that user is a benefit/detriment to the community as a whole.
So today, because it's Sunday and it's on my mind and it seems like a good time to write this, I'm going to talk about one particular event that brought home to me that this is a community, and that as a community, with all its warts and flame wars and interpersonal issues, it is beneficial. It is good. This is meta, and involves a real-life story that to this day continues for one person and, therefore, continues for me. If you're interested, follow me over the fold.
I belong to a Yahoo group that is, essentially, a subset of this very community. It's a trusted group. In the messages, we discuss all things bloggy. We write about diaries and current events, to be sure, but we also share a bit of ourselves - our lives, the good things that happen in them, and the bad things. When I was having trouble with my step-son, I wrote a message to that group asking that they pool their collective wisdom and provide some advice and feedback, and they did. In addition to some very real suggestions which I acted on, I received some absolutely necessary emotional support. The group itself is composed of people from all walks of life - younger, older, male, female, professional, academic, computer technicians, educators, doctors, parents, service workers, etc. and so forth. It is a microcosm of the involved Daily Kos community.
Now here's the story. I have a friend. She's divorced, and mother to a 16-year old daughter. She knows what a blog is and she knows from our conversations that I am a blogger, but that's pretty much the extent of her interaction with any blog. Her divorce was pretty nasty. She and her ex-husband live close to one another, physically, so as to minimize the impact of sharing custody of their daughter. Just by way of backstory, this friend is my best friend. I've known her for almost 14 years. She was at my wedding. I've known her daughter since her daughter was three and she was still married to her husband. We've helped each other through a lot of agita, she and I. So if she has a problem, I have a problem.
Now - about nine months or so ago, she started sensing some deep issues with her daughter. I won't go into all the details because it's too confusing. Suffice it to say that she discovered her daughter was self-mutilating. "Cutting". This was the first time she became aware that something was seriously wrong. Of course, she had noticed some changes in her daughter's behavior - but much of it was simply things you would associate with a teenage girl being, well, a teenage girl.
Needless to say, when she discovered the cutting, she got proactive. She got her daughter into counseling, intensive counseling, and remained actively involved in her daughter's progress. Now - fast-forward to Thanksgiving (or thereabouts) of this year. Her daughter didn't seem to be getting substantively better. While she had stopped the cutting, she was having wild problems with depression. There were questions about whether or not she was manic or bi-polar. Her one doctor, a psychologist, expanded to two doctors, adding a psychiatrist. They tried a variety of medications to stabilize her daughter and while some progress was evident, a consistently normalized daughter was painfully absent.
We'll fast-forward again here to January/February of this year. Through a variety of events that are a nightmare scenario for any parent, my friend discovered that all the following issues were present:
In short, her daughter was a mess. And worse than that - the mess that she was was a dangerous one. "If something doesn't change, we'll be going to her funeral" was Mr. RenaRF's observation. Drastic intervention was called for. My friend did what parents do - she tapped first the school and then the county to find out what kind of emergency care was available. Virginia has a horrible gap in this type of care. In other words, there aren't nearly as many services available to parents with a severely at-risk child as there should be. Through persistence and luck, however, she got her daughter admitted to an in-patient facility where she would at least be safe.
All right. Here's where it gets a bit ridiculous. Please look above to the laundry-list of problems that this teenage girl has. After two weeks in the in-patient facility, she was deemed sufficiently "stable" to be released to an out-patient program and was summarily sent back home. Two weeks? What - she's a home remodeling project? Does anyone seriously think that TWO WEEKS was sufficient to address the myriad complex problems this young woman has??
I have to underscore, here. To any and everyone familiar with the situation, this was as life-and-death as it gets. No parent, regardless of how much they love their child or want for their well-being, is equipped to adequately handle the laundry-list of issues this girl has.
So that's where the community came in. See, as far as information that was publicly available, my friend had exhausted her options. Yet the issues still exist, and they're dire and life-threatening. Think of it - it's your kid and you've done everything everyone has told you to do and have made use of every resource available to you yet you still, rightfully, fear for the life of your child.
So I put together a message to my Yahoo group. I kept it to three paragraphs, underscoring the gravity of the situation and the steps that had been taken and exhausted. I asked for help - I asked them to reach into their considerable pool of knowledge and resources and send me anything that might be helpful to my friend. And they did. They sent me information about programs near and far. They sent me information about therapeutic schools. They took their own personal time and made phone calls to counselors, schools, doctors and other resources. And then they got me phone numbers and links to additional information. They sent me suggestions and procedures they thought would be helpful. They dug deep.
They did ALL of this only because I asked. And the only reason I knew to ask was because of this place.
So I understand Kos' stated "mission" with regards to this site. I know that it's a site about progressive politics and about getting Democrats elected. I know it is influential and (I believe) effective with respect to that mission.
I know also that it's a site to discuss and dissect current events whether they are election-related or not. If I want to REALLY know about something, or hear about something the mainstream media isn't covering, this is where I come to get that information. Invariably, something will be on the recommended list or on its way to the recommended list (if it isn't already on the front page) that is wonderfully sourced and linked.
But it's more than even that. So for all its flame wars and disagreements, for all its information and activism, it's a community. It is as rewarding as any one person chooses to make it. It is also as contentious and frustrating as any one person chooses to make it.
For my part, were it not for this community, I would have been stuck in a position of merely commiserating with my friend when she reached the information wall where she had tapped every resource seemingly available to her. But because of this community, I was able to forward to her additional ideas, resources, and phone numbers for her to substantively plan for the well-being of her daughter going forward. I can't even begin to describe to the casual reader the plethora of resources that were provided in response to my one little message which simply asked for help. If my friend's daughter not only survives her crisis but thrives somewhere in the future, THIS COMMUNITY in part will be able to claim some credit.
I have no doubt that as a result of posting this diary, I will wind up with some additional suggestions, links, numbers and resources. Because you know what? For all that we focus on the bad at times, the good here is overwhelming. It's consuming. And I wrote this to remind everyone that, at the end of the day, the warty stuff always gets more attention that the good stuff. But on balance, this place is by FAR more in the "good" column than the "bad".
My thanks to everyone here for giving a shit - it's having demonstrable, real-life effects on just one person, one family who desperately needs it.