My daughter, who is a sophomore in high school, introduced me to this great app for my iPhone. It’s called the “Infinite Campus Portal” and it’s basically a tool for parents to use to spy on their kids at school.
The app is awesome. It allows me to see if she gets to school on time or skips out early. I can use it to check attendance or to see what her homework assignments are going to be. Additionally, it sends me these text notifications telling me her scores on tests or recent homework assignments. She’s been back in school for less than a week, and already this app is my new best friend. It allows me to monitor her activities and comings and goings at high school, and provides me with a way to keep tabs on her without nagging.
It also got me thinking: what if my family had a nifty little “portal” into my mentally ill world? Wouldn’t it be great if my family members could download an app onto their smart phones or tablets that allowed them to see how I’m doing during the day? For example, if I forget to take my meds, a little text message would come across the screen informing the viewer so he or she could call and remind me. Or if I skipped an appointment with my psychiatrist or counselor, the app would rat me out. And if I was feeling particularly depressed or manic? The portal app would send a quick notification to all interested parties so they knew to steer clear or intervene. “Big Brother” for the mentally ill? Maybe.
I wondered why my daughter would share her campus portal app with me. What teenager wants her parents to know everything she does? Doesn’t it seem like too much information? Isn’t she afraid that if she skips a class and I get a message, she’ll get in trouble? Or if she receives a bad grade or misses an assignment, will I be upset? She doesn’t have a chance to make amends before the notifications come flashing across my screen – she doesn’t get the chance to make up the assingment before I’m alerted that she did poorly the first time around. Why would a 15-year old girl ask me to put this app on my phone? Why would she want me to know everything she’s doing during her school day?
Because she wants accountability. She wants to feel secure. She wants me to know that she’s doing OK or not. She wants me to see what she’s up to during the day when she’s not home with me. She wants to know that I care, and she wants me to be involved. And I love that.
Maybe that’s all I want, as well. Accountability. Maybe I want my family to have an app, a portal, that allows them to see into my world. Something that lets them know when I’m down, even when the mask I wear pretends otherwise. Perhaps I just want to know that someone cares enough to check in on me, to spy on my emotions, without nagging me. I think I simply want my family to have a head’s up so they know what they can expect from my moods on a daily basis. I want them to know that I’ve not taken my meds or cancelled a therapy appointment, because those things don’t happen accidentally. It’s a cry for help without having to reach out to someone. They would just look at the portal and they would know without asking. Because I hate communicating with my family about my illness. I despise discussing my bipolar disorder because it makes me feel weak and unstable. It makes me feel needy. And I hate asking for help.
With my daughter, I also know that because she’s an excellent student and a responsible young woman, I will only receive positive messages through the portal. And she knows that, too. She realizes that I will be proud when I receive those messages, and that I can then tell her “great job” or “nice work” without her having to feel like she’s soliciting compliments. She wants to know that I care enough to look for those notifications every day, to verify that she’s doing well and that she’s where she’s supposed to be.
And that’s all I really need, as well. To know that someone cares enough to check in once in a while to make sure I’m still here and still moving forward, even if I’m moving forward slowly.