Sunday, December 29, 2019

ISO Najarian Family Cousins: A 3rd Generation Armenian Genocide Story

I am currently in search of my Najarian family cousins who live(d) in the Pawtucket RI area. What we know is that my Great Grandpa Dikran Najarian came to the US when he was 4, with members of the family, some time around the genocide, and they settled in Pawtucket. As most Armenian stories go, this one is of loss and sadness, but I am hoping it will end in family reunion and healing. Here's what I know: Great Grandpa Dikran and his family were successful bakers and he married my Great Grandma Ruth Abbott (who was very properly British) and had two children whose birth names were Dikran and Haighanoush Najarian (they later changed their names to Dick and Helen Gertrude, md name Crowell). Dikran left Ruth and the kids at some point and remarried. Ruth remarried too, though we're not sure if they were actually divorced. The step-grandfather was incredibly abusive to his two Armenian step-children and there were many stories, corroborated by my great Aunts, of the two being locked in closets and punished just for their skin color and ethnicity.
Grandma Helen and Grandpa Donald Sr
We know Great Grandpa Dikran went on to remarry and were told he had a successful career in the music business, I believe in Chicago, and that when he died his new family refused to allow my Grandma to at least speak with him one last time. We're not sure if it was fear of a challenge to inheritance, or what, but it nailed in the coffin for my Grandma Helen and she wanted nothing to do with being Armenian and would spend the rest of her life trying to erase her heritage til she died a few years ago. Even my Great Uncle joined the military and married briefly after WWII and had a son, Richard, and then divorced and remarried his lifelong wife, Eloise, who is Mexican - and to this day my two cousins I do keep in contact with don't know much about their Armenian roots. George still has the Najarian name and Mary hyphenates to keep it as well, though neither had children, and their other brother died young in an accident. My Grandma Helen would go on to marry my Grandpa Donald Crowell Sr and had two sons, Donald Jr and David. You can see the history of her life during those times and the story of the bakery, Pawtucket Food Specialty Shoppe, here:

Grandma Helen's Bakery, from the first shop in the 1960s to the new shop in the 1970s

Helen and Donald Sr rented the property for the Crowell Pawtucket Food Specialty Shoppe at 122 Waltham St in 1961 and built the place I would spend many summers and holidays as a child til she sold it in the mid to late 80s. When we would visit, we would also visit my Auntie Maebel Najarian, who taught me to cook and basic words in Armenian. I remember meeting cousins a few times, but between my Grandmother's hatred of what happened to her and my Great Grandmother Evelyn Crowell's open racism (ironically, not to her grandson or to me), and various rumors about other things, the only person I remember well is Mae. She had beautiful walnut skin and such deep and kind eyes and hands. I also met my Uncle Ben and his wife, but I don't remember them well.

Grandma and Uncle Dick (above), and me with my Dad and Auntie Mae (below)
A little over a decade after my Grandpa died, my Grandma moved to Arizona and remarried, growing ever more bitter about her heritage to the point that she stopped talking to me when I started teaching my own children to cook and speak the little bit of the language. Without the Armenian family to help me more, I know I cook phenomenal Armenian foods, but I can't speak or read and write it well. Also ironically, most of my Grandma's bakery recipes were handed down from the Armenian side, so technically she taught me more of how to be an Armenian chef and baker than anyone. While the ripples of the genocide and diaspora hit my family hard through the past 3 generations, I've found some hope in rebuilding lineage others tried to break. I'm heartened by the fact that I recently found my first cousin on my mother's side through DNA tests, and that through the death of one of the only cousins I really grew up with, found a new second family with his children. I also reconnected with my two Najarian cousins who live nearby here on the West Coast, though they know far more about their Mexican roots than their Armenian. I have also taught my children to be modern witnesses to our past, but it would be wonderful to be able to come full circle with the family we lost a second time.

<3, ~Jonni Khat (Najarian) Santschi

Thursday, December 5, 2019

"Why the heck are all our kids..."

Today's Mental Health Theme was "Why the heck are all our kids..." My response, about 7 times, if not more (not kidding you), was:
1. Most of my clients have zero ability to sit in their emotions (distress tolerance) and they use negative coping skills which are easy and cheap temp "fixes" that spike dopamine and oxytocin (food, social media, video games, etc...) but do not have long term positive effects.
2. They ALSO share in that they confuse self judgment with self critique (even though they can talk you through the difference, logically) which means they live in a negative feedback loop of self judgment, which makes them distressed in their emotions, and loops back to more judgment... which, unlike critique, means they can never assess mistakes and change.
3. They ALSO, ALSO all share in that they are high achievers who crave positive attention but can't give it to themselves (self soothing).
4. Our entire society has become unconsciously curated and judgmental (note how even the initial question was phrased).
5.They get almost no respite from the constant deluge of judgments by themselves and others which means they are all in a state of prolonged distress; physically and mentally.
6. Their interaction with the world is majoratively brief bytes of technology based communication with others, which means their sense of social interaction is changing despite our brains being wired for real world social interactions.
7. We are all way too busy working that we have developed a skewed sense of "productivity", even in what's supposed to be our rest time.
Then, I followed with... I WONDER WHERE THEY LEARNED THAT FROM?!?! 
Fruit doesn't fall far from the tree, much as we'd all like to say differently of ourselves as kids - and as parents. Myself, included. I am guilty of all of the above and teaching it to my own kids to one degree or another.
So, what do we do?
Well, there are many things I can suggest (and am trying to do, myself...) but the most important in my mind are:
1. Be kinder to ourselves and our kids. I don't just mean buy them things or giving in to them; but HUGS, QUALITY TIME, TALKING and LISTENING... models real life interactions we all need. Plus, it gives us back the physical time we need with others.
2. Schedule family "no tech allowed" time in which you do things like go outside, play games, eat, BE PRESENT with who you are physically with.
3. Find family activities that are physically and mentally active in ways that are play and not work.
4. SHOW them how to relax without distractions or "medications". Positive coping skills like taking a bath, listening to music with the lights low, chilling out over a good meal and then watching a fun movie together, going out for a night time drive with the windows down... you know, like we used to back in the 80s. 
5. Teach them (and maybe yourself) to sit with emotions - especially the ones that suck to be in - and learn to sit with them long enough to assess WHY you have the emotion and what it is telling you (a WAY other post).
6. TELL yourself how amazing you are, even if you don't believe it, but also spend more time praising those around you (including your kids)... there will always be times you are sad, mad, or disappointed with them (and yourself), so shore up the positive.
7. Work on feeding less into the judgment and more on offering and working through critiquing yourself and others.
 ~ Jonni Khat

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Why Bipolar Disorder is Being WIDELY Mis-Diagnosed and Treated (and What You Can Do)!

{Serious Mental Health Ed Share} 🎓 In my many years of practice, I have seen WAY too many people misdiagnosed and treated for either anxiety or depression when they should be treated for bipolar disorder. There are a variety of reasons for this...
👩‍🏫 People don't go to the doctor when they are in manic episodes because they feel amazing and even the down side of extreme mania doesn't catch up til they hit the low.
👩‍🏫 Anxiety and depression can "hide" in alternate symptoms - anger, extreme elation or sadness, behavioral pushes (this is a whole other post - but think of self harm or excessive use of chemicals or other behaviors to "self soothe"), or situational events.
👩‍🏫 Many still believe there is "something wrong with me not being normal like everyone else seems to be" and the concept of Bipolar has been turned into a label that makes us appear stupid, weak, and unable to cope "like everyone else is".
👩‍🏫 Many people go to their general practice doctors and not psychiatrists when they experience these mood symptoms... and/or our medical profession consists of folks with degrees and training who do not fully assess, do not communicate with fellow colleagues who work with the patient, or are using old data and resources to diagnose and treat.
🤕 The problem is, you might not think the changes are worth being bothered by because our society has "normalized" anxiety as "Type A" and depression as "being tired or lazy".
🤕 The BIGGER problem is that being treated for only one symptom and not the other can cause extreme moods and behaviors, and sometimes leads to tragic ends.
1. How to spot the signs you need to chat with your Psychiatrist about your meds:
🧐 Anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds don't work or stop working.
🧐 Anti-anxiety meds start to bring out the depression (you might not notice it as anything other than being tired or burnt out).
🧐 Anti-depression meds either stop working or you notice you're doing pleasurable things to excess.
🤔 Get CURIOUS about your symptoms and journal, research, and ask others with knowledge and experience.
🌎 Gather a SUPPORT network who can watch for symptoms you might not spot, and help them get resources to teach them about your symptoms and treatment options.
🥰 LOVE yourself like you love your besties and have patience that the process of healing isn't easy, but it's worth it!!!
👩‍⚕️Find (or get referred to through your insurance, or other trusted local pros) a peer respected Psychiatrist or Psych NP who will listen to you and ask you (and other providers) MANY questions to get to the right first course of treatment.
👜 Find or get referred to a Mental Health Counselor who can help you work through the process of learning to live with moods and integrate them into who you are! #BestLife
>>> FOR MORE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH INFO LIKE THIS... feel free to email me your questions at, or post here and I'll post my answers on my BLOG or possibly on LIVE video chats so we can interact.
 ~ Jonni Fit Khat

Friday, November 15, 2019

A Soapbox on How Creating a Culture of Understanding Starts With...

So, we have had some issues in my District with acceptance - like all of America is having - and part of my job is helping people find themselves and how to safely, and healthily, navigate the world.

I'll be honest, it's been hard reading the 2% of parents in my District who think LGBTQ+ kids should not have a Club, a voice, or be recognized because it might somehow "harm" other children... and staying silent on those posts has been even harder, but I know I need to just sit back and listen and watch (at least on the posts) in order to help and heal the 98% who are saying everything honest - from being nervous about it to being fully on board with accepting our kids as they are and realizing that the REASON our kids are suffering (in part) is because they don't feel like they have a voice.
The strongest and most resilient teens of the 80s and 90s - we rebelled and made a voice. These days, it seems that there's some irrational fear that my kid's unique view of themselves in their world will rub off on YOUR kid (who, let's be honest, you EXPECT them to have YOUR unique view of them instead of THEIR own). So... seriously, 2%, what are you REALLY afraid of? I can tell you, my LGBTQ+ friends - my parents - or anyone else - have never changed who I really am, inside.
On the other hand, you seem to be 2% who are vocalizing your fear and personal issues with others being themselves. Maybe we need a new DSM diagnosis: "Ego Driven Judgment Self Esteem Disorder" aka, "NOT IN MY HOUSE!" oh.. wait - that's Narcissism.
P.S. I can't stop my soapbox... because all I can think of is how similar that 2% is to all the ^% voices who did - and still do - think that "other kid's" race, ethnicity, culture, religion, style, personality, language, perceived intelligence, problems, etc... will "rub off" on your special snowflakes. Kids are - hell, people are - by nature, curious. However, I guarantee you that knowing what gay means will not make your kid gay any more than knowing what melanin is will make them tan or black. In fact, it might make them a better person to understand their friends and peers. BOOM!!!

Be good to yourself, and kind to others. That, alone, is the true way to find true happiness.

<3 ~ Jonni Khat

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A Day in the Life of a Teacher

I found this on a friend Teacher's page on Facebook and needed to share - though I am sharing a version edited by me. I think it's important for Teachers to hear and I have no idea who the original author is, but I would love to speak with them and credit them!

"A day in the life of a teacher...
Me: Ok class, today...
Student: This is stupid. I'd rather be playing video games.
Office: *ring* Send (student) to the office.
Voicemail: My kid told me that YOU...
Email: We need you to sub on your prep.
Teacher coaches: Students are experiencing an all-time level of trauma. Form relationships with all students and make connections every day.
SRSS: Make sure to incorporate ELA and math into your lesson plan daily, so we can boost our scores for data.
IEP: Implement these modifications and accommodations for these students every hour. Document it.
504: You are legally bound to adhering to these accommodations for these students. Document it.
Pinterest: Every teacher in the universe has a cooler and craftier idea and classroom than you.
Facebook: Omg. Did you hear about what happened in *insert teacher here* class?! Don't they even watch them? It's their job! How did (s)he miss that?! Yeah, and I heard...
Class roster: 30+ kids every hour, 6+ times per day.
Student Services: You have 4 homeless students. You need to provide the following daily.
Student Medical alert: These students will die if you don't monitor these medical issues closely.
Professional Development: We're trying something new this year even though we're not ready to roll it out and there's no funding for it. Be sure to document that you are doing it correctly.
Media: Your classroom is going to get shot up any minute.
Surprise observation: Be sure goals are set, reports are finished, lesson plans are perfect, and that you hit the learning target and success criteria multiple times. We need documentation and evidence that you're doing this.
Standardized tests: You suck as a teacher. Also, your rating is based on this, but also, make sure students don't feel defined by their performance on these.
PBIS: Teach students the expectations in the hallway, cafeteria, classroom, and outside. Take students in the bathroom and reteach how to wipe, flush, and wash hands. Be sure to only reward positive behavior. Check-in and check out with these specific students daily.
MTSS: We have 3 tiers of support. What about your gifted students, pull out students, intervention students? Why aren't you providing enough differentiation? You need to provide documentation.
Door: Keep me locked, so that students are safe. Yes, you will be interrupted to open me 10x per hour.
Papers/Grading: Say goodbye to your evenings and weekends.
Lesson plans: Are they aligned with school, state, U.S., and worldwide standards? Be sure to document that.
The Powers That Be: What can we do to help?
Teachers: Please take something off our plate before adding something new.
The Powers that Be: Sorry, no can do. Btw, you also need to...
Tech Dept: We are working on correcting today's issue as quickly as we can.
English Language Learner: *crying, speaking a foreign language, feeling alone and scared*
The Powers that Be: Sorry, there's just not enough funding for those students.
Department Heads: I've been told we need to align all of our curriculum, assessments, and daily lesson plans. Be sure to document that.
Staff Memo: Be sure to attend the following meetings this week: staff, grade level, core subject, tech, school climate, school improvement.
Counselors: We saw 500 of the 900 students on our caseload, this month.
Social Worker: Yes, I filed that CPS report and the other one. Now we wait on the state to act.
Student: My stepdad got arrested last night for beating up my mom.
Tornado Drill: Surprise! Make sure all students are safe. Now go back to teaching.
Fire Drill: Surprise! Make sure all students are safe. Now go back to teaching.
Internal Threat Drill: Surprise! Barricade your door and make sure all students are silent for 45 minutes. Go back to teaching.
External Threat drill: Surprise! Make sure students are silent and out of the funnel of potential bullet spray. Now go back to teaching.
Tutoring: Provided before school, after school, and during lunch.
Technology: Must be implemented into all lessons but also make sure to monitor all 30+ students at all times and make sure they're not doing anything inappropriate.
Data: You suck as a teacher.
Administrators: *literally being pulled in 20 directions at once, every day, while fielding discipline, making multiple teacher observations, fielding staff, breaking up fights, keeping us safe, performing investigations, cooperating with police, meeting with students and parents, and attending all after school and extracurricular activities*
Employability grade: Be sure to document when students are tardy, not following directions, unprepared, and not collaborating well. Document this for all 175 students.
Academic Grade: Document all accommodations, modifications, retakes, and rationale for grades for each of your 175 students. No, we will not provide district time for you to enter these into your grade book.
Special Ed State Dept: You must mainstream all students regardless of behavior, cognitive function, and/or potential violent episodes. Sorry, there's just not enough funding for
additional support in your classroom.
State: Make sure you are highly qualified, but you must pay for all of your professional development, student loans, grad classes, conferences, hotel stay, food, travel, and substitute teachers out of pocket. And you need to update your certification. You'll need to pay for that too.
Bladder: You haven't peed in 7 hours, you're going to get another infection.
Heart: *racing*
Stomach: *in knots and anxiety coursing*
Brain: You're not enough. You'll never be enough.
Chest/Lungs: I can't breathe.
Eyes: *leaking tears*
Me: *smiles* (Tells self) Stop. Just suck it up. You're fine. You have 30+ students' eyes on you right now. Do NOT let them down.
Society: F*ck respect for authority, including your teachers. It must be nice to get your summers off.
Parent of a student: You make a difference.
Student: I know I'm special and have value, because of you.
My own kids: Mom, why are you crying?
Me: *sets alarm for tomorrow to do it all over again*"

And we wonder why our kids are freaking out. Maybe these Teachers need to step up?

Or maybe we as a society need to stop blaming and shaming each other from the ground up and work together to help our kids - and, each other.

<3 ~ Jonni Khat

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

18 Years Later: 9/11, School Shootings, and Social Media. Are We Failing Our Children by Apathy Over Empathy?

On the morning of 9/11, I got to my classroom at Clovis High in Clovis, California around 5am and was doing my usual making coffee, and my unusual excited glancing at the wedding ring I'd been wearing less than 24 hours - and distractedly happy thoughts of Honeymoon planning in France. I got a phone call from my Teacher Mentor, Gayle Taylor Davis (or the other way around - can't remember who was calling who), who broke my giddy reverie with an eerily monotone, "turn on your TV, Jonni... we're under attack." Confused for a moment as she spun me out of my personal bliss, my heart hit my toes in an instant as I watched the second plane fly into the second tower.... The next 10 hours were a blur of my Husband coming to campus with our bitty daughter Sydney, who was 5 at the time, and spending the day in my classroom with students processing the shock, fear, and trepidation that day held. I remember reaching out to Alice Keeler and Jackie Smith and the other close friend Teachers I had on campus to check-in and make sure we were taken care of, too.
My younger 2 kiddos and the kids I work with now are all too young to remember, but they know mass shootings and violence within country that can't be blamed on foreign terrorists, and is even more frightening than anything most Americans could imagine on that September morning in 2001.
It frightens me a bit that I didn't know about the Canada school shooting yesterday from my FB feed, and that I only see a few people making posts about 9/11 memorials this year. There was a time I got most of my big news about these events by watching my friends work through the processing of the fear and anger... but, apparently, not today. If we as adults are becoming numb to talking through these events, it's no wonder I sit for hours a day listening to kid, after kid, processing through emotions and thoughts they can barely verbalize. It also makes me angry and sad that social media has alternately become so divisive and is a stark notice of who we are becoming as a Nation, and as people.
If my work with children in a mental health capacity is going to "stick", we're going to have to get our collective heads out of our asses and stop complaining about our own personal daily niches of life woes... and put on some adult panties of Empathy and Community.
This is the only way we're going to collectively help our hemorrhaging social system and help our kids learn emotional regulation and empathy for future generations. Otherwise, I fear more for my grandkids' generation than I do for any of us who work in schools, today.
<3, Jonni Khat