WESTLOCK — A Westlock-based author tackles cyberbullying and teenage trauma in a new book, and hopes to offer a resource to parents who are going through the same hardships.
Legal native Monika Polefka-Proulx is the author of No Matter What, a book she is launching today at 2 p.m. at Memorial Hall in Westlock and streamed on her website.
“I found that when our daughter was struggling with mental health issues, we didn’t have a lot of support and there isn’t a lot of guidance for parents,” Polefka-Proulx told the Westlock News in an interview before the book launch.
“Once things got better for us, I felt there was a big gap in what’s available for parents who feel at a loss. There's a lot of criticism when your child is in trouble, but there’s not a lot of support to help you manage that. It's just frowned upon, you’re made to feel like you’re a bad parent and that’s not always the case.”
In No Matter What, Polefka-Proulx traces the "the true story of my daughter’s (Samantha’s) experiences” with bullying and dealing with a cognitive learning disability — although she was never officially diagnosed — from the parent's point of view.
The book is for the parents who might feel alone and without help, Polefka-Proulx said.
“There were little signs that there were problems that as a parent, I didn’t catch early enough, or when I did catch, I wasn’t 100 per cent sure how to manage them, especially when I tried to seek help from mental health professionals, doctors, the police. Everybody's hands are tied. I think a lot of parents don’t understand that the law can’t make your child come back home if they run away if they’re over 14.”
Samantha’s problems began when she was around 13 and spiraled down as she got older.
Polefka-Proulx says “traditional resources such as mental health professionals,” the schools or the police weren’t helpful at the time, but didn’t expand on what she would have wanted to hear at the time.
“She was becoming suicidal, then she started getting aggressive, then she was hanging out with the wrong crowd of people. That all stemmed from searching for acceptance. Instead of helping us, there was a lot of ‘She’s doing this herself because of the people she hangs around with.’ But that was all the result of the trauma,” she said.
“This whole belief that we have as parents when a school says there’s zero-tolerance for bullying is actually not true. There is zero-tolerance for complaining about bullying.”
For Polefka-Proulx and her family, the story ends well. Her daughter, now 24 years old, is doing well and has a family of her own. But Polefka-Proulx says recovery takes time and it’s ongoing: “Like any type of trauma, it is a battle that just continues.”
The long road upwards is also what allowed Polefka-Proulx the time to write the book.
For the month of July, 20 per cent of book sale proceeds will be going to the Soul Sisters Memorial Foundation in the form of a donation.
"Hopefully (parents) never have to go through what we went through, but if they do, I hope it will give them a little bit of comfort to know that it is not so cut and dry, they’re not to blame and there are steps that they can take but they are not always the steps that we expect that we should be able to take.”