Who Do You Tell -- and When -- When Your Child Has a Mental Illness?
I once read “If your child has cancer, people bring you casseroles, but if your child has a mental illness, they stay away.” I’m sad to say that we’ve faced this in our own community. Our son lost his best friend after a rage with me. Once I explained the situation to the parents, they ended their friendship. This is still painful for my son today, almost 3 years later. He still talks about this child, draws pictures of her and still tries to find her new phone number. If I could restore this relationship, I would in an instant. My heart aches for the loss he feels.
On the other side, we’ve been blessed to feel the love and support of family and friends that have stepped in to help our family when we needed it most. But before we could accept this blessing, we had to open up and share our story with others. This means exposing the details that are so hard to share, so that they can understand what’s hard to imagine. If you’re struggling with this step, I encourage you to seek out those you trust and open up.
To be honest, I’m reluctant to open up to others because I’m afraid of being judged. I don’t want people to think I’m a bad parent, or that we ruined our son because we let him play video games and eat sugar. I’m also afraid that people will judge my son, thinking he’s a bad kid. I don’t want my son “labeled” and treated poorly because of it. I’m concerned that my dear friends will stop spending time with us because they’re afraid of my son.
Then there are the times that I’ve wanted to tell others about my son’s illness to create understanding and compassion for my son. Because of my son’s poor impulse control, he hasn’t always been the best playdate. I have, on more than one occasion, heard very judgmental comments about me being a bad parent because of my son’s behavior. It’s times like these when I wish I could just tell others our story so they can understand and forgive.
Lately, I’ve felt very broken, our recent challenges with our son have been so overwhelming and I’ve felt so isolated in trying to cope with it all. It was my Mother-In-Law that reminded me that “You can’t go through this alone”. She was right. I’ve started to open up about our pain, heck, I even started a blog to get things off my chest. I’ve leaned on my family and opened up to my friends. And you know what? I feel so much better today. I may feel weak, but I feel like I’m being put back together, one piece at a time by the strength of God and those around me. I am truly blessed.
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I’m a mother of 3 young boys, the oldest suffering from Bipolar 1 Disorder. I write a blog to let go of my pain and to help support others by letting them know they’re not alone.
Photo Credit: dotbenjamin.
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By David Harley
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