Today was a good day. Actually, it’s been a good week. Come to think of it, it’s been a good month. I might go so far as to say it’s been a great month. But what is a great month at our house might be quite different from a great month at yours. That would depend on whether or not you have a child who suffers from mental illness.
A great day/week/month at my house might mean that no one threw objects across the room. It might mean that no one became physically aggressive toward their siblings…..or their parents. It could mean that no one described themselves as weird, worthless, unloved, unworthy of love, or better off dead. It would most definitely mean that no one said they wanted to commit suicide. Or that no one inflicted bodily harm upon themselves. And it would mean, without a shadow of doubt, that we did not spend an entire evening in the emergency room because of these threats.
This is my house. A house where I am a parent, a parent of multiple children. My children are beautiful, smart, talented, funny, and loved beyond all that I could ever imagine. But one of these children does not often believe this. One of these children suffers from mental illness.
Our journey began at four years old with a diagnosis of ADHD. We were informed that finding the right treatment method was “a process”. After several years, our journey continues, with a current diagnosis of ADHD and mood disorder not otherwise specified. As we have discovered, doctors are hesitant to place a distinct diagnosis, or label, on an adolescent who is not yet a teenager because they are still developing physically, mentally, and emotionally. While I appreciate this, it doesn’t really help my child right now.
It doesn’t help my child when he/she reaches such a point of desperation that he/she is inflicting physical harm, fighting the people who love him/her, breaking down into a sobbing heap on the floor, screaming that he/she is worthless and the world would be better off if he/she were dead. It doesn’t help my child when we are in the emergency room for the threatening of his/her own life and the on call resident who looks like he is about twelve and has never had children of his own tells me that he thinks that, as a mother, I am just overreacting and that my child is doing this for attention. With all due respect, I’m just not willing to take that chance with the life of my child! This medical professional also has no real suggestions for me other than what we are doing already … seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist for regular therapy sessions and “checkups” to discuss medical effectiveness, dosages, changes, etc.
I feel tremendous guilt, frustration, and failure as the parent of this dear, sweet, lovely child who is such a blessing to the world but cannot always see it. I feel guilt, frustration, and failure for the child in my home who watches as a sibling goes through this and is often left on the sidelines while everyone’s efforts and energy go toward avoiding an outburst from the sibling. I want so desperately to help my baby, but I feel helpless to do so at times. Our current psychologist and psychiatrist are wonderful and thoughtful, and I trust them with my child. I know that when prescribing medications and making diagnoses their job is to be very thorough and careful when moving forward with treatment decisions for children. The reasonable part of my mind understands this. But the emotional part, the part that is a parent, is constantly questioning, constantly screaming, “Someone help my child right now!!!!!” I often fear that my child does not have the luxury of time to be thorough and careful.
Unfortunately, the subject of mental illness continues to be taboo in our society. We say it’s a disease just like any other, but let’s face it …..we are still afraid to talk about it out loud. Or at the very least we are afraid that if we do we won’t be accepted in the way we would wish to be. Why do you think I’m writing this anonymously and using a stock image of a child? I find that there are support/community groups out there for parents and children with a variety of diagnoses including ADHD, Autism, birth defects, and cancer. But there are virtually no supports for parents of children with mental illness and even fewer for the children themselves, particularly if they are not at least 13 years of age. Trust me, I’ve searched. Sometimes it would be nice to just be able to say to someone else or have them say to you, “I get it.” Because I’m fairly certain more of us get it than we may think.
Maybe I seem to be rambling or not making much sense. But that’s just the point … nothing that my child is going through seems to make much sense. Why my kid? Why any kid? Childhood should be happy and carefree …..why should any kid be playing with such a rotten hand?
So for now, I’ll continue to pray for good days, good weeks, good months. I’ll continue to pray for not only a treatment, but a cure. And I’ll continue to be that over-reactive mother who will never take even the smallest chance with the precious life that I brought into this world. I will continue to be pushy and outspoken when it comes to treatment for my child. I will continue to love my child with all that my heart has to give. I’ll continue to hope and pray for your child, too. You are not alone.