Pediatric mental illness. Scary words, right? When I first heard them, they terrified me. They still do, but now for different reasons.
When I first found out my son had a mental illness, my brain scrambled from one thing to the next. I had the usual mom questions: Was it something I had done? Something I didn't do? What did this mean for his future? Did he have a future? Would he live with me forever? How can I help him? Can I "fix" it for him?
What I didn't think of was how he would take it. It never occurred to me he would be ashamed or embarrassed. I didn't think he would be afraid to tell friends and family that he had to take medicine. I didn't know he would be angry to have this label.
I didn't know about the social stigma or the fear that people have about mental illness. I didn’t realize that his diagnosis would make people afraid of him. There is nothing to be afraid of. He's a great kid; he just gets overwhelmed at times. He gets mad and doesn't always know what to do, but we are working on it.
A few months ago, we were in a social situation for a long weekend. He did well the first day. I could see he was starting to cook on the second. I told him to take breaks if he needed to. That evening, there was an unforeseen complication and it was too much for him.
He got upset in a large group of people. I got tense; I almost started to cry because I was afraid for him. But he walked away. Then I did cry. He did it, he handled it! He found his limit and separated himself from the situation. I cried with pride, with relief, with happiness.
My son has a mental illness. You don't have to be afraid of him. He shouldn't have to be afraid to tell others. Not every kid with a mental illness is going to do something terrible, but if we can't learn to be comfortable talking and hearing about it, we are never going to get anywhere as a society.
Learn more about mental and behavioral health on this website.
After making the difficult decision to medicate your child, with time and on occasions, old symptoms return or new ones appear. Once again, you’re faced with what felt like an already-made decision - to medicate higher or more, or not.