When you have a child with a mental illness, there are appointments with therapists, doctors, and school staff. There are diagnoses to be found, medications to try (and discard). There is constant behavior tracking and recording. There are days of damaged walls, damaged bodies, damaged hearts, and damaged families.
The worst days, for me, are the ones when I must find out-of-home placement to help protect my child in crisis and those at home. Those days are very long, very hard, and seem impossible to get through.
There are the visits to those places that hold our children when we can’t. The feelings you think only you have ever felt—as you leave the building, once again, without your child. When you have a child with a mental illness, not only does the child carry the stigma of the disability, so does the family, especially the parents.
We are questioned and questioned again. Because there has to be a reason. Surely, we parents must be the reason he behaves outrageously. Sometimes, there are CPS investigations, even though everyone—including the investigator—can see you are doing your best in a very difficult situation.
When you have a child with a mental illness, it is lonely. You spend your days managing. You spend sleepless nights on the internet. You search and read. You try to put life back into sync. If `you can just find “it”- a diagnosis, a reason, a doctor, a theory, a magic key, a solution.
If you’re lucky, you stumble upon support—a lifeline for you, the parent! Texas Parent to Parent, www.txp2p.org is a goldmine of acceptance and guidance. And you find “our people.” People who get it.
You find other moms who have been there. Moms who know. You find a dad who has also had to leave a beloved child in the hands of professionals, blindly trusted, to help that child. You find other praying hands that help you make it through another day. You find another family who has lived this and survived! You hear what did work. And what didn’t - for other children in similar situations to yours.
You realize you are not the only one. You are not to blame. You are doing your best and someone else knows it. Because she’s doing her best, too. You find grace, solace and laughter (at jokes only the experienced can share). Support that helps the inevitable tears feel better. Because they are tears shared and not shed alone. You are given back a bit of what you give out, day after day.
Some of the most powerful words any of us can hear is “me, too.”
“I have a child with a mental illness. What’s that, you do, too? Let’s talk.”
Learn more about connecting with other parents for support and information.
I was surprised how parenting a kid with intensive needs affected my relationship with my older children and my extended family.
Categories: Family Support