There are no meal trains when your kid is mentally ill. No benefits to help with expenses. No one stops by to mow the lawn or plow the snow. Those watching want to know why. They want it to be someone’s fault. The kid looks normal. Mom must have done drugs during the pregnancy. They are just bad parents. He needs a time out. It is just bad genes. They must have mental illness in their family history.
Teachers and doctors ask about my pregnancy and his birth. They want to know about our home life and ask for traumatic events. Doctors in a broken system want the answers to be quick and obvious. They have a caseload with 400 kids.
Do we ask that of the moms whose kids are sick with a physical illness? Is everything organic in your home? Do you limit dyes and sugar? Tell us about your home life? Do we point a finger at those moms and talk about them behind their back? Figuring that because they can’t find a cure they are not trying hard enough, not doing enough. They don’t want it bad enough. They don’t operate on a “higher level.”
We do that to moms with kids struggling with mental illness. I am supposed to have the magic pill, know the answers. “Get it under control.” Proper diagnosis is very difficult. It took us 10 years. With a proper diagnosis, treatment is a guessing game of trial and error. It is expensive and consumes our time.
Add in crippling shame. This was my watch. How did I let this happen?
I am writing this story to ask that we stop shaming the parents in our life dealing with a kid who by all accounts looks normal but has an illness that shows itself in behavioral ways. Stop talking behind their back. Stop looking at them with eyes that judge. They are hurting. They are struggling. They are no more responsible for their child having a mental illness than a parent whose kid has cancer or arthritis. Shame will not raise them up to feel empowered, to keep looking for treatment. Those parents go to bed every night wanting to give up and we wake each morning with new energy to keep searching for the answers. I believe a worried mother does research faster and better than the FBI.
I don’t want you to think that my story is only filled with the bad. The people who judged us and talked behind our backs are no longer in our life. In fact, as a result our life is full of people who love, support and raise up our family. The relationships we have with those individuals are so much deeper and caring. Because of our past, we appreciate those friendships even more. They see the struggle and lend a hand.
We have to drive 70 miles one way but have found doctors who are able to properly diagnose and treat our needs. We have an amazing Autism therapist who comes to our home. She is instrumental in guiding us on this journey and giving us a unique understanding of this disease. Our focus and unwillingness to quit is our main tool for survival.
I ask you…did you raise up that family in your life or did you bring them down? That neighbor, that student, that coworker? The stories on Facebook make it look sweet and easy. When a person with mental illness is in front of you, trust me…it is not easy.