Parents of Mentally Ill Children Have a Long and Difficult Journey

I’ve long been a fan of the Rudyard Kipling poem, “If.”

If you can keep your head when all about you
are losing theirs and blaming it on you…

I can relate to this verse. I’m sure all parents of mentally ill children can. Often the greatest challenge we face is not going stark raving mad ourselves.
Being the parent of a bipolar child is painfully tough. There's coming to terms with your child's mental illness, the expenses, and facing the stigma. More on my parenting blog.If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you…
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating…

Being the parent of a bipolar child has not made me popular. My child has been passed over for parties and had his own invitations declined. Other parents who only know my child by the stories they hear from their own kids are quick to label him as a bad seed. And if he’s a bad seed, surely he must come from bad parents.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…

We all have high hopes for our kids. When your child is diagnosed with a mental illness, it’s hard to come to terms with the impact of the diagnosis on those hopes. Should you continue to worry about paying for college, or just focus on getting him through high school?

If you can …watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools…

Undoubtedly, the hardest part of parenting any child is the hurt we suffer when they suffer. Our children tend to suffer more, and there are few (if any) rewards to soothe their suffering.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss…

I try not to think of all the prescriptions I’ve filled in the past five years. Particularly the ones I refill—at full market price—only to have the psychiatrist a day later agree they are not working and here, try this instead, and no, it’s not available as a generic. And it may not work either. But let’s hope for the best.

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you…

People fear what they don’t understand. Many people don’t understand mental illness. Some of them are closer than you think—friends and family members you never expected to do or say hurtful things.

Kipling’s words paint a disheartening portrait of the world—not unlike the world we face daily as parents. But at the end, he offers this as inspiration—if you can survive all this adversity,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it

helpingWhich perfectly describes those moments when we are proud of our kids…when we feel like we’re doing right by them…when we haven’t lost our temper or cried in front of them…you know, the good days.

I wish all of us more of those.

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204 Responses to Parents of Mentally Ill Children Have a Long and Difficult Journey

  1. Tammy says:

    I understand what everyone is going thru, I have a24 year old son who has asburgers and is bipolar, plus he is 6 foot 3 ” and 350 pounds, twice my weight. He can and has been pysicslly abusive, but the though group home kills me. I want to maintain control, conservitorship , power attorney nd at over his ney, I will pat them, but my son was told once you get in 5th one , its hell getting out. with maintaining ontrol will it be easier for me to remove him if needed. How do I find help for us to do this the right way?TIA

  2. Lisa F says:

    Angela, thank you. Your post is the closest thing I’ve read to what my family has gone through during the past year. It doesn’t feel like we are anyhere nearer to a good place than we were a year ago, and it feels lonely, stressful, aggravating, guilt-provoking, and most of all, just soul-crushingly sad. I will read more of your posts, and try to gain strength from them.

  3. Shari says:

    I have a 35 year daughter who has shown signs of mental illness for her life. She has turned to drugs takes her little daughter with her brings the daughter around child molesters. She has cut off her entire family we can’t see the my granddaughter or my daughter because she is high on meth.
    She screams at my granddaughter blaming her for any problem they have. What can I do to have her put in a mental facility until better.

  4. Stephanie says:

    To Margaret Lee in 2015, the first 7 lines of your post is my life to a tee! I am a single parent and I am so tired. I have lost 20 pounds in a month and a half. The “I can’t” attitude is draining. My 16 year old son beat me yesterday and I had to say enough is enough. After they took him to the ER, I went to the courthouse and pressed charges. Afterwards, I called Child and Adult protective services. I have to have him removed from my home. I love my son but this forces the state to get him long term therapeutic foster care. I have done everything I could to help him. The doctors, the ERs, the psych hospitals. The bipolar has taken over my son and I have developed anxiety as well. Of course, everything is my fault: his behavior, everything that has gone wrong in his life, the sky being blue. You name it. I walk on eggshells like you wondering what hell the day was going to bring. I got to the point where I slept with a knife under my pillow because he had no problem coming into my room and I would wake to find him standing over my bed with his latest demand. And when he is in a manic episode? Lookout! My house has holes in the walls, doors kicked in. stains on the carpet where he has gotten angry and trashed the carpet with his dinner, etc. If I had to pick between the two, I would choose the depressive mood. At least he would be laying instead of verbally abusing me or threatening to kill his best friend and his family. By filing those charges and petitioning child protective and adult protective services, it forces the court to get them the residential treatment they need. It breaks my heart when I think about having to do it but I would rather see him, myself and the community safe then carry the guilt of my son killing someone. Everyone stay strong and understand that the harshest option is sometimes the best option for your loved one, your family and yourself.

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