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.
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
Which 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.
McClanahan, A. (2010, August 19). Parents of Mentally Ill Children Have a Long and Difficult Journey, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2010/08/parents-of-mentally-ill-children-have-a-long-and-difficult-journey
Author: Angela McClanahan
Our lives, and the life of my daugher, centered around my son's explosions, which began in infancy. He often had several a day, and there was never a day without at least one. We didn't go places or do things that other families did, because normal activities were simply impossible. After almost 8 years of this, I hardly felt human.
We had tried every method we could find. We tried therapists and a well known children's center and got a diagnosis of ODD, but the diagnosis didn't help. We were getting frightened that his behavior would be even more difficult to manage as he got older and stronger, and had no idea what to do.
When our son was almost 8, we became worried about his progress as school. It was becoming clear that he was not able to focus or express himself as well as his peers. This lead to a neuropsych evaluation, and we finally had a useful diagnosis: DMDD, ADHD, and some processing disorders. Stumbling onto these diagnoses seemed miraculous. It gave us names for his issues, and a clear path to follow.
1: We started seeing a psychiatrist. She prescribed Guanfacine, a blood pressure medication, instead of going directly to ADHD meds. Just 1.5 mgs was enough to keep him from bouncing off the walls without making him a zombie. He still had plenty of energy, but his mood was awful, and nights were spend raging and smashing things while we held his door shut. We added a tiny bit of Prozac (just 4mg), and after a week, we had an entire day without an explosion. Then we had another, and another.
2: We also worked with a behaviorist and learned methods for dealing with this kind of extreme behavior. The methods we had tried before may work well for children with ordinary tantrums, but for someone with a mood disorder, they had no effect.
It's been a month now, and he's a different kid. He's had a few tantrums, but we know how to manage them and they are rare and for reasons we can understand. They are very different from explosions. He's clearly relieved that his life is happier, and we still can't believe the change.
The only thing I can do is learn how to not enable her. It is my most important work. She is almost 20 now and my husband and I have given her until November 1st to find another place to live. I have cried and cried and been sick to my stomach about this. But I have to look back at this lifetime of trying to get help for my daughter. I, like so many - ALL- of us, have worked very, very hard to help this suffering child who was suicidal for years, hated herself, been paralyzed with fear and stuck in her head due to her mental illness. It is heartbreaking. I cannot make her take responsibility for her health. I cannot. Until now, she really has not had to take responsibility for it because I have been here every step of the way pleading with her, nudging her, pushing her, educating her, turning the wifi off and on depending on whether or not she does what she is meant to do..... I could go on and on and on. So, my hardest work yet is to get out of the way.
Every single child and every single family is unique.
We all share a love of our children, deep concern for our children, mental exhaustion, sleep deprivation and therefore physical exhaustion, and a need to connect with other parents who have empathy because we understand the struggles, despite the differences in the details.
Manipulation is a part of the acting out behaviour. Behaviour serves a purpose. Our daughter absolutely freaks out and it works. We back off and do not insist that she ..... fill in the blank (go to school, get a job, get help for getting a job, get help with school, continue with her counsellor, stop self-medicating with alcohol and codependency and the internet........). This does not mean the child is bad and deserves to be punished. It means the child needs help. Whether she takes it or not is up to her and some power that is greater than me.
We are all in this together. We all have done a lot of things right. I know I have done a lot of things that have enabled my children in order to make things easier for myself. I think I am done with completely beating the crap out of myself for that. I was in survival mode for many years.
hugs and best wishes and I hope we can find the support we need to put the oxygen masks on ourselves first.
It is 1:40AM and I've been crying privately for the lost of my family for the last few hours. Today was a typical day! Today everything was fine until something very minor set my middle daughter off. My 16 year old daughter poured 5 boxes of cereal all over the house, threw all of her medicines around and took all of the sheets off of all of the beds in the house.
I have three daughter. My 16 year old (middle) daughter started to show signs of mental illness 2 years ago. What I'm most fearful about is that the metal illness "roller coaster ride" will never end. Yes, we will have good periods but they are only temporary - the illness will always be there. I'm crying tonight because I just realized that the roller coaster is going to be our normal for now on! My old life is gone. Now my life will be defined by my daughters mental illness! From the outside we look like a perfectly normal family but in our house things are so unhealthy!
Mental illness effects everybody in the family I feel so bad that my youngest daughter (13 year old)r does not want friends to come over because you "never know" how things will be at the house. She deserves a better childhood then this! I try to remind her that the first 11 years of her life were wonderful but I don't think she will remember in a few years. To top it off my marriage is going to hell too! My husband and I just co-exist in the same house. I can be right next to him but still feel alone. He is a good person we just handle the problems so differently.
I'll keep everybody in my prayers and will come back to the site to get strength from all of you! We can do this! We can get through the night and wake up tomorrow and be a mom, and wife to those we love and go to work iand nobody will know what a tough night we had!
I adopted two sisters almost 17 years ago. No one knew at the time that both girls would turn out to be severely mentally ill. They were both raped by their bio father as infants. This gave them both PTSD along with their congenital mental health issues. My girls have had every diagnosis from soup to nuts with therapy and medication being the "cure". Nothing has worked. My family is upside down. My marriage is holding on by a thread. My kids hate each other. When the alloted 15 weeks of therapy is up my girls are cured. Until.....I get beat up again. Then the insurance offers another 15 weeks. Therapists all think they have things under control and refuse to listen to me that my girls lie to them and are playing them for fools. As their primary caregiver I know the truth and live the nightmare. The question is always out there - are they able to stop this or is it just manipulation. The answer is difficult to swallow. No they can't stop this. Their minds are not normal. They are the best manipulators in the world but their reality is one of their own twisted reality. I understand your anguish. I have lost all of my friends and most of my family due to the hellish things that go on at my house. I have begged for help at mental health. I have gone to court and had one of my girls locked up for a short time for her safety. My daughter turned 18 recently and now HIPPA stands in the way of my assisting in her care. She ran away and is now living with a man 35. She is mentally/emotionally about 12 to14 and I can do nothing about this pervert. I have no where to turn and no one to talk to. I've run out of tears and have an overabundance of anger. I fight the bad mommy guilt everyday. I know I am one hell of a good parent. I get up everyday and try again. I've even looked into exorcizm as I've run out of options. My hat goes off to all of you living in this nightmare. As we all spend sleepless nights looking for that magic pill that will help us wake up from this hellish situation I am glad that we can find solice in each other. We will figure this out! I am not a quitter and I am on a mission to save my girls from their devastating illness. Mental illness affects so many more persons than just the sufferer. I wish you all the best!
What exactly is going on with your son? What symptoms is he having ?
What is going on exactly with your son ? What are his symptoms ?
I have been reading your post over and over and feel like I am living your nightmare.
How are you doing and coping?
I am finding it more difficult to do anything anymore and feel I am having or had a nervous breakdown of all the stress and anxiety from trying to cope daily with my son's mental illness for so long. He is 19.my husband and I are not doing well and have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to help him. Nothing has so far.
It is so depressing to live like this. My poor beautiful family is not what I ever thought it would be. I need to get help for myself first.
thanks for posting your struggles it does make you feel you are not alone I cant sleep its 4 am I have to get up in 2 hours with a seven yr old and try to function at work when I have no idea where my other son is and out of my 4 boys he was my sweetest most caring sensitive one that its hard for anyone that knows him to understand what is going on