As a parent of a child with mental illness, there are many things I wish I could do. My child's attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) behaviors, or my own anxiety, often get in the way. Parenting a child with mental illness is intense. I often feel like a snowball of anxiety rolling down a snowy mountain of anxiety towards an icy river of even more anxiety, and if I type "anxiety" one more time, you'll start to feel as anxious as I do. Because I am a parent of a child with mental illness, there are some things I just don't do.
A child's mental illness isolates the whole family. Social anxiety, unpredictable outbursts, sensory issues--all these things can make the outside world exhausting for your child (Mental Illness, Isolation, and Loneliness). Judgment, stigma, and fear make it exhausting for parents. Isolation in childhood mental illness is our biggest enemy. Fight it.
I'd like to thank all of you for the kind words and shared stories regarding last week's posts regarding my son, Bob's first inpatient psychiatric facility admission. I have more to share on that matter, but I'm returning to the present today for the ongoing saga of the 504 Plan.
I was almost looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. We had a pretty uneventful holiday planned--Bob would be at his father's house until Saturday evening, and my large, loud extended family had opted for a smaller gathering on Saturday (just my parents, siblings, and assorted nieces). Until Bob caught wind of this plan, and asked to come home early so he could go to his grandparents' house with us. And then I discovered it was not to be an intimate gathering (or as "intimate" as it gets with four siblings, their spouses, and 7 grandchildren); it would be the whole family--aunts, uncles, ad nauseum--totalling 28 people.
Making time for yourself, although not easy, makes all the difference when parenting a child with a psychiatric illness.
This weekend, Bob turns 10 years old. A momentous occasion, for sure--why haven't I been in the mood to celebrate? Aside from it being tough to get into party-planning a for someone who has acted anything but party-worthy...parties and Bob don't mix.
Last week was certainly eventful. After Monday's outburst that led to a call from school, Bob was under strict orders to...well, just try to get through the day without any drama. He did relatively well, presumably because a school skate night at the roller rink was at stake. Or so it seemed.
The older Bob gets, the more he knocks me from my parenting pedestal with unexpected questions and requests. I thought he'd outdone himself with his recent query as to the purpose of testicles--but last week, he hit me with something that left me even more dumbfounded. "Nathan wants me to come sleep over at his house next weekend. Can I?"
As you know, my son Bob has bipolar disorder and ADHD. A few days ago, he had his first play date--at least, the first he can remember. How did it go? Take a look at this video.
Ah, the holiday season. Families coming together in joy and harmony, stuffing turkeys (and ourselves) full of all manner of deliciousness. Children singing and reveling in the magic and mystery and-- Who am I kidding? The last two months of the year can be trying for any parent, but for parents of children with mental illness, they can be far removed from the Rockwellian scenes we once envisioned.