This journey of parenting a child with mental health struggles has been…a struggle.
When parenting a sick child, every day is different. When parenting a child with mental illness, those ups and downs can be drastic, and they come with no warning. We have good days, we have bad days, and we have days when I can’t even recognize our life anymore. I’ve tried everything in my power to keep the household running smoothly, but I know that I’m not always successful.
David and Alex
Because I am me, I’ve named my son’s* depression “David,” and I’ve named his anxiety “Alex.” They moved into our home and made it pretty crowded. Visitors are few and far between, because David and Alex take up all of the air in all of the rooms. We can’t make plans too far in advance without checking Alex’s schedule first. Don’t even get me started on David, keeping folks up until all hours of the night.
I talked to a dear friend the other day about her son. Her precious boy has a genetic disorder, one that keeps him in and out of the hospital. The more we talked, the more I realized one simple truth: our lives are remarkably similar.
An illness is an illness
I could go on and on about the ways our lives are similar. When I sat down and synthesized my thoughts, they boiled down to these SIX ways that parenting my son, with his mental health struggles, is a lot like parenting a child with any other chronic illness:
1. Treating my child’s illness is financially and emotionally draining.
Thank God for insurance through my husband’s job, but it doesn’t cover everything. Specialists are expensive. I haven’t been working as much because I have more obligations and appointments; plus, I just don’t have the juice in my tank to deal with as many clients. Nobody warns you how difficult this will be, as the weeks turn into months. I am literally watching all of my stored resources go down to nothing.
2. I blame myself for his illness.
Isn’t guilt The Great Connector between all mothers, anyway? When it comes to sick children, WHEW! I know what I’ve read, I know what the doctors have told me, but I also know what my heart of heart whispers to me in the dark of night.
3. Discipline is tricky.
When the bad days hit, I would do just about anything to see my son smile. I would do just about anything to see him not unhappy. If that means I let a few chores slip here and there, so be it. I won’t even mention how ridiculous it is when I factor in the other siblings, who haven’t done anything wrong but have to deal with the brunt of this little doozy. I know it’s not fair, and it’s out of character, but what should be most important to me?
4. We have tried every treatment, diet, vitamin, etc.
This one comes with a caveat: everyone also has an OPINION about his treatment, diet, vitamins, etc. Please see #1.
5. I crack in a million pieces every day, then I put the pieces back together and press on.
My #1 job as a Mommy: to make my child feel better. It’s also the one thing that I can’t do. That helplessness is unbearable. Lately, I do make a concerted effort to take care of myself, but it honestly doesn’t help much.
Related post: 4 Ways I’m Taking Care of Mommy
6. My child is fighting for his life.
I joke about David, but I know that depression is no joke. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24. That’s astounding. David is trying to take him down. He’s eating away at my child from the inside. To be perfectly frank, this disease can be fatal.
Let me know in the comments…do you agree with my list? Did I leave anything off? What would you add?
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*to protect my children’s privacy, I will use male and female nouns/pronouns interchangeably