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Being a Parent of a Child facing Challenges

Written by: Anonymous 

A beautiful and loving mother who lives in the day to day of dealing with mental illness which includes all of the up, downs, tears, smiles, fights, triumphs, success and failures that come with recognition, treatment, and recovery. 

 I get told often that I am a great mom but when I look at my kids sometimes I wonder.  I know every parent has doubts about their capabilities but for me I wonder if I am missing some great piece of wisdom or something I can do to “fix” my kids.  I hate to see them struggle (as many parents do) and would like nothing more than to step in and take care of everything.  But then I remember that they need to have the skills they need to function once they leave my house.  Lately, Erin has written about struggling with transitioning from college student to employee.  She’s adopted a cat and has reached out for support.  I wonder if my children will have these coping mechanisms to utilize when they reach young adulthood.  I’m not sure.

I am dealing (with my spouse) with two completely mental disorders.  Our journey started with our son at age 16 months when testing revealed a significant developmental delay (sensory integration disorder) that eventually was changed to autism at age 3.  He started therapy earlier and thankfully is able to cope fairly well.  He has friends, only a few, but still friends.  He can carry on a conversation.  I have heard from many people you wouldn’t know he’s autistic which I credit to some very hard and long work on both his part and ours.  However, similar to Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory” social situations are still challenging.  One episode that struck home for us was when someone was trying to explain why you buy your friend a birthday gift.  Sheldon argued, “So I spend twenty dollars on a gift for Leonard and he then spends twenty dollars on a gift for me that I don’t really want.  Why?  Wouldn’t it be easier to skip this and just buy our own stuff?”  That’s my son.  Recently in school there was an assignment for creative writing that required him to write something from another perspective.  His answer was “Why do I need to do this? What am I learning from this?”  What’s the point?”  Saying hey this is a graded assignment didn’t matter, so he gave his teacher excuse after excuse until she finally stopped asking.  When we were getting ready to move across the state we took months to prepare him.  Within the first week at the new house his room was already painted to look like his old room.  All of these little things, we do without anyone seeing them, without thanks most times, to help him cope and control what he can for his comfort.  Yet still, he has to function.  When he was little and he had outbursts (from being overwhelmed) we removed him from the situation.  We never used his disability as an excuse for his behavior.  He was expected to behave just like his sister.

In the last two years since we moved, our daughter has struggled.  She has obvious ups and downs, beyond what would be normal for a teenager.  We are not in denial.  We took her to one counselor who told us, “If you can keep your son from bothering her, she would be fine.”  That was the one and only appointment we had there.  We knew she got down and overwhelmed, unable to claw her way out of the hole she was in.  We worked with her, the school and professional help to develop a realistic plan for getting her on track.  When she started cutting, we even stepped up the professional intervention to include both the counselor she was seeing and added a psychiatrist.  His helpful advice-she’s not sleeping well so start melatonin and come back in a month.  I wanted to scream, “Are you kidding me?  She’s cutting and you don’t want to see her for another month!”  Yep, that’s right.  I am thankful, she does confide in me, we are close and even when she has cut herself she comes and tells me and we talk through it.  But I am not enough.  I cannot be the only person she can turn to for support.  What if I can’t pick up the phone?  What if she goes to college away from home?  What happens then?  I don’t know.  I have tried to give her other people to reach out to, but she’s reluctant.  I think that mental health still has that stigma, and of course in high school no one wants to be “that girl.”

So what do I do as a parent, the best I can.  I take each day as a new one, and do the best that I can to help them survive and cope and make it through another day.  I let them try to use the coping skills they have to navigate the challenges they face and step in when asked or needed.  It’s all I can do.