When I started this blog, I wanted to make sure I was “real”. No sugar coating reality. I just wanted to be honest and let people know how it life is. It is with some hesitation that I write this post. The reason? Because there is a stigma attached to what I am about to say. I don’t want to be judged or have my family or children judged for what has happened. That being said, we have to start being brave and letting our children and others see there is no shame in mental illness.
I have children that have had some struggles in their young lives. They struggle to rebuild lives that were destroyed for various reasons: neglect, drug abuse, physical abuse etc… This “rebuilding” isn’t for the faint of heart. Can you imagine what it must be like to be in your birth home, get removed to a stranger’s house? New smells, new rules, new clothes, new noises, new room…nothing feels safe, nothing feels “right”, you can’t see or hug your mom and dad. There are stranger’s faces where your mom and dad’s are supposed to be.
I am a firm believer that all parents do the best that they can. I can’t begin to imagine the life of an addict. Many people don’t have a full toolbox to draw from as problems and crisis arrive. They do the best they can with what they have learned or what they know. Anyway…
As you can imagine, like adult’s, kids process differently. Not everyone experiences the same trauma or handles it the same way. So, some of our kids are on medications to help with some of their harder behaviors. (I am not speaking of my children specifically more of children that have experienced trauma in general.) We all have trauma of one kind or another. We all have experiences we are trying to overcome. These experiences help us to become who we need to be. They don’t make us weak, they ultimately make us strong as we overcome weaknesses.
Well, this week we had a child, that has really had some hard struggles, have a mental crisis. They had to be taken to the hospital and talk to a crisis worker. After some deliberation it was decided they needed to be admitted into a behavioural hospital. They needed intensive help that we just couldn’t provide.
My child is not unique. According to the National Alliance on mental Illness (www2.nami.org)
- One in four adults−approximately 61.5 million Americans−experiences mental illness in a given year.
- One in 17−about 13.6 million−live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.1
- Over 50 percent of students with a mental health condition age 14 and older who are served by special education drop out−the highest dropout rate of any disability group.
- Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. (more common than homicide) and the third leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24 years. More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide had one or more mental disorders.
- Seventy percent of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20 percent live with a severe mental illness.
- One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three-quarters by age 24. Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent.
This is becoming prevalent in our society. Mental Illness is a big issue. What do we do when we have a mental illness? We don’t talk about it. As if it there is something wrong with us because our brain isn’t producing the right amount of chemicals we need. I would love to be able to control depression but when I am struggling sometimes, I need medicine to cope. This does not make me weak or fragile. I shouldn’t have to feel or be ashamed.
Back to my children. Many people can’t imagine what my children have been through. I used to compare myself with my friends. Until iIrealized, I was meant for this. I was meant to be a mom and an advocate for children who were given a less than ideal start in this life. my house will never be as clean as someone elses. There are after all 19 people living here. Our dinners will always be loud noisy affairs. Sometimes, I will go to bed and realize that I wasn’t able to connect with every child that day. No one can comprehend what a day is like around here. No one understands what a change in schedules does to our family. The thought of camp outs, play dates, vacations, holidays, birthdays etc… disregulates the children in our family. Anyway, comparing myself is not fair to me and the job and I do. For all of you that compare yourselves to me, please don’t. I know who you are because you tell me. 🙂 I am not perfect. I am not great. I am doing the work I was chosen for. I am just trying to do my best, just like you. Let’s be friends, no judgment, no comparing, no expectations, just friends who love each other and are willing to learn from each other. Let’s have fun and appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Because of mental illness, we experience behavior that most people would be shocked to deal with. I know because I am shocked sometimes. Rarely, but it does happen.
So, these are the faces of mental illness.These are the faces of children who need love, acceptance and understanding. They don’t look different so we don’t give them concessions that we would to a child who is noticeably handicap. We expect them to act age appropriate and deal with age appropriate experiences