The Loneliness of Mental Health

“…you are an exceptional parent – because you have been called on to be the only person capable and necessary to handle the colossal responsibility of raising a child with mental health issues.”

This encapsulates all of the emotions and thoughts that I felt this past weekend.  My son had another emotional episode in which something triggered him to take his confusion and frustration out on me.  He reverted back to old behaviors of disrespect, destruction, emotional abuse.

I called my sister to talk and to vent my anxiety and frustration.  She and I don’t talk to one another very much despite living <100 miles from one another.  She has been exposed to some of my very challenging moments of parenthood so my call should not have been so jarring to her.  Yet she made me feel that it was.  For one, she sounded inconvenienced and annoyed that I was expressing my exasperation.  Second, she was speechless, which was unusual given that she can typically express an opinion of some sort.  At one point, she was quite abrupt and cold with her response, asking me why I didn’t simply consider giving up child custody if I was so exasperated.  When I sensed that she just could not and would not empathize, I simply thanked her for her time.  I didn’t know what else to do and the idea of burdening someone else with my story wasn’t worth it – because I’ve been through this so many times; many people just cannot handle it.  So instead, I went for a walk.

I walked aimlessly for an hour in my town.  I was as lost searching for a place of respite as I was lost in my mind and in my emotions.  I was resentful, disheartened, helpless, sad.  Most of all, I felt so incredibly isolated and alone.  Dealing with mental health issues can be a very lonely experience – because so many people just don’t (and many can’t) understand why mental issues exist.  And if the person suffering from these issues is your child, many wonder if the cause may be your parenting.  That’s how my conversation with my sister made me feel.  I could hear the judgement and implication in her tone.

And so in my walk, I, alone, had to pick myself up….again.  I, alone, had to dig deeper than ever and tell myself that I just could not give up.  And I, alone, was the only person capable of dealing with the issues.  No one else could really help me or my son – not even my own family.  My sister has not been the only person reacting the way she did.  My parents have done the same.  It has been incredibly infuriating and hurtful to admit this to myself but it is my reality.  No one is capable of or interested in being stronger than me, for me and my son, other than me.

If you have ever been in my shoes, you know the weight of caring for someone with mental health issues.  You know this isolation.  You know this sense of loneliness and helplessness.  We aren’t alone even though we feel we are.  I am certain that there is a community of us out there dealing with these issues and You’re Not A Bad Parent was created to bring forward the suppressed thoughts, emotions and experiences we have all felt, at some time or many times, in our journeys.  There may not be crystal clear answers or silver bullet solutions to our issues but there is always kindness and empathy for you.  Because sometimes when things hit the fan, empathy is all we need to keep going.

You’re Not A Bad Parent fully appreciates just how hard parenting children with mental health issues is.  Stay strong.  Dig deep.  Find it in yourself to remember that a source larger than you determined you were most capable of dealing with the magnitude of these issues.  Trust that and believe in yourself.  You’re Not A Bad Parent supports you every step of the way.

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