Mental Illness Is Still An Illness
Please read this slowly and process your feelings about what you read. Friends of mine, like others I know, adopted a child and then discovered how his birth mother’s choices affected him. With the mom’s permission, I’m posting her Facebook post here to my blog hoping more people will read it and be willing to think, feel, and then reach out to someone they know. Might this be you? Will you read this and then turn around and encourage someone walking a similar journey? I hope and pray so.
In the words of a mom I greatly respect:
This has been on my heart for a few years now, but it’s time to finally write it out…
“My kid has (fill in any scary diagnosis except mental illness—maybe cancer, a brain injury, or something that lands him or her in the hospital).” This sort of announcement garners you meal trains, get well cards, visits in the hospital, visits from pastoral staff for prayer over you and your child, constant check ins from friends to see how you’re holding up with your child’s diagnosis and how your child is doing through treatment and medicine changes.
But that wasn’t the announcement we got to make. Our diagnosis was fetal alcohol syndrome, childhood onset schizophrenia, reactive attachment disorder, recurrent respiratory papplimatosis, mood disorder NOS, oppositional defiant disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, frontal lobe brain damage, mentally disabled with an IQ of 64, low impulse control leading to REALLY bad choices leading to him being moved to a life skills school in another district, etc., etc., etc. The diagnoses literally fill an entire notebook sheet of paper. And most of them are caused by his birth mother.
Our son is slowly deteriorating in front of our eyes and becoming someone we don’t recognize any longer. The light in his eyes is gone. The life he used to have in him is no longer there anymore. The childhood joy is gone. A darkness has set over him.
So many meds with so many side effects. You wait to see if they’re effective and going to help your child regain some sort of life-giving promises they say the meds can give. Except they don’t.
You’re slowly watching your child die in front of you. You’re doing hospital admissions in preparation to place your child somewhere away from the rest of your family for the rest of their life because he is not safe anymore. You’re preparing in essence for a sort of death, a loss of a child and a sibling. But this loss takes years.
When you’re at the hospital oh so many times for so many years you have no visitors because psych floors are scary places. You have no home visitors because people don’t know what to say when it’s a situation where your child is mentally ill and hurting others. So you sit, isolated. Alone in your hurt and struggle. I remember reading how mental illness isn’t a casserole dish illness. You don’t get meal trains or support when you have a mentally ill loved one. And this is something that has to change. Mental illness is still an illness and it claims lives every single day. It requires a ton of medications, a ton of doctor appointments, many hospital stays, thousands upon thousands of dollars in medical bills, etc., just like every other illness. There’s just a stigma surrounding it.
I’m so thankful for my friend who always tells me she sees me. She sees my struggle and she loves me through it. I’m thankful for my handful of friends near and far who’ve really showed up these last few years and our soon to be retired pastor who has said the hard things and encouraged and always had an open door policy anytime I needed to talk. Keep doing what you’re doing for people. You’re doing it right and I love you forever. Your kindness will forever be remembered in this extremely trying season of our lives. We could not make it through this without you. I’d tag you all but you’re the kind of people who don’t like that kind of publicity because you’re amazing. And you know who you are.