When your child is diagnosed with a mental illness it can feel overwhelming. You may become depressed and fearful not knowing what to expect or how to respond. I did. It was all so foreign. I was a stranger to the world of mental health. To learn more that will strengthen you and lessen your fears you may want to read my last four blogs. They’re all about mental illness. In today’s blog I’m going to share 4 things I wish someone had told me when I first learned of my daughter’s mental health challenges. You need to remember them. I think they will help.
1. Your child is still the same person. They suffer with depression, or they have bipolar disorder. There is a difference. If they had diabetes, you wouldn’t say, “My child is diabetes”, would you? If they had cancer, you wouldn’t say, “My son is cancer”, would you? They aren’t their diagnosis. It doesn’t have to define them – don’t let it. Be careful how to talk to them and about them to family and friends. It matters. They’ll take their cues from you.
2. This isn’t a death sentence. It’s not the end of the world. Your son still has a bright future ahead of him – a life full of meaning and purpose. Your daughter’s dreams can be fulfilled; her goals reached. Their future and their goals may not look the same as you or they once imagined. This is disappointing, but once accepted, adjustments will need to be made. Pour on lots of encouragement as they discover their new path – everyone needs a lot of that.
3. Have realistic expectations. Your child’s life may be up and down, not a steady, even path; but then, hasn’t ours? Finding the right combination of medications isn’t always easy. They may not always cooperate with their treatment plan. At times they may stop taking their medication and experience a setback. They will have their fair share of challenges and uphill climbs. But with lots of patience, compassionate understanding, unconditional love and on-going support, they can thrive and enjoy life.
4. You are Not Alone. Many others are going through the same things you are. You aren’t the only one even though you feel like you are. The sooner you find support the better you will do. Check out NAMI for support groups in your area and free classes to educate and inform you. (nami.org)
My mother was bipolar, but she took such good care of herself, I never knew it. She had a beautiful marriage; was a wonderful mother and grandmother, and a devoted friend to many. She lived a life full of love, joy and purpose. If she were here today I think she would tell you she had a very good life. Your child can, too.
This Bible verse is a great one for encouragement: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion . . .” (Psalm 103:12) ESV.
What would you add to my list? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section. We need to help each other.