The Battle Ground
It’s a battle that wounds the soul and leaves one gasping for air. And while you feel as though you might be a scarred mess, you are drawn to the realization that you really aren’t scarred at all. Instead, you are an open and raw wound, never getting time to heal or repair before being viciously ripped open again. What is it you ask that leaves a soul so utterly exhausted, completely depleted, and unmistakably wounded? Parenting a child through a hidden or invisible disability and mental health issues.
Now wait a minute, how is it that you, a professional counselor, would be so taken by surprise? Don’t you see this in your office? Haven’t you worked with this before?
Let me tell you…no amount of instruction time, rigorous research, or work experience can even adequately prepare one for the battle of walking your own child through such a war zone. None. I’d like to share with you five potential pitfalls you might experience on this journey of raising a child with mental health issues. And I want to offer you some affirmations, ways to reframe your thoughts or fears, and some helpful truths that you can start putting into practice right away to stay afloat. But first, some insight for reflection.
Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you are failing.Toby Mac
The words of this quote spoke volumes to my heart a while back, and each time I read them again. And while the words brought encouragement, there was also this distinct awareness that “struggle” didn’t even quite capture the essence of what I felt in life at our lowest point. It wasn’t just a struggle; it was a battle. And in some moments, I felt quite certain it felt similar to being a prisoner of war, taken captive by something I had never even imagined could be so consuming and forceful.
It has taken me some time to collect my thoughts on this. I have shared some of our journey with our little guy as we worked to get some testing, medication, diagnoses, and school resources in place. But the truth is, this isn’t a linear, well-marked journey, with nice little rest areas along the way.
And of course, in the midst of all this, COVID hit! I don’t know about you, but COVID was like this big trench that took us all in for some time, interrupted our usual lives, and created some unimaginable roadblocks along the way. Now a little over a year later, I set out to re-establish some lost ground and find my footing again.
You Are Not Alone!
While our journeys may have some distinct differences or features, I think there are probably some shared feelings, thoughts, experiences, or fears that we as parents face along the way. And the more I risk sharing honestly with other parents, the more apparent that becomes. So many of these things we hold in and manage by ourselves, because we fear we are the only one going through this. But the truth is, there are many others privately experiencing some of these same hurdles, holes, and all-out battles.
We continue now, after what has been one of our hardest years ever. Things both at school and at home had been really tough. We forge ahead as the diagnosis continues to morph. And while all the letters so often used in this field (such as ADHD, ADD, SPD, ODD, ASD, DMDD, MDD, PTSD, OCD, etc), are supposed to somehow bring parents clarity, what we really seem to discover is that these diagnoses can instead morph over time. Then you factor in the many dimensions of these diagnoses, overlays of symptoms, or even other co-existing issues, and you realize there are no two children totally alike in the journey.
Up Next…Overcoming Common Pitfalls
Perhaps you are parenting a child through these kinds of issues. Or maybe you are trying to understand the journey to help support someone who is. Next time, I would like to share with you five pitfalls you may experience while parenting a child through mental health issues and helpful tips to overcome them. Maybe some of these thoughts or ideas that I have gathered along the way and in visiting with other parents can help bring some insight, fresh perspective, or maybe even a tiny bit of encouragement, in knowing you are not alone. One of the hardest things you may find is that you may struggle with one feeling or thought, while also feeling the exact opposite fear or thought. This confusion of conflicting thoughts and feelings. can kind of make you feel like you are going crazy! There is hope.
Up Next…Part 2: Five common pitfalls and helpful tips to overcome them. A free printable resource will be available shortly. So, subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates on this series and access to the free resources available to subscribers. Click here to subscribe.