When someone you love is struggling with mental health concerns, it sucks. When that someone is your child and you feel helpless, it’s devastating.
Over the last few months, I’ve been trying to get my son the help he needs. Unfortunately, all it’s done so far is make things worse. Counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists are all doing their best… but not quite figuring out the best way to help my kid.
I feel helpless and scared and frustrated, of course, but mostly I’m angry.
The other feelings come and go but the anger? I can’t shake the anger. So, I do what I do and started looking at why I’m so angry…
I know my son. My son is kind and generous and brilliant. My son is a gentle giant and defender of those who can’t protect themselves. My son is hard working and always the first to lend a hand. I also know the monster that explodes like the Hulk. I know the monster that wants to (needs to) fight with anyone about anything and God help anyone in his path. I know the monster is a liar and tells my son that no one cares so why should he? I know the monster doesn’t care about trivial things like good decisions and school and love and affection and instead is seeking thrills through destructive behaviors that my son would never condone.
My son’s friends have abandoned him. High school kids are fickle and move away from those who scare them or make them uncomfortable.
His teachers have all but written him off as a “bad kid,” and with 24 other students in each class to worry about, they don’t have time for compassion. The police associate him with the kids who are still hanging around him–and unfortunately the bad apples color their view of my baby. At 6’2”, he’s still my baby… although a bit more imposing when his anger takes over.
His own father is still convinced that our first born is choosing this path and needs to pull himself up by his bootstraps and just quit acting like this. As if it were that simple.
If he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, or in a car accident, or–God forbid–cancer, there would be no waiting. No confusion. Doctors would rush to offer aid to save his life. His friends would visit the hospital with flowers and wishes for wellness. The school (I like to think) would be understanding and offer support and assistance. His dad would be quick to defend his son and demand treatment as fervently as I’ve been doing for the last 5 months.
But my gentle giant wasn’t diagnosed with anything that appears on a CT scan or MRI. Mental illness is just as life threatening but the stigma prevents adequate treatment and diagnosis.
I know my son, and he’s not choosing to sabotage his life any more than a paraplegic is choosing not to walk or a coma patient is choosing not to wake.
My son is sick.
The mental health system is so broken that we have to wait for him to endanger his own life or the lives of others before anyone takes notice. It is reactionary to a fault, and when a mother begs and pleads for someone to help rescue her son from the grips of whatever darkness has overtaken him, those pleas fall on deaf ears. Oh sure, the psychologists and psychiatrists and counselors recognize that there’s a problem, but it’s not big enough to warrant intervention.
Can you imagine if it was a cancerous tumor that we were talking about? Can you imagine the outrage if a physician told a parent “Yes, we’ve found the tumor, but let’s wait for it to grow and spread before we deal with it”? Licenses would be revoked. Media would be all over that injustice. But when it’s a mental illness… something that you can’t see… then we wait until physical harm is done. And pray that it’s not too late when someone finally notices that your baby needs help.
Shelley is a freelance writer, blogger, coffee-addict and mom. When she’s not performing her duties as taxi driver and swim-mom cheerleader, she fills her evenings with kitchen experiments, Netflix binging and crochet projects. You can usually find her on Facebook Pinterest, or over at her personal blog, Slightly off Kilter, where she over-shares about relationships, raising gentlemen, and trying to find herself in the process.