There are deep dark holes that families may find themselves in when they have children that struggle with mental illness. Places they never imagined they’d be. Places they can’t see a way out of. Places that feel completely separated from what could possibly be real. Among the avalanche of what ifs swirling in their minds is the million dollar question: How did we get here?
It can be a short road from the everyday familiar struggle to the unthinkable. A missed diagnosis, med changes, life changes – nearly anything could serve as a catapult. Sometimes it’s sudden and sometimes it’s a slow but steady drift – but even the parents who are on top of it all are not safeguarded from a free fall. These are not broken legs or soaring temperatures. Parents will be hard pressed to find a concrete answer when the question lies in mystery of the human brain. And when you have more questions than answers lights can get dim.
Have you been here? Are you familiar with the numbness that takes over as your mind and body try to protect you from absorbing your reality? Have you known the despair that takes over when your child is unrecognizable to you? It’s the loneliest, scariest most helpless place for a parent to be. I’ve been there and people I dearly love are there right now.
For me, clinging to light was the only way through the dark. I’ve found my mind is NOT my friend when the world goes upside down, so clinging to absolute truths is an anchoring lifeline. In my life that means clinging to my faith in God. It also means allowing myself to receive the care people who love me want to give. It’s easy to push all of that away, but that’d be like refusing the very air we need to breathe.
The parenting journey can take us to places we never imagined. How could we have known those precious babies we once held would need us even more desperately as they grew? While we don’t have all the answers and can’t know what lies ahead there are things we can know for sure. We are not alone and we don’t have to do this alone. Even if the people in your life don’t understand – and most will not unless they have the same struggles – they can still love and support you. Accept their love. Draw strength from it.
And all the hopes and dreams that swelled within you while holding your baby all those years ago? They’ll seemingly evaporate right in front of you – but don’t lose hope. Your child’s story doesn’t end today. There is light to be found on the other end of this darkness. Trust this and keep going.