Without warning, I found my mental state rapidly shifting. For one week in late March, it seemed to spin out of my control. Increasing anxiety gripped my soul, its force building stronger each day. Suddenly, the anxiety transformed into a deep depression. Never had I felt such a heaviness pressing upon me. After a few days, the weight lifted.
Making sense of it left me pondering: Why now? I had been treated for anxiety and depression for the last 15 years. For most of that period, my moods remained stable. Any shifts lasted only a few days. Through medication and therapy, I learned to manage my illnesses. However, this time, I felt blindsided; the symptoms appeared unexpectedly. Even though I was exhausted, the experience left me puzzled.
Read the whole post at http://mudroomblog.com/soul-care-unexpected-descent-depression/
I asked myself this a few months ago. After years, consisting of very long days, of family struggles with mental and medical conditions, the season began to change. At first, I dared not believe it. So many times, there had been brief glimpses of light as we forged through the darkness. But those moments seemed to fade quickly. Once again, we would be left trying to find our footing and walk forward together: my daughter, my two sons, my husband and myself. To say the relationships between us were strained would be an understatement. When one person in a family struggles, everyone is affected.
The dynamics between us does not resemble the picture I had in my mind before my husband and I started a family. My daughter began treatment for bipolar disorder at 9 years old (she is now age 15). My older son (age 18) has battled anxiety and depressionalong with a host of unexpected health concerns along the way. The youngest son (age 13), whom I call the “comic relief,” manages mild anxiety. None of their conditions define them, but they do affect the climate of our home. It hasn’t always felt like the refuge I hoped my husband and I would create. We have tried to initiate traditions, affirm each other’s strengths and attempt to carve moments of time together. We have sought out therapy, utilized resources and developed a support system. Humor has even found its way in. Yet, we couldn’t always keep the storms at bay.
Truthfully, the winds, at times, seemed so forceful I wasn’t sure I had the strength to resist them. My husband and I could be a strong force together; yet each of us developed our own methods of survival. We also felt as if the storm was invisible to everyone else. Mental illness carries a stigma. There are plenty of opinions regarding how to “fix” your child. “If we would just . . .” Meanwhile, the unpredictable nature of episodes and triggers as well as the financial stress and school concerns mount. And in the midst of it all, you are trying to sustain your marriage, pay bills and pray for endurance, provision and healing.
It occurred to me one day that this long season of storms may have finally transitioned into a season of calm. When you are so used to living in survival mode, you don’t always realize the storm has weakened. Weeks no longer seemed packed with doctors’ appointments, evaluating medications, financial distress, school battles, emotional burnout. It may be the beginning of a season of restoration. On the surface, a calm after the storm sounds welcoming. But, truthfully, the implications are daunting.
How do you begin cleaning up the mess?
Branch by branch, piece by piece. I remember a horrific storm that erupted suddenly about 10 years ago. When it was safe, we made our way outside to access the damage. Thankfully, our belongings remained intact. However, our street and our yard were filled with tree limbs and branches scattered everywhere. In order to move toward restoration, you must begin cleaning up the mess one branch at a time. It may take a while. And I’ve learned (reluctantly) that’s OK
Restoring our relationships with each other will take time. One branch at a time. I often wonder how my kids would relate to one another had our situation been different. I will never know the answer. It would be tempting to dwell on the “what ifs,” but that would require looking back. We are heading forward. The medical concerns have not resolved. The winds may indeed return. We have found space to breathe and rest. We have found our footing once again and set our eyes on God; who is in the business of making things new. I find inspiration in the promise given to the Israelites:
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)
Originally published at http://mudroomblog.com/cleaning-up-mess/, this post also appeared at https://themighty.com/2016/10/when-things-calm-down-parenting-children-with-mental-illness/
It happens every year around July 5th…..As we walk into a store, the former 4th of July/Seasonal section transforms in the blink of an eye to shelves filled with notebooks, markers, crayons. Fall beckons even though the temperature bathes us in swelting heat. And the dread begins. School will begin soon.
For some parents, the reminder of the school season brings relief. Structure helps us all. For kids, boredom has set in and the opportunity for new friendships, learning environments and knowledge provides comfort. The issues of safety, school provided meals and childcare make the school year welcoming. Furthermore, I think we can all attest that, by August 1, the sibling fighting season is coming to a “point of no return.” The lure of soon-to-be peaceful hours on the homefront presents itself. I laughed when I saw that Trader Joes hosted a “back to school” tasting party for the parents on the first day of school. I’d love to say that I felt such a sense of exhilaration but I didn’t.
For me, the sight of school supplies on July 5th, brought very mixed emotions. My daughter struggled in school. While kids excitedly found out the names of their teachers we felt a lump in our throats. Would he/she see the beauty in my child that I see? While other kids frantically called up their friends to see who else shared their teacher assignment, the school suggested placing a familiar student in her class so that she would perhaps engage socially.
For us, it meant hoping that her teacher(s) would cooperate with the IEP easily so that I didn’t have to spend time at night emailing them about assignments. My other kids tired of being pushed aside in order to help my daughter complete her homework. We’re talking long tension filled hours which resulted in exhaustion for my daughter as well as my husband and me. Those days seemed to resemble a scene from the movie, “Groundhog Day.” I actually loathed going to sleep as I knew that the events of the day would all play out again the next day.
Getting my daughter to school proved to have its own challenges.
How do you manage to get a child to school on time when the clutches of anxiety/depression attempt to pull your child away from your hands ?
How do you move on with your day after dropping your child off at school after an hour long battle? Her eyes, swollen and puffy, her demeanor signifying defeat?
Don’t get me wrong. Summer is not always a picnic either when you have a child with behavioral/mood disorders. The lack of structure, the full on presence of everyone at home, everyday, and the lack of respite for the parents (and siblings) from the unpredictable outbursts make Summer days tedious at times. Yet, the beauty is that the child is in a familiar environment, and we can shape the schedule and activities around her needs.
These last few years, the approach of “back to school” season has not brought on the dread as much as in the past. A few years ago, we made the decision to home school our daughter. It was the best decision for our family. This choice presents its own set of challenges but we have developed a routine that works for us. I realize that homeschooling may not be the best solution for everyone.
So for those of you who are familiar with the dread of which I speak, keep on keeping on. God knows how much you love your child and that you want the best for them. What can you do?
Ask for help. You are not a bad parent because you cannot manage this school thing alone. Utilize your school village: social workers, resource teachers, aids to help your child navigate the learning environment. Furthermore, know your child’s legal rights for education. If necessary, seek advocacy outside of the district. There are some lawyers who offer services pro bono (search for local resources).
Let your vulnerability speak of your journey. I remember one phone call with my daughter’s resource teacher in which the tears came so quickly and so fiercely, that I could barely speak. Sometimes, others really do not understand the depth of the frustration and pain you feel for your child.
Most of all, know that God has created your child for a purpose. A sacred purpose. No one can take that away.
What can you do If you are reading this post and do not face the dread posed by “Back to School” season? Consider the little things that can make an impact on our families in a big way. Providing meals (even a gift card), extra affirmation to the siblings and generally listening without judgement speaks love into their souls. Pray for them.
These days can be hard. Sometimes, the words to form our prayers are just not there. But remember this: “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. “(Romans 8:26, Msg.)