We live in a society where mental health issues and challenges come with an undeserved stigma, the scarlet letter M you might say. It's no secret that I have battled depression. Life gets hard as hell sometimes due to our own choices, but mainly because of circumstances beyond our control. For me, being a single-parent was an emotional and psychological roller coaster. Now throw in living at the poverty level, add a few unevenly yoked relationships, and the cherry on top of all this delicious dysfunction Nursing. School. Who wouldn't be depressed??! Thank God I had the presence of mind to seek help. Yes, sir, yes ma'am I went to therapy, I even took my babies to therapy. Unfortunately, they were the collateral damage of my foolishness. In my community, praying away "the spirits and demons," laying on the altar, and fasting is the front line treatment modalities for depression. My bible tells me everything God created, he said was good. Guess what? He created mental health counselors, therapist, practitioners, doctors, and they are good. Why is so taboo to seek professional help?
I recognized I was drowning in despair, shame, guilt, sleeplessness, and hopelessness. One day, at my lowest point I had a choice to make. If you're reading this, you know I chose life. But what happens when you notice a few, some or all of the same symptoms in your adult child? How do you help without being an enabler? What if you've never experienced depression? Is it possible to help your child without being judgemental? What if I don't believe in "shrinks"? I pray by the end of this blog you will have the answers to your questions.
Life happens to our children just like it happens to us. Our children are navigating a world where their every move, deed, or word is one phone away from potentially becoming a viral sensation. They live in a world where social media portrays images of how life should be. It's on the internet so it must be true, right? They are also living in a world of economic disadvantage. Many of our children are saddled with student loan debt, car payments, credit card debt, rent/mortgages- OH MY! And those of us with those sweet, beautiful grandbabies, they have to care for them too. Some are struggling to find their way in this fast-paced microwave society. Others are attempting to shed or deal with situations we know nothing about. Our children are drowning, and many of us don't know or won't know until it's too late.
My children want me to believe they are masters at masquerading their angst. It's the small things I notice, like the look in their eyes. You know, when the twinkle or spark disappears from their eye. Or how they become instantly irritated when you ask about a conversation or situation you've previously spoken about. What about when they don't answer calls or texts? I know when something is wrong with my children, do you? I also know depression and other mental health disorders are familial and my family is not exempt. Somethings are bigger than mama and depression is one of them. I know what it's like to have a child spiral downward. I know what it is like to have a child angry at the world. I know what it's like to have a child that will not open up to you. I know. But what do you do?
You fight for your child! Sometimes in fighting for your child, you fight with your child. I had to learn to listen WITHOUT interjecting. I had to learn how to discern the tone of their voice and inflections of words. I have stopped my life and gotten on a plane to pull a child out of the depths of despair. I've sat silently with my eyes begging my child to open up to me because I cannot correct my behavior if you do not tell me what I'm doing or saying that is harming you. I have asked my children to seek professional when I know I am not able to fix it. Ultimately, they decide to speak to a therapist. To help your child, you lay aside YOUR convictions, and you support your child.
The most helpless feeling in the world is seeing your child filled with hopelessness. To know something you cannot see prevents your baby from opening up to you or they say "mama I don't know what imma do," in a tone that tears your heart into shreds. Maybe depression is not the mental health challenge your child faces. Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, Addiction Disorders are all mental health challenges. Whatever disorder your child bravely battles every day, I am proud of you mama! No matter what you show up, you're in the trenches and you battle. You put on your armor, and you go to war. Our battles are different because our children are different.
You may be at your wit's end. You may know you need to fight and you don't know how. You may not know where to begin. Start with educating yourself on the disorder, then learn about the community the resources available to you and your child. Surround yourself with those who are on the same journey. Talk to your circle of influence. Praying for direction, strength, and clarity sustained me along my journey. My babies still have their days, but we know how to get through them. We need to take the stigma away from mental health issues. Too many have died, and too many are dying because no one wants to talk about it. If you suspect your child or someone you know is battling mental health issues here is a link to national resources: