For many people, caregiving means caring for those with mental illness, or children and/or teens who fall under the autism umbrella. In fact, this is one of the areas in which I fall. I grew up with a mentally ill mom, so I was not a stranger to the challenges of a home life with the mentally ill. However, parenting a mentally ill child who also falls under the autism umbrella is one of the most difficult jobs I have faced in my life. Now, I have been challenged, but as I sit here in my home, which has become a maelstrom of emotions from my son’s inability to handle social situations properly, or to control his anger, I find this challenge to be overwhelming.
The elephant in the room right now is that I do not like my son. I love him with the entirety of my being. In fact, I would sacrifice anything if it would help him. Unfortunately, despite all of the therapy, the medicine, the struggles, the fights, the love, the counseling, etc.. I have concluded I do not like my son. I feel like his turbulence is toxic to the entire family as we all become angry, sad, and unsure of how to act. I feel like I am walking on eggshells sometimes. I feel like my daughter will be scarred forever because of the tides of chaos that rise and nearly drown us.
This is a problem that many families go through and it can be devastating. It leaves us uncertain, and the divide in the home can cause serious stress, and I am feeling it now. I know this happens to many people, but as I am suffocating in the middle of it, I feel utterly alone. How could anyone understand the way I feel? How could anyone know how this feeling of failure as a parent cloaks me, and it makes me feel inadequate? Then I realize that this moment will pass and I will have a bright moment or two before it falls apart again. It is like a repeat tsunami, rolling in, crushing everyone, then receding before it rolls back in again.
This elephant in my room is not the only one. The bigger problem is the whole field of mental illness. No one wants to discuss it. Many people cannot get help, and even when help is provided by insurance, it is difficult to find a decent therapist. We have struggled with this for a long time, always seeking someone who could truly understand or connect to our son, yet his mix of conditions makes him that much harder to treat. The elephant in the room of mental illness has grown so big with the silence, shame, and fear people have about talking about it, that the room is about to burst.
Why are people so afraid to discuss it? Because they will carry around a stigma and people will judge them, that is why. However, unless more people start talking about this problem in its many forms, there cannot be change. The world will never realize the immensity of the problem, the number of people affected, or the needs for change if those affected are afraid to raise their voice. This is why we need to open our eyes and see what is really going on, and we need to listen without judgement. There are too many people suffering in silence, and they need people to be open to discussion. I would love to hear others’ stories. Raise your voice!