As a parent in the midst of a hard journey with a son with special needs, the statement, “Less guilt, more awareness” couldn’t ring any more true. These are extremely hard posts to write because we’re not past this; we’re in it, and it’s painful. I know there are many out there as well. I want to be brave, show up and be seen so others journeying through similar know that you aren’t alone.
This weekend I had the opportunity to spend time with my son while my hubby and youngest son went to visit grandparents in BC. It was nice to be able to give him my undivided attention and time which is something I believe he needed.
Even through having this special time together, my son lashed out at me as he does almost on a daily basis now. Since January, my husband and I have watched our son relapse into anger, self hatred, and what almost looks like borderline personality disorder. He can be fine one minute, and unstable the next. School and being with friends are times he can function without this instability, but at home it is a whole different story. There are fits of rage, hurling profanities, and threats to call the police on us for things such as insisting he take a bath, or because we won’t get him what he wants right now.
To say this has been draining wouldn’t do justice to how exhausted my hubby and I are presently. It’s hard to have someone lash out at you daily when all you are trying to offer them is love. Finding help has been painfully slow and frustrating. We have seen our doctor who has referred us here and there only to find dead ends. Each passing day I feel we lose precious time to help our son out of his miry pit. We are thankful in early June to be seeing the Eckert Centre where our son was first assessed as we know our son will get the help he needs immediately – but with a great cost to our pocket book. At this point, we are desperate to see him thrive. It’s hard to watch him in a downward spiral. We know money can get the help we need, which seems like just a great injustice to those who are struggling, us included. We just got out of debt. Will this only put us right back? However, if it saves our son and our family it will be worth every penny.
As hard as this has been on us, my son is the one who suffers most. After calming down, we were able to talk about his outburst. After telling him how much he is loved by us, I said to him, “Son, you never need to be ashamed of who you are.” What he said next ripped my heart in two;
“Mom, I always feel ashamed of who I am”.
There they were. The words from a son who’s mother studies and implements resiliency for her living. These words speak of a boy in torment; someone who is not thriving; who has lost connection and a sense of belonging. My son, not one of the vulnerable youth I work with. My own. Where did I go wrong? Where have I missed it with him or have not been enough to see him through this terrible mindset? Those who work in counselling and social work know that this thought is where many negative behaviors come from. We often only see someone who is angry, or “bad”, but inside there is someone greatly hurting. That someone right now is my son.
Working with youth at risk in group homes or institutions in my city only makes my heart break for my son all the greater. Knowing that if there is no intervention, how close he is to this reality is a thought too scary to for me to want to ponder. This has made me hunger for more who are in the same boat. Where is the immediate help for families? There has to be a better way than to drag an already anxious child from stranger to stranger who in the end becomes resistant and hesitant towards getting help?
I will not give up on my son. I will continue to let nothing break my connection with him, even when he fights it. I will keep asking the hard questions to the system and the way we offer help to families. I will continue raising awareness about mental health so we can offer more empathy rather than judgment towards the children like my son. In the end, judgment will only decrease their resiliency and cause more shame. It will hinder parents from being honest and vulnerable about their journey and cause them to hide rather than getting the help they need
If you are someone who doesn’t understand mental illness, you can make a difference by:
– listening without judgment to those struggling.
– ask questions, seek to understand and then ask, “How can I help?”
– don’t isolate those struggling mentally. My son recently told me his friend’s mom doesn’t “like him”. This brought great shame to his heart. It is challenging sometimes to learn someone like my son’s struggles, but for those who have offered him acceptance and have heard myself out as well, we have only seen the best in my son come forward.
Community is only as strong as the belonging we create for all, and There is great resilience when there is belonging. Creating space where all can belong is the start to individuals and communities thriving.
I would love to hear your stories if you have similar struggles. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org