I recently attended a networking breakfast full of amazing women who all own their own businesses and while everyone I met was incredible, driven, and gave me something to take away, one conversation in particular resonated with me. While talking about my business and sharing the work that I do with one woman in particular, she was truly touched, encouraged, and interested in what I was sharing. It was not until she began to share her story that I understood why. She understood first hand what it was like to be the parent of a child with a mental health diagnosis.
I meet with many parents on a daily basis and talk with them often about their struggles in parenting a child who has a mental health diagnosis. Thanks to lovely social media, it is already easy for parents in general to feel as though they are not doing a good enough job. For example, you may be rushing around in the morning, happy if your child is somewhat presentable and fed, (meanwhile you have completely lost site of what you looked like prior to parenthood), while you see the “perfect mommy” on Instagram, with their hair and makeup done and their child perfectly posed and groomed with a caption, “Off to school today!” as if it was the easiest task in the world. And to be honest, even I am envious of those people! Where do they find the time?! Couple this with the consistent parent shaming (i.e. “Don’t feed your kid that.”, “Why did you dress them like that?”, “Why are they watching TV?”), and the ongoing stigma in this country around mental health and you have the perfect recipe for vulnerability, fear, isolation, and insecurity. On almost a daily basis I have a parent who is crying in my office, asking “why me?”, sharing their feelings of stress and isolation, or straight up admitting “I don’t know if I can do this”. My heart breaks every time as I can feel their sense of sadness, desperation, and hopelessness.
What I wish these parents could see though is themselves from my point of view. While they see themselves as lost, confused, and hopeless, I see them as strong, incredible, and amazing. I see a parent who is putting their child first, which in reality, isn’t that really what parenthood boils down to? I see a parent who is not going to let parenthood break them, even if they are holding on by a thread. I see a parent who is seeking assistance through mental health services, despite the stigma attached. I see a parent who is brave enough to acknowledge that parenthood is freaking hard as hell and no one ever adequately prepares you for the reality of that. I see a parent who, plain and simple, loves their child and want their lives to be healthier and happier.
So while I sat at this breakfast, listening to this incredible woman tell her story, I was instantly inspired and was thinking to myself, “I wish some of my clients could hear this story!”. She spoke about the trials and tribulations that many parents face. She spoke about her feelings of loneliness, sadness, and stress while her child was growing up with their specific diagnosis. She talked about the avenues she explored to help her child through their difficulties. She spoke about her own supports she utilized during this time period, more specifically her faith in God which led her through the darkest of times. And then she spoke about her child now. And how they are successful. And happy. And doing well. Something many years ago she of course hoped for, but was never quite sure if that would be the case. And even more importantly, she spoke about herself and her accomplishments. Not only as a mother, but also as a successful business woman with a growing business. See, like you, she had those moments where she wanted to give up, cry, scream, yell, and quite frankly probably did all of the above. But she never lost site of her goal: to help her child. Remember this parents. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are other parents, just like you, wondering if things will ever get better. If you take anything from this post, please take that reminder: THINGS WILL GET BETTER.
I have seen first hand the changes and improvements which can happen when a child’s environment sets them up for success. I have seen the power of therapy services and the benefits it can have for children who suffer from various diagnoses as well as benefits it can have for parents in regards to their ability to learn ways to manage their child’s behaviors. I have seen those same parents who felt helpless and lost begin to feel hopeful and inspired again. If I can offer any advice which may be helpful, it would be the following:
- Remember that while right now things seem difficult, this does not have to be your forever. It is easy in moments of stress and angst to only see things from a negative perspective but without rain nothing grows, right? Embracing the storms in your life will only help strengthen you and your family. Had this women not gone through those trials and tribulations with her child, she would not have had such a powerful story to share with so many people. I would not be writing this post right now had she not inspired me. Everything happens for a reason. Super cliché, I know, but it really is true. Sometimes things do not make sense in the moment, but later on we understand the reasons and it all becomes more clear.
- Take care of yourselves as individuals. You are a parent, yes, but you are also a person with your own emotions, feelings, and needs. If you are not taking care of yourself, how can you possibly take care of everyone else? Allow yourself permission to do this and if you won’t, then I am giving you permission to do this.
- Find your supports. Whether it be therapy, friends, family, a support group, or prayer. Find a way to process what you are going through. Holding it in will only make you feel more isolated and alone.
- Don’t give up hope. Remember, there are other parents just like you who are experiencing similar circumstances. You may feel isolated or misunderstood, but trust me you are more understood than you think.
So, here’s to you parents. To the parents who find themselves continually advocating for their child. To the parents who pray before every grocery store trip that there are no meltdowns or dirty looks from fellow shoppers. To the parents who have to “prepare for battle every time “ they take a car ride to run some errands. To the parents who have to spend extra time planning their days to ensure their child is not thrown off by the change in routine. To the parents who feel they have to continually apologize for their child’s behavior or differences. To the parents who feel their social life is nonexistent due to the amount of time and energy spent just trying to be a parent to your child. To the parents whose marriages are suffering as a result of the continual difficulties associated with your child’s specific needs. To the parents who feel they are fighting everyone in an effort to obtain the basic services needed for their child. This one is for you. You got this. You’re doing a good job. Keep going.
And to the incredible woman I met during that lovely breakfast, thank you. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for suggesting I write this post, to help continue to shed light on such a delicate topic. Thank you reminding me of why I do the work that I do. Thank you, quite frankly. for being the rock star that you are.
I would LOVE to know what spoke to you today and encourage you to comment below and share with me!
If you are interested in learning more about my therapy services, check out my website HERE. Seeking mental health services can be daunting and if you are finding my posts resonate with you, it is likely you are feeling ready to take that next step to work on leading a happier, healthier life! I would LOVE to support you in starting this journey and welcome you to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ALSO! Check out my FREE “How Do I know If Therapy Is Right For Me” printable to start the process of deciding whether or not taking this next step is right for YOU! Just add your name + email address below and you will receive an email with a link to your FREEBIE!