It’s hard to tell my story, not that I don’t want to. It’s very hard to put into words what it’s like to live in my world, raising a child with mental illness. Everyday is something different, once I think I have it all figured out then it changes. I know I am afraid to show people my troubled world. I know there are many families like mine. Afraid of what people might think of my husband and I as parents. Wanting people to think our life is normal. We spend every day walking on eggshells, holding our breath waiting for the eggshells to crack. My son has BPD borderline personality disorder and he’s 18. I say my family has been in survival mode for the last six years. It’s actually been eighteen years. We are a military family and that can be difficult for healthy children, always moving can be extremely difficult for a child with any mental disorder.
Change was always hard on him, and it would take some creative ways to get him adjusted. When he was in the 4th grade we transferred from Maine to Southern California, before I could look for work I had to go to school with him everyday, I volunteered in his class for two to three hours every morning. He is extremely smart but struggled with grades because his emotional issues got in the way. He always felt very uncomfortable in a classroom. When he got into middle school his anger and aggression became extreme. My husband used to say our house felt like a prison and our son was the warden. When he got into high school everything got worse. Our insurance required he have one year of failed conservative treatment before they would authorize an in patient treatment facility. So we prayed for a year as we watched him failing conservative treatment, We prayed he would survive that year, much like a parent that has a child with cancer going through chemo. Something happened that ended our wait, he was arrested and spent a week in the adolescent unit of a psychiatric hospital. Finally we had the failed conservative treatment we needed.
He spent three months in the DBT unit at Willow Springs Center in Reno, NV. DBT stands for dialectical behavior therapy and it has given us hope for our future. Without Willow Springs and DBT my son would not be alive today.
I used to ask God why me? At first it was why would you do this to me? Now it’s God what do you see in me? What part of my purpose in life is this? This child was given to me, this amazing soul that came into this world fighting it. He feels every emotion deeply… love, anger, sadness. I have seen medications that help in the way they need to but create a new issue, so to treat that it’s another medication with it creating another new issue.
Some days I feel like I am in a scene from the movie Silver Linings Playbook. The range and intensity of emotions in 24 hours can be extreme. There have been months of wonderful and then something is triggered. It usually starts with sadness and major depression, no self worth. Then comes manic and anger. Manic and anger is like an emotional roller coaster 24 hours a day. In the midst of that we have to remain calm and non judgmental. Then comes the shame and back to major depression.
I try to stay positive no matter what because I know that after every bump in the road of emotions we will get back to months of wonderful. Hearing my son laugh, seeing the smile on his face reach his eyes. I am grateful for the wonderful and stay prepared for the roller coaster.