I’m often asked about what advice I would give to a parent who recently had a child diagnosed with a mental illness. Usually at the top of my list, is find support! I can’t stress enough how important it is to find support, even if it’s just one other person to sit with you when you cry, or listen as you vent your frustrations. It’s even better when the person knows first hand what you’re going through, it’s truly healing to know that you are not alone.
I can still remember in the beginning of my son’s illness when my husband and I hid our challenges from family and friends, it was one of my lowest times. I found that once I started opening up to those I trusted and writing this blog to find all of you, my pain started to disperse and I began to feel hope again. I started to heal from the inside and I found strength to keep moving forward, even when I didn’t have all the answers. Support is pretty miraculous!
One step that I’ve always wanted to take was to start a local support group, with moms just like me who I could meet with face-to-face. Last month, I did just this.
It’s a small group, and private so I won’t be talking about it here, but it’s been very nice. I can sit with those who can understand my journey. We can laugh out loud about the wild experiences we’ve had and tear up as we share a feeling that many don’t. It’s a safe place where I can look into another mom’s eyes and share my truth without worrying about being judged or misunderstood. It’s just what I needed.
If you find yourself alone, starting your own group may be too big of a step right now, but I still encourage you to seek support. Start with just a trusted friend or family member. If you need to stay anonymous, check out the online support groups such as The Balanced Mind, they have a forum and can even help connect you to an online support group through their links. There’s also the “Parents of Bipolar Children Support Group” on MDJunction. On Facebook, there are many groups you can check out, one is “Parents of Children with Explosive Mood Disorders” which is a private group, just request to be added. Then there’s Easy to Love Hard to Raise on Facebook, it’s a public page so you can go right to it, just “LIKE” the page to follow it in your newsfeed. If you’re ready to meet face-to-face with others, check out NAMI and DBSA for your local organizations that can direct you to support groups meeting in your area. Also, check with your local hospital, they may have meetings too!
The point is, just do something, take the first step towards support and soon you’ll find others walking along side of you. If the first choice doesn’t work for you, try another, there are as many different support groups as there are personalities, keep searching until you find your place, I promise, you’ll know it when you get there, it will feel like home.
* * *