Building Your Support Team is as important as building your child’s mental health care team. If you are always running on empty, you will not have the patience or stamina to fully support your child. This was something we failed to do, and I believe it would have made a world of difference.
For some of you, you may have family and friends that already support you and provide needed breaks. But for others, you may not have anyone close by or the people in your life just do not understand what you are going through.
There are support groups available for parents and caregivers of children with a mental illness. One such support group is NAMI the National Alliance on Mental Illness. You will find their link at the end of this post. This organization provides support and education to families, consumers, and parent/caregivers. They are out in our communities trying to stamp out the stigma associated not only with having a mental illness but being the parent of a child with a mental illness. They have many local affiliates so check their website to see where yours is located.
One of the most uplifting and sometimes heartbreaking moments is when you are listening to another parent share their experiences and it is like they are telling your story. Finally, there is someone who truly understands. Someone who has felt what you have felt. Someone who has had very hurtful things said to them and in turn has said things to their child that they never dreamed would come out of their mouths. Nobody is at their best when faced with a crisis. Nobody is at their best when being bombarded with verbal or even physical abuse day in and day out and nobody seems to be able to help. These are your people. These are the people from down in the trenches that can share in your grief and loss (it is a grieving process for the parent we meant to be and the life you hope for your child) but also provide you with hope for a better tomorrow.
Please, please, please connect with others who have been there. They are your source of strength, hope, and education. They can tell you what worked for them and what didn’t. They can tell you how to push and advocate for your child’s mental health care and their education.
If you have family and friends willing to lend a hand, help educate them on what you are learning and let them lift some of the burdens off your shoulders. Don’t allow yourself to be isolated. This will only make things harder on all of you. It is also a good idea for you to see a therapist. Talking with a therapist can help you process your thoughts and feelings which in turn will help you to see things much more clearly so that you can make better choices.