I’ve been reading Rules by Cynthia Lord and I’ve got to admit… it’s a breath of fresh air. I’ve not finished it yet. And yes, it’s a book for younger children. I try to read books before I give them to my seven-year-old son to read. Rules talks a lot about siblings, one having issues and the other not having issues, and how they live together.
It was a breath of fresh air to hear a writer being honest about mental illness. It exists. It’s hard. It’s misunderstood in a lot of cases. It can also be very hard to understand once you start to learn about it. And I can relate to it because I have two children, one with a mental illness and one without a mental illness. I feel like it’s very, very, very misunderstood by anyone outside our family. So when I saw this post online this morning, I thought, “That’s exactly right! Wow!”
I could literally scream this. Read it over and over and let it sink in!
I struggle with anxiety. Yes, that’s a mental illness. Some people have it worse than others. And when I’m out in public, people expect me to behave as though I don’t have anxiety. You have to act “socially acceptable” in public or you get the weird stares.
Let me tell you something that’s deeper than this picture quote….
“The worst part of having a child with a mental illness is people expect them to behave as if they didn’t. More importantly, people point their finger at parenting and blame the mental illness on behavioral issues!!!!!!”
YES THEY DO!
My oldest son suffers from mental illness – DMDD, severe anxiety, ADHD, sensory processing issues, and will more than likely have depression when he’s older (his doctors have proven this on multiple tests). And guess what… people more often than not BLAME IT ON BEHAVIORAL ISSUES.
Most of his diagnosis’ have been heard of. We’ve all heard of anxiety and ADHD. But have you heard of DMDD? I bet not. It’s Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. And guess what… it causes my son’s brain to go haywire regardless of where we are. In the movie theater, at school, in the grocery store, at home. When he becomes overwhelmed and gets into a meltdown, I get stares. I get the nasty, ugly stares from people in public who are very obviously judging me, wondering how I messed up as a parent to make my son act this way.
But if you took a look at his brain – a brain scan, perhaps – you’d see that his brain is MUCH more different than someone who has a healthy non-mental-illness brain. You would literally see his struggles. But because people only see what’s on the outside, it’s easy to expect him to act normal.
When you have a mental illness, you can learn behaviors that help you cope with your own brain. However, the side effects that come with mental illness isn’t rooted in environmentally learned behavioral issues.
I saw a post the other day of a man explaining that “if today’s society whooped their child’s ass more often, we wouldn’t have as many school shootings. We didn’t have this many school shootings back in my day.”
I sat there and stared at the computer screen for a solid five minutes, debating on whether to even say something back to such ignorance. Now that I’ve gathered my thoughts and words, I’ll put it here.
The majority of shootings are done by individuals who are mentally ill or unstable – living in a society where they’re expected to behave as if they’re fine. Whipping a child will not cure their mental illnesses. NOT whipping a child will NOT cause them to participate in school shootings. So what in the world makes someone think that, if you whip your child, you can avoid a school shooting!? SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS LOGIC TO ME.
Breaking the stigma around mental illness is crucial. Breaking the stigma around CHILDREN with mental illness is even more crucial. If you have a child who suffers, teach them that it’s okay. Teach them that they are loved and accepted. Teach them ways to cope with their own little brains that are just wired differently than others. And by all means, please don’t expect them to hide their illness just to fit into the world. They are unique. We are all unique.