Carrying the Burden for our kids
Mental health is a very personal topic for me. I believe I've struggled since I was a young girl although I didn't actually suspect something might be going on until I was about 24 and a mother to 3 young kids. Since then I've learned to understand how my mind and body works a little more. I've lost the embarrassment of feeling like I was "crazy" and needing to use medication. I've lost the stigma that's attached to a mental health diagnosis and feel free to tell people my story. I know it isn't something I caused and I know it isn't something I could've helped. Even though I know all these things intellectually, I still find it hard when I realize one of my kids might be going through something similar. I feel guilt. A lot of it. My extended family has a very large history of mental health diagnosis. So while I know that the chance some of my children may suffer is great I still feel an enormous amount of sadness and guilt when I believe I see symptoms that are concerning. Or when one who already knows they are struggling with a diagnosis shares with me their feelings of sadness and frustration at having to deal with it or take medications.
The moment a baby is placed in my arms, I stare into their eyes and meet their soul and I make them a promise. I promise to always do everything I can to protect them. To always be available in any way to them and to move mountains on their behalf if needs be. I promise God to be the best I can be for them. Whether or not the best I can be is always good enough? Well, I can tell you some days it's just not. I do try to only make those moments last for a short moment in time. If I feel myself slipping I buckle down and do what I need to to make sure I am back on my mommy game in the shortest amount of time possible. Plus, I just happen to be blessed with the best guy who takes over when I just can't. Luckily, I don't think, those moments come very often. I'm not talking about when we are tired and yell, or put the kids to bed early for a little piece of quiet and alone time. I'm talking about the day when it's all I can do to take care of myself. Where I've mentally exhausted myself just taking care of their physical needs. Like I said, thankfully I've learned myself enough that these times don't happen too often anymore. Although when they do I take the time to give myself what I need to pull myself back up because if we aren't taking care of ourselves we can't take care of those we love.
I take my job as a parent very, very seriously. My parenting philosophy isn't to raise the smartest kids with the best grades. It isn't to be so strict my kids tow the line because they are afraid of me. It's never been to have my kids be the best at anything or follow all the rules. I'm raising God's spirit children. I feel my job, most importantly, is to guide them to learn who they are deep in their soul and follow the path that's most fulfilling to them personally. It's raising good, honest, helpful, kind, loving kids but also, real ones. People that can recognize when they might need help and can ask for it. People who will eventually recognize that something they are doing isn't working an know that they have the power to change it if they try. I also try really hard to make sure my kids know that we have an open door around here. I want them to share with me. I want to hear their troubles. I want them to know without a doubt that perfection is never a requirement in this house and something that's unachievable. I want them to share their feelings with me. Even if they are mad at me or I might not like them. All I require is for them to tell me respectfully. We welcome negotiation.
We are the ones who chose to have 7 children and in doing so we took on the responsibility of raising them. Part of that requires us to be available at some of the most inopportune times. Like late at night when I'm headed to bed and a teen decides it's a perfect time to talk. I don't understand what it is about teens but they always seem to need parent/teen time in the late evening hours and into the early morning. Or after an argument when my intuition is telling me I need to dig deeper or just make sure they understand they are loved unconditionally even though I'm still upset with them and would rather not have a heart to heart. I never do regret it though! I spend so much time trying to learn who each of them are and I'm still learning. I fail at it frequently but I am always trying.
I've learned to watch, listen closely and read between the lines. I've also learned how important it is to follow my intuition when it comes to my kids and lean on God's promptings to me. I've rarely been steered wrong by following through on a feeling. Maybe it was nothing, but talking and loving on them is never done in vain, so I encourage you to follow that prompting! I feel thankful in someways for my own trial and journey with mental health. I feel blessed to have worked on myself enough and know enough to recognize possible signs in my kids. I've taken more than one in because of signs I've noticed. Some we are still working on and some are feeling well. Some were receptive to getting help and some were resistant but all are working on it. Sometimes that means that life just feels hard. Too hard to carry. When you are in the trenches it can be so hard to really understand what exactly you're feeling and why. All that's recognizable is that you are feeling badly and that it feels like too much!! There are so many things that we are unaware of when we become parents. No one tells you how hard watching your kids go through hard things is going to be. It's extremely gut wrenching to watch them suffer and not be able to make it go away. It's insanely more difficult than going through it yourself. We want to give our kids a perfect childhood and wish for them live a perfect life and be happy all the time because isn't that what most of us would give our kids if we could? Unfortunately, it's just not realistic. Instead we sometimes have to watch them go through hard feelings and difficult circumstances.
The moment we have our children we are holding them. We carry them before they can walk and cuddle them when they are sick. We hold their hands when they are still unsteady walkers and we kiss their bumps and bruises and wipe their tears. We tell them it's okay when they get their feelings hurt as small kids or feel left out. Our job as parents, with strength built of life experiences, is to carry those burdens for them when they feel like it's too much. We need to make sure that they know we want to carry those burdens for them. We as parents need to tell our kids that we are available, that we want to know their feelings, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even when they are hard to hear, when they might be hurtful to our own, or might be something we wished we never had to wade through. Most importantly for me, I will never stop wrapping my kids, young or old, in tight hugs, telling them it's okay to cry, and that life sometimes just sucks. That 1000 hard days in a row with them is better than 1 minute without them!! That having a difficult time and asking for help is OK and in fact is a sign of strength. That life circumstances don't define you. It's how you deal with them that show what you are really made of. Most importantly I will never stop telling them that they are loved unconditionally and that our home is their soft spot to land!
If you think you might be dealing with more than just normal kid or teenage moodiness here is a link https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007 with signs and symptoms of depression and if you even suspect that someone might be suicidal always follow your gut and call someone who can help.