Mental illness, the stigma……..

DISCLAIMER: let me just say that, like with everything I write, I am sharing to help with awareness not to have people feel sorry for me. I hope that this helps someone feel not alone, and have the courage to get help.

Jacob has always been violent and has for the past 3 or 4 years tried to jump out of windows and run in front of cars. He has ran outside in -30 weather with only shorts on (NO shoes, NO coat, nothing) to try to die because he hated life and me so much. Now I don’t know how many of you have experienced this but having your 5 year old tell you they would rather die than be near you because they hate you so much is not an easy thing to hear, and then to have them try to die is that much harder. In a rage he has also threatened to kill other people in our family. I have been threaten with knives and punched in the face. I have been bitten more times than I can count and although this sounds very extreme it has just become part of my life.

for the past few years we have focused on therapies (Occupational, Behavioral, Language and Psych). These therapies have made a huge impact on my son. He can sit through not only a 10 min story, but he can actually sit through an entire movie and is able to last all through school without meltdown or bolting. This is a major accomplishment for us. Over the past few years Jacob has had over 208 hrs of psych, over 1,100hrs of behavioral therapy, over 600 hrs of language and occupational therapies and that is just the time he spent with trained professionals. I can’t even count how many hrs his teachers, aides and I have spent helping him do things that most of us take for granted.

 

But despite the countless therapies the rage was not going away it was actually getting worse. And after our 4th child was born we decided that it was time to readdress his problems with a pediatrician, but this time I would be prepared. I did my research. I found a Dr that specializes in ASD, SPD and other mental disorders. And I researched drugs and dosages that are used in different situations. As I said, my life has become MY normal. So I don’t always think much of it until I need to tell someone else about it. The look on their face reminds me how NOT normal it is. That was the case with our new Dr. She was wonderful not only was she informed and helpful, she was also really good with Jacob, who usually takes a while to warm up to people. After going through his history and discussing our concerns she recommended some Anti-psychotics. She said that she prefers to try other things first but with an extreme case like this she felt it necessary to start as soon as possible. Well I went home and did what I always do after talking to one of our Dr’s, I googled it. When I read about the medication she suggested my heart sank. This drug is reserved for bipolar, schizophrenics and other extreme disorders. Had it really gotten this bad? Did I fail at therapy? What if I tried just a little bit harder? Maybe there is something else we haven’t tried? Is this the right thing for him? So many questions ran through my head. And for the next few months I avoided making a decision. I took him for all the required test and spent hours researching other option that may work, but with no luck. I decided to trust the pediatrician and get Jacob to try the medication. Although we are still trying to figure out dosages and he still has meltdowns occasionally, he is a different boy. It has changed our families life. I can ask Jacob to get his backpack without fear of retaliation (although he still doesn’t get it), or, for example, this week he played a game with his sisters without an epic meltdown.

About 1 ½ yrs ago my husband was diagnosed with Crohns disease. He was very sick and when his Gastroenterologist prescribed some strong medication to help reduce his symptoms we didn’t hesitate to accept. Physically he had an ailment and why wouldn’t you take medicine. So why did it take me so long to get medical help for my son? I thought I was so understanding of his disorder but I think that I felt like I could fix him myself. That if I just try harder I could get him on the right track. However as Elder Jeffrey R Holland said “there should be no more shame in acknowledging [a mental disorder], than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor”.

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A few years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Nothing in life made me happy. I knew in my brain that life was wonderful and I had so much to be grateful for. I knew I had a beautiful family and enjoyed the luxuries that many others couldn’t even imagine. But I still couldn’t feel happy. There was a dark cloud over my life, that was not allowing the light I so desperately wanted. I tried taking time for myself, and on the flip side I served others, but with no relief. I just avoided the subject and kept saying “it will get better when…..” or “I’ll be happier when…..”. And then at christmas I watched my kids open their presents and I felt nothing. Not happy not sad, nothing. There was no reason, my kids were well behaved and we had a wonderful day, but still nothing. I realized that night that I was depressed. I talked to my husband and we decided that I should go talk to the dr. I was prescribed some antidepressants and reluctantly I took them. It was amazing how different I started to feel. The light was coming back into my life. I felt that this weight had been lifted and I finally felt like myself again. For the past few years I have been on and off of medication as needed, and although I know some suffer much worse than me, I am grateful that I found something that has worked and allowed me to live my life with joy.

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I am not saying that medication is always the answer for everything or everyone but what I am saying is that if you had appendicitis or strep throat, few people would deny medication. But for some reason when faced with a mental disorder people feel that with sheer will power they will be able to defeat it. My body will not make more insulin if I just tried harder, but that is what is expected of those suffering from mental or emotional disorders.

So I want to express my gratitude for the modern medicine that has helped me in my life. Sarah, Jacob, Jason, Eliza and I have all required special medications for different reasons in the past few years (most still ongoing). I am grateful for the countless dr’s that have helped my family over the years. I am grateful that the medications have worked so far. Do not avoid your mental or emotional illness, treat it as you would any physical challenge. Face it head on.

Elder Holland said “In preventing illness whenever possible, watch for the stress indicators in yourself and in others you may be able to help. As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed, or a tank low on fuel. Fatigue is the common enemy of us all—so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe.”

Whatever your struggle, mental, emotional, physical or otherwise—Know that one day the dawn will break brightly, broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones are healed, and the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind.

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One thought on “Mental illness, the stigma……..

  1. Thank you so much for writing this post and sharing so much of your heart and family with the blog universe! Writing is my therapy and it helps me cope. I too have been in this place you described and finally admitted I needed more medical help. I feel better that I took that step as scary as it was. Now being able to be in control of my mental health has left me feeling stronger and more whole. My family has benefited as well and for me that’s a win/win for us all. ❤️

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