I am a low-income 44-year-old single mother of 3 nearly-grown children. I suffer from bipolar disorder. My oldest suffers from ADHD. My middle child suffers from depression. My youngest is also suffering from depression and previously had suicidal thoughts and a gender identity crisis.
Growing up in a dysfunctional alcoholic abusive home set the stage for my entire life. I believe I suffered from ADHD as a teen, but my parents were not open to being the subject of scrutiny by allowing any of their kids to have therapy or medication, even though at least two of them had attempted suicide.
As I became an adult, I took more and more control of my life. At 16 I was emancipated and have been alienated from my family most of the time since. When I had my own kids, I swore I would never expose them to violence or addiction–stricken parents. I did not realize that I was deeply scarred and emotionally damaged and that this inflicted emotional distress. I had carried over the stigma of not seeking mental health services for myself or my kids.
It wasn’t until my son’s ADHD caused him to get in hot water at school in 4th grade that I was forced to finally address the reality that is mental health. That’s how my road began. It’s sad that it had to be an extreme situation for me to get help for myself and family. My son was nearly expelled. His behavior was spiraling out of control. The worst part was that there was no help to be had for him to stay out of trouble. In order for him to get it, he had to seriously break the law. That’s what I was trying to prevent!
Thankfully his father, stepfather, and I worked well together with each other in managing his behavior and it never got to that point. In dealing with his therapist and psychologists I finally started to identify my own issues and realized how deeply I buried so much emotion. So much so that I could not express and identify the right feeling. No matter how I was feeling, I expressed it with anger or rage.
Then it was discovered that my daughter had secretly been photographed in the nude at a very young age by a trusted pediatrician. This caused many emotions in our entire family. At that point everyone got a therapist to guide us all through the trauma that this doctor caused. It was a nightmare. It made us question all the doctors we visited and many changes were made for trust reasons. The girls got female doctors. As I went through therapy, I had a hard time trying to identify all my emotions, finding the right combination of medicine for my bipolar disorder to be managed, and waiting for the manic episodes of depression to subside. It was a hard process to get it right and took long trial and error.
Looking back on it, I can see clearly now why some people might give up in the process because of that trial and error period. Medicine, especially psychiatric medicine, isn’t perfected and tailored to every individual. It’s not like penicillin, which works the same for everyone in some form.
After I had finally gotten to the right mind space, my youngest came out as transgender. That started an entirely new set of doctors and therapists. I admit I had no idea how to handle any of it. It’s hard to comprehend your child’s emotions when you yourself have never felt the emotions and thought about what they are feeling for yourself. I kept my mind open. I did a ton of research reading and joined an online support group to ask questions and learn the ropes of what to expect. I got referrals from my best sources and found an incredible therapist that dealt especially with the LGBTQ+ community. I was amazed at the flawless transition into the updated version of my child. If I hadn’t gone through the mental health system as thoroughly as I had, it could have gone extremely different, as the suicide risk for the young people with gender identity crises is higher.
Without resources, exposure, and the knowledge that everyone experiences depression at some point, my life would have a very different perspective and outlook.
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