3 Ways I Wish My Parents Reacted to My Mental Health
When I was 12, I was still afraid to sleep on my own. I had been since I was about 7, and it never really went away. I don’t remember much before that — before I started to feel afraid. Fear is one of my major symptoms; it defined me for so long. My mother used to have to stay with me until I was able to fall asleep, and I would, but two or three hours later I would wake up again, afraid and alone, and had to sleep on my parents’ bed.
When I finally decided I had enough, I told my mother I wanted to see a therapist. Two months later, I told my therapist I wanted to kill myself. She told me everything was “normal” with me and never touched the subject again.
When I turned 14, I was still afraid. I had no friends because I had pushed them all away. I had a week-long migraine crisis, and that’s when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. They only told me my diagnosis when I was older, about 16 or 17, and it was a difficult thing to process. Later on, when I turned 18, I was also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
My parents never spoke to me about it, even though I repeatedly asked them to. So here are a couple of things I would like them to have done differently:
1. Spotted the obvious signs something was very wrong since my early childhood, and not ignored them.
My parents never really liked to face difficult things. Whether it was about their marriage or children, emotional troubles were their weak spot. But when you have a young child very clearly in distress, you should at least refer it to someone who would be able to help them. I remember a time when I was so afraid that I would wake up at 4 a.m. every morning, had bad grades and no friends, cried every night and locked myself in my room, windows shut so I didn’t have the face the sunlight. That’s not “normal” behavior for a 10-year-old. Telling me it was a phase and it would get better eventually, and not really do much more, was not very helpful. It would have saved me a lot of struggling if they had just acknowledged I had a real problem.
2. Read about my illness so they would understand my symptoms.
I am aware I am not an easy person to be around. I also know most of that is due to my wild mood swings, manic-depressive episodes and a very black and white worldview.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was around 14. I am sure my doctor told them about it, but they never talked to me about it. What hurts the most is that they didn’t even bother to read about it, look it up or understand what I’m constantly going through. They expect me to function as a “normal” person, to behave like a “normal” person, and will fight me over every symptom I show, simply because they don’t even know it’s a symptom.
I wish they would just try to understand I’m not being manipulative or dramatic.
3. Not pressure me out of medication or therapy.
My mother has a hatred of one of my medications. It was one of the first meds I was on, and I used it as my SOS when I was having really bad panic attacks. When my mother used to control it, she only gave it to me once, one drop, when my doctor had prescribed at least five or six. Then I began to keep it, so I could actually use it, and she bugs me constantly over whether I’m using it or not, and always tells me how she thinks me taking medication is really absurd, and telling me I am part of this medication generation.
No, Mom. My medication is really important to me so I can manage all of the panic-related symptoms I have, the ones you refuse to acknowledge.
My father asking me why I’m still in therapy, and if I’m not over my “phase” yet, shows how much he discredits me.
I understand all mental illness experience is personal, but these are the most harmful things my parents do to me. If you are a parent of someone with a mental illness, please don’t ignore their illness. It’s a part of them that is really difficult to overcome. They need all of the help and support they can get, especially from their parents.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Photo by Ravi Roshan on Unsplash