In my family, we have experience with a variety of conditions. My first-born has a series of mental health diagnoses. My second-born has cancer. And, I have my own experience dealing with Lyme Disease and anxiety.
As a rule, I do not compare between my children. I equally do not want to compare the pain and hardship of people battling different diseases. Instead, I want to acknowledge that cancer, mental illness, and other lesser known medical conditions all come with loads of pain, suffering, and hardship.
In my experience, the hardship is distributed differently. I think of one like a wrecking ball and the other as a heavy, unending rope.
The Wrecking Ball: Cancer hits like a wrecking ball, stopping you in your tracks. If you are a "lucky" cancer patient, you might avoid being taken out entirely by its forceful swing. To all those battling cancer or caring for a loved one with cancer, I am with you. Helping my child navigate this disease has been like nothing else I've experienced.
The Rope: Mental illness is a heavy load of rope that stretches out forever. You drag this rope with you every. where. you. go. You may trip over it, be slowed by its weight, get tangled up in its grips - or worse.
As a parent, I’m tired. But, I know that I am not alone. I have met a small handful of parents who are going through similar challenges. And that makes all the difference. Yet, there is one aspect that I was not prepared for.
While I never compare my children or their struggles, children often compare themselves to others. It has been hard to see my first-born realize that society does not fully understand the pain and hardship of someone battling mental illness. Our first-born watches our second-born receive card after card, gift after gift, emblazoned with: Brave, Strong, Heroic, Amazing, and more. All the while, our first-born wakes up to her own (invisible?) battles each morning, drags them to school with her, and tries to put them to bed each night.
As parents, we work for our first-born to be seen/understood by insurers, school staff, family members, friends, and even our medical providers. I hope that we can teach our society more about these invisible and lesser-known struggles so that those who come next get more support, less judgment, and less assumptions.
I truly hope that this post lifts up all who are struggling and does not imply that one battle is harder or worse than another. Cancer is hard. Mental illness is hard. All deserve support, compassion, and empathy.
To those battling cancer, mental illness, or a lesser known disease, you are all [insert word from inspirational greeting card]. And, not always because you want to be. Sometimes, just because you have to be.
#Cancer #Leukemia #AcuteLymphoblasticLeukemia #OCD #ObsessiveCompulsiveDisorder #TouretteSyndrome #tics #Anxiety #PANSPANDAS #LymeDisease