I’m 32 years old. I come from a very conservative, Christian family, in which mental illness has run rampant, but untreated and ignored, for generations. My parents generation, however, all wiser up and got help of some sort, as needed. Well, all except my parents, particularly my dad, who, for many years, and possibly even to this day, believed that anything beginning with the word “psycho-“ was just “pseudo-science” and “quackery”. According to him, “mental illness” was all just spiritual. He’s very convincing, too.
My parents are incredible people, the kind who have given several families a place to live, while they’ve gotten back on their feet, and are usually next to broke, from replacing/repairing broken down vehicles of friends/family, who simply don’t have the means to do it themselves, but need a vehicle to continue to make a living. They’ve been there for me my entire life, in every way they knew how, and still are. They are truly wonderful...
...But they were 100% clueless as to what to do with their 14 year old whose grades suddenly dropped from “A” honor roll to struggling to pass multiple classes, or their 15 year old who was harming herself, or the 19 year old who was telling outrageous lies to excuse her failure to attend college classes.
I was placed in a counseling group of students selected by teachers who believed that they were struggling, even though they weren’t acting out, and learned that I had mild to moderate depression. Yeah, they tried to explain that, and I thought I got it, but I had no clue that 20 years later it would be seen as the overarching theme for 2/3rds of my life. I don’t remember if I told my parents, at that point, but I can say with confidence, that if I did I was either brushed off, or told to look for the positive, etc. Good advice for life, but not what I needed.
I was self-harming by pinching with my nails as “punishment” for small mistakes by then, a practice which has evolved into various pain-inducing behaviors over the years. When I was caught, the counselor made me tell my parents, and both the counselor and my aunt suggested they get me into counseling. I only went to 3, before my dad threatened to send me to the local mental hospital, if I didn’t stop the self harm, and I became scared that the therapist would find out and have me “locked up”, away from my family. I was terrified, but just learned how to hide my behaviors.
All the whole, my parents struggled to understand what I was going through. What they couldn’t possibly comprehend was that I was at least as lost as they were about it!
I remember them asking “What’s so wrong with your life that you want to hurt yourself?”
I replied, “That’s the point! If my life was rough, this would more or less make sense, but I have a wonderful, loving family, food, clothes, everything! It’s not my life that’s broken, it’s *ME*!”