I’m about to get really personal. But the thing is, I don’t really understand WHY it’s so personal. Mental health isn’t an issue that we should feel like we have to speak of in hushed tones, a subject we only approach when feeling at our most vulnerable, or something we are brought up to believe is a taboo topic. It shouldn’t be. We don’t talk about it enough, and more and more, I can’t understand WHY. Why can we talk about having cancer or a cold or a sprained ankle and getting help for those things but NOT for help getting through the mental struggles we see on a day to day basis?
I’ve talked about my own mental health on my blog. I’m an open book, I’ve never tried to hide any of my struggles from my issues with food and gaining weight to my depression over my father’s death. But I’ve been more hesitant to talk about my family, because I’ve always felt that their story isn’t my story to share. But I’m realizing a lot of people I’ve opened up to in confidence have struggled with the same things we are going through, and it feels so good to know when you’re not alone. It normalizes it, and I think that’s really what we need most. So here goes.
I love my family. All of them. I wouldn’t trade who they are for a second. But my oldest son, now 8 years old, has always been the most challenging member of the family. From about the age of three, he’s always wanted everything a certain “way.” He’d line up the legos by color and he had his five very specific “buddies” which were stuffed animals that needed to be with him in bed every night. Sometimes, he’d arrange them and rearrange them for what felt like forever. As he got older, we saw more and more of this, and it was later labeled “hyper focus” and has prevented him from moving on from one task to the next without completing the first perfectly. Many kids do this, but sometimes it is painfully clear that he can’t move past certain patterns or “let it go” the same way I see other people do so. For many years, I shrugged this off because I am very similar. I was the weird kid with the clean room because I was compulsive about things being in their places and I was always a perfectionist when it came to homework. It served me well mostly, though it could certainly tie up my time. I love “to do” lists, but if you spend too much time making the list and not enough time actually doing what’s on the list, it can be a problem.
But over the years, it became harder and harder on our family to watch our son struggle with these issues. He will explode into enormous rages when things don’t go according to plan. His little brother has learned to go to another room and will openly cry when he sees these explosions. And my husband wants to know why I can’t help him, why he can’t either, and how we are supposed to deal with these problems that are so clearly causing our family distress. I told him I wanted to send our son to therapy and he accused me of pawning it off on someone else.
But here’s the thing. I could be mad at my husband, but I know it’s how he was raised, especially as a boy. You learn to behave and you spend some “guy time” with your dad and play catch in the backyard or go camping, and all is well, right? But are they getting through the issues, or just burying them? When are we going to get past all this “Be A Man” bullshit and admit that it’s okay to talk about our feelings and it’s okay to ask for help?
Mental pain is really no different in physical pain. The problem is you can’t see it. If my son fell off his bike and broke his arm, my husband wouldn’t tell him to “shake it off,” he’d take him to the hospital to get it fixed. Why is it so different when he’s clearly struggling through a rage and doesn’t know how to recover from it? It’s not a switch and it can’t be turned on and off like a light can. And if there’s nothing that can be done to make it better, it makes as good parent feel like a failure. Despite my husband’s reservations, I opted to proceed with counseling. These days, when my kids are stuck inside with no one else to socialize, it’s gotten much worse and it’s beyond what I can handle. I am not a doctor, and just as I’m not trained to fix that broken arm, I can’t repair it.
Why is it that when we are struggling with “big feelings,” we feel like it’s not a big deal? Why is it that just because we can’t physically see someone’s pain that they aren’t suffering? And if they are brave and admit to it, why are they shunned? Is it because it’s like shining a mirror in the faces of everyone else’s weaknesses and we aren’t willing to address them?
I do agree that as a whole, people are overly medicated. There are probably a lot of people relying on drugs, both legal and conventional and illegals and mind-numbing.
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