Friday, March 3, 2017

Invisible illnesses


I am going to be a little personal here as I would like to reiterate on my last post about aging.

In a lot of ways, yes, I am getting in touch with my youth but in a lot of other ways, I am grateful for some of the more harrowing experiences I had as a child as they shaped me into the adult I am today. Some of my experiences with my parents helped shape the mother I am today with my son. You see, I come from the generation where my parents shrugged off mental illness. It wasn't discussed because you "didn't want to get thrown in the looney bin" and I want to hopefully encourage others to have a discussion with their children. For me, I was probably around the same age as my son (school-aged) and wasn't a teen before I started displaying symptoms of having anxiety.

According to my parents, depression and anxiety were "just a phase" or I was being a "typical teenager" and I would "grow out of it" I am sure for many young goths, these terms are the bane of our existence. I know it was for me! Here I am, in my late thirties, I still have these issues and am I am still goth. Sorry mom and dad, it wasn't just a phase, after all! I don't want to come across as I am bashing my folks online, I do realize today that my folks did the best they could BUT I personally refuse to put my head in the sand about this when it comes to my child. I simply want to write about the importance of being able to communicate with your children about their emotional well being. I grew up in a household where my father thought a cup of tea would solve everything and my mom shrugged it off. Looking back, I realized that perhaps things could have been different if someone in my life told me they understood or that they had some empathy towards me. I would also like to point out, as contradictory as this may sound, I personally have a hard time respecting anyone who uses their situation as a crutch to justify bad behavior. I was guilty of this. It sucks having any issues but it doesn't mean that it gives anyone the right to make excuses for being an ass. I can be the most sympathetic, understanding person on this planet BUT I have a hard time helping people who try not to help themselves. I know when under the knife so to speak, it is hard to want to get help for yourself when you feel like shit but it IS doable. As a parent, I also wish to teach my kid that yes, you can feel whatever you want but it is how you behave that is important. Sometimes, one must take responsibility.

As a teenager, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Over the years, I learned the hard way to deal with my ailments without any desire to have a pity party around me. I am very fortunate to not require medication (although I am very open to the possibility should I ever require it) for my situation. I learned how to cope with it

Being a parent enabled me to be more self-aware of MY emotional well being, after all, how am I to care for someone dependent on me if I were to be a basket case? There are times I don't want to get out of bed and I have a hard time managing my anxiety but I remember my son and it helps me. I have a pretty valid reason to really be proactive with this but I do realize that I am lucky.

Now that I am a parent myself, I am paranoid that my child may have anxiety. Remember, I was roughly his age when there were warning signs with me. I have seen some red flags (I could be wrong) but out of respect for Philip, I do not wish to go into details or specifics. I would much rather feel stupid over having an irrational fear of my kid's mental well being than him going down the same road I did when I was younger.


The point of this post is to stress the importance of being able to talk to your children. Please don't make the same mistakes my parents made. This is something that might not be a phase or shrugged off. I get it. For someone who has never had a mental illness, it is hard to understand.  I know my parents today regret not listening to me. It broke my father's heart to see me in that depressive state and he blamed himself for it. Start a conversation. It doesn't have to be about anxiety or depression. Ask your kids how they feel and really listen. What I wanted the most when I was younger was to have someone who understood me or at least listen to me and I didn't get that.  I remember this and don't want to repeat the pattern. I made it very clear to my little one that I understood some of it. I also stressed that I may not understand everything as I am not in his head but I made it very clear that I will do my best to try to understand. He has my empathy. His feelings matter, they are important. I may not like how he can react to some of his feelings but I will never judge him for having them. I will correct bad behavior though. I made it very clear that he can come to me for anything. He is safe with me. That is another thing. Make sure you listen to the little silly things now because to a child, they can be pretty big. If you don't listen to their silly kid problems now, what makes you think they will talk to you about more serious issues later on?

Again, I don't blame my parents anymore as I know they did the best that they could do but we are no longer in the eighties and nineties. I am sure there will be a day where my little one points out any mistakes I made, I am waiting to hear them! I discovered so many resources in my area that are available for not only my kid but for me too! Let's move forward.  If you are a parent with a child with any form of mental illness, don't be ashamed. My depression and anxiety made me a very creative, kind, empathic person. If I were given a choice to have a life free of anxiety and depression, I wouldn't take it. It helped shape the person I am today. I know where to find beauty in the dark.

12 comments:

  1. I grew up in the 60s and 70s and, looking back, see all the emotional and mental issues that surrounded me. Some of them I saw even then. But, to be absolutely blunt, there was absolutely no help available in those days. At least not in small prairie centres. Unless you had a breakdown and ended up in the mental hospital, there simply were no doctors or therapists to consult. People just muddled along as best they could. I think things are better in that regard today.

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    1. I agree. Things are better nowadays!

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  2. I can confirm shrugging off kid's problems is the worst thing to do both to the kid and to parent's relationship with them.
    I might be 10 years younger than you, but my parents, too, come from the generation where they don't believe in 'invisible' mental ilnesses. For them, a person is mentally ill when they act visibly loony, if not, then everything is okay, because, yeah, just like you wrote: 'who would want to get thrown in the looney bin' and 'what would people say' (WHAT WOULD PEOPLE SAY. This gets on my nerves the most, whenever I hear this bullshit it makes me want to throw really heavy and really sharp things. What kind of argument is that even?! And which people? Neighbours? My neighbourhood is literally all hobo drunkards, druggies, thieves and all similar lows of society, why would I give a damn about their opinion on me? But my parents don't understand even that.). I, too, have anxiety (social) and I was a shy kid who was forcibly socialized. It doesn't work.
    And this: 'If you don't listen to their silly kid problems now, what makes you think they will talk to you about more serious issues later on?'. Oh yes. Because both my parents and my teachers weren't supportive of me when I tried to talk about some problems I experienced, I grew to be untrustful towards adults and I don't look for help in anybody. That way, I'm bound to sit forever in that shithole which my mind is without medication and therapies, unless I'll battle it with my own willpower, because I can't trust a doctor to tell them things. This is where ignoring a kid's problems can lead - to condemning them to living in hell inside their own minds. And anybody who'd shrug this off doesn't deserve to be a parent, ever.

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    1. I am so sorry you have to go through all that. *hugs*

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  3. I love that you can embrace the anxiety. I really blame my mother for mine, an i think it's a heavy burden. I hope that I one day in the future will look at it your way instead.

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    1. Personally, I can't change it so instead of letting it get the better of me, I try to work with it. Its not easy but it can be done.

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  4. I had anxiety all my life but i never realised it wasnt normal until I was an adult. It's definitely something I would watch for in a kid and hope to be able to help with.

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    1. Exactly! If I am wrong with my kid...well so be it. I much rather feel stupid than shrug it off.

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  5. Hm...my mother still thinks that mental disorders and anxiety is just something one makes up as an excuse for being lazy...I don't balme her, because she is obviously struggling too, plus she's in total denial...But in fact, her attitude is the very reason of my anxieties...
    There seems to be a miles deep generational chasm between our parents and us and perhaps that's why such a high percentage of our generation is struggling with some kind of mental illness. But like you said, it shapes us and those of us, who don't put their heads into the sand about it, tend to be more open - minded, understand and considerate...

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    1. I think we all have anxiety to a certain point and I think to a certain degree it's normal BUT undermining what someone else is going through is not healthy. I think as a parent, we need to be a little more patient and understanding. I also think it is important to teach kids that it is OK to feel the way they do but help them find coping mechanisms to help them. Unfortunately for many of us, we were never taught this because our feelings were shrugged off.

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  6. Thank you for sharing this! It was a very inspiring post. Thought undiagnozed, I believe I have anxiety symptoms and I fear they might get in the way or make me selfish when I'll have a child myself. I am so inspired to hear from you that your mental health and everything that comes with it have made you a better parent!
    My parents are really like yours - my mom would shrug things off too, or worse, claim I am "imagining it", the most horrid excuse to this day. I was afraid to tell my mom certain things during my worst mental times because I didn't want to make her worry, yet didn't think she would understand. However it also motivated me to go forward and focus on being more positive and productive without dark thoughts swallowing me whole. Have it not been for good friends, I would have never made it alone.
    Communication is so important. We need to communicate everything to our dearest and loved ones. Especially on such personal matters. I find it a pity older generation communicate differently in the family unlike today. I do feel things are changing.

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    1. I think things are changing too and I am grateful you found friends you can rely on to help you.

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