“Mental health problems don’t define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain and you feel the rain, but, importantly, YOU ARE NOT THE RAIN.” — Matt Haig
I look over the intake papers and heave a heavy sigh. This has been a hard season in our family. Daily we were watching our son slip into trauma behaviors that left us all emotionally exhausted. It felt like Marvin was taking a path that I couldn’t follow him on.
Of the 74.5 million children in the United States, an estimated 17.1 million have or have had a psychiatric disorder — more than the number of children with cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.2 Half of all psychiatric illness occurs before the age of 14, and 75 percent by the age of 24 according to Child Mind Institute.
This is heartbreaking. I’m his mom. I can’t fix this. I should be able to fix this. But I can’t. I look at the papers again. The questions are hard. Are there the right answers?
We tried everything. In-home services, weekly counseling, diet changes, and lots of tools to help him. His room is postered with papers on calming strategies. He’s got the most amazing team of people who have lined up to help him.
Marvin says when his mood changes, it’s like a hurricane running through his mind. His anger grabs him white and burning. He loses himself and nothing makes sense. All he wants to do is break things. And he does. He wants to stop he says, but he just can’t.
I fill out the papers. I fax them in. These papers will place my son in a day treatment program that works with trauma kids. We know it’s what he needs but I would give anything for him not to need it.
I have been thinking a lot. We spend so much time talking about Cerebral Palsy, Mitochondrial Disease, and even constipation around here. They are part of the fabric of conversation and education in our everyday life. But the one thing that overshadows our lives is the one thing that we need to talk about the most.
This isn’t Marvin’s fault. But it is our responsibility. Not just to find support, which is already like finding a needle in a haystack, but to start having conversations. Honest ones. There is a real stigma attached to mental illness and that needs to end.
I’m not embarrassed that Marvin is in day treatment. Neither is he. Marvin is a good kid who has to live with mental illness. He spends his mornings in therapy and afternoons doing homebound schooling.
I know we still have a long road ahead of us. This program is not a magic fix. This a long haul. But we know we have an amazing team who cares about Marvin and our family. And Marvin is amazing. He’s funny, smart, and has already overcome so much in his life. I am able to see the light of hope despite the darkness. And even if I can’t fix this, I can share my hope with Marvin until he is able to find his own. We won’t let the darkness win.