I imagine that I will actually do a series of posts about this next topic. However, here I will try to keep true to the title and talk about what a parent can expect. What is the next truth – your child will be discriminated, shunned, and despised for the disease he or she has. This truth is so universal that I don’t need a disclaimer (like some children will experience) because unfortunately, every child with a mental disease will experience this.
I didn’t experience this immediately. While my father had difficulties understanding my disease, and even believing that I had the disease the denial was based in love. So it was coached; it was subtle attacks. I didn’t really notice the full frontal attacks until much later.
Those attacks came after my second breakdown. (The first was in college and really I was on my own then) By the time my second breakdown came along I had a full-time job, a husband, and a child. My life was full, and I had never made it a secret that I had a disease. This was the biggest mistake in my life. Let me repeat that, not keeping my disease a secret was the biggest mistake of my life. It would be used against me in so many ways, to this day I have learned to never speak of it to anyone.
To make a long story short, when I had my breakdown I lost my job, my self-confidence, and a slew of friends. Did I deserve to lose my job? Probably. A breakdown is never an immediate thing, it happens over a period of time and anyone in your way is going to get burned. Did I deserve to lose my self-confidence or my friends, no. But my friends, and you can call them “so-called” but they were truly good people, walked away. They were scared of me. They were scared of what I was capable of. And it stemmed from a lack of knowledge about a disease they didn’t live with, and didn’t know enough about.
My life went on from there, and I would find other instances where I was absolutely discriminated against. People find out someone has a mental disease and they either back up in genuine fear, or they look at you with such a blend of disgust and such curiosity that you feel like you are in the zoo.
Your child will have this experience. They will have people who find out and profess to be scared of them. They will have people who find out and will fire them, hurt them, and in many ways change who they are and who they thought they could count on. I never speak about it to anyone.
I have even visited a doctor who refused to treat me, because they believed without any proof that not only was the problem in my head, but that if I just started taking my meds again, it would all go away. At the time, I was taking my medicines religiously. But this doctor, who I saw once, never believed me; never could get past the reality that I have a mental disease.
When you get the news that your child is mentally diseased, there was probably a tiny part of you that questioned if he or she was going to go to the local movie theater and kill a bunch of people. It’s normal considering that it is mental disease that is blamed for such acts; no matter if it an excuse or the truth. And that little thought, that little moment you had is the same thought and the same moment that everyone has. Some go on to dismiss the idea, and other fear that it is true. And your innocent child is painted with the same brush; by you, by their friends, and even by the community. It is an inescapable truth.
The first piece of advice I have is even if you have that thought, never let your child know. There is enough fear when first diagnosed these diseases that you child never needs to know that you feel the same. You must be completely and soul fully supportive for your child. You can’t castrate those who react badly to your children for their disease, but you can absolutely think it. Showing your child the doubts, the fears, the uncertainty only adds to their pain. And if you are willing to read this article, then I know you are not going to purposefully cause your child pain.
Second, you can’t change the world easily, no matter how far your reach on the internet is. But what you can do is change the perception of those around you. When you hear a horrific event attributed simply to a mental disease, without proof, stop the continuation of it. When you are asked questions that are simple fantasy, not based in reality, say something. When your friends and relatives start in, stop them and change their minds. Those that are close to you can touch your child; keep them from do so through a slap.
I don’t wish a mental disease on anyone. I would never give someone that which I suffer from everyday. Wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t consider it. And one of the main reasons is because of the absolute hell one is visited upon time and time again when the reality of this disease is known.
Encourage your child to keep the disease a secret; not out of shame but out of self-preservation. This encouragement is hard to get across because you don’t want your child to feel like you are ashamed of them; but it is an encouragement that ultimately will protect your child.
Educate your child early on the possible reactions to mental disease. Don’t hide it, like my parents did, but tell your child that they might expect in this world unfair, and uneducated behaviour. And never, and I mean never, tell your child that you ever had a doubt about them. They don’t need to know that you also for one second thought of them as dangerous or unlovable; it will crush them faster than all the rest of world jumping on them at the same time.