You never think on the day you give birth to your child that scary things might await. You’re just so amazed by them, so relieved they made it safely into this world and so grateful to have them in your arms. You snuggle them, you kiss them, you count their fingers and toes and marvel at the miracle of their existence.
Years wear on but the wonder never fully fades. Your child grows, changes, begins to show you who they are in every way. They take you on this incredible journey that you could never have hoped to plan. There are massive highs and desperate lows, all of which tend to fade in the light of just enjoying the presence of the little life whose hand holds onto your own.
Then things happen that no one might want to talk about. Things happen that the world prefers not to face. I wish the choice was in our hands, what we could and could not deal with, but to have that choice is not something we necessarily can be trusted with.
The day J was diagnosed as autistic, it did not hurt. It was a confirmation of something that we’d been discussing among ourselves and his providers for a little while. There was no shock, no dismay and no sorrow. This was a door opening, allowing us to see what we would need to help J be everything he is destined to be. His neurology is different and requires different supports. It is our job to raise him in understanding his neurology and how to work with it. What more could a parent wish than for their child to be confident within their own skin?
Something more is there, though. Something is in J’s wiring that might be beyond the autism. Something that the world doesn’t want to face. It doesn’t carry with it cute pictures of little children in puzzle-piece adorned clothing. It does not wear a month of rabid ‘awareness’ demands with brightly colored advertising splashed across billboards, televisions and print. It is something that is buried away thanks to generations upon generations deciding that we do not talk about mental health.
Those generations failed my parents. They failed my brother.
They will not fail J.
Children as well as adults can struggle with mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), 20% of children ages 13-18 have some form of mental illness. One in FIVE. This is not even looking at younger children like J-Bear.
Why aren’t we, as a nation, talking about this?
Why are we avoiding this? Why is it met with gasps and discomfort when I mention that J is in inpatient care over needs related to this? If I told the world he had a physical illness, I would be encouraged to take him to the finest specialists and to spare no expense on his care. I mention it is likely mental illness co-morbid with autism and the silence grows deafening outside our small, amazing internet community and the small community we’ve drawn together as J has grown.
We stand a chance to raise a new generation not with shame but with the understanding that their mental illness is valid. That they deserve as much care and consideration as any other person with an illness would receive. They are not to be mocked, derided or pushed aside because it makes someone else uncomfortable. We’ve lost humanity in terms of how we deal with the mentally ill. Why the hell aren’t we fighting to get it back?
Right now, we are in the midst of Mental Health Month. Will you stand beside J-Bear and all of the rest of us who struggle and help end the stigma? Please check out NAMI’s site which I linked under Mental Health Month above.
We will get him through this. He will come home ever so soon able to enjoy his life rather than be in this constant cycle of scary impulses and overwhelming emotion. He will be able to enjoy his time with his beautiful Blossom girl and be able to have fun at school again.
I can’t wait. Let’s make this world better for him and his peers while we’re at it.