When it’s an illness, there’s a plan. When it’s a death, there’s a path. But, when it’s mental health it’s like entering a fog – a very thick fog. You take one step forward and four steps sideways. Then you walk up a wall vertically, do the hokey pokey and end up right where you started. Something like that, anyways.
It’s been 2,664 hours since a mental health emergency changed our family. That’s 111 days, 159,840 minutes or 30.41% of 2019. Not that I’m counting.
That’s nearly four months of not knowing what the next day will bring, of relying heavily, maybe too heavily, on friends to just make it day to day, driving up and down the state to psychiatric residential treatment facilities. P-R-T-F, the four word acronym that I’ve been afraid to say out loud.
It’s 15 weeks of trying to figure out what to say to people and what not to say. Of speaking in creative euphemisms about children with complex medical issues. About worrying whether I’m telling too much of my child’s story when someone asks or when I’m writing in this space.
I’m really tired of dancing around the fact that we’ve been dealing with acute psychiatric issues all summer. In not just one child, but two.
When I say tired, I don’t mean physically, though there’s that. Not mentally, because, yes, it’s taxing, but our community has wrapped us tighter than we could have imagined. I mean tired as in frustrated with the stigmas, misconceptions and, here in the South, cultural traditions that scream “hide your crazy.”
For the past few weeks, words have been rolling around in my mind to describe this incredibly hard, seemingly impossible, yet very blessed trail that we’ve found ourselves on. A thought here, a word picture there and a million different considerations about saying something this way or the other or being right or being wrong.
Talking about this with a friend today, the thoughts congealed into three words: Honesty, Jesus and Beer.
Honesty: Because literally no one talks about the mental health components of the foster care/adoption journey. Everything that we’ve been through has to count for something, even if it’s just to ensure other parents don’t feel alone in this muck.
Jesus: Because the Creator of my children didn’t make a mistake. They’re not broken. Not damaged. Because, even if I don’t understand what they’re going through or what they’re experiencing, God is good. He’s too good for comprehension.
Beer: Because life is real. These experiences are hard. Self-care is important. Beer tastes good. And, dancing around people’s dogmas and unnecessary rules is exhausting. Our culture spends too much time putting the spotlight on things that aren’t important.
I’ve probably just written some of the most honest words I’ve ever pressed into a MacBook keyboard. We’re in an ultra-marathon and I can’t sprint along this course anymore. Time to take it nice, slow and authentic. After all, when the last word is written on this most outrageous summer, the words will be: “end of chapter 1.”