Honesty: Someone has to talk about mental health issues

Begin Chapter 2. A month after taking a deep breath at the end of along summer, the next part of our marathon begin last night like the crack of a bat. In the last blog, I mused about a four-part series. I guess this is Part II on honesty.

There are things a person just shouldn’t know. They shouldn’t know where the best outlet is in the hospital cafeteria or how to coach EMS on a pediatric psychiatric emergency. They most certainly shouldn’t that the visitor locker for Room X in the psych ward doesn’t exist, maybe that’s why the nurse stood agape when I told her I’d put my stuff in unmarked locker at the bottom before I even approached the locker nook.

I really shouldn’t know the best outlet to plug in at the hospital cafeteria.

Truth is, there are many, many more parents who know these things than just us. There are parents who can share the torment of disrupting an already placed adoption. There are those that can tell you what it’s like to call the police on their own child. And, there are many that can relate to you about the unexpected role they play as a mental health caregiver as they foster and/or adopt children with deep trauma backgrounds.

Have you ever stopped to listen to their stories? Have you heard one of them volunteer their experiences? No. Why? Stigmas. Our society is so full of stigmas about mental health that it is far more preferable to walk in the shadows than to live in community with those around us.

In the south, we have a phrase, “hide your crazy.” Many of us do just that… literally. We don’t discuss the mental health aspects of our foster and adoption journeys. Why? We have no clue how people will react. We won’t know how our experiences and deep struggles will spin out from the gossip mill. Those of us on this ride have all experienced the judgmental glances when something does slip out.

Let’s put it like this. My office is downtown among the skyscrapers. This summer was hot, ya’ll. When I’d leave to find food, I’d plot my route according to how many shadows I could walk in along the streets. I’d arrive at the food place less sweaty, sticky and hot than if I had soaked in the full sun. I got quite good about plotting which side of the street and which alley shortcut would give me the most shade for my route.

Our family does this in everyday life. So do many others. We don’t hide or introvert, but we chose to move through the streets of life in the shadows to avoid the direct glare of people don’t understand, understand or choose to give opinions a little too freely. We move through life with a little less stress, without shame and comfortable, even if we miss key interactions and experiences along the way.

I wish our society was different. I wish a mental health care diagnosis was treated with the same reverence and respect as a cancer battle.

I wish our hospitals and medical facilities were so well equipped to handle behavioral health issues that people would come out of the woodwork for treatment, not wallow while waiting for one of the few empty beds in the state.

I wish more people would talk about mental health and normalize these struggles in our culture.

So, I’ll take a step, by writing this. By entering the perennial debate over what to share and when. Because, honestly… truthfully there are far too many parents, especially those from foster care backgrounds, afraid to come out of isolation for fear of all the stigmas. That really, really, shouldn’t be.

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3 thoughts on “Honesty: Someone has to talk about mental health issues

  1. Parents, children, siblings and loved one are “hiding the crazy” all across the U.S. The mental healthy stigma exists for parents supporting their biological children’s, sibling’s, parent’s and their own mental health needs. Somehow not understanding what is happening in the mind is scarier than not understanding a failing heart. The shadows are cooler, but not safer or healthier for the person in need or the person giving care. Just like your walk, use them for temporary shelter because you can’t avoid the light or live in the shadow.

    Standing in the light with you.

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  2. I agree about stigmas Andrew, but (as much as my children hated it), Peter and never hid what we went through with our kids…we felt that people needed to know that others experienced what they may be experiencing…we talked about it with family and friends…support groups and therapists…doctors and nurses…anyone who would listen. It was OUR release valve…our way of gaining support for ourselves as well as our kids. And, we are still open to sitting down with any other parent and sharing our experiences…our family’s story as a show of support.

    Yes, we’ve been through something similar, or no, we’ve never experienced what you’re experiencing, but we are willing to listen if it helps. So, all that said, again, our door is open if you’d like to come on through. We have two fairly well-adjusted adult children now….but not before we walked a very difficult path.

    I wish you and Chrissy well in whatever this new venture is old friend.

    Karyn XO

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