The first days of school have passed and for many kids, the initial anxiety of the new school year has subsided and they are settling into a routine. For me, this time period was the most stressful of them all. My son, Joe, typically would start school (with much coercion), but at least he got there. Then, around the second or third week of school the “Great Battles” would begin. He would refuse to get out of bed. Nothing, absolutely nothing, would inspire him. We tried it all – guilt, taking away video games, promising rewards, begging, pleading, crying and even physically trying to get him out of bed. Looking back, this was a rather silly thing to try since my teenage son was much larger than I, but when you are desperate, you’ll try anything. I once managed to drag him out of bed and physically got him out the door. This was a physical feat driven by desperation. All this effort and he just laid there on the porch. A boy in a grown man’s body curled up like a baby. It broke my heart, literally. I can’t adequately describe the emotions, because I can’t fully allow myself to go back to those moments. It’s simply too painful. All I can say is – fear, anxiety, and desperation. Looking at these words in writing, they feel trite. I can’t adequately describe the depth of emotion that reaches the deepest recesses of your heart and soul. I wish these feeling on no one. Now I truly know the meaning of being a parent and caring for another human being more that you care for yourself: unconditional love.
It wasn’t like I was without support. His best friend’s mom, who is one tough cookie, would come and be my mom backup. His dad tried. The assistant principal of his school even came to the house several times. By the fourth phone call, I knew the RESOLVE crisis team number by heart, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything because he was non-violent – not hurting himself or anyone else. Apparently, mental health only counts if you’re physically violent. We finally got services of the Youth Advocate Program, a program designed to help keep kids in school, and one of the therapists finally connected with him. There was an occasional glimmer, but as soon as she reached him; Joe would withdraw back into the deep, dark recesses of himself, into the place where the demons lie. But, a place that was safer for him than facing himself. When you reach these depths of depression, it’s easier to hide.
Joe eventually became a recluse and didn’t leave the house for three months. During this time, he remained untreated by a psychiatrist because he would not go to the doctor. Eventually, I called his medical doctor who has known him from birth. I needed help and was desperate. To make a long story short, I gave up my rights to my child through the court system. Children, Youth, and Family Services (CYF) became involved and another year of dealing with truancy issues, court visits and people in my house every day and failed attempts at trying to reach Joe. Finally, somewhere a light bulb went off in someone’s head that maybe, just maybe, this kid needs intensive help and enter Glade Run’s residential treatment program – a place we needed to be long time ago.
Through this journey, I struggled myself battling my own depression and anxieties and I was on the edge of the proverbial cliff, ready to lose it myself. I felt like one little nudge and that would have been it. Sheer will and perseverance is the only way I survived. One thing that’s for sure, I wish I had heeded the advice and tips sooner I’m giving you here. My life may have been easier and the fight not so desperate. My only regret is that I wish I had more control over my emotions an inner self. Please read the below and take it one step further: practice them one by one. Baby steps …baby steps. You owe it to your family and most importantly yourself.
Take Care of You FIRST
• Stop. Relax and breathe. Take five minutes of your day as often as you need to and breathe, meditate. Relieve your brain of its intense stress.
• Separate from your emotions. This is extremely hard, but necessary. Try so you can think clearly and practically. View this as a life challenge, as a problem you might face at work where you are more analytic. It’s essential to have some modicum of mental control so you don’t become overwhelmed by your own emotions.
• Don’t go it alone. Build yourself a team. They say the best C.E.O. is one who has a trusted team of experts. At minimum, here’s who you need: mental health professional(s), someone who will let you cry on their shoulder and give you unconditional attention when you’re overwhelmed, a person who is pragmatic and practical – one that can help you focus and bring you back to reality and an ally at your child’s school – a teacher, a guidance counselor, or anyone that is willing to work with you and your child and act as your personal liaison to other school and finally, spiritual belief in a higher power to nurture your soul and help you see that you are a part of something much greater than yourself.
About the Author
Cheryl Kelly is the mother of two and a member of the Glade Run Family Advisory committee. She came to Glade Run 2 years ago seeking help for her 17 year old son, who had been diagnosed with clinical depression and severe anxiety since the age of 12. The family spent 3 1/2 years navigating the system, advocating for help, and went through every service imaginable to assist with her son’s medical care. During this time, she was also attempting to manage her own depression while keeping her family intact. Once she found Glade Run, it was a lifesaver for not only her son, but for her entire family. Cheryl would like to use her passion for writing to share her experiences as a form of hope and encouragement to other families as they move along their journey.