My Child’s Mood Disorder: Giving Thanks To Those Who Show Compassion

Not too long ago, “mental health” was a term you didn’t hear in polite company. It carried an aura of shame so strong that you only discussed it in whispers. Fortunately, the stigma associated with mental health has been left where it belongs: on history’s trash heap of outdated prejudices.

But all too often, the general public still has trouble telling the difference between mental health problems and bad behavior, particularly when it comes to children. My son — we’ll call him “the challenging one” — has a mood disorder. He’s properly treated and medicated now, but it took us 10 years to get to where we are today. And those years were rough. There were plenty of days when the only thing I accomplished was getting through the day.

Having a child whose main goal in life seemed to be proving that “You’re not the boss of me!” was draining enough, but the judgment of other moms made it so much harder. I get it: Once upon a time, I, too, would have wondered what was wrong with the mom who couldn’t control her kid on the playground. I, too, would have concluded that all a child like mine needed was a good kick in the rear. So maybe that’s why the people who showed us kindness and compassion stand out in my memory so strongly, and I’m more grateful than they’ll ever know. It’s time to say “thank you”:

  • To the mom who led my younger children away when my oldest was having a meltdown.
  • To the neighbors who were always wiling to welcome my younger children when I sent them down the street to get them out of the house during a particularly bad episode.
  • To the stranger who kept my other children corralled when I had to manhandle my oldest into the car.
  • To everyone who asked “What can I do to help?” when my child was talking back, refusing to obey, and just generally behaving abominably.
  • To my dear friends who took his behavior in stride and still welcomed us into their homes.
  • To everyone who understood that, just because they didn’t see consequences for bad behavior, it didn’t mean there weren’t any, and who understood that sometimes safety and sanity had to take precedence and that I would hand out consequences once I got everyone home.

Most of all, thank you to everyone who didn’t assume they could do a better job, who didn’t assume it was just a matter of finding the right disciplinary strategy, and who understood that an oppositional child will argue with anyone and everyone and cares less about any potential consequence than he does about “winning.”

Most of all, though, I’d like to pass my gratitude on by encouraging everyone to show kindness to a mom who’s clearly struggling. I promise you that she’ll remember.

Image source: Flickr