The Mental Health of our Children
This week is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and I wanted to take a moment to speak to some of my own personal experiences on the topic. Before I start I need to preface this with the following. I know that there’s been a lot of conversation around mental health in children. So much so, it’s a hotly debated topic. Misdiagnosis is a major concern. We talked about that issue in adults during episode 3 of the podcast, and the fact isn’t any less true for children. Google is filled with articles that discuss misdiagnoses. That’s why you should take my words with the following caveat. This is based on what I’ve faced and what I’ve dealt with. Any decisions you make regarding your children are decisions you have to make for yourself.
When I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in 2008, I had almost diagnosed myself. My life was like a runaway roller coaster I couldn’t escape. I just didn’t know what caused the problem. Once I knew, and we understood the problems, the circumstances, and the causes, it was possible to go back over time through my life and recognize episodes I was experiencing as a child. It also seemed to explain another very key aspect of my personality. I never smiled. I tried, but they were all awkward and forced.
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder how different life would have been had I knew all of this from the beginning. I used to play a lot of golf. I had some talent but I could never figure out how to play in tournaments. Now I understand why I couldn’t. Because I am acute rapid cycling, I fluctuated between extreme highs and extreme lows in every round. Golf is a game of consistency, but it’s hard to be consistent when your emotions are always in flux.
I also really struggled to make friends with people. It’s hard for people to find interest in being around you when you’re mopey. It’s also hard when people think you’re egotistical and pompous. Relationships are hard when you come across as being two completely different people and both of those people are insufferable.
When I was much older and I’d started to talk to talk to my parents about my struggles they wished they’d have tried to get me help earlier. Looking back on their wish makes me wonder the impact those actions would have had. Would I have been open to help at that stage in my life if they did try to get me help? How would that have impacted my care and my own personal self value? Those are questions we will never be able to answer.
That’s why the point of this blog isn’t to tell you to send your child to talk to someone. Again, only you can make that decision. What I am going to tell you is this–be there for your children. Listen to them, ask them questions, and be involved in their lives. Kids will always try to push you away. I did the same for my parents, but they kept coming and eventually broke through. It didn’t get through until I’d hit rock bottom, but it did get through. As I grew, and moved through high school, my father even became my best friend. As a father now, myself, I can only hope to relationship the kind of relationship he had with me. If I can do that, and take everything I learned from my experiences struggling with my mental health, hopefully I can better recognize any warning signs that may develop in the future. For a week about awareness, that’s the kind of success we should all be hoping for.