This is probably a familiar scenario. You are with a group of friends who know you’ve been struggling with a child’s mental illness or drug abuse–and absolutely no one asks about your child.
You’ve been through hell and back. You are emotionally spent and wrung out trying to maintain some level of functioning.
You hope someone will ask. But they don’t
It hurts. It hurts so much, you want to cry. You want to break down. You feel so isolated and alone like no one in the world cares.
Then you feel very very small all of a sudden. It’s almost like you fold up within yourself.
How could no one care enough to ask?
Yet they carry on with their stories of soccer scholarships and child who is headed to med school. And here you were delighted that your son was not absent from school for 2 entire weeks, didn’t threaten the teacher for 3 days or got a job at Wendy’s. You just need a little credit and acknowledgement for not having the life they are having. A little room to celebrate your successes.
Maybe it’s just too awkward for them. Maybe it’s not the right time. Perhaps it’s because they don’t know how to broach the subject.
People are not yet ready to boldly ask given that personalities and sense of privacy differ. Explaining what you need works. It helps. They really can’t read your mind or understand how desperately you crave that emotional support.
By avoiding you and your troubles, they are missing out on connecting on a deeper level which is the hallmark of a valued long-term relationship. They miss out on understanding something that might help them some day.
It’s time you embraced fearlessness
Give them permission to ask.
They don’t know how yet and they need your help.
Start with a hint. And if that doesn’t do the trick, I am going to ask those of you struggling to be bold and simply speak up when you are hurting. To those you can trust. If you think about it, what do you have to lose really?
Ask this: “Why hasn’t anyone asked me about my son/daughter [insert name here]?” Help someone not understanding your situation to understand it better. Break the ice because you need that support.
You’ll be surprised at what you get back. And usually it’s a good thing.
Go a step further and find a support group*
No excuses. Try it for 6 weeks.
Bonding with those in similar situations helps you take care of yourself so you can support your child the way you need to. It also keeps you from oversharing with friends who are not in the same situation and have only so much capacity for the subject.
I know you can’t go public. I understand that risk. I no longer have those barriers.
Look at this as an opportunity to do your part in overcoming stigma. By simply educating one group of friends, you’ve made the life of your child easier in years to come.