Every once in a while I had to make this declaration.
It meant, “I’m done for today.”
It meant, “Time out!”
I needed to give my brain a break from the emotional mayhem of caring for a stubborn child that suffered from anxiety, depression and addiction. I needed that break so I could refuel and come back fighting.
As parents, we get to that point.
The system is so frustrating, support so lacking, it often feels like no one is on your side. And let’s face it. We can’t always get cooperation from our loved ones either. Watching someone self destruct is no picnic.
In mental health, parents have to be air traffic controllers
If your kid has cancer, you have a medical team behind you giving you direction. You have a community that supports you. While that journey is heartbreaking and by no means easy, the support that comes with it helps you refuel.
With mental health, you are the one trying to connect the dots in a system that has all sorts of road blocks for connecting them. The phrase “continuity of care” has no relation to mental illness. At least in Virginia, they’ve never met.
We can’t really “give up” on our babies. As a spouse, you can divorce someone although that is a gut wrenching experience. But you can’t divorce your child. You know you have to be there when no one else in the world is. You know you carry the message of hope and sometimes have to fake it to believe it yourself.
Sometimes we falter and say that “I’m done!” phrase in our heads or to our spouse because we’re emotionally spent and exhausted. I know Charles felt it in that last phone call. He read my confusion and mind exhaustion as having given up on him. My brain went unresponsive at the very moment I needed it most. I even remember thinking, I need time to think, I need time to think. What am I hearing?
The fear that I would make the wrong decision at the wrong time was always hovering over me. I couldn’t research fast enough. I couldn’t secure phantom resources. I couldn’t find enough money, having sold as many things as I could get my hands on. Even worse, I couldn’t figure out what was truth and what was manipulation.
There are many parents besides myself who’ve lost a child at that moment when they felt wrung out, burned out, used and confused.
You are human. You have to refuel because this journey with your child is so hard and there is little direction and a lot of frustration. You have to get sleep, eat and take care of you.
“I am done” can mean you are setting boundaries. It can mean you are going to take time off from chaos. And sometimes it means there is nothing more you can do.