by Mary-ellen Viglis
I am the mother of a 17-year old and in 3 short months he will be turning 18.
He is intelligent, funny, loves animals and music and although a tough exterior – inside he is loving and caring and loyal. Most times he doesn’t see any of the positive that encompasses him. He suffers from low self-esteem. He is easily hurt emotionally, desperate for true friends- ones that accept him for his true self. He often refers to himself as a piece of shit. It is hard for him to even celebrate small successes – he always focuses on the negative that he thinks define him. It is very difficult for him to accept love and accept himself.
My son suffers from Bi-polar disorder, major depression and substance use disorder. He has attempted to end his life on at least two occasions.
For most of his life, I suffered along side him in silence. Never wanting to talk about the difficulties he experienced – and they started young- ADHD, social anxiety, difficulty forming and maintaining relationships, poor sleep habits, risk-taking behavior. I went from doctor to doctor looking for answers – it was years and years of trying to help him and feeling like I was getting nowhere.
Only when I started to speak of my son’s difficulties and suffering did I truly find a village of resources and people who have walked in the same shoes and many who were also suffering in silence. Only when I started educating myself and speaking with other parents and professionals openly did I actually begin to feel like we were not alone. How I wish I had done this a decade ago.
Now I don’t have any magical answers or solutions
What I do have is a support system that has surrounded my son and I and truly enveloped us with love and support. This village is the one constant in an ever changing world of mental illness and addiction.
Our village loves without judgement.
Some of the most amazing people I have met are the result of freely speaking about mental Illness and addiction. Some of the most helpful people are those in recovery and most people in recovery also struggle with mental health issues. Because of my voice – because of our village- my son now has the tools and resources he needed a long time ago. Sometimes he doesn’t choose to use them but he knows they are there and I know he is equipped with the ability to stay the course – if he so chooses.
As for me, I am a better, more educated person because of this village. It is no longer difficult for me to speak of mental illness and addiction and how it affects me personally. There have been many occasions where my honesty has allowed another person to speak their truth.
There is no greater gift that we can give another person than to share our experiences, lift the veil of stigma and put human faces to these illnesses. Together we can achieve what we cannot do alone.
It takes a village – and we need you all to be a part of it.