I have talked many times about my mental health issues and how they started when I was very young. However, I don’t think I have ever delved into the real effects they had on me. In this day and age, especially, the sooner we can catch and deal with these issues in our children, the better off they will be throughout their lives.
I think it’s important to note that this realization is becoming more apparent in today’s society. Incorporating the discussion of mental health into regular conversation may seem daunting; however, there is a range of valuable resources, such as Jumo Health, available that can help steer the conversation in a productive manner. Questions to help guide conversations with a doctor, materials which explain illness in terms that children can best understand, as well as podcasts that follow the lives of young people living with mental illness that provide a sense of camaraderie in a time where a child may feel isolated. We’re making progress, but there’s still more to be done.
Before starting, I want to say that while this may paint a picture of both my family life and my medical care, it was more a sign of the times about how little was known back then. This is something I have vowed to help change by telling my story.
My experience was that I was bullied from kindergarten through high school and beyond. My truth is I was dealing with major depression and even thoughts of suicide at the age of eight. I then showed signs of bipolar (then called manic depression) when I was 16. My reality was that I didn’t get diagnosed with either of these illnesses until I was in my 30’s. Thankfully there are many more resources out there today to diagnose and treat mental illness at a much younger age.
I have heard many people wonder why there are more children with mental and developmental problems now than ever before. I can say from personal experience and what I saw when I was “in the system” that this is very far from the truth. Thankfully what it does mean is that more children are getting diagnosed and treated sooner.
I have had the incredible honor of knowing two young men who are fine examples of the beauty that can come from the ashes of mental illness.
The first is a young man who was born on the autism spectrum. He is in his twenties now and a fine example of a human being. He has a wonderful family including a mother who never gave up on him and still doesn’t. She is his champion and also a mama lion if anyone should try to bully or talk negatively about her cub. I believe that the reasons for his success in life were that he was treated as a person first and a patient second. I love him to bits and am so proud to call him a friend.
The second person is someone that I have known since the day he was born. I fell in love with him then and have never stopped. He was diagnosed at a fairly young age with Tourette’s syndrome and had all of the tics associated with it – body and verbal. He again had a very loving and supportive family and fine medical care. I spent many hours talking and crying with his Mom about all he was going through. I totally understood the bullying he was getting because it was very similar to mine. When a child is “different” others have to act out against those differences. However, in spite of all the challenges he faced (and still does), he is in his twenties and working on a career in automotive repair.
I know so many other young people who are going through similar and other challenges and my heart aches for each one of them. I can only hope that by sharing some of my stories I can help them, their families, and even those in the medical field, understand it better from the inside out.
I applaud organizations such as Jumo Health and only wish they had been available for me.
As always I like to share a song that compliments my thoughts and what could be more appropriate than Carole King’s classic. I love this live version. Just know that no matter your age or what is going on with you, there is always someone or some group that can help.