I have been feeling my way around this for the better part of four years. And still, I can find no way out. It is the elephant in the room, the elephant in his head - large, angry and stampeding. But I cannot see it. Like a cancer, it grows in the dark, winding its way around my boy and refusing to let go.
They tell you: It is Hard. They tell you: It is Going to Get Worse. They tell you: But It Will Get Better.
What they don't tell you is: It Will Break Your Heart.
When it is your child who has lost touch with the real, who is tormented by things you cannot see, hear or touch, who is frightened by things that lie in the dark corners of his mind - you are helpless. You put on a neutral face, hope that he KEEPS telling you what is in his world. You walk, blank-faced into the psychiatric unit and try to make it okay to leave your child there. You leave him with his pajamas, a pair of slippers, a pocket full of quarters for the phone - and all your yesterdays. There is nothing to fill the sucking hole in your chest.
They don't tell you - It is Like YOUR Child Has Died. You miss the child you had, you do not recognize the one standing before you. He comes home, the demons are dormant. But he is an Impostor wearing the skin of the child you know. It will never be the same again. And you? Don't know what to do with that reality.
They don't tell you - You Will Feel GUILT. That in your secret heart, you do NOT like this child. He is mean, he is angry, he is abusive. He drains your energy, your emotions, your well being. In your heart of hearts, sometimes you hate it. This chaos, this life, this being who will not cease. That those feelings come with immeasurable guilt. You feel bad because you cannot connect with this child. That the disease makes it impossible. That you struggle. That you? Cannot make it better. You know that as a mother, your job is to keep your children happy, healthy and safe. Mental illness robs you of that role. And sometimes it robs your entire family of all three.
Until someone else challenges your actions. Your child. Your parenting. Until someone has the audacity to ask you:
"How much more of this are you going to take?!"
And that's when it comes flooding back. Your love, your protection - the Mama Bear hiding inside your broken heart. You wrap those arms around your broken child like a shield, and let him know you will do all you can. And you tell those others around you:
"Until there is no more."
For that is the depth of a Mother's love.
A big thank you to my first guest blogger. Double Agent Girl is the amazing mother of an 11-year-old son. Together they are navigating the waters of childhood onset mental illness. You can read more about her and her son on her blog Between The Crosshairs.