I have been invited to join a secret society. They have been wooing me for years although I was rather unaware of the intentions. Unlike other organizations, there does not seem to be any elected leadership. Apparently, there is a founder or creator of the group. The contact information claims that he can be reached multiple ways but I often wonder if he is getting my messages as I do not always get a return response.
Responses feel rather important to me lately as the questions that I am dealing with pertain directly to my children. Sometimes, I try to manage as much as I can without getting additional help or opinions but when it comes to serious concerns with my kids, I always seek the help of trusted individuals.
I have spent countless hours, researching and studying to determine the group that I would fit into most appropriately. Honestly, membership is through my son but my comfort level has also been a contributing factor. I had to get honest in naming some of the criteria that would allow me to be a part of this community of people.
There was a time years ago when I began trying to sort out the groups that I belonged in based on the child I was raising. It wasn’t necessarily that I wanted to identify with a particular group but I found myself needing to categorize differences to explain the behaviors that were being called into question. As I started learning more about the sensory system and the brain, I was able to identify some of the particular challenges that plagued our daily life.
Anxiety and social difficulties escalated and parenting this special child shifted once again as my eyes opened to new information and adventures. Each shift has given me more insight as I’ve sought to understand the unique ways my child is wired.
Recently, a new turn has given more answers and I have now been welcomed into a new group. I didn’t seek to be part of this. It wouldn’t have been my choice. I feel sadness when I think about being a part of this group. I feel vulnerable in telling you that I’ve identified with this community. I didn’t do anything to get into this group and that is why it feels important to tell you this piece of my story.
I am parenting a child with mental illness.
Walking out of the doctor’s office that day, holding the diagnosis tightly in my chest, I felt both relieved and broken.
My husband and I had a few hours before we needed to pick our boys up from school so we ventured off to one of our favorite spaces. The textures of the room and lighting were warm and inviting and as I perused the drink choices, I opted for the one that pulled at my heart. Wild Child. A fitting choice to mark the day.
The hours together were sacred. Tears, words, silence, and laughter filled our air. We left there with a knowledge that carrying the weight of such news would surely disrupt our hearts and our bodies. Grace and understanding were going to be necessary if we were going to survive the days and weeks ahead of allowing reality to sink in as we processed uncharted territory.
Navigating childhood mental illness is confusing and complicated. Contradictory opinions are splattered across pages and I’m finding the same to be true within my own heart. Isolation allures my body and apathy tempts my mind as I look to escape the questions and concerns swirling around.
I can’t find the right answers and yet I have to make choices. I have to take risks that impact my child. I am resistant to taking chances and yet for change to occur, I must. I question why the comfortable alternatives aren’t enough. Why I have to move out of my comfort zone once again. Why? Why me? Why him?
Some days the work of identifying all the differences in his brain becomes exhausting. Differences begin to feel like problems to be solved instead of variations to be enjoyed.
Looking back at my communication with the Creator of this group, the one who chose me and my child to “fit in” here I realize that I missed some of the responses to my questions. I also missed the invitation that He extended to me.
He said, “Welcome. I’d like to invite you to live a life beyond yourself. A life you never believed was possible. You will experience pain and heartache like you never imagined when you look into the eyes of your beloved child. Your heart will break over and over again as you watch him fight and struggle day by day. He will need you to grow and learn to love him uniquely as his needs will feel crushing at times. You will be overwhelmed and blame yourself. You will feel loss and disappointment as you grieve the normalcy that you craved. I have hand picked you to love this child. My hope is that you will open your eyes to the beauty of being his mother. You will experience depths of emotions as you begin to see the world through his eyes. This child knows me uniquely and I desire for you to experience more of who I am as you grow in love for him.”
Yes. I say yes. Yes to the adventure. Yes to the unknown. Yes to loving and leading this boy in the journey of his life, even with this turn in the road.
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here.