There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing our children struggle. I know firsthand the difficulty of caring for a special needs son. Regardless of whether is a spiritual attack, a physical ailment, or emotional struggle, the struggle is real and can spark a myriad of emotions from fear to isolation.
This week on the podcast Tammy Kennington and I discuss the difficulty of having a child who suffers from mental illness, and the hope we have in Jesus that gets us through. Please welcome Tammy to By His Grace.
I Never Expected My Son to Experience Mental Illness
by Tammy Kennington
The run-of-the-mill, plastic shopping bag twisted in my sweaty hand as a sharp bell alerted the security guard to my presence. Glancing at the ID I slid through the narrow window, he pushed a button and the door slowly opened. My rubber-soled shoes move soundlessly toward the front desk, but my heart beat a rapid tattoo.
Your son is in the hospital. Your son is in the hospital. Your son is in the hospital.
“My son had asked for a few things,” I muttered numbly to a nurse at the front desk.
“Well, you can’t give him a plastic bag.” I hadn’t thought of something as mundane as a plastic bag being a possible danger. Dumping the remaining items on the table, he continued. “Alright…no clippers. Bible. No shoes—they have laces.”
I was stunned.
I’d never expected the gregarious, smiling baby boy I’d once known to ever struggle with depression. I could never have anticipated the midnight phone call from a suicide hotline volunteer calmly sharing my son had a plan to end his life. I would never have imagined praying over my boy as I clung desperately to the hope that a bed might become available; I’d be assured of his safety for just a few days.
The Thief of Mental Illness
Mental illness is a stealthy thief. It creeps into some lives as an acceptable, common illness like generalized anxiety. But for others it burglarizes much more than peace of mind. It has the capacity to fill the mind with racing thoughts, panic attacks, soul-sapping-depression, or moods that swing from one extreme to the other.
And when mental illness effects a child, it impacts the family.
Parents wonder what they could have done differently. They blame genetics or find fault with their approach to discipline. Siblings struggle to understand the behaviors, choices, and illness of their brother or sister. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other well-meaning relatives offer unsolicited advice, tips, and techniques.
And in the midst of it all? The child or youth struggling with mental illness often feels broken, less than, and ashamed.
Trusting God with Your Child
Oh, the grief that engulfed my heart while my son trudged through the painful valley. Many of my mama-crafted dreams were shattered when I realized the depth of my son’s emotional pain and struggle. But in their place, I’ve begun to understand surrender. I began claiming Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) for my child and trusting Him to fulfill its promise. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”The truth of God’s word gives me hope on the difficult days. Click To Tweet
On the long and harrowing days. On the days when my patience is thin and I wonder how a young man with a hurting heart will be successful in a world that doesn’t understand.
We need community in all areas of our lives and support with mental illness is no different. The child with mental illness needs a team of supporters, but remember to include safe people who can provide support for you, as well. One or two trustworthy friends, a group in the community, or church members who understand your situation will prove invaluable prayer partners and confidantes when you need a listening ear.
Be an Advocate for Awareness.
Be an Advocate for Your Child.
As you begin to accept your child’s diagnosis, learn more. Research. Join online groups. Become your child’s best advocate within the school system, at church, and in other areas of his or her life. Teach your child what it means to advocate and begin to teach others about mental health. We can make a difference for our children by doing our small part!
Pray Without Ceasing
1 Thessalonians 5:17 exhorts, “Pray without ceasing.” Perhaps God will heal your child and mine this side of heaven through our prayers. If not, we need to pray against anxiety, rage, fear, and all of the emotions that threaten to unsettle our children and our homes and ask Him to fill each of us with peace, patience, and love as we minister to our loved ones through the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is our opportunity, friends, to love well in the midst of the hard. We’ll grow weary. We’ll stumble. But we can look to the One in whom we know all things will one day be fully restored.
“In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So, after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” (1 Peter 5:10) NLT
Peace and grace, Tammy
So thankfful to have Tammy Kennington as a guest ths week. If you are a parent of a child with mental illness I hope this post encourages you. Be sure to listen to this week’s podcast with Tammy Kennington: Parenting Mental Illness for more encouragement.