I have a problem with many stories I read today about mental illness – primarily bipolar illness diagnosed in a young adult. The problem I have is when it is the parent that is highlighted and given a voice, supposedly ‘speaking out’ about the condition on behalf of their child and all sufferers in the ongoing attempt to ‘eradicate stigma’ surrounding mental illness.
A recent example passed on to me today was this article about a famous actress talking about her bipolar son: What One Star Learned From Raising a Bipolar Son.
I’d like to say probably one basic thing to all parents who are giving out press releases and news interviews on the subject of their child’s mental illness:
Stop Using Your Grown Child For Your Own Ego Needs!
Or speaking out to heal yourself, your own suffering for having to experience the devastation of a child who has become ill. It is NOT your illness.
It is like the parent has a psychological need to appease their own guilt… their own compliance and contributing actions to the family members illness. Maybe they are perfect people, perfect parents. And the illness was an unfortunate twist of fate, a genetic vulnerability that decided to rear its ugly head and present itself.
Maybe. But the reality is most likely that is not the reality. No parent is perfect, and no illness comes into existence in a vacuum.
A parent of a young child who has cancer, suffered an acident, etc. speaking out is VERY different from a parent of an ADULT child (not a child anymore of course) talking about their son or daughter’s mental illness.
Is the young man or woman (who of course is being highlighted as they recieved successful treatment… supposedly, and are doing well – which is awesome) unable to speak? Unable to be interviewed and talk about their experiences themselves?
Parent’s Who Write Books About Their Adult Child’s Mental Illness
To take this one step further – past the example of the one famous person (there are many, many more examples) I use above – there are parents who write entire books on their child’s illness.
As if they own the child, own the child’s life, own the child’s experience of being of this world and living on this planet. They don’t. It is an extreme example of the above; using their child to gratify their own ego needs, their need for attention, for an absolution of any guilt or grief they may have suffered.
If they want to write a book, then do as others (healthy parents) have done, and write about THEIR lives. Their upbringing, their childhood, their experience as parents from the time of conception (just a thought, think that would be a cool place to start) to raising their son or daughter to the age the individual has been fortunate to reach.
Not about the child’s illness. It is NOT their illness to own, to describe to the world, to take power and control over. These parents needing to act in this way only gives more power to the thought they are very complicit in the child’s illness – refusing to allow the human being born into their care to be a sentient, authentic being, with personal boundaries and rights.
Support the Adult in Finding His or Her Own Voice
Stigma around mental illness is real, and it is something the SUFFERER experiences on a personal level, not the parents. Were you – Mom or Dad – forced into psychiatric care? Have you spent time in the mental ward of a hospital?
Have you had to take extremely harmful drugs (i.e. psychotropic medications) in an effort to increase your ability to function in the world, be able to work, love and be self-supporting? Something ‘normal’ people take for granted?
If you have, then write about your OWN experiences. Share that with the world. And have the decency to not use your child to gain public attention for yourself, or to work out your own emotional issues surrounding their illness.
There’s a really simple concept to being an adult and to being a responsible parent: take responsibility for your own actions and your own life.
Stop talking about how you ‘missed the signs’ and that somehow in a fantasy world promoted by Big Pharma that if you had somehow ‘realized early on’ what was going on with your child – and drugged them with brain disabling medications – you and they would not have suffered. Maybe your child would never even have become ill.
That is a phantasmagorical (sorry, I have wanted to use that word for a while now!) lie created by those who profit from human suffering. Big Pharma wants us all as ill as possible and diagnosed as young as possible; it is how they make billions of dollars.
That is something a parent should learn about, focus on and speak out about on behalf of their suffereing child – either young, adolescent or of adult age.
Learn about Big Pharma who would like to drug every citizen on the planet for having an off day, suffering a loss, dealing with the pressures all of us face. Learn about the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) that was used by physicians to diagnose your child.
Learn and then stop buying into it, stop using it to appease your guilt and avoid personal responsibility – making that the legacy you are passing on to your child. How are they then going to treat a child they may raise?
Focus on yourself, get the support you need as a parent of a struggling child so you do not victimize the ill person (blaming the child for causing the illness, acting out in anger inappropriately, etc.).
You are most likely (except in cases of incest and extreme abuse or neglect in a dysfunctional family) NOT responsible for your child’s illness. But you ARE responsible for yourself and to separate yourself from your child’s healing process, not take it over.