Well, I am not the ONLY “healthy” one (as was discussed last entry that is a part of my mental health saga series) in this not so tiny family of ours… We have 5 kids (obviously) which are currently ages 12 through 5, which I gush about often here on the blog. I am a stay at home mom who homeschools all 5… just laying it out there. So our kids are home with us and around our family situation at a near constant basis. This has been instrumental in Ken’s process and been implemented into his therapy itself. I am not saying this is optimum for ALL people undergoing the process of returning from severe clinical depression, but for our family, having Ken thrust into our day to day life and education plans forced him out of himself and the thoughts we are committed to if not silence, prove false and quiet.
Because of this constant interaction and the children’s progressively deeper understanding of life in general it was never an option to keep the situation completely out of their scope. I do want to stop right here and clarify, we have NOT discussed anything to do with Ken’s suicidal thoughts/plans/intentions… this is not a discussion that I feel my children are ready to deal with and grasp, but WHEN they are it will be something I sit down with them and frankly share. I joke about the 1 in 5 statistics and how we live it with our 5 kids… but I am more than aware that there is a potential (especially with Ken’s family history and his own severe case) for any or all of our kids to at one time or another suffer from this mental illness.
Now at the same time we have created a house that is open for discussion. We are pro therapy of course, and do not hide from the kids that Ken is on a regiment of medication and vitamin supplements (once again this is overseen by his therapist and psychiatrist and NOT something we take lightly… doses are prescribed for a reason people). We have often discussed how Dad has had a hard time feeling positive and happy, so therapy and his medicine help with that and make it so he can be with us in a better way. I have made a conscious effort NOT to hide Ken’s appointments. The kids are not privy to the content of the therapy sessions, but they are well aware that Dad goes weekly and WANTS to go. That if they felt they needed to come with and talk about the situation they are welcome. In fact, Mom has gone a few times to check in and be involved.
Out of necessity we have discussed in great lengthy Dad’s hearing impairment. I would LOVE to say this has taken instant effect and the kids are always careful to not crowd in and talk at the same time or slow their speech BUT… well we are on a great learning curve right now. I am a firm believer in the idea that if I explain these seemingly grown up issues to the kids in a way they can understand they too can be a part of the healing process.
But I ask you, do you seriously think we could have kept it completely from them? There is a saying – Little pitchers have big ears. Basically be careful what you say in front of children… for all that they seem deaf when you ask them a question or tell them to go do a chore, that whispered conversation in the front of the van is heard clear to the back. I would rather they sat down with us and were given proper information than they picked it up here and there and then repeated these little nuggets to the world at large out of order and improperly.
Our children are our future and for mental health and mental illness to ever be properly addressed we really need to continue our education with them and as soon as possible. Echo does not care that Daddy goes to therapy, in fact, she loves tagging along to see his work aid. The boys are well aware that Dad was not as happy and involved as he is now, they are SO pleased when he takes interest in their assignment or pitches in on a science project.
The road is not a smooth one, feelings are hurt when we have to cancel for an appointment, and sometimes he returns too drained to be involved with us… we are still trying to strike a balance with what Ken WANTS to do in regards to education and family and what he CAN do or can AIM for. This does slow my process down with planning and at times a project just MAY go on a bit longer than expected… BUT having that additional involvement in our school of Ken and his own interests and skill set is a win win for us all.
I think that having the whole family participating in positive ways as a healthy unit is an important part of the healing process. We are not just healing Ken with his series of issues and diagnosis but we are healing a family that wasn’t even aware it was hurting. That is the most amazing part of this process, before we were aware we were hurting we were healing. When one of the family is in need we are all in need. I think that this process is filling a void that we didn’t know existed.
So basically, while I think that keeping many of the details of an illness from children can be the best choice… telling them all about how feeling super sad and having emotions you simply cannot deal with as an adult means it is absolutely ok to go talk to someone and seek help allows them to see that as children those sorts of emotions are something to share and talk about. Silence is really one of the biggest stumbling blocks in healing mental illness, let alone diagnosing it.
Well, here I end this entry… and as usual I end with a reminder… for those who are suffering, either in silence or as they seek help… we are here with you… those who support others… we applaud you and hold out a hand to hold in solidarity… because EVERYONE should know they are loved, know that WE love you! Reach out, talk, share and heal. It will make us ALL better people!