Parents of children who suffer from a mental illness often express hopelessness. Recently, a mother told me through a flood of tears that she was sure that nothing would ever get better for her and for her daughter, diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. I discerned this woman was barely hanging on at the end of a frayed rope. The daily pressures were unbearable; she was exhausted and in total despair. People had advised her to place her twenty-year-old daughter in a residential treatment center or a group home. However, this mom had tried it once before and it had gone bad. The thought of removing her daughter from the safety of her care only caused feelings of guilt, fear, and apprehension.
Many times, I had encountered feelings of complete hopelessness watching my daughter’s mental illness escalate. During her teen years, I felt things would never improve and my husband and I contemplated putting her in a residential treatment center to ensure our own sanity. But, a “gut feeling” always kept me from taking that step. At age 17, Tammy was finally diagnosed and medicated and life got better for a while.
Tammy became very ill again at age 19 and was hospitalized. Upon leaving the hospital, she asked me to sit in on her final counseling session with the hospital psychologist. He thanked me for sticking with my daughter through the horrible events that occurred during the years prior to her diagnosis and treatment. And, then he said, “Thank you for not putting your daughter in a residential treatment center. It would have devastated her.” That was the first time I heard a loving statement from a mental health care provider and it gave me hope to carry on. And, that was the day I stopped doubting my “gut feelings.”
It was now my turn to offer hope to a broken mom. She was going through torment over the decision of removing her daughter from her home. Her “gut feeling” was not to do it, even though she was burned out and felt she could not carry on. While I believe that in some instances a residential treatment center placement is the best option, this was not one of those instances. I shared my story with her and assured her that because she is the mom she can trust her “gut feelings” about what is best for her daughter. I know that if God has called her to care for her daughter, He will surely equip her to do it.
Read more about my story in the book, “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”