I don’t want to diminish the importance of the gun control discussion that needs to happen in the States, but I also think what is extremely crucial is to talk about mental illness and to help parents overwhelmed by the enormity of raising an unstable child.
The article “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother“, written by Liza Long, a mother of a 13 year old boy, tells a very frank and frightening account from a mother’s perspective. How do you feel adequate raising a child who throws violent tantrums, who calls you “bitch”, “hates you” and threatens to kill you and himself? Reading this, I really feel that love is not enough. You cannot love a child into being peaceful and mild. You need help, therapy, psychology, counseling, programs, and if it helps, drugs.
It’s a pity that Liza Long is receiving so much backlash right now when I think her article was a cry for help more than it was a bid for publicity. There are a lot of parents who think that they can lecture another parent on how to be a parent when nobody has the same kind of child. If you don’t have the same child with the same troubling behavioral patterns, how can you really comment?
From that article, I went on to reading “Jani’s Story“, an account by Michael Schofield, the father of January, a six-year old little girl with schizophrenia. Aside from the incredible trauma he and his family must live with raising a child who drifts in and out of madness with frequent hospitalizations, he has to deal with accusations of abuse from people, even doctors, who do not believe it is possible for a child to be schizophrenic. Seriously? Which parent would want this for their child?
I believe mental illness is much more common than families want to talk about, not just in the US, but in Singapore, Canada, and everywhere else. And we don’t know how to talk about it. It is a secret shame tucked away in many families. And even well-adjusted adults don’t want to admit that we too go through dark and difficult times, mentally and emotionally.
I for one am not afraid to say that I went through a dark and fragile time when I was in university, beginning possibly from when I was 17 up to 21, but was most serious when I was about 20. I remember incredible self-loathing. I remember not being able to get out of bed in the mornings, and a thick dark fog that seemed to cloud everything. I also remember that I couldn’t and didn’t want to tell anyone. But I pulled myself out of it with sheer will because I didn’t want to go down that path. And I’ve never looked back.
It was years later when I realized how many people I knew went through that same kind of journey themselves… And we all felt so incredibly alone back then.
Later, when I was a teacher, I was very glad to have been able to share my story with sensitive, lost students going through the same turmoil. That’s what I’m most proud of, being able to be there and tell them that the black fog will not last forever, that they are going to pass through it, and look back one day and realize how strong they are, and how loved they are, and how much they want to live.