I am looking outside my window at the orange leaves and low sun and, oh my goodness, it is almost Thanksgiving. I do tend to mark things by time, by seasons, by where I am, as in when, in my life. I compare things to last year at this time. And I have learned about taking things one moment at a time. One day at a time. And I have learned about ordinary. About things being ordinary. About how the greatest things to be grateful for and to celebrate are the absolutely truly ordinary things.
I am a parent of a child, a young adult himself, with a mental illness. And I am extremely lucky to be in a community where I do not have to keep it secret. Yet I do want to protect him. So I do not advertise it or publicize it. But I am not afraid to share it in the right context. However there are many people I know, even well, who do not know this about our family.
As the person not actually suffering from a diagnosed mental illness, I did not realise how much it would affect me or how much I would learn as the parent of a child who suffers. But I have. A lot.
I have learned, although my other child does not think I have yet completely... to listen. I guess it آs a work in progress. I have learned new language. I have learned to ask 'How can I help with your worried feelings?' instead of just saying 'Your anxious feelings will go away. Do not worry.'
I have learned to ask people to help me the way I want to be helped, not the way they want to help me. I have learned that a phone call late at night telling me he is having a hard night, is the way my child is telling me information I would not have had in the past, and to not worry as much. He is just having a hard night.
I have learned that Fall Break and Parents Weekend and Thanksgiving Vacation are milestones for us to celebrate as much as we would celebrate the milestones of a wedding, a bar mitzvah or a graduation. Iظآve learned that some of my dearest and closest friends will never understand how certain events or certain conversations with my son fill my heart in ways that they cannot even imagine. And I have learned to take life one day at a time. One simple, ordinary day at a time.
I have changed in exponential ways since before his diagnosis. And in some ways it has changed my relationships with others. With people who 'get it,' there is a level of understanding that only we can comprehend and appreciate. With those who just do not know from this life changing experience, there is a piece that they just do not get.
I am not the same person that I was a year ago at this time. I do not wish this struggle or journey on anyone. But I am grateful for who I am now. For who we all are now.
I read another blog that reminded me of this. We are everywhere. Those who suffer with mental illnesses and those of us who care for them. Our lives are changed in immeasurable ways both for the good and for the bad. We need to destigmatize mental health issues, but we also need to understand that people are changing... deeply changing, right around you, one moment at a time, and you donظآt even know it.
Be aware. Be kind. We need it.