The Filipino Mom Parenting a child with mental illness

Series: Parenting a child with mental illness – Mama bear and diagnosis

Welcome back!

This is part two of a five part series on parenting kids with mental illness. If you haven’t read my first post, you can catch up here .

I have always been a mama bear. I protect my kids from any nastiness from the world. It’s what my mom did for me and what I’m doing for my kids. However, I knew their stories needed to be shared because shielding them from anything will actually hurt them instead of help them. Allowing your kids to feel pain and moving through it is hard. It is hard because you can not control what is happening to them. I had to learn, through therapy, that I had to allow them to move through their feelings and be there to support them not shield them.

I’ve talked to my kids at great lengths about sharing their journeys and they were very willing to share. Kabayan, we need to learn from these brave kids. If you were to ask them in person they would happily share. In fact, they’ve talked about their mental health journey with classmates and guess what – their classmates share their experiences too. Their experiences with support for their mental illnesses was very different from mine. I didn’t realize it was different until I shared with my kids how my parents reacted to my diagnoses. It was mind blowing to them that my parents weren’t as accepting because I provided resources for them immediately.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Both of my kids showed symptoms and signs of mental illness in their teen years. After meeting with our pediatrician about their symptoms, we learned that mental illness can appear in the teen years because of hormonal changes and physical changes. (WHAT! Yup new news to me.) Once our kids were diagnosed, we started both of them on medication and found a therapist that was right for them. They have also tried alternative therapies just as I have. This process took lots of trial and error but as of today, I think we have dosages correct.

What were the symptoms and signs of both of their mental illnesses, you ask? Well I will list them below but before I do, I want you to know these symptoms look very similar to typical teen behavior. The deciding factor was my gut feeling that something wasn’t right. I felt it in my bones that my kids were struggling with something “else”.

Teen #1

  • Secluding themselves from all activities
  • Hard time getting up in the morning
  • Able to sleep all day
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Crying for no reason
  • Having poor body image
  • Comparing themselves to others while putting themselves down
  • Having inactive self harm thoughts
  • Shutting down when asking to talk about their feelings
  • Dead look in their eyes when you speak to them
  • Not making new friends
  • Not wanting to hang out with friends

Teen #2

  • Secluding themselves from all activities
  • Second guessing everything they do
  • Having irrational fears about everyday activities
  • Checking things multiple times, in particular sequences
  • Rewriting things over and over until it was “perfect”
  • Wanting to be in control of all situation all the time
  • Not making new friends
  • Not wanting to hang out with friends
  • Refusing to change their routine even in the slightest way
  • Mental breakdown
  • Active self harm thoughts

Moving forward

Can we just take three deep square breath after reading all that? It’s heavy stuff.

I can tell you that today, my kids have more of an understanding about their emotional and mental wellness than I ever did as a teen. They understand far more about empathy, inclusion, and compassion. They move through hard feelings and I’m proud of them. I have been there for support but they did all the work.

Are you parenting a child with a mental illness? How did you discover they needed help? Wanna see how we manage our daily lives with mental illnesses? Come back next week and I will share a small snippet of our life.

Remember – it is ok to not be ok, tomorrow is a new day. I’ll see you next week.

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