Growing up with a mental illness, struggling, dealing with society’s opinions, I don’t consider myself an expert, but somewhat seasoned when it comes to handling the emotional roller coaster ride that goes along with a stigma that sits like a monkey on your back.
I’m now 40, and I have thick skin, ready to handle anything. But never in my life did I ever think I would have to deal with teen suicide, especially when that teenager was mine.
As a mother, you prepare yourself for bad things to happen, especially where your children are concerned. It’s like “worry” is a t-shirt we put on the moment our babies slip from our bellies, and we are forced to let them face the world on their own two feet. We stand, constant, with a safety net below them, just in case they fall. Ready to help them with anything that life decides to throw at them. We are warriors. We are prepared. We are ready to do battle. Or at least, I thought I was ready.
When I asked my child how he was doing and he said: “I’m fine.” I believed him. Never in a million years did I expect for him to hide what he was feeling. That is until this past week when I discovered my just turned thirteen-year-old had reached out on social media, asking for ways to kill himself. He even googled it.
My son has always been a sensitive boy. Kind and loving, he cares about the people around him, especially his friends. Growing up with disabilities, he’s had to learn quickly how to cope with not only the way his friends see him but how society sees him on a whole, which in turn has made him a target for bullying.
It hasn’t been easy.
My son has always dealt with bullying of some kind. But when you wear a blanket of mental illness attached to other forms of disabilities, along with puberty. Bullying becomes the icing on a very large cake that cannot be consumed, stealing joy from one’s life.
I did not want to live through the tragedy of my son dying, simply because he felt hopelessness or frustration. I was devastated. The idea that he wanted to end his life, or had at least thought about, cracked open a can of emotion and fear deep inside of me that no parent should ever have to experience.
I immediately took action.
The first step was to talk to my son. Not an easy feat. Say the wrong thing, you risk pushing your child further away from you. Kids don’t come with a handbook.
As parents, we rely on our instincts. And my instincts kicked me in a place where “tough love” and “listening with understanding” played a vital role in getting to the core of why my son felt his life was worth so little that he wished to end it.
There are factors that contribute to a teen thinking about ending their own life. Some of these factors include depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol or drug use, feelings of distress, and irritability. Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness. Even family history of suicide is a factor that parents should be aware of when dealing with their
I spent an entire week doing nothing but worrying about my son. Crying when he couldn’t hear or see me. It’s so hard knowing that he felt the same way I did growing up, and yet with all my experience, I still couldn’t do anything to stop the pain inside of him. My heart was broken…
During the week, my son opened up to us about what he was feeling. He’d been feeling extremely lonely. A lot of changes have gone on in our lives. Our building had a fire. His brother lost his apartment in the fire and had to move away from us. School, was a bit difficult dealing with some bullying. And he felt unhappy all the time being stuck inside the apartment while under construction.
Those were just to name a few of the things he’d been dealing with and not sharing with us how he felt.
I explained to him that taking his own life is not the answer, because although it feels as if things are bad right now, it will pass. Plus, I hugged him close to me and told him how angry I would be if he was gone from my life, how much I needed him, and how much I deeply loved him. I didn’t care that I shed tears in front of him, bawling my eyes out and telling him how very important he was to me and his father. Suicide is permanent. These problems he’s facing – they are not. Together we can work through it.
And then we agreed to get some counseling.
I knew as a mother with bipolar disorder that having a child with bipolar disorder wasn’t going to be easy. But I hope that through my experiences, talking openly and honestly with my son, getting him some help, and creating a space where he feels comfortable sharing his feeling any single time he needs, we will get through this.
He also agreed to me writing this post, because he wants other parents to know that if your child is
Thanks for listening