Explaining Mental Illness to My Daughter
The kids have been too young to understand why I have been previously hospitalized, so we’ve kept details vague. As God has made it clear that I was to start sharing my journey out loud, I’ve been faced with the hard decision of when and how to tell my older children so they didn’t learn of my struggles secondhand. After a hard conversation about mental health, plus reassurance that I truly am OK, this girl started crying and I was not prepared for what I would hear...
“𝐈’𝐦 𝐬𝐜𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐈’𝐦 𝐠𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐮𝐩 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮.”
My heart sank. Tears threatened my composure. Failure whispered in my mind. Grief was palpable. She wasn’t being mean, she was being honest. We want our children to want to be like us, right? Sigh.
But then God gave me the grace to continue parenting in that moment when all I wanted to do was hide away in shame. The enemy took her phrase and twisted it as a knife in my heart. Our faithful God, however, intervened by giving me spiritual eyes to see past the pain I felt. His grace really is sufficient.
I explained to her that she won’t end up like me, because God is changing the trajectory of our family line by changing me. Every step of my journey - every hospitalization, every move - has happened BECAUSE He cares too much about His plan for HER to allow suicide to continue to ravage this family. I am both an abandoned daughter and a daughter who will never be abandoned - the path of my life, and subsequently my childrens’ lives, depends on which father I will identify with. Statistics say that my dad’s suicide makes it more likely that I will follow suit. But I’ve chosen to identify with my Heavenly Father, and because of that, I can confidently say that I will not end up like him, and she will not end up like me. While the enemy whispers that my struggles are damaging her, I know her story will be used for God’s glory, and I know that making the difficult decision to get healthy has been one of the most loving things I’ve done as her mother. May her life shine with compassion for others from the story God has given her as my daughter.