I can’t begin to explain how mad I am as I write this post. Most parents of teenagers know it’s a very hard job and at times you’ll be at odds with each other over seemingly any and everything, from curfew to who their dating. But a disagreement with my 17 year old son last week shed light on a much more serious issue that I wasn’t aware of.
Our argument began over him not being where he was supposed to be, he was with his girlfriend instead. Him being a rebellious teen, he mouthed off to me, which I didn’t appreciate at all. No child of mine is going to talk back to me. I ended up telling him he was grounded and as good as he felt, he left home anyway. My son is normally a respectful kid, so I was shocked at his behavior towards me. During the course of that argument, we both said some not-so-nice things to each other. What I didn’t know was he was dealing with some internal issues. We ended up in his school counselors office, where he tearfully revealed that he’s had suicidal thoughts, and has cut himself with a razor. My heart broke, because I didn’t know that, nor why he felt that way. He did mention a few things (lack of communication with his father and his blowup with me among other things) that contributed to his anguish. The situation escalated to where a family counselor was called in to talk with us and mediate our situation. She asked my son a series of questions, including has he ever had thoughts of suicide, and he answered yes, in addition to pulling up his sleeve and showing her the cut’s he’s made on his arm. After a mental assessment was done, it was determined that he was severely depressed, as well as suffered from anxiety, and the counselor thought he would benefit from going to a behavioral facility. I was willing to get whatever treatment he needed to help him deal with those very serious issues.
Dropping him off at that facility was the hardest thing I’ve done as a mom. I just wanted to hold him, hug him, cry…yet, I was trying to keep from breaking down in front of my daughter. I felt helpless, wondering how I missed that something was so wrong, and had been happening for a while. My normally upbeat, handsome, respectful son was suffering, and I just wanted to know why.
A part of me felt like I was staring at myself in a mirror. I have suffered in silence for years from depression myself, but I never said anything for the very reason why I’m writing this post- I didn’t want the criticism, the ridicule that would come from people who think depression and anxiety is a joke..some made up illness that doesn’t affect black people. I called my grandmother (mom to me since she raised me) to tell her what happened with my son…her grandson. Not only did she respond in a way that suggested I was making up my son’s depression and mental illness, she dug the knife even deeper by telling me that basically I was getting what I deserved, because I did or said some things she didn’t like when I was a teenager. My son- her grandson- was going through something so serious and life- threatening, and she chose that moment to reflect on the bad choices I made as a kid, and basically make me feel like shit. Of all the people who expressed concern for my son, she wasn’t one of them. This is the reason why I, along with many other people suffer in silence. As if I wasn’t hurting bad enough, she made me feel lower than low. At the same time, my son was my only concern, so I didn’t let her or her negative comments break me down. I knew I needed to remain strong for my son and my daughter at home and not fall into that dark place that I’ve been to so many times before myself.
People, mental illness is a very real issue and it doesn’t care if you’re black, white, male, female, young or old…it can strike anyone and when someone or their family is suffering from it, that’s not the time to point the finger, place blame, and make those dealing with it feel bad. While I do hate the way it was revealed to me, I’m actually glad my son’s issues were brought to light. I don’t want him or anyone else to carry the sadness, emptiness, loneliness, hopelessness, and other negative feelings that come from having this disease, around with him, while trying to smile and function everyday like nothing is wrong. I’m actually glad he’s getting help with his issues through counseling and therapy. Even if you don’t think mental illness is real, keep your negative opinions to yourself if you can’t offer words of encouragement, because those words do hurt. You never know what someone is going through and sometimes its the people with the brightest smiles and most bubbly personalities who are depressed, lonely, and walking around feeling empty inside. Keep that in mind before you fix your lips to belittle and criticize a person who’s suffering with this very real illness, which claims the lives of millions of people each year due to suicide.