Older Children and Mental Illness

by Anonymous

Theres this X Ambassadors song that my son and I love to sing together whenever it comes on the radio. Our favorite part goes like this:

“Hold on, hold on…hold on to me. Cuz I’m a little unsteady, a little unsteady…”

Whenever my son is having a mental health breakdown, I sing it in my head, and I try to remember that he needs someone to be a rock for him during these time when he is most vulnerable, even though it seems as though all he wants to do is push me away. My son has special needs, but not just the cognitive kind (although he has those struggles too). He struggles with mental illness, and to be honest, of all the needs on the list, thats the one that hurts our little foster family the most.

My child has experienced more loss, more trauma, than I in my sheltered existence could ever imagine. I understand that he needs empathy and support. But when he hits me, when he breaks things, when he screams from the other side of a door that I am struggling to keep closed between us IM GOING TO KILL YOU!, I can barely remember any of that. I love this child. He is the light of my life, the most creative and fascinating little person Ill ever have the privilege to know. But in those moments, I dont feel any of that. All I feel is an exhausted, frantic fear, the pounding heart stress of a trapped animal. In those moments, I have to remind myself of why I am doing this. Our situation is especially frustrating, as the county is planning to reunify my child with his abuser, who he has an extremely complicated and unhealthy bond with.

My son deserves the nurturing childhood I am giving him. It is not his fault that he was abused and now has debilitating PTSD and disassociating episodes. It is not his fault that he experienced prenatal abuse that led to global brain damage, making him less resilient. My son deserves someone who is strong enough to love him at his worst, and brave enough to push him back to being his best. He is worth it, my beautiful child, whether hes mine for a lifetime or just right now. No matter how bad the storm gets, I could never give up on this child, my hoped for boy who I waited so long to meet. He wasnt what I expected at all, and at times the challenges threaten to overwhelm me, but he is worth the struggle. Underneath the layers of damage done by other people, there is precious treasure. I would take my miracle over a child with lesser challenges any day, for although the storms are fierce, when the sun comes out, its a beautiful day like nothing you've ever seen.

“But if you love me, don’t let go…”