Addled Father’s Road Map: A Mental Health Journey

Why bother with a blog:

Let’s start with a little background:

Recently, my wife started volunteering at the Children’s Hospital in Denver, CO with a group called the Mental Health Family Advisory Council (MHFAC). The group’s goal is to provide better understanding and communication of mental health issues to the Children’s Hospital leadership and staff by input garnered from the parent’s perspective. I was really proud of her for taking on this new challenge by giving her time back to a facility that has done so much to help our family. I really couldn’t see myself taking on a responsibility of this magnitude. Between my recent forced medical retirement, and my feelings about the inadequate mental health system that is supposed to help my children, I didn’t see myself being an asset.

After attending a couple meetings, she decided I would probably have some helpful thoughts to add to the discussion. Now keeping in mind I am rather anti-social, and not very politically correct when sharing my views, I was understandably hesitant. One day, my beautiful, intelligent, albeit sneaky wife scheduled one of our son’s Psychiatric appointments on a breezy, sunny Tuesday. “Coincidentally”, it fell on the same day as a monthly MHFA meeting. Long story short, I was already there so of course I attended.giphy

The discussion was much more intriguing than I gave it credit, and within minutes I was tossing out thoughts and suggestions like a veteran member. I knew I had strong feelings on my children’s mental health issues, especially on the many challenges we had to overcome to get to where we currently are. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, and we can’t go back in time. But….if we had it to do all over again with the knowledge and perspective we have now, I think the journey may not have been as bumpy. With that in mind I decided to sit down and figure out how I could help other parents avoid some of the setbacks we faced.

The Goal:

My goal with this blog is two-fold. Keeping in mind I am not an expert in any way, shape or form! Here are my modest objectives for putting metaphorical ink to paper.

  1. Share my experiences with as many parents struggling with the same mental health issues my family has had to deal with or is currently facing. Whether you are new to your child’s mental health situation, or a grizzled veteran of the system, I hope to provide either some comfort of not being alone, or a new viewpoint about a situation. If I’m lucky maybe both.
  2. Provide further mental health awareness to more people who may not be as intimately aware or affected by the challenges parents face while raising children with these very real illnesses and diseases. The stigma is real. Both parents and children are painfully cognizant of the sad truth: If someone outside the home can’t see what the ailment is, than there must be a behavioral or disciplinary problem. There is always more to a situation than what meets the eyes, and maybe a perception or two can be swayed. This will be a tough one!

Bottom Line:

This blog is not meant to be a guide or how to. There is already a plethora of information out there on every issue imaginable you could face. I am sure in the near future I will be referencing some of that material. For the present, I am sharing my personal thoughts and experiences with raising children affected by mental health issues. You are ultimately the expert when it comes to your children (I will probably be saying this a lot!). Many highly educated professionals will already be telling you what you should and should not do. My wife and I can attest to this fact. I want this blog to be the place you come to for a different take on a situation. Possibly offer a new branch in a confusing tangle of brambles that seems to be life in the mental health system. Share with friends and family who may not truly understand what you and your family are struggling with. We were lucky to have many friends and family willing to either help us physically or emotionally through the crisis (which literally felt like a daily occurrence!). But, we also lost some along the way that either couldn’t or wouldn’t accept the reality of what Bi-Polar, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), ADHD, ADD, PTSD, Anxiety, and a ton of other mentally challenging struggles entailed.

I found out late in the journey that we could ask the harder questions and not just accept what was given to us at face value. I would like this blog to provide an outlet for those questions; a vehicle for change. It may be a bit much to ask of a simple blog, but I’ll never know unless I try. Hopefully the readers (if any) will share their thoughts and experience as well so we can all learn from this voyage.

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