I can’t fix what I didn’t know but I can try to make tomorrow better.
My son has been in treatment for about 6 months. Knowing he is safe has been a blessing. I am so thankful I can sleep at night again.
Recently we were chatting on the phone and I realized that because of his maturity level being regressed I tend to treat him younger than he is. I also tend to placate him because he can be repetitive sometimes. The reality is I often hear what he is saying but I am not actually listening. The irony is I actually teach active listening as part of the CIT module and yet I don’t take my own advice.
As parents we tend to get caught up in the illness. We blame everything on the illness. We sometimes forget that their feelings need validation even if they seem obscure. I often say my son has a false sense of reality and although this may be true I tend to forget that his perception is just that, and who I am to judge?
If you ask my son about his childhood when he isn’t stable, he will tell you how awful it was. He will tell you he had no friends growing up, no one liked him and that I worked all the time and never spent time with him. This is partially true. The reality is we always had kids at the house and everyone in the neighborhood loved him for his charming personality, but I did work a lot. Being a single parent I didn’t really have a choice. I really tried to be an active parent. I took him to water parks, to BMX events, sports practice, the circus, family parties and the list goes on. I feel that given the circumstances he really had a great childhood, and when I wasn’t available his grandparents stepped in all the time. However maybe what he was really trying to tell me was that I didn’t take enough time out of my day to spend with him talking. To ask him how he was feeling. To really sit with him and listen. Truthfully the only time he wanted to talk was when I was going to sleep. We were on opposite schedules as he got older. I can’t fix what I didn’t know but I can try to make tomorrow better. I need to work on validating those feelings even if I don’t always agree with them.
When he started his downward spiral I was caught up in my own anger. I was angry that this illness caused him to say and do some really mean things to me. I was angry that his actions had almost cost me my career, my relationships, and my house. I was angry he was bleeding my dry, physically, emotionally, and financially. I felt like I was drowning in quicksand and I could no longer listen or hear anything. Sadly, looking back this was probably the time he needed me the most but I just didn’t have the strength to be a good parent. Or at least the parent he wanted me to be.
I have learned to take a step back. Now that he is back on the road to recovery I knew he needed me to be his support system. I can’t continue to be a helicopter mom. As much as my heart wants to step in and take over every piece of his recovery I know I must let him do it on his own. Although I still think he needs to work on taking ownership and apologize for his actions. I will sit back and wait. I will be his #1 cheerleader for now. Maybe one day we will have an honest conversation about everything but I think that will take some time. Instead, I am going to be patient and try to become a better listener so we can heal our relationship because when we know better we do better. Every day is a lesson and I am forever learning.
For more, read: 10 Ways to Remain Positive as a Mental Health Caregiver
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community