Please understand that she is not herself

12 Nov

One of God’s greatest gifts to me in this journey is the friends He has given me who understand my trials with Sweet Pea.  I have three close friends who have children with issues similar to Sweet Pea’s.  So similar, in fact, we often comment that these girls could all be sisters.

Of these three phenomenal ladies, one is a recent reconnection.   We haven’t seen each other since high school, but she found me on facebook, started reading my blog, and quickly contacted me about the incredible resemblances in our daughters.   We have become cheerleaders for each other, pushing ourselves through the tedious afternoons and difficult nights.  Sometimes we offer wisdom, and other times we just recommend the perfect cocktail, but at all times she gives me strength, and I hope I do the same for her.

One of the things she and I talk about the most is the judgment we perceive from those around us.  The looks at school, the store, the gym, the neighborhood.  Mental illness is an “invisible disability”.  You would never look at a picture of our beautiful children and suspect there was a problem.  But the sad truth is these children are sick.  Their brains don’t work like everyone else’s; the chemicals are imbalanced, the neurons misfire and all hell breaks loose.

Another of these amazing ladies recently gave me a selection to read from a Miss Manners book she had borrowed from the library entitled Miss Manners’ Basic Training:  The Right Thing To Say.  (Don’t be scared – this isn’t one of those “your kid needs manners” stories.)  The section was from the chapter entitled Covering for Others.   The author’s intent is to address issues with an elderly person who has dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc., but my friend suggested it applied to our children as well.  I am going to quote directly because I think it’s the most effective (and also I’m too tired to paraphrase):

Anyone close to a person with such a problem is going to spend a lot of time apologizing…The key phrases are “She doesn’t really mean it,” “Please understand that she is not herself,”…”It’s not that you did anything – it’s just the way she is now.”

The apologies made to oneself (the caretaker)  – “I know she doesn’t mean it”…”It’s not really her speaking” – are the hardest to accept.

Even as the mother of a child with an invisible disability it can be hard for me to remember that this isn’t her fault.  She isn’t doing it on purpose.  If she could be “normal”, she would.  I know she would rather be calm and happy than fractured and raging.  It’s easy to blame her though.  It’s so easy to say “if she would just…” and then fill in the blank with all the million simple things she could do to change her situation.  But that’s the point, isn’t it?  She can’t change it because her brain doesn’t always function like it should.   It’s more than just ADHD.

My child has mental illness.

Please understand that she is not herself.


3 Responses to “Please understand that she is not herself”

  1. Barb November 12, 2009 at 11:43 pm #

    If everyone could just understand that.

  2. meg November 13, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    amen, Barb

  3. anymommy November 15, 2009 at 7:55 pm #

    Wonderful post. The people that matter DO understand.

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