This I believe…..that I must use my life’s challenges in a constructive way in order to help myself and my family thrive, and to assist people who struggle with emotional disorders, learning challenges and mental illnesses. I grew up in a happy, non-dysfunctional family. I didn’t know anything about mental illness; the only experience I had with it as a child was an uneasy friendship with a girl in 6th grade – a girl who had anorexia nervosa. In the early sixties we didn’t understand that this was an illness. I did know that being around her made me uneasy. I have come to my deeper understanding of mental illness the hard way – the way most of us learn. I’ve lived with it. I adopted a baby 16 years ago, with my husband. This child tested my physical health, my marriage, and my sanity. I experienced multiple hospitalizations for life-threatening gastric ulcers and plunged into a deep, clinical depression twice. I feared for my younger, biological child’s safety and well-being. I feared that my marriage would die. I feared that we would go bankrupt because of the high costs of trying to help our child and ourselves. Today I still struggle with depression occasionally, but I enjoy life most days. I can participate in my marriage more fully, enjoy my gifted (and dyslexic) younger child, and interact with my very challenged child in a more satisfying way. I can even enjoy sitting down and reading a good book occasionally. Just being able to read a book was hard for me for many years – and reading is my favorite activity. I’ve come to this better place in my life through a lot of prayer, through therapy, a good anti-depressant, a supportive extended family, friends, talking to others about my issues instead of holding all those emotions inside, my animals, and by reaching out to others. For the past two years I have been teaching reading to learning-challenged children and I recently started a support group for parents of children with emotional disorders. I try to learn everything I can about mental illness and ways to help families – including my own – deal with their challenged children. It is a mission for me. It is my responsibility. This I believe…..
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.