Often mental illness will first exhibit as behavior that seems a little strange: Talking to one’s self, imaginary worlds, or staying away from other people. When this behavior occurs in a young adult, it is noticed and seen as odd. When this behavior happens in a child, even in the early teens, not much is thought about it.
Bryon was a creative and imaginative child. In many ways, he reminded me of myself. Playing fanciful games alone, rather than in a group, writing stories, Bbtter at individual sports rather than team sports. As parents, we didn’t think much about the fact that he continued this behavior into his teens. This was just who he was, and I saw no reason to make him change; nor, did I see it as a problem to be fixed.
To be sure, there were plenty of people who thought Bryon needed to change — to “grow up.” Because he didn’t fit the perceived norm, friends and relatives thought Bryon needed to be pushed into the mold. And, all were prepared to tell me so.
As more criticism came in, I became more protective of his creative nature. I even encouraged his fantasy side. In spite of the labels of a over-protective mother (or worse), I wanted my son to be who God created him to be. If that meant he was different than societal norm, so be it. Jesus certainly didn’t fit anyone’s mold.
Years later when I found out that Bryon has a serious mental illness, I couldn’t help but wonder if I caused it.
Thankfully, I’ve learned that mental illnesses are a biological brain disorder. I could no more cause it than I could cause cancer. I’ve even seen his brain scans that shows the anomaly. Learning the truth about mental illness was my first step to guilt recovery.
If you are ready to start your guilt recovery, I encourage you to learn about your child’s illness. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a good start www.nami.org.