I had never heard of Borderline Personality Disorder when my son was first diagnosed. My first reaction was to find out everything I could about it. As part of my research, I looked for a way to quickly fix the problem so my son could get on with his life. I was dealing with my son’s diagnosis with denial. I moved immediately to stage two of dealing.
Stage one (transition) is generally before the diagnosis is made. Transition usually happens as we see the symptoms of mental illness without knowing what is causing them. Stage one is a time of confusion, sadness, and anger.
Once getting a diagnosis, a reason for the confusing behaviors, denial is usually the next stage of dealing. It is easier to deny the existing of a serious brain disorder than to accept that our loved one will never be the same. Like other serious illnesses, mental illnesses are difficult to accept.
There are several reasons for denial.
Lack of knowledge. Mental illness can be an enigma. Little accurate information is in the general public. Most of the time when we hear about mental illness it is associate with violent incidents – the unexplained beating, killing, or destruction of property. We don’t understand mental illness as a biological disease, in the same way that diabetes or cancer are disease.
Fear. We are afraid that our loved one will become what we perceive as mentally ill. We are afraid for their future, and ours.
Guilt. It’s not unusual, especially for parents, to wonder if something we’ve done has caused this illness.
Stigma. We don’t want others to know about our loved ones brain disorder because of the stigma attached to it. While in denial, we don’t admit to anyone, including ourselves that this is a permanent, although recoverable, condition.
No life transition can be handled alone. Before giving up, seek support through family support groups. Find a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) afflilate, a MHA (Mental Health America) affiliate, or even an online support group (email@example.com). Find out exactly what your loved is going through. Learn that you are not alone.
This is a vulnerable spiritual time, especially if you believe you raised your child in the “way he should go” (Pro 23:6). You may not be receiving support from your church or Christian family members. You feel like a failure, and are ridden with guilt.
Remember, this too will pass. As you learn more about mental illness, and find you are not alone, you will be able to move on.
Sandra Foyt says
I’m often surprised at how long my parents can stay in denial. They take any of my brother’s rational moments and twist it into a rationalization that he’s faking Paranoid Schizophrenia. Even after a 20 year build-up to his current situation – homeless, irrational, self-medicated – they still believe that he’s using illness to get away with not having to work!
Thank you for writing about, and sharing, this painful subject.