An Open Letter to Parents of a Child with Mental Illness – Guest Post by Whitney Hawkins

As members will know, I have a policy of encouraging members to submit unique, original and  previously unpublished pieces for publication as a ‘Guest Post’ here on the guild’s blog.  And I have always been delighted by the response in both the submissions that I have received and the feedback that these have generated.

Today’s  ‘Guest Post’ is perhaps shorter than a lot of the ones that I usually receive and covers a topic which – being a community whose members are predominantly adults experiencing mental health issues – we don’t always hear enough of.   That being children with mental illness and the parents who have children with mental health issues.  So I am delighted to be able to share this with you, and my thanks go out to Whitney Hawkins from StressFreeWithWhitney for sharing this with us. 

An Open Letter to Parents of a Child with Mental Illness,

I see you fumbling your words; trying to come up with reasons for your child’s behavior.

I see you hiding the therapist and doctor’s visits from other children, parents, friends, and family; afraid of judgment and unanswered questions.

I see your pain when you try to comfort and understand your child, falling short one more time. Their tantrums, mood swings, or anxiety test your patience.

I see you blaming yourself; searching for the reasons why and people to blame. Eventually blaming yourself.

I feel your shame, your embarrassment, and your desire to understand.

I feel your pain as you witness your child being robbed of opportunities, of acceptance, and of life. The type of pain that hits you deep in your stomach.

I know you yearn for the life they could have had – the life you dreamed for them. The college acceptances, apartments, and weddings that may never be.

I see, feel, and understand the pain of parenting a child with an invisible illness.

But I also see your bravery.

I see you standing up for your child and being there every day. You have one of the hardest jobs on this planet. You are a social worker, a body guard, and a therapist. You are not invisible; you are so brave.

I see you and I know your child does too.

[Editor’s Note:  Again my thanks go out to Whitney for sharing this with us and I hope members will take time to comment on it.  As someone who grew up experiencing mental health issues from a very early age, but at a time when mental health and mental illness was far less understood than it is today – and thus dealt with in an extremely poor way – I understand (at least to some degree) the challenges that this can present to parents.  And I feel it is an extremely important issue.]

7 comments on “An Open Letter to Parents of a Child with Mental Illness – Guest Post by Whitney Hawkins

  1. Don’t ever give up. My mentally ill child is now preparing to receive his Ph.D this year. It’s been a long haul. We’ve had some awful times. The rest of his family bailed out on us, and I had to borrow money to get the treatment he needed. But he wanted to succeed in life, so when he got old enough to actively participate in his own recovery he dived in and worked very hard. He continues to work hard to this day (he is now 30). So all the tears and fears that he would never be able to function in the world are now in the past. We still have issues, of course, largely due to the family dysfunction that his illness uncovered. I say uncovered, rather than caused, because if the family had been strong in the first place it would not have fallen apart under the stress of my son’s illness.

    So I say to everyone who struggles with a “difficult child”: the bright ones are often tough to raise. Temple Grandin was no walk in the park. Fortunately, her parents hung in there and did whatever they needed to do to help her develop into the extraordinary adult she is today. My son’s difficult childhood caused him much more pain than it caused me, and believe me I made more than my share of mistakes. Hang in there with your child, fight tooth and nail to make sure they get the testing and educational tools they need. Don’t push them into soccer if that stresses them out, just because some advisor tells you they need socialization. Homeschool if that’s best for you. Never give up. And keep loving them, even if it’s really hard sometimes.

  2. My name is DianaStar, I just found this Website today and am I glad. Reading “An Open Letter to Parents of a Child with Mental Illness – Guest Post by Whitney Hawkins”
    was deep and it said everything I have reflected upon the past few years.

    You see, I am the child you describe in your open letter and my deceased Mother would be the parent. I’m 44 years old and my Mother died when I was 30. I did get to hear both my parents say they were proud of me prior to their early deaths but they never got to see me happy. They did not get to witness me taking charge of my own life and as messed up as they are at present, they never got to see me take on the care of my own affairs. Its a confusing and overwhelming life but its a good life.

    I thank God for the doctors medicine but it was my faith and belief in God that has brought me to this day. You see, I attempted suicide 15x’s (my drug of choice was suicide). Disappointment after disappointment, feelings of abandonment and rejection were powerful rulers of my emotional being. In spite of my personal mental health matters, my father was a binge drinker (meaning in and out the home for stretches of time). My Mother was sick 30 years of my life (my father’s drinking and mothers sickness required us to go live with our grandparents from time to time.

    I learned at 30, the day my Mother died that I had IEP’s in school and that was why school was so hard, due to a learning disability. I further learned at 30 just a few hours after Mother’s death I lived with a form of Autism and mild retardation which would explain my struggle to date…

    I’m not sure if it were you or another but I just read today that someone called mental illness “the invisible illness”. I’m in a season right now that I wish my Beloved were here because I need her help just to tighten some things up in my personal life (tears). I’m trying so hard but its really hard and I keep trying… (tears).

    Anyway, after Robin Williams Death, the death of a child suffering from cyber bullying no less and most recently a young woman right here in my town… all suicides for whatever their reasons. My heart began to open up and scream invisibly.

    Someone hurt me very bad and I had a mind to hurt them back but I chose to go public “Cyber-wide” and share my story regarding mental illness. Its the secrets and the invisible illnesses that take on dangerous roots and lead to defensive behaviors which sometimes have turned out bad for anyone feeling like the victim or the one they feel has victimized them.

    Because my Mother knew my father’s triggers, I feel he knew little of what my daily fight to survive was but today I know Mother did and though she talked with her sisters, I know she fought the Mother/Advocate fight alone. As I have heard about the suicides above+ and attempts of some (especially children) I have to say, my mind reflects back on the times I was still home with Mother. She could not be with me every day 24 hours…, I can only imagine the times she must have left home and returned (hand on knob to enter our home) not sure of what to expect regarding me and the fight I had to live/die. I’m ok here but sometimes I still look at their pictures and smile followed by asking them to forgive me.

    I overheard my Mother tell her mother she cursed the day I was born (I was 16, very suicidal after the death of my unborn child). Mother never knew I heard her but I grew up thinking she didn’t love me, I knew she did not want more children after her first two. I LOVE MY PARENTS (in their living and as I add my own legacy the foundation they laid for me).

    I feel like I drifted here but I pray you understand my heart toward my response. The long and short of it is: “There is hope for young & old living with mental illness”. I lead a challenging life on many levels “I’m an ordained gospel preacher 25years”, this has been my recovery and my saving grace.

    I started out life’s journey needing someone anyone to believe in me; I wrote my first book a few years back with products and services on the horizon, now I believe in myself and I need to help others to learn to do the same for themselves.

    To every parent that has embraced their child’s illness, I applaud you. Please do not take the blame unless you literally are the cause of your child’s illness (then take accountability and get pass it, we need you focused not feeling sorry).

    For that young or adult child that can not see your role in their lives, I want to say on their behalf, I’m sorry I don’t feel good and sometimes make you cry. I pray you understand that I do not always know why. I sometimes want to reach for you but instead I fight and sigh, never to realize you are the reason why I thrive.

    I want to say I love you and show I appreciate you too but this illness in my head seems to interfere with all I set out to do. Don’t you think for a moment that you are to blame, oh how I wish every time I mess up that I could sit you down and explain…

    I can’t speak for us all but in memory of my beloved parents and to any parents that dared to read to the end of this post. You are loved and appreciated (no matter how hard the test or deep the pain).

    No-one in their right mind would hurt or intentionally disappoint the ones they love. Meaning, when we make someone hurt through our illness, its not us, its the illness. Its one thing to be a caretaker or family member but to be the one housing the beast of mental illness is a horrible experience. As good as life seems to be (is) I see the ugly face of this illness peeping around the corner of life.

    ~I digress

    Full of Hope, Diana L Evans
    Advocate / Consumer

    • Hi Diana,

      Many thanks for taking time to comment and indeed for sharing what you have shared.

      Please accept my apologies for the delay in approving and publishing your comment but I have been unwell.

      Again many thanks and apologies.

      Kind regards and God bless you.


      • Hi Kevin,

        I wanted to visit your page, but when I clicked on your name it took me to a page that said it was a domaine for sale. Are you aware of this?

        • Hi Laura,

          Many thanks for letting me know. Yes I am aware of it. The domain came up for renewal and I got the notice to renew a month to six weeks prior to it actually expiring. I didn’t have the necessary funds to renew it at that time and so left it for a later date. I then went into another episode of illness and by the time I came out of it the domain had lapsed and someone else had bought it. This often happens as they see it as a way of making money. They now want something silly like 877 USD to sell it and since it only cost me 18 USD I am not prepare to pay that kind of money.

          Consequently the site – which I must admit I haven’t regular posted on for a while now – has reverted back to a WordPress site. I thought I had changed the link accordingly but obviously not.

          So I will do that now.
          Again, many thanks for letting me know.

          Kind regards and God bless you.

  3. Oh Whitney I so understand. I am in the same place as you and we are warriors for our children! I will pray for you! Thanks for sharing

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