Parental Purgatory :: Walking a Child Through a Mental Health Crisis

Parental Purgatory:: Walking With Your Child Through a Mental Health Crisis | Houston Moms Blog

The first time that I was aware we had a problem, my beautiful and perfect daughter was two. After beginning a new school, I realized that she spent more than an hour each day standing by her backpack with tears streaming down her face. She knew that post-nap meant she was nearing the end of the day. She hated this school. She was uncomfortable with the routine and schedule. She was 2, and while she was incredibly verbal, she could not articulate the root of her tears. I thought that with time and adjustment she would get “better.” I was wrong. Every day for a month, she stood and cried. The teachers tried. The kids wanted to play. She just couldn’t do it. Fast forward 6 years and we found ourselves in a new school, with new teachers and new challenges. It was second grade and every day was a fight to get her out of the car and off to class. Mondays were especially hard and required her favorite teacher  meeting us in the carpool line for transition. I wish I could tell you that this was a school issue. It was not. She was terrified. She resisted the unknown with physical symptoms of illness. She battled intense phobias that required intervention from the age of eight. 

The Progression of Disease

Just like any illness that takes hold in a body, mental health conditions can have seasons of remission and seasons of activity. As a parent, watching your child have progress and success can falsely lull you into the belief that remission is complete. With anxiety, especially in children and adolescences, growth, developmental changes and hormonal seasons add to the complicated treatment. In our family, different seasons produced varied results. Some trends would last for days and weeks, while others would remain steady for years. The unpredictable nature of parenting a child with mental illness is by far the most challenging aspect. 

‘Normal’ Adolescence

I love teenagers. When my kids finally hit middle school, I thought to myself :: I have arrived. What I know about years 13-18 is that developmentally, this stage can be exhausting for everyone. However, having spent countless hours walking teenagers through the highs and lows of the maturation roller coaster, I was ready. I read an article recently that helped me refine my visual description of these years. Teenage emotions are like a jar of glitter {seriously, read this article}. And while helping a teen with glitter settling is a semi-professional skill for me, I learned very quickly that mental illness steals the jar. If a teenager needs time to help the glitter settle in the jar {brain}, mental health patients lack the glass to contain the glitter. Without the boundaries to hold the shifting pieces of crazed thought, the life of a teenager with metal health issues is an exhausting dance of glitter clean up. If you have ever tried to clean glitter you know how absolutely exhausting and pointless this exercise can be.

This is Life or Death

I can remember the darkest days. I would sit in my room and beg my Creator for the ability to see the sun come up. That was a literal and metaphorical prayer as the darkness of anxiety led to the depths of depression. Tears at school were no longer a worry because she was unable to will her body into a classroom. On the longest days, just waking up and moving to the couch was considered a success. There was no math or science. There was no choir or debate. Living was the only goal. I pray that I will never again know the fear of removing access to items of self-harm and monitoring all medicine consumption. If you know someone who is in this season, love them in ways that they don’t know to ask for. Even when they cannot tell you what they need, show up with your presence and all the coffee.

“Just” Get Help

I don’t know any parent that has called a psychiatrist for an appointment because of a good day. When things are beyond the control of the pediatrician, and the psychotherapist confirms that you need more resources, that phone weighs 900 pounds. No matter how progressive and educated in the disease that you are, that calls seems like admitting that things are REALLY bad. And then they answer the phone. Even with a recommendation from a referring physician, it is not unusual for the wait time to be 2 months or longer. Imagine knowing that your child has a life threatening disease and the best you can do is pray that you can piece together the next few weeks without having to call 911. I have never in my life felt so helpless – and I had good insurance and the ability to pay cash out of pocket if necessary. To my fellow moms who have walked this road :: there is nothing like our daily 8:05 am calls to check for cancellations, am I right?  We don’t go away. Not now, not ever.

Light in the Dark

There is a reason that Mental Health needs an awareness month. If you have ever told someone that you were awake all night on suicide watch it was probably your counselor or BFF. I can promise it was not the emailed excuse for missing the PTA board meeting, and it may have been omitted from the church prayer request list. We live in a world where issues of mental health are seen and categorized as personal or moral failure. If my daughter was battling cancer, our neighborhood would have t-shirts and there would be a 5K fun-run planned to help offset her medical bills. Instead, people are scared to ask about future plans and she has little in common with many of her peers. The level of interior work that she has engaged with as a 17 year-old would scare away even the most sturdy adult. While there are many days that seem so easy, we still have moments where self-care and mindfulness come before SAT prep. Much like those that have walked ahead of her with the example of holistic living, she is proudly deepening her skills for life. Most importantly, she knows that when the dark days come, as they do, she has a team of cheerleaders that have her back. I will proudly hold the title of Head Cheerleader. FOREVER.


This post was written with permission from my daughter. This is OUR story and she gave me her blessing to share it with you. To me, the ability to bravely tell her story is the greatest form of mental health advocacy. 


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Lacy H
Lacy H. is the mom of two teenage girls - Anna Jane {2002} and Ally {2005} - and has been married to her partner in all things, Lucas, since 1998. A 4th generation Baylor Bear, she bleeds green and gold. You’ll often catch her listening to everything from Dr. Dre to Panic! At the Disco and watching “Criminal Minds” and “30 for 30” on TV. Her mid-life “growth” has included learning to play a pink bass and adding to her tattoo collection. This season has also moved her away from two decades of serving and leading in the Christian Church. Her personal journey through brokenness and healing grounds her life. Sometimes the road has taken turns filled with rebellion and pain, other times it has been beautiful and full, but it has always been an adventure. After years of crafting communication though the spoken word, she found a passion for writing. Continually fumbling through the messiness of life, all of her faith and doubt and healing can be found on her blog, The View From The Bathroom Floor. Lacy’s interests include LUSH, the weather {she has 6 weather apps}, knitting, podcasts, college football and growing up. You can follow Lacy on Facebook and Instagram @theviewfromthebathroomfloor and Twitter @lhilbrich.



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