Mental illness knows no boundaries. It doesn’t pick a certain age group. Even children struggle with this serious sickness. Many children suffer in silence, afraid to tell parents, guardians, and teachers what’s happening within them. They may not even understand what is wrong. It’s a horrible struggle to face alone, but unfortunately many of our children feel they have no other choice.
I never really realized how young I was when I started struggling with mental illness until I started writing my memoir. To write my book, I had to retrace and relive my childhood. Back then I didn’t know what mental illness was. My mom told me my grandmother, her mom, struggled with mental health problems, but I had little understanding of what that meant. I just knew she was sick and spent some time in hospitals. She came to visit once and a while, but I was young and only have a few memories of her.
My mom told me I was a happy child until I started going to school. Some of that sadness was caused by bullying, and I believe that was what triggered my illness. Many things can trigger such a sickness like abuse, tragedy, loss, poor living conditions, bullying, and so on. The teasing started in first grade and in my memoir, I could retrace the start of it.
It was then I began to lose self-esteem. I couldn’t defend myself against the names I was called. I began to question if the things I was called were true or not. I felt a sadness, but it wasn’t overpowering. As the school years went on, my illness progressed. At night I struggled to sleep and when I did, I had nightmares. I started to put myself down internally and I began to hate myself. I broke out in angry fits. I would get into fights with my siblings, I would scream, cry, and throw things. Then I started pulling my hair to ease my pain inside. The hair pulling turned to punching a wall and pinching my skin.
I knew there was a deep sadness in me and that I had emotions I couldn’t control, but I had no way of explaining it. My parents were and are very loving people. Dad worked long hours at the family garage and Mom worked hard taking care of four children and our home. They didn’t have much money, but they showered us with love. So, if I had such wonderful parents, why didn’t I turn to them? How could I tell them I was falling apart inside when I couldn’t comprehend it?
I was afraid they wouldn’t understand. How could they when I didn’t even know what was happening? It seemed like a burden I was cursed to carry on my own. My parents thought I had a bad temper. I thought they were right, but when I broke out into those angry bursts it was like I lost all control of myself. There was no explanation for that other than I had pent up anger to let out from the kids teasing me at school. I argued with my parents and little things set me off into a fury. My parents and siblings suffered the wrath of my unexplainable temper-tantrums. My parents were at their wits’ end trying to figure out how to help me control my anger. It wasn’t until I was hospitalized as an adult that I learned the angry fits were emotional episodes caused by Borderline Personality Disorder.
In eighth grade I felt the saddest I had ever felt. I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. I buried my depression in studying. The racing thoughts were nonstop. I tried to quiet them, but they were too powerful. They tore me apart inside. A misunderstanding from my Special Education teachers sent me to the school counselor. Talking to him each week got me through that rough time. I was able to cope a little better.
It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom in college that I finally confided in my parents. I had started cutting myself, I planned my death, and began to try to take my life. When my mom found out what was happening, she went out of her way to find me help. As an adult I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, self-injury, and Borderline Personality disorder.
I struggle with worries of how my parents will handle my memoir. Will they feel guilty for not knowing? Will they be crushed when they realize how I suffered in silence? Will they be hurt because I didn’t turn to them? I think the important message I want them to get from my book is that their love and the love of other family members was what kept me going.
Childhood mental illness is serious. It’s important to educate parents and children about the symptoms and signs. It’s important we tell our children that it’s okay to talk about things that’s happening to them which they don’t understand.
If you’re a child suffering, don’t be afraid to tell someone. Don’t suffer in silence. This sickness is a heavy burden you can’t carry on your own. Tell a parent, a relative, a guardian, or a teacher. That way they can get you help. I wish I would have confided in my parents. Maybe if I did, I wouldn’t have fought this sickness for so long. Maybe I could have reached recovery sooner. Maybe I wouldn’t have hit rock bottom and became suicidal. Speak out. If you must put it in a note or draw a picture, then do that.
I can’t live in regret for keeping my illness a secret when I was a kid. There are a lot of “what if’s,” but instead of wondering, I decided to help others with my memoir. Writing my memoir helped me and I’m sure will help others. Helping others through my writing will guide many children to the light and also keep me standing strong in the light of recovery,