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Taking care of yourself is not selfish. It's essential.

We know from experience that your child’s declining mental health is all consuming. One minute you’ve got life ‘kind of’ under control, and then you’re thrown into a half life, where nothing makes sense, your usual coping strategies don’t quite work and you have no idea how to fix things. You’re juggling fears and worry about this very moment as well as your child’s future ( or perceived lack of), all the while wondering how you got here, if it’s your fault, what’s next and what you can do to change it.

We get it. And we know that in order to get through this marathon of a challenge, you will need to take care of yourself. And that’s not selfish or indulgent. It’s essential if you’re going to support your child and your family in these extraordinary times. So, here are some things we’d like you to consider next time you think ignoring your needs is helping your family. We know that it’s hard but you are an integral part of your family’s future and how it will play out. We care about you and your mental health, and we want you to, too. 

 

Remember you matter too.

We get it. Your child and your family comes first. And especially now, surely it’s the time to focus on them more, not less, right? Wrong! Now is the time to stand back and recognise the powerful role you have in dealing with their illness and their recovery. This is not an exercise designed to beat you up, but to understand your needs so you can strengthen yourself for the fight ahead; so you can take the tough decisions that the rest of the world might not agree with; and be the kind of support your family needs. 

There’s a saying on airplanes that you should put your own oxygen mask on first, and we wholeheartedly believe this relates to parenting a child with a mental health issue. How can you support everyone else if you’re gasping for emotional air? As a parent, we so often overlook our needs because life calls louder than our heart does, but this is the time to heed its call. 

But what does that look like when your child is struggling? You might not have time, funds or the inclination for spa days or trips away to recharge. You might be struggling to just keep going. And we hear you. 

It starts when you decide that you matter too. When you commit to yourself and your mental and physical health. When you recognise that you can’t continue at full speed – not just in terms of busyness, but also the emotional load you’re carrying, you can begin to fill your everyday with a regular practice that serves you and your needs. 

And ultimately, if you help yourself, you’ll help your child. You’ll be less frazzled and anxious and more able to be objective, compassionate and supportive. So by acknowledging you matter, everyone wins.

 

 It’s ok to not be ok…

Yes, we know it’s a phrase that’s frequently used now, but we’ve been saying it for years. But how often do you think you need to be ok, because you’re ‘the parent’? How often do you feel you can’t not be ok, because if you’re not, who will be? 

We hear you! And we know that juggling your emotions and expectations as well as practical stuff around treatment and school and work mean there’s often no space to explore how you really feel. Whatever level of poor mental health you’re dealing with in your child, it’s not a straightforward situation. Yes, there are clear facts, but they’re tempered by layers of  judgement and stress and fear and guilt…

We believe it’s SO important to give yourself the permission to acknowledge you’re not coping or that you might need some help to make sense of this new and challenging situation. It’s not only ok to ask for help and support when you’re not ok, it’s a positive action! It’s strong and brave and something we should be applauding. ( We are clapping here!) 

So if you feel that you can’t continue to carry the weight of worry and you need someone to help you make sense of it, maybe it’s time to get some support. That might be in the form of a professional counsellor or therapist, or a chat with a PMH Peer Mentor, or by joining a Listening Circle

Or maybe it’s by being heard – sharing your frustrations in a ranty email (that you might choose not to send!) telling your family how they can help or lowering your expectations of yourself – there’s nothing wrong with a PJ day or week. If it helps you get through this time, we firmly advocate it. 

And while you’re lowering those expectations, why not put down your judgement. You’re doing the best you can. And that’s good enough. (It really is!) 

 

You’re not alone…

Taking care of a child with a mental illness – seeing the person you love so much to struggle – is one of the most difficult experiences a parent can go through. You can’t fix it, you can’t force it to change. And no one seems to get it. 

Your friends and family are unlikely to understand. No one wants to speak about it. There are unspoken questions about why you’re going through it, why life has been interrupted, why, why why. 

And at a time when you need understanding and connection, you feel so isolated and alone. We know, because we’ve been there, wondering where the understanding and compassion has gone. 

It’s then that you’re most likely to head down Blame Street – the path that leads to it all being your fault – not only your child’s mental health issues but your disconnection from those who you used to feel so close to. It can feel really heavy. 

Well, the good news is that we get it. And so do the thousands of parents around the world battling for support for their child, trying to make sense of the unfathomable and as keen as you to find someone to say, “I hear you!” Joining the PMH community will give you a safe space that is yours – to explore your emotions, to be honest and raw and open, to connect with people who get what you’re going through and don’t judge. 

We get it and we’re beside you every step of the way. Look forward to seeing you in the community. Share a Snoopy GIF when you join and we’ll know where you’ve come from 😉