This post is part of my series for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018! The series includes articles, poems, and photo essays by many guest authors about mental health and related issues. For more information, click here!
My name is ‘William.’ My son is in his late 20’s and has been struggling with mental health issues for the last few years, I’ve been depressed to varying degrees for the past decade and a half.
I won’t really punch you. I just wanted to get your attention.
There is a saying: ‘It was the worst!’ Or at least there was a couple of years ago. The hipsters these days (or some of them) used it from time to time. “I had to wait in line at Starbucks for ten minutes — it was the worst!” “On the way to work, it was raining, and I couldn’t get a seat on the bus — it was the worst!”
I respectfully submit that most people who say that have no idea at all what they are talking about. (Sorry about the phrasing, I’m watching a courtroom drama on the TV while I write this.)
Knowing that someone you love is struggling, and hurting, and at the same time knowing that you can’t just wave a magic wand and fix everything. That is the worst.
My son’s mother and I are divorced, we separated, oh, about a decade and a half ago. Not long after she and I met, three decades ago, she went through a difficult time, which involved a hospital stay, and a significant treatment program.
One thing I learned at the time was eye opening: everyone, literally everyone, I mentioned her hospitalization to had a story of their own to relate. A friend, a family member, themselves — everyone had been affected by mental health issues. That helped me at the time, knowing that we were not alone in this situation.
So I (we) already had some familiarity with mental health challenges.
Separation and divorce threw me for a bit of a loop — it had been inconceivable to me that it could happen to us. But we were fortunate and stayed on pretty good terms — if I had to have an ex-wife, I was glad it was her.
But the effect on me was non-trivial – I felt like everything had changed, all plans had derailed, the wind had been knocked out of my sails. And I often still feel that way.
So when our son started having trouble, we (his mother and I) tried to do our best for him, and support him in the best and most appropriate ways, and help him get his feet back under him.
But, to me, it seemed to be more challenging for us – divorced, living separately – it was harder to present a ‘united front’ to best help our son in the best and most consistent ways.
I sometimes feel guilty — not just for our son, but for our daughter as well – that because we were divorced we somehow didn’t end up doing the best for them. As divorces go, ours was great, and our children pretty much seem to have taken it in stride. But still.
I struggle with depression. I sometimes refer to myself as a ‘high-functioning’ depressed person. But there are still days when I have no energy, when I just want to curl up in bed and watch TV, when I have no energy to try and make our humble abode less house, and more home.
My son currently lives with me. When I have bad days, and I’m not at my best for myself, I can only feel that I can’t be the best for my son.
To sum up, my son is struggling as a result of mental illness, and I’m faced with the idea that I can’t do the best for him because I’m not at my best, and the idea that his mother and I together can’t do the best for him because we’re divorced and living separately. And add the icing on the cake that sometimes someone who’s struggling doesn’t always want help, or have a way to let others know how they can help.
I put it to you, ladies and gentlemen, that that is the worst.
And if you don’t agree, I will humbly suggest that you are more ignorant than you likely think you are, and that perhaps you should take your Starbucks latte and put it where the sun don’t shine.
Put it perhaps in an in-patient psychiatric ward — some of those patients could use a nice warm beverage to brighten their day.