Our Mental Illness Story

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Raising an adult child who has a mental illness

Adam was one of the happiest babies I ever knew. I would hear him wake up in the morning and go in to find him rolled over onto his back and looking up at me with a grin on his face. Ready to face the day. He was more sensitive than his older brother and discipline usually consisted of a stern voice and a scowl; he was more concerned that we were upset with him.

I’m not sure exactly when he changed but I think it was as he entered his teens. His father and I were separated when he was 13 and he definitely took it harder than his brother and sister. It seemed as though he hit his teens with a bang and never really grew out of the dark, moody place he found himself. At the time, I kept thinking he would eventually grow out of it, all teenagers do, don’t they?

He went from being an unsmiling and moody teenager to a depressed and anxious adult. It became apparent that he was abusing both drugs and alcohol. For quite a while I was convinced if he was able to overcome the addictions, he would emerge the man I knew he was meant to be. It wasn’t until he was in rehab in 2012, that he obtained a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder. I headed to my computer and googled the disorder and things started to make sense.

His inability to make a social commitment; he would say he was going to go to see relatives for the holidays and then back out at the last minute. He was convinced no one at work liked him and they wanted him to quit. His lack of friends. It was all because of a deep rooted belief that he wasn’t as good as everyone else and that people were laughing at him. He believed he was unattractive and flawed. Being in crowded or social situations was very difficult for him and caused a high level of anxiety.

What I discovered with this diagnosis was that his addictions were a symptom, not the main problem.

After his stay in rehab, he seemed to bounce back into a good place. He would smile and talk to me. He was on medication and seeing a counsellor as well as attending AADAC. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long and he was soon skipping his appointments, spending more and more time alone in the dark playing online games and watching movies.

He lost the job he had been at for four years and was never able to hold one for any length of time again.

I watched him helplessly, unable to do anything. I begged him to go back to his counsellor, I prayed for him, I screamed at him. I tried giving him everything he could possibly need and I tried tough love.

There is a piece of paper taped to my computer that says “Your love never failed and that will always be enough.” It is something I cling to on the dark days when I wonder if I did everything I could. – Carla