I’m a recovering perfectionist. In my writing, I’m always looking for a better way to phrase things (I’ve revised this sentence four times). As a teacher, I’m always tweaking my lesson plans and assignments to try to make them more effective and inclusive. And as a mother of four children, I sometimes agonize over being the best parent I can be, knowing firsthand that a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child. Some days, that means I’ve been pretty anxious, stressed, and sad. One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in parenting a child with mental illness is that it’s okay to doubt myself—and even more importantly, it’s also okay to trust myself too.
I’ll never forget the day that my then four-year-old son Eric told me he just wanted to be a zero. “It hurts too much, Mom,” he said, referring to the anguish of sensory overload that sometimes caused him to melt down in public or lash out at his preschool peers. I hugged my little Buzz Lightyear close—Eric loved his hero so much that it was hard for me to talk him into changing out of his Buzz-themed pajamas. What could I do to help my child?
Since my children were young, we’ve practiced the same Thanksgiving tradition. During the first week of November, we sit down together and make our “Thankful Turkeys.” We trace our hands (my youngest daughter’s are now almost as big as mine!) on recycled brown paper grocery bags, then cut our “feathers” from bright construction paper and write what we are thankful for on our feathers.
For many of us, our spiritual leaders are a natural first place to turn in times of mental health challenges. They know us and our families, they are often a comforting presence, and offer a trusted and wise counselor.
Marriage isn’t easy even under the best of circumstances. A marriage enduring the stress of caring for an ill family member is perhaps one of life’s more difficult challenges. When you have a child experiencing mental illness, it is normal for priorities to shift, and parents’ time and energy to be more focused on that child and doing everything possible to ensure the child gets the help he or she needs. Unfortunately for some couples, this means their marriage can get lost in the shuffle, and the relationship weakens or worse, falls apart.
To recognize Mental Health Awareness Month, One in Five Minds is introducing Pinwheels for Change. The colorful and vibrant pinwheels are no ordinary pinwheels, but the stunning creations of 15 renowned San Antonio artists that were inspired to participate in the campaign. These highly visual reminders represent both the dire situation facing children with mental, emotional or behavioral disorders, as well as the change that can come with proper diagnosis and treatment. Senior Vice President at Clarity Child Guidance Center, Rebecca Helterbrand, said pinwheels were selected as symbols because, “Pinwheels evoke powerful imagery of childhood; of gentle breezes and carefree days. The desire is that these happy images provide hope for the 1 in 5 children that experience mental illness. A hope that can only be achieved by raising awareness about mental illness, ending stigma and improving access to care for all children who need it.”