My name is Lisa Beck and I have three children currently attending the Great Valley School District.
I am sending this to any and all parents for whom I have email addresses, regarding the negative stigma attached to mental illness and chemical imbalances. While the negative connotation is getting less, it does still exist and is taxing to many. No one knows what families could be dealing with behind closed doors in regards to mental illness. If you and your family are fortunate enough not to be experiencing struggles with such issues within your home, then please disregard this letter. If it does apply to you and your loved ones, then please read on.
I am considering trying to form a support group for those parents who have a child/children who is/are struggling with some type of mental illness or chemical imbalance. Although I don't want to be discriminatory, I'm not just talking about the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde behavior that we have been seeing from all three of our middle school and high school kids these days. Definitely not fun, but a normal (and hopefully short-lived) part of development. I am talking about kids who have been diagnosed with or show symptoms of any of the illnesses out there such as: depression, anxiety disorder(s), OCD, ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, cutting, dermatillomania, trichotillomania, eating disorders, perfectionism... Sadly, the list could go on.
My daughter Jordan is a sophomore and she is currently dealing with a few of these. She is a trooper, and is comfortable enough to speak up and share most of her experiences with friends. Her goal is for the stigma to go away and for people to understand that these are sicknesses that people can't really help or control. She is thankfully receptive to therapy (although the third try) and seems to be on the right combination of medications, (which is something that I never thought one of our kids would need or take.) Right now, things are going pretty well. I say this because I am realistic and I am learning that none of this is black and white, and that none of it is easy. Life changes everyday, especially the life of a stressed out, over-taxed teenager.
And speaking of over-taxed teenagers...
Not that anyone asked for my theory, but I am curious to know if Adam and I are the only ones with this point of view. I certainly do believe that Jordan was born with many of these tendencies, but I also believe that kids are not getting enough sleep because of all their activities and school work. AP and Honors level classes, college-amounts of homework while our kids are still in high school full time, and other crazy demands are being put on them. And we, as parents, are just letting it all happen, letting them make these choices like they are capable of completely logical decision making. The frontal lobe in their brain is not fully developed until around the age of 21. Most high school kids that I have spoken to say that they sleep less than 5 hours a night. We're not much better at our house, probably averaging around 6. We have tried by not allowing Jordan to take an AP course that she was very capable of doing well in, if she had the time to devote to it. As you can imagine, that didn't go over very well. She felt as if we were punishing her because of her issues. In our minds we were just protecting her.
So as you can see from that short outburst, a support group would do me a world of good. :)
Please let me know if you would be interested in getting together to vent, share, worry, and hopefully laugh a little. I haven't really thought about the logistics of this; I'll wait and see if there is any interest. Please forward this to any and all parents who you think may be interested in, or would benefit from joining a support group like this.
Thank you for taking the time to read this longer-than-planned letter.