For Parents and Children with Psychiatric Disabilities, the Stigma Creates an Extra Fight We Don’t Need
So many people have suggested I stop taking medication for my bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and panic attacks. The stigma is strong.
This isa monthly column byKatie Rose Pryalabout family life, mental illness, and raising disabled kids as a disabled parent.
Look at the babyWhen you’re worried about him, just look. Look at the baby
If someone tells you they’re taking medication for mental illness, it’s not helpful to suggest they exercise more instead.
Don’t suggest massageOr vitaminsOr essential oils
The stigma of mental illness is strong. And hand-in-hand with it is the stigma of the medication for mental illness.
And just as with any time the world tells you you’re harming your children, this battle is much harder to fight.
The Bling Ring
herher except in the case of her kid
Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis
Now it’s Seven’s turn. We’re alone in the room, waiting while the doctor updates Nine’s chart and prescriptions. Seven spends the first few minutes waiting for the doctor furious that I won’t let him play on my cell phone. “Why don’t you draw on the paper on the exam table instead?” I suggest.
He carefully sketches a picture. Then he pauses, drawing back the pen like a weapon, and scribbles through what he’s drawn. I stand, peering over his shoulder. He’s writing words beneath a defaced portrait of me: “I hate mommy.” When he notices that I’m looking, he gets nervous and upset.
“I’m going to throw it away,” he says. Now that his anger has dissipated, he’s ashamed.
I don’t let him throw the drawing away. Instead, I tear it carefully, saving it to show to the doctor.
“I don’t want you to show her,” Seven says.
“It’s important for the doctor to know how angry you get about stuff sometimes.”
He’s a little wary, but he trusts me.
As we wait for the doctor to come back to see Seven, I think how good it is that I left my full-time job to freelance. But I push that thought aside. Somewhere between “My career is my children” and “I’ve given up my career for my children” is where I stand—I fit a career in the margins.
Big feelings. I feel them, too
save my life
You are hurting my patient. You are wrong about the medicine. You are wrong.
I can’t think
Katie's work has appeared in Catapult, Slate, Full Grown People, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and more. She’s the author of more than ten books, including the IPPY Gold award-winner EVEN IF YOU’RE BROKEN: Essays on Sexual Assault and MeToo, the INDIE Gold award-winning THE FREELANCE ACADEMIC: Transform Your Creative Life and Career, and the bestselling LIFE OF THE MIND INTERRUPTED: Essays on Disability and Mental Health in Higher Education. A professor of law and creative writing, she lives in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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I’m not looking for a cure—not for my kids, and not for me. Any treatment we choose is merely a tool to help us enjoy our lives.
I think about the many invisible struggles, the empty places I have had to fill for my kids. The bridges I’ve had to build.
Unwritten social rules might as well not exist for me. The only reason I can read them at all is because I’ve forced myself to learn them.
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I have such immense anxiety. It sweeps me up into its furious winds. And my kids are at the middle of the storm.