Cover Photo: Illustration by Elizabeth Haidle for Catapult
Illustration by Elizabeth Haidle for Catapult

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.

Withdrawal? baby?

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

overdiagnosed

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 is a novelist, essayist, and law professor in Chapel Hill, NC. Her books include Life of the Mind Interrupted: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education, Even If You're Broken: Essays on Sexual Assault and #MeToo, and the Hollywood Lights novels. In addition to Catapult, Katie has contributed to The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Toast, Dame Magazine, Women in Higher Education, and more. You can connect with Katie on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, all at @krgpryal, and on her blog at katieroseguestpryal.com.