For Parents of Mentally Ill Kids, Acceptance a Bitter Pill to Swallow

August 3, 2011 Angela McClanahan

My name is Angela, and I am a control freak. If you read this blog with any regularity, this probably comes as no great shock to you. If you're new, however, you may not yet have noticed many of my posts contain the same underlying message:

How can I fix this?
controlfreak2 Every parent has a bit of control freak in them when it comes to their children. We want them to be healthy, happy, well-adjusted and in the best possible place when we die so we can rest peacefully, knowing they will be okay. The means to this end often comes at the price of our own ability to think logically--we may know we can't control every aspect of our young children's lives, but by golly, we're going to give it the ol' college try.

It stands to reason, then, that nothing takes the wind out of a parent's sails like a child's illness--particularly one for which no cure exists.

The essence of "control freakdom" is to seek out that which threatens The Perfect Scenario and remove it. Find what is broken and fix it.

Guess what happens when you tell us, "you can't"?

More often than not, we don't listen.

Control freaks believe we can maintain complete control over our lives by simply finding out what the problems are and finding the appropriate solution. Illness, however (be it psychiatric or otherwise), doesn't always have a cut-and-dried solution.

True Acceptance of My Child's Mental Illness Elusive

I spent years making myself crazy (or crazier) trying to figure out what the Magic Combination was to make Bob's troubles vanish into thin air. Other parents had found it for their kids--that meant the answer for mine was out there somewhere, I just had to find it. I couldn't rely on psychiatrists or therapists to find it--they were only interested in Bob when they were being paid by the hour to be. No, the answer had to come from Me. Because even though it's not my life's work to research psych meds or theory, and I'm not a licensed practitioner, I'm the one who has to fix this, because I am Bob's parent.
Obviously, that strategy hasn't worked out so well.

Accepting the situation surrounding Bob's illness has come gradually, in spurts. I have accepted life for our family will not be what I originally planned. But that's about the extent of my acceptance to this point. I refuse to believe there isn't some solution somewhere--not a "fix," but at least a way to allow him to get as close to that end result I imagine for him every day.

I don't know that I will ever completely "accept" that things for Bob are as good as they're going to get, and I don't think I should. The world needs control freak parents to keep researchers and developers from resting on their laurels. And I don't doubt that's exactly what we'll do.

The rest of the world will just have to accept that.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2011, August 3). For Parents of Mentally Ill Kids, Acceptance a Bitter Pill to Swallow, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 19 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

August, 9 2011 at 5:13 pm

Thank you for writing this. My parents deep down love me but do not believe there is an illness. After numerous hospitalizations and suicide attempts we are on speaking terms but they keep their distance. I am not allowed to show up at their door unannounced and at least two weeks notice is required.
Just a quick background, I have BPD with a hint of this and a hint of that. I'd think of it as an emotional spice rack during an earthquake. I've been dealing with mental health issues since 1998 and I am now 33. On my worst days the only thing I would say is that i'm here because my cat needs me.
It took me a while to get past my obsession with what thought was apathy. I now think about all the counseling sessions where my mom would cry while I was blaming her and my father. The toll this has taken on our relationship as a family is way beyond comprehension. There is always an underlying guilt about the damaged relationship we have. Even thought I was in many crisis situations, it still had a lasting effect.
Right now, I am in such desperation for some type of communication with my parents that I lie about how I feel. I got into a fight with my father seven months ago and just recently started communicating again.
I suppose what i'm trying to say is, that being a parent of a mentally ill child is definitely not easy. To the above poster Kristin, please give yourself some credit. From a mentally ill child to the parent of one, all I would want is a hug once in a while and for you to tell me you love me. All the therapy and psych meds in the world can't provide that.

August, 8 2011 at 8:35 am

I have become that parent. I am trying to do everything under the sun to figure out what will help our situation, and our son, to get through this. No one will ever understand everything that I do, but I'm going to keep it up. I have read sooo many books, blogs, and websites on behavior, mental health, and parenting. I have brought him to professionals, though I know that ultimately it is my work that will pay off. It becomes an obsession to understand, accept, and work on all the problems we are having.

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