Anne Grady is a NAMI Austin Member and President of Acclivity Performance, and she recently posted this blog on her company’s website.  We thank her for giving us the opportunity to share it as we are certain it will resonate with many of our members.

On November 29, 2010, we had to make the incredibly difficult decision to admit my son Evan, who was seven at the time, into the Pediatric Psychiatry Unit of Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.  Three years later, almost to the day, we have had to make the equally painful decision to check Evan into a residential treatment facility.

While this month’s post is supposed to be the final in the series on improving communication through behavior style-flexing, it seemed more fitting to revisit the post I wrote shortly after we checked Evan into the hospital in 2010.  It appears the lessons I had learned then apply now more than ever.

Evan’s initial hospital stay was an unexpected blessing.  I fought tooth and nail to keep him from having to be hospitalized, when it turned out to be the healthiest decision we could have made for him.  I can only pray that this too is an unexpected blessing.

While these lessons are important all of the time, they are especially fitting for the holiday season:

1.  Be grateful.  No matter what is happening in your life, there are blessings to be found if you take the time to look for them.  If things are going well, enjoy every moment.  If they aren’t, this too shall pass.

2.  Don’t Judge.  You never know what someone else is going through.  We are all doing the best we can with the resources we have at any given moment. If you are blessed enough not to be going through a difficult time right now, consider it your responsibility to be kinder than necessary because there are many people who aren’t so fortunate.

3.  Find ways to laugh. This continues to be one the most difficult experiences of my life, but each day, there are things to laugh about.  You have to or you will fall apart.  Look for humor in any situation.  Laughing might not take away the sadness, but it certainly helps you cope.

4.  Self-care.  As we help Evan get better, we are also getting respite. He needs us to be strong and rested when he comes home.  I have had to give myself permission to not go 110 mph all of the time.  While our tendency is to put others first, remember, in case of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, put your mask on first.  You can’t care for others if you aren’t cared for.

5.  Have faith.  I have prayed so long and hard for Evan’s recovery.  It might not be in the way I had hoped, but I have to believe that this is for some greater reason.  Sometimes, you have to throw up your hands, open your heart and have faith that things will work out.

6.  People are inherently kind.  It never fails to amaze me how supportive, caring, and compassionate people are.  I can’t count the number of prayers, hugs, and offers to help we have received.  These acts of kindness have made all the difference.

7.  Speak Up.  While I certainly don’t like sharing that my son is mentally ill, I also know that there are countless other families struggling with similar situations, but they are too embarrassed to ask for help.  Mental illness is like any other illness.  You wouldn’t attach a stigma to someone getting treated for another disease. I learned recently that more money goes into dental education for children than for treating all mental illnesses combined. If people don’t speak up, mental illness will stay in the shadows.  This recent CNN story does an amazing job of shining a light on an illness stuck in the shadows.

Thank you for continuing to be part of our journey.  Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and wonderful holiday season.

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