One Moment At A Time

I am looking outside my window at the orange leaves, and low sun, at too early a time in the day (3:42pm), thanks to changing the clocks back to standard time. And, oh my goodness, it’s almost Thanksgiving.

I do tend to mark things by time. By seasons. By where I am – as in when – in my life. Compare things to last year at this time.

And, I’ve learned about taking things one moment at a time. One day, even, at a time.

And, I’ve learned about ordinary. About things being ordinary. About how the greatest things to be grateful for and to celebrate are the absolutely, truly ordinary things.

I am a parent of a child – a young adult himself – with a mental illness. And, I am extremely lucky to be in a community where I don’t have to keep it secret. Yet, I do want to protect him. So, I don’t advertise it or publicize it. But, I am not afraid to share it in the right context. However, there are many people I know, even well, who do not know this about our family.

As the person not actually suffering from a diagnosed mental illness, I didn’t realIze how much it would affect me or how much I’d learn as the parent of a child who suffers. But I have. A lot.

I’ve learned – although my other child doesn’t think I have yet completely – to listen. I guess it’s a work in progress,

I’ve learned new language. I’ve learned to say, “How can I help with your worried feelings?” or “How present were you even if you were also worried?” instead of, “Your anxious feelings will go away, don’t worry.”

I’ve learned to ask people to help me the way I want to be helped, not the way they want to help me.

I’ve learned that a phone call late at night telling me he’s having a hard night, is the way my child is telling me information I wouldn’t have had in the past, and to not worry as much. He’s just having a hard night.

I’ve learned that Fall Break and Parents’ Weekend and Thanksgiving Vacation are milestones for us to celebrate as much as we would celebrate the milestones of a wedding, a bar mitzvah or a graduation.

I’ve learned that some of my dearest and closest friends will never understand how certain events or certain conversations with my son fill my heart in ways that they cannot even imagine.

And, I’ve learned to take life one day at a time. One simple, ordinary day at a time.

I have changed in exponential ways since before my son’s diagnosis. And, in some ways it has changed my relationships with others. With people who “get it,” there’s a level of understanding that only we can comprehend and appreciate. With those who just don’t know from this life-changing experience, there’s a piece that they just don’t get.

I am not the same person – actually none of us in our family are – that I was a year ago at this time. I don’t wish this struggle or journey on anyone. But, I’m grateful for who I am now. For who we all are now.

I read someone else’s blog (here on the JOFA page) who reminded me of this. We are everywhere. Those who suffer with mental illnesses and those of us who care for them. Our lives are changed in immeasurable ways – for the good and for the bad. We need to destigmatize mental health issues, but we also need to understand that people are changing – deeply changing – right around you – one moment at a time, and you don’t even know it.

Be aware. Be kind. We need it.

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