Author: Beth Ayers

Are You a Parent at Increased Risk for Depression?

I am a mom of two, now adult, children with behavioral health challenges and I work as a Family Peer Supporter helping other parents currently raising children with special healthcare needs including behavioral health. As a Family Peer Supporter, I get to walk beside families and help lift their burden by listening and connecting through a shared lived experience. Parenting is stressful in and of itself. It’s a full-time job with no training manual. Parents don’t clock in and clock out. They don’t get to call in sick. And a literal life depends on how well you do! Like most moms, I envisioned the future for my children including friends, activities, school, summer camp, growing up, high school dances, graduation, college, marriage, children of their own, and so on.

Parenting Challenges Strengthen My Recovery

I began going to Al-Anon because a family member’s alcoholism was affecting my life. They had found sobriety, but their behaviors still bothered me. The only way I knew to deal with the situation was control. The more I tried to control what I couldn’t, the worse the relationship got. My thought was, “If they would change, everything would get better.” The problem was they weren’t changing, no matter how hard I tried! The tools I learned in Al-Anon and the recovery I experienced prepared me for the challenges I faced as a parent.

The Benefits of Serving Others

I have always enjoyed volunteering and service work. In Girl Scouts, they were called service projects. I can remember doing clean up projects and singing at retirement homes. As kids, those of us in the neighborhood would pick up trash around a nearby church. I had a reading “grandma” in 5th grade who I continued to visit for many years after. I also volunteered as a Candy Striper at the hospital delivering mail and flowers. As an adult I learned the importance of service work to my recovery, whether that was opening and closing a meeting, sponsoring others, or being the treasurer for a group.

Reality and Acceptance

For most of my life, I avoided reality. At the time, I didn’t know this was what I was doing. I would have said I was helping or fixing or taking charge or being strong or managing. I felt that I was in control. I thought my tactics would move me forward, but, in fact, they did not. They kept me stuck. You could tell I was stuck by my often-used phrases of “This isn’t fair!” or “Why did this happen to me?” I constantly wished things were different, that I was a different person with a different life. My thoughts and reflections about life and myself included words such as “should”, “ought”, and “must.”

Children’s Mental Health Acceptance Week: May 7-13, 2023

Before we can accept that mental health is important and affects our kids, we have to acknowledge it, talk about it, and address the issues surrounding it. We have to fight against the stigma. We have to recognize mental illness as the physical illness it is and not a character defeat.

Forgiving Myself

I was ill-prepared for taking care of a child with behavioral health challenges. I didn’t understand mental illness and neurodiversity. I hadn’t heard of trauma-informed care. I had little tools in my parenting toolbox. I parented a lot of the time from a place of fear, control, embarrassment, fatigue, and ignorance. I also parented out of a deep and all-consuming love.

Family Recovery

Mental illness affects the whole family. And although each member’s recovery is individual, recovery and healing as a family has been important to me and to my own recovery and wellness.

Family Relationships

Family relationships can be challenging, complicated, wonderful, or any other positive or negative adjective you want to put there! Navigating family relationships becomes even harder when there are health challenges. Raising a child with a behavioral health challenge and/or special healthcare need can put added strain on family relationships.

Join MPN’S Family Support Committee

The Family Support Committee was started in 2021 by and for parents and caregivers with lived experience raising a child with a behavioral health challenge and/or special health care need. Its mission is to develop and support Family Peer Supporters in MT to help families, who are currently raising a child with a behavioral health challenge and/or special healthcare need, build support systems, tools, and resiliency.

Family Peer Support

As a parent raising a child with behavioral health challenges, these words are lifesaving; especially when they come from a parent who has also raised a child with behavioral health challenges. Or in recovery terms, has lived experience. We who have walked in their shoes bring to a struggling parent empathy, practical knowledge, judgement-free listening, empowerment, support, and hope. This unique role is called Family Peer Support.

Family Culture

Over the years I have thought a lot about the culture of my family and what I want it to be. Particularly, how I want it to be different from my parents’ culture that I was raised in. And the ways I would like it to be the same. One thing in my life that I have a lot of control over is the culture in my family and our home.