Little Man is hallucinating again.
I’ve been working hard to widen my village over the past month or two. I’ve been attending events that usually give me social anxiety, making dates with old friends, and reaching out to some amazing special needs moms in my area. Our family needs friends. We already have enough hard stuff to complicate our lives; we do not need social isolation and loneliness.
I want people to know Little Man, to know Diva, to know and love them. I want to have friends who we invite over for picnics or meet at the playground for some time in the sprinklers. I don’t know if these are realistic dreams. Appointments and stress and exhaustion can interrupt these things.
I’m more afraid, though, that people will turn away from us when they see the reality of our life and how different it is from theirs. Yes, my son has autism, which is familiar and understandable, at least more so than other things. He also has mental illness. He sometimes hears things that aren’t really here. He sees snakes. He locks himself in his room to get away from monsters. He doesn’t like any of this. He is terrified. It happens, though, and it doesn’t detract from any of the rest of him. It doesn’t change the fact that he is also sweet and sensitive and charming and in love with helping others. It doesn’t change who he is. I would even say that it is part of his package, part of who he is, part of his neurology that we don’t yet understand in the beginnings of the 21st century.
We fear what we don’t understand. We live in a country where we fear mental illness more than most things, despite the fact that 1 in 4 adults experience mental illness in their lives. So sometimes I hesitate to write, because I don’t want people to fear my sweet boy. I don’t want them to avoid birthday parties or playground dates. I don’t want the school to be so reluctant to bring him back, even when his private school staff are saying that he’s ready. I want people to see all of him. This means that I focus a lot on the celebration, on the laughter, on the progress.
To only focus on that would be a lie. Not only would it be a lie, it would also be against the very reason I started this blog — to show that children with mental illness exist and are still children. They do not need to be avoided or hidden away. Their families celebrate and struggle, just in different ways than other families. They need your love, your acceptance, and your comfort. They need, more than anything, your presence. Your dedication to keep asking about how their children are doing, to showing up, to inviting them over repeatedly — even when a bad spell means that they’ve had to reject your last 15-20 invitations.
We’re having a bit of a hard time here. In the past, I would have stopped my efforts to expand my circle. I would have withdrawn to my virtual village, because the people in my everyday life haven’t lived this experience. I would have stopped blogging. Not this time. We are going to have Diva’s birthday party. We are going to see friends. We are going to do what we can, within Little Man’s limits and needs. We are going to keep putting one foot in front of the other, inspired by the brave ways that LM does this every single day. We are going to shine on, with all the respect and love that drives all our actions, all our writings, all our parenting. The bottom line – he does not need to be hidden, not one single part of him, not even one single bit.