Like all moms, when they are told their child has a possible diagnosis, I went into research mode when my knight and I were told that our daughter might have Bipolar Disorder. One of the first places that I went to in 2010 was to my local bookstore. I did not find one single book on Pediatric Bipolar. I was told they could order The Bipolar Child by Papolos since it was not in stock. Instead, I found Bipolar Disorder for Dummies. I thumbed through this book only to find one little chapter about children with Bipolar. At the tail end of the chapter, it read, "For more information and support, go to Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation.org." (This organization is now called The Balanced Mind Parent Network.) I closed the book, put it back on the shelf where it belonged, and left the store richer than when I walked in.
Upon returning home, I rushed inside to look up the website on my computer. At this site, I found a wealth of information and support. I would read the stories that other parents shared and be thankful that my child wasn't "that bad." Even though I was an active member I was in denial for a long time.
Then came Princess' first hospital stay. We were 100 miles from home and I was scared. The first place I turned to was my online support group. The parents loved on me, gave me advice and virtual hugs.
Over the years, I slowly became one of the "experts" in my support group and was asked to be a volunteer to help others. Initially, I declined because I had so much going on in my personal life that I was unable to give to others. Eventually, I decided to help out. During a time that I was grieving the loss of my life long passion, teaching; I wondered what I would do next. My therapist assured me that I would find something as it is my "legacy" to help others. This is when my volunteering efforts really made me feel needed outside of my family. I cannot explain it. It is just a part of me. I truly enjoy helping others.
Every year I would hear about a huge conference in Washington, D.C. where parents and family members were given the opportunity to educate Congress about mental health issues. I wanted to go but again the timing was never right. Finally, this year when The Balanced Mind asked their volunteers if anyone wanted to go, I emailed that I would like to go. I also asked if my daughter could join me as she is the face of mental health. I was met with yeses every step of the way.
My daughter and I are thrilled to be given the chance to speak to members of Congress. In a way, it is a dream come true for both of us. It all began with a sentence in a book. I don't think that was a coincidence at all.
Here's your chance to help me out. What do you think are the concerns of parents of children with mental health issues in America? Comment either here or on my Facebook page. Thanks!