Finding Hope in the Midst of a Child’s Mental Illness

Linda with her husband and daughter

My daughter Cheryl began dealing with depression shortly after getting married. It worsened with her first pregnancy and unfortunately, it didn’t go away after. For the next 10 years she sought help by researching and putting into practice many of the things she read. She also met with doctors who prescribed a myriad of medications, some of which made her feel worse and none of which made a lasting difference. Thankfully, she had a very loving and supportive husband. After three more pregnancies, she began to experience more serious symptoms and was hospitalized a few times.

Trying ECT

During one of her hospital stays, she gave herself a tentative diagnosis of type II bipolar disorder. Searching for help, she hesitantly agreed to try ECT–Electroconvulsive Therapy – a treatment that many with bipolar disorder had found relief with, but would also leave her unable to care for herself and her family during the 4-6 weeks of every-other-day treatments.

Her mother-in-law and I took turns helping their family, each taking care of them for half of each week. Every other day my daughter received an early morning treatment and would sleep most of that day and more than usual the next. Even when she was awake, it felt like she was detached from the life around her. She was unable to function independently, make decisions, remember things, or feel. This was significantly different from her usual vibrant, determined, busy, and caring nature.

I was grateful that our daughter lived close enough for me to help, but at the same time it was hard to watch her and her family go through the changes that resulted from the ECT. It was so difficult to watch her become something other than herself.

I tried to be hopeful and positive, but I was filled with worry and fear. My thoughts were constantly focused on her situation and I didn’t function or sleep well–even when I wasn’t there helping. After 6 weeks, when it became apparent that the therapy wasn’t helping her, I didn’t know whether to feel grateful or depressed. I didn’t want her to need this debilitating procedure the rest of her life. At the same time I asked myself, if even ECT didn’t work, what hope was there for her and her family?

Linda and Cheryl at Triathlon

Finding Hope Again

One evening as my husband and I were discussing her future, I struggled to overcome feelings of complete discouragement. Thankfully, the Holy Ghost prompted me to go to my room and pray. With a tiny seed of faith, I expressed my concerns, worries, and doubts to Heavenly Father. As I talked with Him, I was surprised that feelings of hope and optimism began to enter into my heart and mind. They came so definitely that they replaced my previous emotions.

These feelings were so strong that I went back to my husband and shared my new feelings with him. He began to ask questions and my doubts and worries began to resurface and I had to return to my room and get back on my knees. Once again the Holy Ghost filled me with hope. Logically, I couldn’t think of any reason to feel that way, but I knew that He knew and that I could trust Him. From then on, every time I began to doubt I remembered the assurance I had received and I was able to replace my fear with faith.

The first few months after ECT were rough and our daughter ended up in the hospital again. This time her doctors reviewed everything she had tried. They agreed medication wasn’t helping her, so they determined she needed to try making a major change in her lifestyle.

A Different Plan

Of the options they suggested, she decided to try getting more social interaction by looking for a job outside the home. It was a bit of a shock when she first told us that the doctors suggested she get a job. I’d been a stay-at- home mom and so were all our daughters and daughters-in-law. I confess to feeling a bit of pride about that. It was what I wanted for my children and my grandchildren – a mom who was home with them. It took time for me to recognize that the path I’d taken in motherhood might not be the only “right” path.

With her husband’s encouragement and support, Cheryl found a part-time job the next week and it seemed to help. She and her husband decided that if she was going to be employed, she ought to find something she’d really enjoy doing and within a short time she enrolled in a rigorous program at a local community college. As time passed and I watched her become healthier and her family become more stable, I could see the wisdom in this “treatment.” This was a great learning experience for me, and giving support and encouragement became easy.

As I’ve watched this seemingly long process with its many twists and turns, the feeling of optimism I received in answer to prayer so long ago has kept me from feeling discouraged. Her path to finding peace and hope isn’t one that we could have predicted, or even guessed. The thought of simultaneously being a full-time student, wife, mom, and part-time employee seems overwhelming to me, but it looks like it was just what she needed. It didn’t remove all the consequences of having type II bipolar disorder, but it has helped her get through the rough times and keep progressing toward her goals.

Some of her progress has been because of the sheer determination of our daughter to not be beaten by this illness. I am grateful for the “return” of her vibrant personality, which comes through in everything she does. She now has strength to share and uplift others and to ease burdens of those with whom she associates. Much of what she has learned from her experiences, she shares here on the Real Imprints blog.

She takes one day at a time, grits her teeth, and gets through it with finesse most of the time. Her caring, creative, organized, take-charge-and-get-it-done personality dominates. Her children once again have a mother who can teach, discipline, nurture, and connect with them. Relative stability has returned to their home. Her husband can have some downtime and even take time away to do things he enjoys. We are grateful for what we’ve learned from all who have been a part of this process.