Mental Health Boot Camp

mental health

[Guest Post by Anonymous – My heart goes out to people who feel like they have to hide their story. Obviously it’s a good thing to protect your child(ren) or family, but I hope this person’s courage will help you find true healing in Christ.]

As a mom with a physical chronic condition I am familiar with the complexities of having a demanding disease.

I have long admitted that although I could see how God has worked through my physical ailment, I still did not understand mental illness.

It was a world I had not been a participant of, a language I did not speak. And then my young sons’s struggles began to worsen.

My biggest fear as a mom with a chronic illness was that he would need me in ways I would not be able to provide–like needing to be picked up when he was two or having me chase after him at a park when he was four.

But at five years old he screamed, “I am not meant for this world. I am not like everybody else! I want to die!”

How could he believe this, or even articulate it, when his world was as innocent as cartoons of planes and trains that spoke? How had the world stung him so deeply, so quickly?

He is now ten and the last year has been all about survival. Counseling, hospital mental health programs, family therapy, support groups, psychiatrists, testing, over and over. I have read books, joined groups online, sought out answers to “is this normal?” and “what now?”

We no longer do therapy or church or vacations–we do therapy. We no longer celebrate typical accomplishments–we rejoice that he is letting me brush his teeth three days in a row or that he ate half a sandwich.

A good day is when he doesn’t speak of death–mine or his own.

We search for answers.

What does he have?

How badly does he have it?

What medications will work?

What side effects do they cause?

And how on earth can we get another pill into him?

If he has ADHD he should stay on a stimulant, if he has bipolar the stimulant will make it worse. The doctors vote for the stimulant. I am left to decide how bad it will get before it is considered “worse.” They see him five minutes. We see him at 4 AM, wide awake looking for a toy he needs right now.

ADHD, OCD, ODD, GAD, IEP. Our life has turned into alphabet soup.

The Internet provides a wealth of information and so I read and read and read, because I will be held responsible for how much effort I put into searching for the diagnosis. I may not be able to cure him, but someday I can tell him I did my best–for twenty years, I did my best.

As the mom, I am responsible for educating the teacher, the principal, the counselor, the doctor, the psychiatrist, the Sunday School teacher, and Boy Scout leader (if he ever returns). The books tell me to introduce myself–not to the teacher of an extra curricular activity–but to the police, the staff at the emergency room. We need to. Someone nearly called the police this week.

A two-hour appointment with a new psychiatrist results in her telling me,

“We just don’t know with kids this age. Your job is to create a medical paper trail, so if it gets worse, he can be diagnosed correctly–quickly.”

I tell my son he is God’s child. He is strong and courageous, and yet, Satan is trying to get his claws into him.

I tell him just to whisper the name of Jesus when the anxiety rules him–in class, anywhere.

“God is going to make you a soldier for Him,” I tell my son. “He has great plans for you in a world where He will need strong men. But first you have to go through Boot Camp. Most people don’t go through Boot Camp until their twenties or thirties, so God must have extraordinary plans for you because you started training at about age 8.”

I believe it.

I pray for him.

I talk to teachers, his doctors.

I advocate.

I try not to take it personally when his illness speaks to me with contempt, and instead focus on his heart when he apologizes later. But life is hard. I cry. I doubt. I ask God why He would allow His child to be touched by mental illness.

He hasn’t responded yet.

But I believe He will.

Life is hard, but God is good.

We are all in our own mental health boot camp–and some of us start early.

[Photo: The U.S. Army, Creative Commons]


  • Sbirdsong

    Thank you so much for posting about such a difficult topic. There is so much shame and embarassment associated with mental illness so I know this must have been difficult. My 12 year old daughter has suffered from various degrees of mental illness for years. There is hope. Six months ago she was on a lot of medication and I felt moved to start taking her off of some of it. We had started doing devotionals daily at breakfast, supper and bedtime. About a month ago we started playing the new testament on cd in her room at night while she sleeps. We also restrict her tv watching to christian programming for only about an hour a day. She is allowed to watch bible stories, especially ones about Jesus as much as she would like. We play praise music all the time. The changes are nothing less than a miracle. It hasn’t been overnight but every day we see progress. Some days are better than others but God’s word is powerful and it is working. She still struggles with school but I trust that will get better with time and the presence of the Holy Spirit. When she’s struggling at home or becomes angry or violent I gently touch her and pray in Jesus’ name. She has a “stress ball” to keep in the classroom with her as well. I hope some of this helps. Keep praying and trusting in God. I will be praying for you and your son as well. I tell my daughter the same thing you tell him; God must have great plans for her. You are a wonderful mother and God is using this experience to bring His name glory.

  • Vicki

    “I tell him just to whisper the name of Jesus when the anxiety rules him–in class, anywhere.”
    Your complete focus on the Lord is amazing and inspiring.
    I understand your journey. Back in 1197, our 33-year-old son was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder (in addition to his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnosis when he was only five back in 1985).
    Close friends compassionately ask how he’s doing. I share details to let them know he remains fairly active despite going off all his medication. Then I quickly add how I’m doing. Because I want others to know the Lord is faithful for the long haul.
    Yes, Sbirdsong, God’s Word is powerful!
    Btw: my son, Chris, courageously allowed me to self-publish a book about our journey (back in 200). So I was able to start a blog to connect with other moms who are raising kids with mental illness. Feel free to check it out at:

  • Barb

    My heart goes out to you, mom. May the Lord step into your troubles in a greater way and Father (as a parent) your hurting son. He is the Lord and He knows what your boy needs and how to manage the storms in his and your lives.

    You must be frazzled, which would make it difficult to hear the Lord’s voice. I know that you are worn out and don’t have much else to give. I pray that God come in and comfort you and your boy at your deepest need.

    Remember, scripture says something like ‘…a man’s mind plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.’ I pray that the Lord personally take it upon Himself to direct your steps, which will lead you into wholeness.

  • lala

    my heart goes out to you. i think some prayer points would be that he can feel Gods love because the devil has been lying to him. Come against the spirit of rejection. rejection is at the root of depression, bipolar, schizophrenia…as yes these are physical ailments but also spiritual. i pray for his healing and restoration. Watch God turn it around.

  • pauline

    I am so sorry that you are going through such a difficult time with your son.I just worry that all attention is really being put on him being labelled mentally ill.If you consider how as a little person he was not able to process how ill his Mommy is,then maybe his sorrow will make more sense to you.He might be so afraid of losing you.He might be angry about the uncertainty of what the future holds.Children need to know its all going to be okay.I can speak from my own experience of losing my Dad 3 months prior to my birth.I came into a world where my Mother and grandmother were in deep mourning.And they have mourned his death all my life.I used to be sad a lot when I was alone when I was small and used to want to die.I did not understand much about death but I knew to be alive hurt.I am now 40 years old.And I still suffer with depression.I have been labelled in my life with whatever illness the doctors at the time thought I was suffering with.Being told you are different and that your future is not worth looking forward to is very disheartening.And I gave up on my life for a long time.But at this point I realize where all my pain and hurt stems from and some days I just pray to get through the day.And other days life is awesome.And I am trying to live my life more fully.All I can say is Jesus is the great Healer and He knows your son’s heart and his thoughts and his pain.Maybe if you just are able to spend some normal time with your son doing regular stuff.Spend special time with him and chat to him and get to know him.And offer your son’s broken heart to Jesus.i truly pray for the best for your little boy.That he will be happy and healthy and blessed in his life and that he will have a long happy