As I sit down to write this, I am processing so many difficult emotions.
GUILT is at the top of the list.
My older son, Ben, is learning to live with autism, a mood disorder, and anxiety (just to name a few). From a very early age, Ben’s younger brother Jack was witness to his rages and manic episodes.
Jack heard his brother talk in detail about how he was going to kill me and what he was going to do to my body.
Family vacations and outings ended abruptly. Holidays were beyond stressful. Play dates and sleepovers were not an option. Our life was frequently interrupted by psychiatric hospitalizations.
Jack loved his big brother and looked up to him (past tense). Ben would do anything for Jack, he adores his little brother (current). When Ben left for a residential treatment center, Jack had a taste of what life could be like. He missed his brother; however, he thrived in a peaceful and predictable environment. After a year, Ben came home … sooner than expected.
Jack’s world fell apart.
Since Ben came home, Jack has been escaping more and more into books and Minecraft. He has become defiant and his tantrums are very physical and out of proportion. His grades have plummeted, he refuses to go to school. Activities that he use to love, he no longer does. Jack is angry at us for adopting him and “doing this to him”.
Ben is angry at himself for “doing this to his brother”.
Jack is receiving professional help to sort through his emotions and develop healthy coping skills. It hurts to know that as his mom, I was not able to shield Jack from feelings of anger, embarrassment, and neglect. I hate that love is not enough to protect my kids from the effects of mental illness. I am tired and I feel guilty.
I feel guilty for all those times when I could not comfort Jack because I was calming Ben down and keeping everyone safe.
I feel guilty for asking Jack to curtail his enthusiasm in order to keep Ben regulated.
I feel guilty for all those times when Jack wanted me to tickle him or tell him a story and I had nothing left to give.
I feel guilty for not being able to provide both boys with what they need at the same time.
I feel guilt when we are in crisis and I am exhausted.
I have learned to honor these feelings of guilt and to not beat myself up. Instead, to embrace guilt as a reminder to pause and reflect on our reality.