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Challenge: Finding Your Voice as a Parent

The Ever-Changing Voice of a Mom of a Kid with Mental Illness

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I thought I knew what it meant to be a good mom, maybe even an excellent mom. I was what I had always hoped to be: a stay-at-home mom with two wonderful kids — yes, a boy and a girl — and life was sublime. I had a group of friends, I was in the PTA, and I was usually class mom every year. I had a lot to say about parenting. I was a Pinterest-perfect mom, hosting back-to-school parties and plugging along with the the life I had planned.

Then I walked in on my daughter trying to kill herself, and everything changed.

That mom perfection changed and all I cared about was keeping my daughter alive. I spent hours in an Emergency Room Crisis Center, where someone else had the power to say what was going to happen to my daughter.

I had no voice. I was silenced.

I got a sympathetic nurse who believed me when I said I'd stop my life and take care of my daughter and get her to psychiatrist if they'd just let me bring her home and not send her away. She believed me and I brought my girl home. I got a new voice.

I became the voice of mental illness and bullying.

I called many doctors' offices trying to get an appointment for my girl, and when I heard over and over, "Not taking new patients," or, "We can see her in six weeks," I screamed and cried, BUT SHE WANTS TO DIE TODAY! over and over until I finally found someone to see her. And then my voice changed again. It had to.

I became my daughter's advocate and her inner voice. On the darkest nights, when she would weep to me that she just wanted to die, that we would all be better off without her, I would tell her that she had worth, that she was loved, that she deserved to live and we all wanted her here. She wasn't alone for months. Not for a second. Not to go to the bathroom, to shower, or to sleep. She was never more than a few feet away from me. Finally, she began to heal.

Then I learned to be the voice of anti-bullying. Once I learned the full extent of her bullying that led to her suicide attempt, I became a warrior to help bring a stop to bullying in our schools. When it became apparent that the anti-bullying rules in our schools were just lip service, and not an real way to end bullying, I withdrew my kids from school. I found my homeschooling mom voice.

I became a homeschooling voice. I was terrified that I was going to screw up both my kids' education, but then I found my tribe and my vibe. Both kids flourished, while I breathed a sign of relief.

When my daughter decided to bring her story to world, to help other kids who were bullied and struggled with mental illness, I became a different voice — a supportive voice that dares to hope that you can heal from such horrible things and help others who have been through them. She wanted to tell the world to #BeBrave and stand up to bullying.

I became a comforting voice to other mothers who are dealing with mental illness and bullying. I wrote about bullying and how to help your kids and how to handle this challenge.

What I learned most of all was the voice I thought was supposed to be my Mama voice actually changed at different parts of my kids' lives. Just like parenting a 2-year-old is different than parenting an 8-year-old, it's fluid and needs changing. No way is right or wrong. Your voice will just become what it needs to be.

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