My youngest son has struggled with depression and anger since infancy; however, we began to recognize his struggle as soon as he began to communicate – he is now 8. It’s difficult to describe what life has been like as a family – for us, it is normality… hour upon hour of crying in the depths of despair (often there is no particular reason), unpredictable mood swings all over the map of the emotional spectrum, overblown, exaggerated emotional highs with maniacal fits of laughter, living in constant fear of your own son – of being hurt, injured, etc, removing every breakable object in his room so that he and others in our family will be safe (not to mention the property), buying extra locks and security measures so that he doesn’t run away in his irrational state, hiding sharp objects so that he could not use them on himself or our family… Our son has been diagnosed by several psychologists and psychiatrists; however, suffice it to say that he has a “severe mood disorder.”
As our son became increasingly depressed, angry, and unstable with age, we have experienced a variety of reactions from people: confusion, judgment, disapproval, anger, disbelief, denial, relational separation, etc., and a few that have entered into our world and loved our family, showing compassion, seeking to understand. It is remarkable to me the lack of understanding and compassion from people toward families who daily live in the crucible in which we exist. When you add the “pastor” factor to the equation, you have the ideal recipe for judgment from afar, especially within the church. The most common response we receive when somebody takes the time to move beyond relational acquaintance towards knowing our family: skepticism. It’s as if they have suddenly become the “expert” – their demeanor and verbal cues convey that the jury is out, further investigation is required – “expert” advice is dispensed.
There is a noted lack of understanding in the medical community regarding mood disorders in children: mis-diagnosis, over-diagnosis, over-medicating, etc. Yet, there is often such an air of confidence among those in the mental health field that we have, at times, unwisely submitted to their counsel. We would walk into their office confident about the decision we’d made in regard to a course of treatment that was in the best interest of our child (after all, we are the parents) and leave with a prescription for increased meds. (Disclaimer: this is not to state that we are against the mental health profession or the use of psychotropic medication; some psychologists and psychiatrists were very compassionate and gave wise, practical counsel).
We’ve tried various meds and therapies, most of which were of little concrete aid, honestly. Most psychotropic medications provided a degree of emotional stability; however, the negative emotional and, at times, physical side effects were often a trade-off that we have been unwilling to subject our child to on an ongoing basis. In some cases, the side effects were significantly worse than his mood disorder (which is difficult to conceive). At this point in our journey, we’ve decided to fore-go psychotropic medication, opting for a holistic, natural approach and have recently discovered a natural Serotonin enhancer and chelation therapy that has made a significant difference when combined with various relational communication techniques and strict dietary guidelines.
I love my son. God loves my son. Though he has a heightened susceptibility to emotional upheaval – mountains and valleys of emotion, he also has a authentic relationship with God through Christ, worships God from the heart in such a way that melts our hearts, and possesses a supernatural ability to care for other people – the “body gift” of mercy: to compassionately care for the broken, the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed, entering into their emotions, their suffering, their pain – it is truly profound. He understand sadness, depression, pain, loss… is aware of his emotions, and processes through the undergirding triggers that have caused him to spin emotionally out of control on a level that is rare even among adults. However, he is also a child, struggling, maturing, growing… he has so much to offer this world.
He reminds me of a Scripture passage: Matthew 5:3-8 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted… Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
When I think back upon the last eight years of parenting my son, I recognize that I’ve made innumerable mistakes, responded improperly to him (in inappropriate anger), showed lack of patience, lack of understanding, lack of empathy, lack of compassion, lack of maturity… God has used him to mature me: to teach me how to love, how to be slow to anger, how to empathize, how to be compassionate, how to understand – and I am still woefully immature. However, I am grateful – grateful for my son, grateful for his birth-family, grateful for my wife, grateful for my family, grateful for the crucible, grateful for the struggle, grateful for grace, grateful for redemption, and grateful that, one day, all things will be remade in the renewal of all things – the practical effects of the curse (from the fall of mankind) will be ended, and there will be no more crying or pain…
Revelation 21:4-5 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more– or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.” And the one seated on the throne said: “Look! I am making all things new!” Then he said to me, “Write it down, because these words are reliable and true.”
Maranatha – “Come, oh Lord”