I am a single parent of two special needs children. My daughter, who is 15, was recently diagnosed with PTSD and Schizoaffective Affective Disorder. My son, who is 9, has speech/language delays, selective mutism, and social anxiety disorder.

WP 002896 224x300 Schizoaffective Disorder Rear View Mirrors and the Parenting Peanut GalleryThis month has been rough and it is only six days old.  Actually, I think some of the frustration that I felt yesterday was residual frustration from the last two weeks.  When I taught 3rd grade, I always told my students to keep their eyes focused on what was in front of them and not behind them.  “Use the windshield, not the rearview mirror” I said.  “Trust yourself.  Just because someone else finishes first doesn’t mean they got it right.” I use to tell them –if only I could live by this advice.

Two weeks ago when my daughter with Schizoaffective Disorder was kicked out of her private school because her behavior “starting to impact the other students” and in the words of the headmaster “It just isn’t working for us anymore” I found myself living life in the rear view mirror.  This time, I had done everything that those well-meaning people (some who don’t even have children and certainly none of them had a child like mine with a mental illness) said I should do.

“Show her who’s in control” I did that.  “Be firm and set boundaries” they said.  “Hold her accountable” they advised.  “She has to learn there are consequences for her actions”…I listened to the Peanut Gallery of Parenting.  You know all of that well-intentioned advice from everyone who thinks they know how to tell you how to live but have never walked one hour in your life?  When I listened to the Peanut Gallery, I was so frustrated with how my life was going that I desperately wanted to believe that if I took a different path I would end up with a different result.  The one thing that I forgot to factor into the equation is that I was a sane person trying to make sane decisions for a person that had a mental illness.

Then came that freaking Parenting Peanut Gallery again…”she’s doing this because you are gone all the time”  “she’s acting out because she spends too much time alone in her room when you are home” OK which is it peanut gallery—is she out of control because I am not home or because I am home and she’s in her room?  It’s actually pretty hysterical when you think about it.

I guess the Parenting Peanut Gallery forgot to read the chapter of my life where it says MY DAUGHTER HAS SCHIZOAFFECTIVE DISORDER.   So it doesn’t matter if I am home (or not home).  If I force her to come out of her room (or leave her in her room).  Force her to attend a regular school (or allow her to do online school).  At the end of the day NOTHING CHANGES THE FACT THAT SHE HAS A MENTAL ILLNESS AND WILL BE SOCIALLY CHALLENGED.

I guess that Parenting Peanut Gallery forgot to read the fact that people with mental illnesses enter into the criminal justice system at almost three times the rate of the general population.  That Parenting Peanut Gallery also missed the fact that the mental health care system is broken with insurance companies cutting the treatment time and payment to mental health care providers.  The system is broken when the majority of emergency rooms in the United States are better equipped to handle a rare outbreak of Anthrax rather than a daily mental health crisis.

So I say to all of the parents out there struggling with parenting a child with a mental illness…when you start to hear the chatter of that Parenting Peanut Gallery, imagine placing a roll of duct tape of their mouth.  Their words become so mumbled that you can’t distinguish what they are saying.  If they are standing in front of you, smile, nod, and say “Thank you so much.  I will try that.”  If they are texting, simply say “Thanks” or “Sounds great! I will try that” or “Love you! Thanks for caring about us.”  Then delete that stream of text messages.  Because you have enough to deal with on a daily basis without accidentally opening up a stream of text messages on a day when you really don’t need it that tell you what you did wrong, what you should have done differently, or how you need to do this better.

Some people will say that you should use this as a “teachable moment” but the thing about the Parenting Peanut Gallery is they are so convinced that they are right that they are often unteachable.   No one is going to understand your struggle unless they too are parenting or have parented a child with a mental illness.

The truth is there is nothing that I or anyone else could have done to prevent my daughter’s outbursts. When she is in a manic state, she doesn’t care about the consequences.   And when she isn’t in a manic state, I choose enjoy the peace of the moment (because peace comes so seldom in the house where mental illness lives).  Today as I started my spring cleaning, I took down that rear view mirror, grabbed some ear plugs, and bought some extra duct tape for the Parenting Peanut Gallery.  I turned on my jazz music, took a long sip of my Teavana Cooper Knot tea, and smiled.  F

or a single parent who does this all alone, I’m doing a great job!



What do you think?

2 Responses to “Schizoaffective Disorder – Rear View Mirrors and the Parenting Peanut Gallery”

  1. Jerri Newman Says:

    I love it when someone (at an IEP team meeting for example) says, you should do X more, and you say, we are doing X and it’s not working, and they say, oh, in that case, you should do X less, you must be doing X too much or doing X wrong. In other words, whatever you’re doing is wrong and you are causing this to happen. When really, you are practically powerless and your most heroic efforts make only the tiniest bit of difference. But how important that tiny difference is when it feels like you and your child are hanging on by the skin of your teeth! So I will say to you, great job being a mom in a very difficult situation. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Momvodcate Says:

    Jerri, that is what I wish so many people understood….that as parents of children with special needs we really are simply doing our best. Thank you so much for responding.

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