"I wish you could understand what is going on inside of me, inside of my head."There is a difference in how we interact with people when our expectations are in line with their abilities. You have the right to expect me to act in a particular manner, because my thinking is not impaired by mental illness. However, if I am experiencing mental illness, now your expectations will radically change. You recognize that there are things I can be expected to do, to understand, ways in which I will change, and many other ways in which I cannot change even though it might be my desire to do so. The result is that although you still have expectations for me, you will have to change your expectations of me. You can try to punish me in an effort to change me, and perhaps some kind of change might come from that, however, you aren't going to eliminate my mental illness, and will probably only exacerbate it through punishment. Your punishment will seem to me to be irrational and random.
The father's interest was piqued. "Can you try to explain to me what it is you are thinking about? What is going on inside of you?"
The son replied, "You treat me as if I have a behavior problem, but what I have is mental illness."
The fathers eyes were opened and his relationship with his son changed dramatically.
Too often people who either do not have a child with a disability, do not experience disability themselves, or through their choices have no friends who experience disability. But will then act as if they can speak into the lives of those who do have those experiences, as if they know something. Well they shouldn't because they don't.
If you want to speak into the life of a family of a child with a disability, here are some things you might say.
Is there anything I can do to help you?Begin by choosing an individual or family as friends. You will then learn what you might do to assist and it will probably be something simple, but different from what you had expected.
I would love to keep an eye on your child for you sometime.
Is your family available for dinner sometime?
We are having some families over for a big Christmas party and would love to have you bring your family!