Shame

This is an open and honest post by my wife Kristin. In the post, she chronicles our struggles with our oldest son, who suffers from mental illness. Our hope is that any parent reading this, who deals with this with their own child, will find hope and comfort, and a voice.

I’m perched on the edge of our outdated plaid love seat, watching the scene before me. I glance away for a minute and inspect my bare feet. I make a mental note that my toenails are an embarrassment. Then I laugh, but only in my head. Pedicures are the least of my concerns these days. I allow my mind to drift from the present. I begin to tick off a list of the most recent embarrassments, heartbreaks, fears, and crushing grief stricken moments of this year.

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I stretch one bruised leg, and then the other. He’s gotten stronger. I feel a scratch on my cheek. Is that from this morning? I wonder. I can’t gauge what is normal. I hear my children’s laughter coming from the other room where they are locked safely away, sharing a pizza. One child says, “It’s a party!” Another wants to know when he can say hi to the police. The security cameras we’ve installed capture everything. They run all the time. No one even thinks about them anymore.

We follow a safety plan seamlessly, but are we really safe? Are we really living? I snap back into focus. The officer wants to talk to me. I’m ready for battle. They never understand mental illness anyway. Someone will probably hand him a sticker and pat him on the back. That’s usually what they do. He is 10 after all, and cute as a button. As I sneak a look at him, head down, tiny frame slouching, I feel it too. Disbelief. Someone so small could never have done this much damage.

The officer and I step outside to talk while two more stand guard over my son. He’s telling me that he sees the safety plan and how hard we’ve worked to keep our son at home. He’s telling me that he understands Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. He knows that the brain damage isn’t my son’s fault. He also understands that we won’t allow him to use his disability as an excuse. For the first time, someone has seen my greatest shame and isn’t judging me or my son. He wants to help…and I actually believe him.  “No one is going to press charges this time.” he says. I’m glad.

“He is going to the hospital to be admitted to acute care.” I’m relieved. The officer has offered to transport him. It’s up to me. For just a moment, my mind drifts to the days when my husband and I first adopted him. I remember him clinging to me. My sweet, hurting baby. Then I allow myself to imagine the  future and I know it’s time to help him face reality. It’s time to help him turn this around. I ask the officer to take him. “I’ll follow you.” I say.

My son turns away from me as I tell him the consequence. I see that he feels the shame I feel. Tears trickle down his cheeks. I long to wrap him up in my arms and make this all go away. I know I can’t so I squeeze his hand. He looks me in the eye as we stand to leave. “I know I need help mom. I’m going to turn this around,” he says.  I kiss his forehead. “I know you will,” I say, “You’re better than this.”

From the doorway, the walk down the driveway looks long. I see the curtains in other windows shift as neighbors pretend not to see. I fight the urge to shrink into the safety of my home. I won’t hang my head any longer. The Lord snatched my son from the fire once. It is by His mercy that my son was saved from a life of domestic violence, malnutrition and neglect.

It is only because of the precious gift of God that I get to be my son’s second mother. I choose to raise my head high because I know that fighting for my son and my family is my greatest responsibility. I squeeze my son’s hand one more time. Then He and I bravely cross the threshold, facing our shame, and stepping into the light.

Question: Have you gone through, or are you going through the same thing in your family? We would love to hear your story. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • MaMeex5

    We have been down the path many times. Haven’t had the police have to transport her but have come close. She has had 3 acute care stays and 1 six month residential stay. I know how your heart aches for things you want to change for them but can’t. I am sorry you and your family are having to walk this path. I wouldn’t wish it on any one. Sending you virtual hugs and strength.

    • Thanks for your kind words. I am sorry to hear that your family has dealt with this too. Our heart aches for you too!

    • Kristin Berry

      I’m sorry you have been down this road too. Thanks for the support. It means so much to know we aren’t walking this path alone!

  • Connie Harris

    I feel your pain you know a lite about our oldest daughter I wish she had the slightest idea she was even in trouble the # of times she calls 911 the # of times they tell her next time we are taking you in and wanting that to happen if it makes her better but knowing she won’t understand and at the same time not wanting to lose her fetal alcohol is our nemesis too plus low IQ she doesn’t hurt me much anymore but will if she feels threatened I am sure you know this is only the tip of the iceberg miss seeing you guys

    • Connie, thanks for your comment. We are right there with you.

    • Kristin Berry

      Connie, I miss you too! I’m so sorry your family is going through this too. I hope things will get better for all of our families.

  • carolyn g

    I share the horrifying pain of being the mother of a high performance bi-polar daughter, with a personality disorder and flares of autism. She left home in a violent fashion and 4 years later is living in Las Vegas as a card dealer. She robbed me, my mother (her grandmother), falsely accused her father of the unthinkable, (later confessed to police that she had lied and paid dearly for that), married “the guy that worked at the mall” (secretly), moved to FL, then to Vegas, broke off the marital leash and wont come home.I sit by my phone in sobs daily. I mean EVERY DAY ……with a giant hole in my heart the size of Texas. Her siblings and father are in the same condition as I am. Broken! She will tell us that she loves us and misses us, and has no idea how to gain control of her life. It is THEE saddest thing I have ever had to endure. I would not wish this heartbreak on anyone. My daughter did NOT have fetal alcohol syndrome, but mental illness is evil, and is not a respecter of persons. It is evil and tries to destroy peoples lives. I cannot let it win, but I dont know how to fight back. We just love our daughter, but I fear I will never see her again……… as I said, I am broken for life

    • Kristin Berry

      Carolyn, This brokenness is so hard. I’ve been down a similar road with an older daughter. I thought it would hurt less with an adult child but the pain of losing a child and not knowing if you will ever see them is raw no matter how old they are. I truly hope you are able to reconcile with your daughter and that she is able to find a place of health.

    • Carolyn, it breaks my heart to read your story. You feel as though there’s no end in sight. Hang in there. We have walked a similar road. You’re not alone.

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  • Gloria R.

    Alright, Kristin, you have a gift. It is the second time that you post, and I feel like I am right by your side, through your experience. I loved Don’t Save My Child, and now Shame is my new favorite. My foster son, whom we are preparing to adopt, has behavioral issues, and I have had my own bruises too. In his disorder, he has fought me through his strength and words, and the shame of how it may look like to others is something I keep hoping will ease with time. The shame that it elicits from my own hidden self, that part that no one sees, that comes from the rejection I feel, oh how I hope I can overcome it too.
    I have asked your husband to post your story on my own blog. I was going to post Don’t Save My Child, but today I used your Shame as my “post guest”. Thank you for writing! I am also adding this blog address to my list. I love sharing great finds with other parents who are looking to connect. Thank you again!

    • Kristin Berry

      Gloria, thank you! It’s so good to know that we aren’t alone. I’m so thankful for all of the parents we are getting to know who are fighting for their children right alongside of us:)

    • Gloria, you’re too kind. She does have a gift. Much more than I do. So glad you liked the post and grateful for the kind words you’ve spoken about this blog. Thanks again!

  • Allisonm

    When you first posted this, I had just had the police to the house the previous day about my ten-year-old son and it was too raw for me to write about. We got through the summer, but the stress of caring for elderly parents and getting three traumatized kids back into school wore away at my reserves and I got really tired. Fall is our season for big triggers and my ten year old is now within an inch of my height and twenty pounds of my weight. He is now in an extended day program that picks him up from school each day and works with him through dinner time. Yesterday, we arrived for our first family therapy session to find him in an isolation room, raging and destroying everything he could, including his new shoes. I went in and sat down on the floor, perpendicular to him and waited another half-hour for him to let himself come to me. He hasn’t hurt me badly since he was seven and tore my shoulder joint. Seeing me go through surgery and physical therapy helped him stop attacking me physically. But even so, the rages are hard on all of us, my son most of all.

    This morning, I sewed my son’s shoes back together and got him to put on clean clothes (a daily battle). He even wanted hugs and kisses before he left for school. Usually, he has to start a fight with me to break up our relationship enough that he can bring himself to go to school. The constant push-pull of parenting traumatized, brain-injured kids wears me out. I am memorizing the book of Ephesians to try to keep my spirits up. I am almost to the end of chapter 2.

    • Kristin Berry

      Allison,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m crying reading it. I completely understand. My son has been home from residential treatment for one week today. It feels like living with a ticking time bomb. Thank you for your recommendation of memorizing Ephesians. I know God has a better plan for our precious sons than this.
      Kristin

      • Allisonm

        Our pastor is preaching through Ephesians this winter and encouraged us to read the whole book weekly and to memorize from Ephesians 1:1 through 2:10. I got so much more out of the sermons because I had the passages memorized that I set out to memorize each week’s passage before the Sunday it would be preached on. I’m a little behind, but I will catch up during waiting-room times and while parked outside kid activities waiting for my kiddos to emerge. I have never been advised to memorize long passages before and it has been a huge gift to me to do this. The more I say them over to myself out loud, the more meaning and expression I can proclaim them with and the more the faith that comes by hearing penetrates my heart and affects the way I respond to the challenges of the day. I repeat the passages to my kids with them following along in my Bible to make sure I get all of the words right. My daughter complains that she will never be able to forget Ephesians 2:7-10.

        My son had another big rage tonight over bedtime. We were ready to take him to the hospital, but he was eventually able to regain himself and calm down. We spent a few hours in the ER earlier this evening with my mother-in-law, who collapsed into my arms this afternoon while we were on a short outing from her memory-care facility, so I am very thankful not to have to go again yet tonight. My women’s Bible study this fall is on Hebrews and resilient faith, which I am finding very timely. It has been a very taxing 6-1/2 years, with no end in sight. I need relentless resilience–and that can only come from God.

        • Kristin Berry

          Allison,
          Thank you again for your encouragement. I will be praying for your family as well as your mother-in-law. We are in the thick of it with our son again as well. It’s so good to know we are not alone. I started memorizing Ephesians too 🙂
          K

  • Hey Karin, I am so grateful that we can be a voice of encouragement to you. We are in the trenches with you. You are not alone!