What I want you to know about having a child with early onset mental illness

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Shari. 

When our son Curtis was born in 2002 we knew something just wasn't quite right, but we couldn't put our finger on it. He had a temper and would scream and scream for hours on end and never sleep, but just a few hours a day. The pediatrician said it was a phase and we had to work through it. It was a very long phase.

By the time Curtis was 2, he was very violent for a two-year old. He has two older brothers and he was constantly kicking, punching, pulling their hair, punching the walls, breaking things, and would threaten with anything sharp. This continued and continued for years. We tried to get help, but we were told he was too young for help.

When he was 5 and I went to the bathroom he sneaked into our garage and set it on fire with a paper towel and candle lighter he found in the kitchen. He closed the door to the garage and went about his way. Before I knew it, the house was on fire.

At that point, FINALLY, somebody believed us that he had a problem. He went to residential treatment at 5 years old. This was the worst decision we ever had to make. He was there for eight months. We brought him home and he did okay. He did two more stays in residential.

Before you judge, this is a child with early onset mental illness. We believe he has bipolar disorder, but we can't give him that label just yet. He is treated with medication daily and counseling. He is eleven years old now and is doing so much better. He will be able to move from a special needs school to a regular middle school this fall.

I understand that many do not understand how we could send him away, but when a child is literally tearing a home apart physically and emotionally we have to protect ourselves and our other children.

It has been a tough road, but a road I would not trade for anything else.




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