Time For A Check Up

I’ve spent the last two weeks putting this message together. It’s actually pretty comical how much energy I’ve put into it in relation to how simple it is now that it’s here. But that’s OK. This message is for everyone – not just parents like us.

The Backstory

If you’re following us on Facebook, you might have seen an article I posted about a grandmother that shot and killed her 8 year old, twin, severely autistic grandsons. It had been three years that they had been in her care because their mother had committed suicide. So, apparently mom couldn’t handle the heaviness of life and thought that the easiest way out would be to end it. Fast forward three years. Grandmother now takes care of the kids, and she can’t handle it either. She killed those two boys and attempted to kill herself. She has recently been sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Take that in for a second.

If I had read that article under normal circumstances, it would have been hard enough to grasp. But I didn’t. I read that article in a moment of mental instability in my own life. So the magnitude of impact that article had was so profound. I was floored.

What was happening to cause all the mental unrest? I’ll tell you. Jamie left on vacation with some girlfriends for five days. I stayed back to take care of everything so she could have the respite. Throughout our married and parenting life, we’ve occasionally done this. Usually we stick together pretty close as a family unit. But occasionally it’s good to get away to rest or be part of a short term mission trip to an underprivileged part of our world. Sometimes it’s just her and I. Sometimes just one of us will leave. It’s good. It’s needed.

But this time was especially hard. As Max has gotten older, his reliance on his mom has grown. So when she left town, I was left not only with the challenges we face on a daily basis, but a more intensified version, all while trying to keep everything else running smooth too.

I’m not going to lie. It was really, really hard. On a normal day, I feel like I can bob and weave, and hold my own in all the action. But since the action was 10 times as intense, and I was being told things like “Mom is better than you”, “I wish mom had stayed here and it was you that left”, “Mom doesn’t do it this way”, and “I wish the cops would come and arrest you and throw you in jail,” I was feeling my mental health slip into oblivion. When this happens, absolutely every aspect of life becomes exponentially harder.

So imagine my fragile state of mind, then reading that article about the grandmother… Yeah.

The Process

While I can’t ever imagine committing such a heinous crime, there’s one aspect of that story that resonated deeply. If gone unchecked, there’s a mental unraveling that can take place to take us to terrifying places we don’t want to be. In that moment, I realized I was unraveling. It was scary.

For the reader/viewer to capture the true heart of this message, I began to record myself talking into the camera. I felt it was necessary for you to see my face and hear my voice. I wanted you to see and hear the raw emotion so that it would underscore the importance of the message.

I recorded the first version. It took about 30 takes. I slept on it. I watched it the next day. I deleted it. I was embarrassed at how raw I was. It was hard to watch, and I figured if I couldn’t stand to watch it, you’d be apalled.

So I pumped myself up and recorded the second version. Much to my surprise, I couldn’t publish that one either. Same thing. Too blubbery and emotional.

So I recorded the third version.

And the fourth version.

And the fifth version.

Then I scrapped it all, and asked myself this question, “How do I address this in a way that’s manageable to read or watch, and REALLY get the point across?” The answer that I keep coming back to is this. You’re either going to see raw emotion that gets the point across, but shows mental instability, or you’re going to see less emotion and more sound judgment as the story unfolds. I landed on the latter a couple weeks after the dust has settled

The Message

All that to say that it comes down to accountability. And no matter who you are reading this, you have a part to play. Parents of special needs children need accountability. Plain and simple.

If you read blog posts like The Chains That Bind, or The Fog, you’ll get a better picture of how us parents get to that dark place. This message isn’t about how we get there. It’s about how to avoid it, and if we do, how to get out.

For those of you in our shoes, you need to do something today. Right now. When you’re done reading this, go do it. I don’t care how you’re doing mentally. If you’re doing good, then this is the perfect time to do this.

Go ask for accountability. Find the closest friend or family member you have that has walked with you in this and ask them one simple question – “Will you check in with me frequently on how I’m doing with my mental health?” Yes, it might be hard to ask this question. I don’t care. Find someone and do it. You might have done great your whole life, be doing great now, and have a seemingly bright future. I don’t care. Still do it. It might be years before you struggle. That’s OK. If this preventative maintenance had been going on in the article I read, it might have saved the lives of four people.

For those of you reading this that are NOT in our shoes, you probably know someone that is. The call to action is the same for you. Go to your loved one and ask them this simple question, “Can I ask you how you’re doing with all this – mentally speaking? I’m not concerned about your mental state at the moment. I just want to make sure someone is checking in with you. I know it’s a heavy burden to bear, and I just want you to stay healthy in all aspects of it. If you need me to listen, I’ll do just that” You never know what kind of doors you’re going to open with that dialogue. It could be life changing for that person that might not have been bold enough to ask for help or let someone know how they are doing.

There you have it. Is this a hard exercise? Maybe. But it’s simple. And who knows… that dialogue may end up saving someone’s life.

Chad Youngquist

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