It starts with an experience, or experiences. It starts with life events. It starts with finding a common thread between you and another individual. Then it progresses into a thought. Then an idea begins to form. This is essentially how things have worked for me with what will be a new endeavor for me. I wouldn’t be at this point had it not been the experiences I had with my divorce, the custody battles as someone with a mental illness. I wouldn’t be at this point if it wasn’t for the hardships of feeling inadequate as a father. Feeling like you don’t belong at the table with the other dads at someone’s birthday party or at a sporting event. The feeling like you are not qualified to be a dad because you are not even good enough to take care of yourself on some days because of your mental illness. It’s these thoughts that had me team with a twitter friend, fellow divorced dad with a mental illness @mjnanna. Together we agreed to start a peer based group like #sicknotweak for divorced dads suffering from a mental illness.
Michael and I exchanged a few messages before it was realized that we were so much more alike than we ever imagined. From there our wheels began to turn and I approached Michael about the idea of starting this group. He had been thinking the same thing, and boom we were off and running. We know that if it took us that long to realize we had this in common how many other men are out there just like us living in silence just like we did and falling into the same traps that we did. And we know it’s hard enough to get a man to admit he has a mental illness let alone join a group of men to discuss the issues he is struggling with both personally and mentally. But we believe there is a real need for this type of discussion. And we believe it’s not just for the benefit of the father but also their child.
Here are some of the goals that have been formulated:
1. This is going to be a peer to peer group. Come and be fed and feed. We will rely on participants experience as much as they may rely on others.
2. This is a judgment free community. No one will be criticized for feeling a certain way or for taking an action that we may not have recommended.
3. This is about our mental illness and our children, not our ex’s. We want to focus on how we can help each other be better fathers despite our diagnosis. Learn from those who are further down the path about things they wish they had done differently.
4. ZERO tolerance when it comes to bashing women. This is self explanatory. We will not tolerate anyone using profanity, degrading women, or using the platform to call their ex every name in the book. ZERO tolerance.
5. We won’t cure you, or solve your problems but we can share with each other how we navigated certain situations when it comes to trying to be a parent with a mental illness.
6. The last goal and this is a long way off type of dream is to eventually partner with a legal firm or firms that can be used to help fathers with a mental illness. As of right now no one seems to know of any firms that have a soft spot for those with a mental illness. We must give it our best shot to change that.
This isn’t going to happen overnight. This isn’t going to happen in the next month. There are a lot of moving parts that will need to be worked on before we can officially launch our website and hashtag. Also kind of important to come up with a name, so if you have any ideas doing be afraid to tweet them to me @tonyk10933. Also if you are reading this and are a father with a mental illness please let me know so I can be sure to add you to our group list. And if you aren’t in this boat but know of anyone please pass the word along.
As a father with a mental illness I can speak to the difficulty of not being able to afford legal representation. I can speak to the feeling of having your mental illness used against you when it comes to custody and legal rights agreements. I know what its like to feel like to not want your child to see you the way you are because you don’t feel you are good enough. I know the crazy games your mind will play in telling you its best to stay away from your child. I know the pain of seeing your child cry when you have to return them. The cry because they want to stay longer. The look of disappointment when they know they won’t see you for an entire week. The emotional roller coaster you end up on once you’ve dropped them off. You were so happy to see them yet deep down inside you were fighting your depression. They leave and you are emotionally drained for the next few days. You don’t feel like getting out of bed.
Remember the voice of your depression is going to tell you that you are not good enough to be a father, but the only voice that matters is the one that calls you dad. We are always harder on ourselves than anyone else ever is. As a father that used to be able to provide anything my son wanted I know how it feels to think my son won’t love me as much because I can’t give him the same things I used to. What I’ve learned is all those things I gave him in the past isn’t what he really wanted anyway. All he wanted then is all I can afford to give now and that’s my love and attention. That’s all our children want. I’m extremely happy to be able to call myself a dad again. I don’t care where we go or what we are doing. All I care about is my son is happy, he is loved, and he is being taken care of.
If you are a father struggling with the things I’ve mentioned please do not hesitate to reach out to me @tonyk10933. If you know a father struggling please have them reach out to me. It’s not just one person we are trying to help it’s both you and your child that we ultimately want to help. We will be here for you!
REMEMBER… YOU MATTER!!