Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 25th 2014 Contents A31
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Life gives you no remix, no rewind, no redo;
there s no matrix into which one can enter and
fix its glitches either---no Neo, no Oracle, noth-
And that s exactly the tablet on which regrets
I have few regrets though, but there are some
things I d do differently if given the opportunity.
Uppermost among them is parenting.
This week I m contemplative about my par-
enting, considering, as a person living with an
unusual mind composition, whether I erred in
deciding to have a child without even recognising
the extent of my psychiatric condition and the
care and support we both required. And then,
for the majority of his life, parenting him singly,
with financial, social, physical and emotional
challenges, with no support system in family,
relatives, community and the healthcare system
(while ignoring that all was not well, too).
Having recently considered the debate, while
reviewing the recent YouTube spanking of the
12-year-old, I m particularly anxious about having
spanked him in the course of discipline applied
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
Parenting---the remix to raising him.
Today, as I am able to better manage my long-term
condition, I recognise that my entire parenting expe-
rience feels like an out-of-body experience.
Armed with the information I now have, at every
turn in my adult son s life, I am a basket case. I m
riddled with guilt if he does not seem progressive;
regretful when he feels like he does not have a support
system, and nervous for his interpersonal ability. I am
also wary of the fact that his view of my condition
is subjective and possibly unforgiving since he has
lived in the current of pain it inflicts on all involved.
Most of his life he s lived with dysfunctional, thinking
that this is what life is supposed to be (and then expe-
riencing the confusion of a world where "normal"
behaviour is equally dysfunctional).
"Research has shown that some children of parents
with a severe and enduring mental illness experience
greater levels of emotional, psychological and behavioural
problems than children and young people in the rest
of the population.
"This may be because the genes that some of them
inherit make them more vulnerable to mental ill health,
but it could also be because of their situation and the
environment in which they are growing up" (http://rais-
Providentially, I ve never been ashamed of my mental
health condition. As I mature about these issues from
a need to understand my circumstances, and propelled
by writing this column weekly, I always will myself
out of the vortex of regret. I determinedly acknowledge
that there are many past actions which can be counted
against me as errors in judgment, misdemeanours bor-
dering on criminality even, but nothing I could revise.
Parenting is an individual task, with each family
having a distinctness of method. No two situations,
no two people, no two households are the same.
Though there may be similarities, every person has a
different experience, even while participating in the
same situation; that s just how it was fashioned. The
overarching conventions on raising a family are impre-
cise, with no one seemingly having considered the
institutionalisation of the practice of parenting as a
way to affect our overall quality of life. This flexibility
too, may well account for the incidence of deviance
And, casting judgment on the ills of parenting, I
surmise that if normal people could be so unsuccessful
in parenting happy, healthy people, the difficulty is
more poignant when applied to parents living with a
mental health disorder.
But: "Parents with psychiatric illnesses are known
to have raised normal people sometimes even better
than normal parents. And unfortunately, outwardly
normal parents also have mistreated and endangered
their children in worse scenarios than those diagnosed
"Which is why, if ever I am asked whether I believe
mentally ill people should have children, my response
will be: Should anyone? " says Heiddi Zalamar, who
manages her illness while raising her son Bob, who
has mental health issues. (Life with Bob blog
In reviewing my experience, I realised that I took
a risk, unthinking at the time. My psychiatric illness,
which went untreated and improperly managed, and
the completely disabling effect of living with something
whose name changed with every diagnosis, should
have been sufficient to raise a red flag. Without edi-
fication, I enforced my biological right to parenthood---
a decision over which I have absolutely no regrets---
and have been blessed with a beautiful child despite
my ill health and notwithstanding the lack of all-round
A lack of services for people with mental illness is
one of the biggest challenges facing societies today. A
lack of support---institutional and familial---has always
caused me to feel very alone, a sense of social isolation
that has made things even harder.
And so, having examined parenting while scrutinising
the research on the effects of spanking, I m impelled
to suggest that (everyone but especially) mentally
impaired parents consider the parenting decision. And
on the issue of disciplining, I d hesitate to ever spank
CAROLINE C RAVELLO
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