Charlotte’s story – I am blessed to have two amazing daughters. My eldest daughter, who refers to herself as the “tester child,” was diagnosed at an early age with ADHD. For me she was an artist, a visual learner who was overly sensitive and very busy. She was lots of work for me, and I did what I could to support her and her needs. My youngest daughter refers to herself as the “forgotten child,” because she felt she had to learn at an early age to take care of herself because I was consumed with saving her sister.

In middle school, my oldest was bullied through exclusion. It was more than she could take, and I watched my happy, loving child turn overnight into someone I did not recognize. She became unreachable; her appearance was dark, and her mood was filled with sadness. I tried everything to help her but only seemed to make things worse.

I felt I had failed her as her mother, and I was to blame for what was going on with her.

I reached out for help and lots of advice was given. She and I bounced around from doctor to therapist to counselor looking for that miracle fix.

Self-harm showed up in all forms which, were her choices of coping strategies. She was labeled a “bad kid” and I was labeled a mom with my head in the sand.

Shame and blame filled my thoughts, and I began to retreat from friends and family. I felt like I was the only one on the planet that was living in this world.

I wish I had met one mom who had been in a similar world that I could reach out to for support. Someone who would share in that space of vulnerability, who could listen without judgment and offer words of encouragement that only someone with lived experience could offer. So, when I met Kirsten, here was this mom who has a similar story to me. Wow! Someone who looks normal and does not have a normal world just like me!

Fast forward many years, I am happy to say both my daughters are doing exceptionally well both with their mental health and their lives in general.

As for me, I see the value in peer support. I never want a parent or family member to feel the way I did – that there is no hope. My lived experience of thinking back to those dark times is a gift to families going forward. I wish that there was a “me” then to support that “lost me.” I know my story would not have had so many “bumps in the road” if peer support for family members would have been offered.