This is more of a personal post. I wanted to post about my experience with emotions and mental health within a homeschool environment. Content warning for emotional neglect, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations.
For myself I can say that the home was a place where I had very little emotional growth. I did have some experiences with those outside of the home, and I will say my parents did try to involve us in extra circular activities. However, for the most part my home was where I was to learn and grow emotionally as a child. For many different reasons this really never happened.
I may be moving beyond fact and easy to prove statements, but I believe that a lot homeschool families never allow their children emotional freedom. Often a child is expected to act and feel in a certain way. Generally only the positive emotions are allowed, and other negative behaviors are punished or reprimanded. Also emotional growth within a family unit is only possible if you have emotionally healthy adults to help the children grown.
I can safely say neither one of my parents were emotionally healthy. My father was emotionally distant. Mom attempted to remain open to her children’s needs, but she had her own emotions needs that were never met. Therefore she often was unable to assist us in that way.
With homeschooling there is a lot of emotional isolation as well from your peers. While I may have seen my homeschool friends once or twice a month; it was hard to develop any type of deep emotional relationship that way. I did consistently attend boy scouts throughout my life, but I always felt like an outsider watching others interact. Most kids had already formed their friendships at school, and it was hard to try to interact when it felt like I had nothing in common with them.
If you have read some of my previous entries on this site, I have talked about dealing with poor mental health in my past before. And while I don’t struggle as bad with depression currently; I still continue to fight my anxiety on a daily basis.
One thing I wish I could have had in my life was someone else to give some type of context for my situation as a child. I didn’t even have the words for what I experienced in regards to my anxiety until I went to college. And as I learned about psychology and types of anxiety I realized I spent a lot of my life at fairly high level of anxiety. With several panic attacks occurring while I was at college.
But I had many signs of it far before that. I can vividly remember a panic attack I had a teen. And while it wasn’t a single stressful situation that set it off, there were a lot of stressor in my life at the time. Instead of pointing me to a counselor or talking about my feelings or emotions, my mother dismissed it as a side effect of one of my asthma medications. I had no close friends to discuss this with or another trustworthy adult.
Nor did I have any education on my emotions. My homeschool lessons on health and biology were strictly about how the body physically works (minus any mention of sexual organs of course), and the mental aspect of health was completely neglected. So I really had no words to even describe what I experienced. All I knew was that fear was a part of my daily life.
And fear was something that was suppose to be able to be conquered by trust in g-d. If I expressed fear or worry, I was pointed to verses like Psalm 27:1.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”Psalm 27:1
My church and my family were a unanimous voice in this way. G-d will help take away or lessen your fear. That was the promise. Which I will cynically point out prayer and belief was not enough to quell my anxiety.
No thought was given to if my continual fear could be something more. Nor did I have the experience or knowledge to know what I was experiencing. And my family and church community were unable to point it out due to their own personal beliefs and biased views towards mental health.
I will concede that my mother did help me wade through my depression in a way. After experiencing a heavy bought of depression, I had stopped eating and really cut back on any social interaction with my family or friends. My mom did confront me about my behavior. I took me a very long time to express my feelings and emotion, but I eventually felt safe enough to talk about it on a base level with her.
Most of the conversation centered around my guilt over an action I had taken. Which I considered to be a sexual sin. Looking back now it was a complete nonsense thing, and was really just teenage curiosity coupled with a lack of sexual education. I felt so much guilt, and I had convinced myself that I was completely worthless. In my mind G-d hated me and my sinful sexual behavior. This spiraled quickly into depression.
I felt compelled to confess my sin and shame to my parents. So that’s what most of this conversation centered on. My confessing my “horrible” deed to my mom, and mom stating that g-d had offered me forgiveness and I just needed to accept it. I tried to explain that I had already asked forgiveness, but I still felt worthless. Some part of the conversation must have tipped my mother off to the fact that I was indeed depressed. Though she never explicitly asked me about my depression, or if I was having suicidal thoughts. (I did have these thoughts).
She did name it as depression and state that she struggle with the same thing. Telling me that there were many times in her life when she struggle and felt down and depressed. That is the part of the conversation I will say my mom did well on. Admitting she had an issue, and helping me put a name to that emotion / feeling.
However in that exact same conversation she pointed me to g-d and the bible as a way to overcome this depression. She spoke of how she read the psalms when she was depressed. And how many great “men of God” struggled with depression throughout their lives. Using those people, David in particular, she stated that g-d helped these men through their depression as they relied and trusted more on g-d.
Once again I had no other experience with other opinions or experiences in regards to depression. Nor did I understand the science behind it. And my “support system” held the same view as I experienced from my mother.
Taking away any influence from external community and views of others can put kids like myself in potential danger. I believe with or without my religious upbringing I would have suffered in some way from these mental illness. However, I believe that my sheltered environment did increase the emotional pain I went through as a child.
I know not everyone has these types of experiences with homeschooling. Nor does every evangelical believe that mental health issues can be solved using scripture, belief, and prayer. However, I just feel the need to put my own experience out there as a warning to others. There is a potential for harm; I say that from my own personal experience. Let my story help others in some way; even if I can’t possibly see any good from it at this point in my life.