"I'm done!!!" is a cry for help, but as such must be clarified. Parenting children with hidden disabilities can feel hopeless and overwhelming. Some scenarios are self inflicted by refusal to release the ideal, the ideal of passing grades and homework completed as expected by school authorities, the ideal of homeschooling, the ideal of siblings who get along, the ideal of kumbaya. One by one each of these ideals met their demise in our household. Other scenarios don't need an ideal standard to bring a crash to the semblance of sanity in our homes.
There is a genuine grief in abandoning the ideal, in the death of dreams. There is a genuine grief in the mere observation of the seeming anarchy in our homes, long after we have successfully discarded ideals. There is no shame in grieving.
But without clarification, the declaration of "I'm done" in the midst of crisis leaves loved ones unequipped to know how to respond.
We clarified for our children that announcing they would kill themselves was an automatic trip to the ER for psychiatric admit. Although they had uttered those threatening words in the past, our announcement to them was part repentance for inaction by not responding immediately to their cry for help and part commitment to action when circumstances warranted it. In the future, inaction would not happen again. If they mean something less dramatic, then they needed to adopt new communication phrases, because as parents we just couldn't take that chance.
We meant it, and have the medical bills to prove it. In retrospect, it was money well spent. It brought relief to us from the manipulative screams of self harm plus it alleviated the even greater tragedy of growing numb through the bogus cries of wolf that could have veiled a true risk.
Those same boundaries apply to parents. A distraught partner who calls his or her spouse continuously at work not just saying, "I'm done", but also lamenting, "I'm going to kill myself" or "I'm going to kill that child!", might have made a habit of such dramatics, but that season must end immediately. You and your partner are too important. The children are too important.
As fathers and mothers raising children with hidden disabilities, our responsibilities extend beyond parenting to support of one another and the guarantee of safety for our spouse as well as for our children.
Explore what "I'm done!" means. Intervene. As two adults, set boundaries on expression so that the other knows what intervention is appropriate, and help is summoned immediately when the wolves of "imminent collapse" and "parental poor choices" are truly endangering the sheepfold.