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Life Lessons from a Mentally Ill Mom

This is my 22nd Mother’s Day. Or my first, depending on how you look at it.

You can read my experiences with being a birthmom here and here. Part 3 is rather happier: This is the first Mother’s Day following my ridiculously blissful reunion with my wonderful son and his equally wonderful parents.

It’s hard to say much, mostly because the memories of those few days in December are so intensely personal and the emotions still so raw. I’m not quite ready to let the world in on them. What I will say is that, as magical as it all was, and as healing as it all was, it wasn’t a cure-all. Right now, I’m on my third antidepressant combo in two months, trying to get out of the most recent episode, just so you know that even really joyous events don’t instantly cure longstanding mental illnesses and trauma.

I wanted to mention that because May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. I saw a headline the other day stating that most Americans think the stigma of mental illness is fading. I’d say it’s a safe bet those are the people who don’t suffer from it or know anyone who does. My mental health has, directly or indirectly, cost me every job I’ve ever had, and affects even my part-time, work-mostly-from-home gig now. Trust me — there’s still plenty of stigma to go around.

7 Comments to
Life Lessons from a Mentally Ill Mom

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  1. When I saw thisI couldnt beleive it! I sufffer from depression 4 years. Ive missed out on so much of my kids lives. No medications were working and I was going downhill fast. My Dr. was very concerned and suggested having ECTS. As scary as it sounded I decided to do it. Ive only had 3 so far,no change yet.As much as I want to give up I just dont. I will be 60 in 1 week and I wonder where my life went. If only people would take depression seriously. Its not just a feelig blue day its days and days of not being able to move,notbeing able to be in a relationship,keep friendships,etc. Im crying right now as I write this hoping I have the strenght and the faith to keep going on. We need to spread the word about depression!!!!!

  2. Sorry typo error 24 years,not 4!!!

  3. I am kind of confused…what were the life lessons? Not to judge a book by it’s cover? I think that’s something I learned in 3rd grade. I’m sorry I just don’t understand where the substance is in this post. No offense intended…you just kind of lost me…maybe it’s me and I missed it..?

  4. Candy, as I read your articles, I found myself having points of empathy with you. I am a bereaved parent, who lost my son almost 10 years ago to leukemia. Many of the same thoughts and feelings that you have expressed have also been expressed by myself and/or other bereaved parents. At least in that sense, we are part of the same club.

    In that light, the mental problems you have had to struggle with are not surprising. A study of Danish bereaved parents published in 2005 in the “New England Journal of Medicine” (see ) reported that bereaved parents, particularly moms, were twice as likely to need psychiatric hospitalization as people in the general population (no data was available for those who received outpatient treatment and were never hospitalized). The loss of my son (combined with other thermonuclear stressors, as if I needed more) plunged me into a breakdown from which I am still struggling to recover.

    In your continued writing and personal struggles toward recovery, I would encourage you to look into the material available on bereaved parenthood (including resources from groups like The Compassionate Friends), if you have not been doing so already. You may find there a source of material that will help you further as well as those who you seek to help. I wish I could say that people in your position could find a supportive community among bereaved parents, but I fear that many (perhaps out of their own pain) might not be so understanding. But at least some of us can.

  5. It probably would help if you clicked on and read the two links referenced in the first paragraph. My apologies if it wasn’t the best headline; it was the best I could do at 1:30 a.m. when I was writing this. I’ll be happy to take it up with you privately; my email address is at the bottom of the post.

  6. Thank you, Weeble. I’ll look into it. My condolences on the loss of your son. It’s tough no matter the circumstances. Please let me know if I can lend an ear or a hand or whatever else you might need.

    Susan, I know it is hard to keep going some days. You’re absolutely right that depression affects *every* part of one’s life, and often the lives of those around the person who is depressed. I wish you well and hope that things turn around for you soon.

  7. Hi Candy,

    I won’t hug my mom… she doesn’t want to be in touch with me. We’ve never bonded, since my birth. She has been pretty damaging in my life, until I had to decide to take a leave of absence from the relationship with my parents. I was punished for that and still am – no matter what I tried to do to get back in touch after a few years, they would not be in touch with me. Which changed several years ago – but not for the better. There are conditons for being in touch with them. I won’t fulfil these conditions, since they are only looking for more sticks to throw at me. They absolutely refuse to take any reponsibilities of what happened to me as a child and what they did to me as well. So, I hope you understand I hate mothers- and fathersday.
    I am sorry, I shouldn’t have read your post and now I am only rambling. At least i got it of my chest – don’t know if that countrs for something :(

  8. I saw a headline the other day stating that most Americans think the stigma of mental illness is fading. I’d say it’s a safe bet those are the people who don’t suffer from it or know anyone who does.

    For those who accept it, it is not fading, for those of who do not, it is. One of the powers of the claim of “stigma” is that it entices chosen victims to internalize it and self-victimize.Once it riches the level of self-belief, it is difficult to dislodge. When it reaches the level of self-belief that it must be taught, it has even greater power.

    Call it by its real name, discrimination, and you gain some power over it. You may not be able to end it, but you can rightfully name it for those who hear you, that they can address it more honestly.

    Rosa Parke knew it was not her skin, it was other people’s minds.

    Harold A. Maio [email protected]

  9. “Me,” I’m sorry. I know not everyone has an ideal relationship with his or her parents. I’ll leave it at that here, except to say that I understand and am happy to listen if you need to talk about it.

    Harold, thank you. Discrimination is exactly what it is. I have no illusions that I can do anything but address it where I see it — like you said, that won’t end it, but maybe it will at least start a conversation rolling and get people thinking.

  10. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  11. Stigma is alive and well…..That I can tell you all.
    Depression runs in our family and I have suffered many years with this Beast….
    It is so difficult to explain this disease to someone who has not gone through mental illness.
    It takes hold of you and you really don’t feel like going through life….Empathy does help, and lots and lots of support.
    By the Grace of God, I got treatment, and I do feel in time, it works. Very slowly, you begin to see the light, but, you have to work hard to get there…..
    Whether, that means antidepressants, etc., walking, Yoga, healthy diet…..just try everything out there and don’t give up.
    Spirituallity also works well….Walking on the beach and feeling the sun helps too. Nice music, etc.
    I do pray, everyone finds some kind of Peace with this disease….In time with new research, I do believe there will be a cure for future generations.

  12. God blesses you.



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