Please bear with me; I decided to write a serious post today! Don't worry, we'll be back to happy and light tomorrow for Tea For Two-sday! I don't write serious posts too often, but if you want to see some of the serious, you can check out the posts about my son, my mom, and my sister.
The month of May (yes I know we just started June - I always run behind!) was National Mental Health Month. I thought I would share a little of my background growing up with a mentally ill mother. You'll get to know me a little better; I'll get to put my thoughts in writing; and we'll let others know that they are not alone.
I was wondering just now why this was on my heart to write about today. Suddenly it hit me - June 1st is when my mother died, 8 years ago. It may sound strange that I didn't remember the day, but I wasn't there when she died and none of us even knew that day that she was gone. I tend to think of her birthday as a more important date to remember.
My mother was mentally ill. I can't remember at what age I realized that. I think I started to realize it in second grade. I have fuzzy memories of different events - my grandparents and priests talking to Mom and then Mom going away for a few days; Dad mentioning a few things to us; Mom acting a little strangely more than once. And then after my parents divorced (Mom's decision), I have clearer memories - Mom throwing things at us and yelling/crying, Mom acting hyper while telling us we were going to get all new appliances and furnishings on credit, a psychiatrist giving us his card telling us to call him if Mom was acting strange - which I think we did do. At that point, I was aware that she had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and needed medication.
My family knew of her mental illness and the priests at our church and maybe a few other key people. I do not recall talking to people when I was young about Mom's problems, even with friends. When you are already one of the few kids in class with divorced parents and you also have a Downs Syndrome sister, adding a mentally ill mother to the list isn't exactly appealing. When I was in elementary school, I was mostly confused about it and a bit embarrassed.
By the time I got to high school, I wasn't getting along with my mom and insisted that she let me live with Dad. She finally did and then I worried no more about mental illness - I was too concerned with finding my own spot in the socially awkward world of high school. What I didn't realize then was that Mom got worse during that time while my sister still lived with her. My sister never told me or my Dad what she was going through - she was too confused, scared, and ashamed.
The timing of events gets all blurred for me around this time, but I can tell you a few things without going into too much detail. Mom's problems had gone far beyond Bipolar Disorder. She left her job. She started hearing voices and created an imaginary man that she was supposed to meet. She was on and off of different medications and was committed to a mental institution more than once. Mom really struggled during those years.
Please don't think that I had a terrible childhood because of this. There were plenty of good times - board games, root beer floats, Little House on the Prairie, singing, piano playing, cousins, concerts, picnics, swimming, and reading stories. The Lord protected me and brought me through it all and has blessed me by keeping me free of the problems that Mom had. He also blessed me with a sense of humor as a coping mechanism!
When we talk about mental health - we tell people with mental problems to reach out and get help and we tell people to look for signs of mental illness in children so that they can get the proper help. But do we ever say anything about the children who are living with mentally ill parents? Do these children know to speak up and reach out? Do they know that they're not the only ones dealing with these issues? I certainly felt that nobody else I knew had a mentally ill parent.
I just want you to know that if you grew up with mental illness in the family or are living with it now, you are not alone! I pray that you have somebody to talk to about it, but please know that you can always talk to the Lord and He will listen.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Thanks for listening today. If you have friends struggling with mental illness, please pray for and encourage them, but also pray for, encourage, and support their children.
Have a beautiful blessed day!