The Monster: Mental Illness

The unspoken monster, the black plague, the cloud that looms, the topic we don’t discuss at play dates. 21% of women living in America are on a psychiatric drug for treatment of depression, anxiety or some form of mental illness. That is almost 1 in 4 women. That is almost 1 in 4 moms. That is one of the moms sitting across from you at the park. That is one of the moms in the carpool lane. That is one of the moms at daycare drop-off. That is one of the moms trying to get her child through the grocery store. That is one of the moms sitting around the meeting table at work.

We all have our own story about how the monster came to be a part of our lives. For me, the monster is a long line of bad genetics and toxic environments. I am the walking epitome of someone who got out and beat the statistics of a family filled with mental illness and addiction. I’ve dedicated my life to ensuring that my story and my child’s story were different, to ensuring that my son had a better life and childhood than I did. I go to therapy, I found my healthy coping skills, I take medications, I do affirmations, I use oils, I never drink to drown my problems, I avoid toxic environments and toxic people. I dedicate every ounce of myself to making sure that my illnesses are not a part of my child’s life.

For the most part, for many years, the monster stayed at bay. Imagine my surprise when after all those years of work, after that labor of love, this monster was able to silently sneak into my beautiful, beautiful home and wrap it’s hand around my neck and slowly start to choke the life out of me. What right does this black cloud have to shadow the amazing life I have worked so hard to build? It feels like I should just have the power to shout at the top of my lungs GO AWAY and make this monster disappear from our lives. It is a debilitating feeling when that is not the case.

I can protect my son from abuse, addiction, violence, alcoholism, drugs, etc. but how can I protect him from a monster that lives inside me? That’s the question I ask myself continuously. How do I keep him from knowing what depression and anxiety look like? How do I make sure he never knows the reality of mental illness? How do I make sure he never has to learn coping skills for dealing with a parent that suffers from a mental illness? I am not sure I can as much as I beg, wish, and pray that I could with every fiber of my being.

The only answers I have are continuously advocating for appropriate treatment of all mental illnesses, continuing to start conversations about the realities facing those with mental illnesses, and continuing to consistently strike down the stigma that surrounds mental illness by being open and honest about my own experiences regardless of the shame or judgment that may surround that honesty. It includes finding a good support system for myself. Always being honest with those in my support system, myself, and at the right time and place, being honest with my child. Making sure that he knows that all though his mom is flawed and human, she loves him beyond measure and that love will never change or falter come what may.

And above all else, never, ever losing the fight because at the end of the day, that’s what he will remember. He will remember that I always fought, that I never quit, and that I always showed up and tried, even if all I could be was okay. Today, I am just okay. Tomorrow is a new day and I hope to be great, but if I am just okay, that will be enough too until I can be great again. If this is you mama, this is your permission to just show up and be okay today if that is all you can do. Tomorrow you can do better.

“My hope is that he will remember that mommy tried. Even when she was tired, even when she was stressed. I hope they will know that I did it all for them. That I had every intention of being great, good, and grand, but that some days all I could be was okay.”

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