So, I kind of wanted to go a little different direction with this post.
Let me start off with some background on my mom.
My mother and her family (4 kids) grew up DIRT FLOOR POOR. We’re talking about maybe getting cold beans and a hot dog all day for food. Her mother was never married and only one of her children knows who their dad is (not my mom).
My granny, I loved her, more than life, but she liked older men. Not that that’s a bad thing, but the older man she was involved with for all of my mother’s childhood and adulthood until he died was abusive.
She has never gone into all of the details and I wouldn’t dream of asking because I can see it upsets her and she would rather forget it all. She has hinted at sexual abuse and I KNOW there was physical abuse. She has told me stories about when she would try to sneak extra food at night, or if she got home late from school (she walked most of the time and it was several miles), or sometimes if she told them she was going to the library and didn’t get back when they thought she should have been.. he would beat her. Hands, fists, extension cords, sticks..
Now my mother is a STRONG woman. But that has definitely affected her. It hurt her then and it hurts her now.
So, I want to get into the deeper things now. My mom suffered with depression before she ever left that place. She married my dad at the age of 18 and never looked back. Before that comes across wrong, she didn’t abandon her family or her mother. In fact, she was the only one who was there when my grandmother died after being eaten alive by cancer. She was there for the heart attack, the triple bypass, the stroke, the diabetes and the dementia.
None of those things made depression any easier for my mom to deal with. She suffered from postpartum after each of her children were born, me and my sister, my younger sister, and my younger brother. My dad is also.. difficult.
I love my dad, but he isn’t and has probably never been nurturing. They had a few rough years of marriage at the beginning, and even now they have patches where I worry they won’t make it.
Throughout all of this, she has fought depression. And had to deal with my dad’s attitudes and moods. Which as someone who has suffered from depression, is not easy to do. You can barely handle your own emotions and moods, let alone try to navigate and be responsible for someone else’s.
You’re probably wondering why I am bringing this up. Why I am airing out my mom’s struggles like this. I promise I have a point.
My mom never mentioned any of that until I was struck with my own severe bout of depression at the age of 16/17.
I was sent to see a therapist in high school when my teachers found out I was self harming and had been extremely confrontational all year.
I can’t tell you what triggered my depression. I don’t have an answer. I do know at that same time I was diagnosed with Panic Anxiety Disorder as well. I get overwhelmed and I panic. That panic then leads to a complete shut down where I essentially cease to function.
So, at the tender age of 17 (I am pretty sure it was during my senior year when mom disclosed everything to me after she cried and asked what she had done wrong as a parent..) I learned that depression, mental illness, runs in my family.
My mom had watched me get worse and worse. She said she didn’t recognize that I was spiraling downwards, and looking back now, I believe her. But at the time, I felt like I was begging for attention. I was having panic attacks a lot, I was angry. So angry. At everyone and everything. But mostly at myself. Then at her.
I felt like she should have noticed I was sick. That she had been there and should have realized I was hurting like she had for so many years. Then I realized, she had hidden that she was sick herself for SO long.. Why would she even think that it was happening to me when she was denying it had happened to her?
She wanted all of us to be normal. To be healthy. To be strong. But each of us have our own unique struggles. They change and evolve with us. My twin, Brittany, she struggled in high school with an eating disorder. She just.. didn’t eat. She was a killer 120 pounds and she always looked so much better than I did. Just ask all the boys. But she maybe ate 500 calories a day and was struggling to maintain her health.
Why? Because she was convinced she had to be thin to be successful. Now, my sister is BRILLIANT. She excels at absolutely everything she does in academics. But she didn’t care about her mind, a point she made clear as her mental health took a turn for the worst with her eating disorder.
She was better for a long time, then she got married and was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). She gained A LOT of weight and isn’t sure she’ll ever be able to have children even though she literally aches for it. She has also been diagnosed with anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She feels the need to be loved and adored by everyone and when someone is on the fence or just doesn’t like her personality, it cuts to her core and she spirals out of control. But she’s working on it with a therapist. Progress. Mental health and mental illness.
Now, when I was forced into therapy, it was the first time anyone in my family had outwardly struggled. My dad is a firefighter so he was gone so much he had never seen my mother struggle and she had been on antidepressants after she gave birth so it wasn’t noticeable. She needed to be able to function for her new children. Therefore, I was made out to be the trouble child.
I was the weak one.
The one that had problems.
The one struggling.
I felt like an outcast. Like an embarrassment. My family was ashamed of me. And let me just tell you right now, that did not help me feel any better. My self harm got worse. My mental health got worse. And that made me feel even worse.
So why am I going through all of this?
Why am I bothering to open all of this up?
Because mental health and mental illness and mental struggles shouldn’t be hidden. My mom tried to bury her mental health problems and they almost killed me (literally, I attempted suicide during my senior year in high school due to my shame and conflicting thoughts).
So my title is Bring it up or Bury it?
My vote, as someone who was blindsided by mental illness, BRING IT UP.
Make it less stigmatized. Your brain is a muscle. All muscles get tired sometimes. All muscles need to see a doctor sometimes. That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you, and if there is, that it can’t be fixed. The hate, both from society and internally, needs to stop. It’s debilitating enough to struggle without the world telling you that it needs to be hidden.
And with that.. I am going to be done.