Every Reason to Hope

By October 11, 2016Blog

I watched as the nurse examined my arms to find the best spot to insert the IV, but I didn’t look up. I didn’t want to see the look in her eye when she noticed the scars. I didn’t want to see the flicker of recognition cross her face disclosing that she knew things about my history that I would rather hide.

Would her eyes have shown contempt? Or maybe empathy? I will never know. I wasn’t brave.

I was afraid.

Sitting there in active labor I was afraid of the nurse judging me as unstable, unfit, not worthy of being trusted with a child. As many times as I tried to suppress the self- doubt, reminding myself that not everyone is as judgmental as my loudest critics, the question “What if she thinks I am not a good mother?” continued to creep back into my consciousness.

As much as I worried about being stigmatized as a bad mother because I live with depression and anxiety, that was not my greatest fear that afternoon. Ever since I found out I was expecting a daughter I was scared of her inheriting the weaker points of my genetics. Because my experience with mental illness as a teenager had been so difficult, I was afraid to raise a daughter who might grow up to think, process, and emote like me.

In the weeks leading up to this moment of her arrival I had dreamed about who my daughter would be. Imagining all the genetic pieces that would come together to make a one-of-a-kind girl. Imagining who that girl would be in the world. These reflections came rushing into my mind as I anticipated her delivery:

“I wanted to pass on to my daughter my passion and compassion,

my faith and my creativity,

but not my depression,

not my anxiety,

not my deep fear of rejection

or my self-protective isolation.”

The thoughts were loud, making the voice of the nurse seem distant. As I recognized anxiety growing in me, I made a conscience effort to redirect my thinking.

Deep breathing. Letting go of the fear of what I could not control. Focusing on the moment. Focusing on the joy. I reminded myself:

There is every reason to hope.

If depression is a part of her story, my daughter will live in a world of better medicine.

Compared with the breadth of medicine, effective medications for mental illnesses have been available for a very short amount of time. While neurobiologic research is still in its infancy, a growing amount of resources are being directed to its furtherance. Everyday researchers are learning more about how to intervene in mental illnesses with medications that correct neurotransmitter imbalances specific to the genes that contribute to the illness. The more we learn, the more targeted therapy is, the better we can address the chemical imbalances and brain abnormalities that play a role in mental illness.

There is every reason to hope.

If mental illness is something she ends up experiencing, she will live in a more accepting world

I believe that as people living with mental illness share our stories we open the door to a culture of acceptance. We are taking power away from shame. We are refusing to live isolated from the community. That is why despite the risk of being stigmatized or misunderstood I will continue to share my story so that the truthful conversation can begin. Mental illness is not about attention-seeking, or weakness, or moral failure. It has a biologic cause that can be treated.

There is every reason to hope.

If she ever feels stigmatized, I can surround my daughter with people who will love her and teach her to listen to them.

It is a hard choice, a brave choice, to choose to listen to the people who love you rather than the people who attack you. Our culture is changing in regards to its view of mental illness, but we have a long way to go. There will be people who don’t understand. People who say the wrong thing whether out of spite or malice. If you let fear of what they will say dictate your life, then in a way stigma wins. I will teach my daughter that it is the people who love you that matter. The people who are there for you when you feel empty and tired are the ones who have earned the right to speak to your heart.

And I will be one of those voices for my daughter, whispering to her heart, “Keep on hoping baby girl. Whatever life holds for you. There is every reason to hope.”

 

One Comment

  • Eric says:

    Thank you, Sarah. You are neither weak nor sick, but a strong and healthy woman, and you inspire all of us who know how hard it is and what you’re up against to try and do the same.

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