Paula G

It is Mother’s Day and my daughters just told me how much they have learned from my illness and thanked me for being the mother I was to them. This is 8 years after my husband divorced me when they were 14 and 16 due to my first real mania after 25 years of being misdiagnosed with only depression. Neither I nor my husband had any idea of what behavior could be caused by mania.

I kept my depressions hidden and was the active suburban mom. My hypomania showed in increased enthusiasm, projects, lack of sleep, but never severe misbehavior. My husband’s response to keep me from living at home with my children and try to convince them that I was not capable of being their mother had a bewildering effect upon them, and caused me pain you cannot imagine. It took many years for our relationships to be restored.

I am now well into my recovery and they know how hard it has been and that I was treated unfairly. But one of the things my daughter mentioned was that now she and her sister know the symptoms and she quoted from the ad from the campaign you have running to increase awareness of mental illness among men. She said, “Even people like …(some star athlete I can’t remember) can get this and 1 out of 4 people have it. They are concerned that their older sister has it, whereas my ex-husband will not even acknowledge that possibility.

Through the long hard road to recovery, they have learned that I am not dangerous, bizarre, scary, or incapable of being their mother as they were told. In fact, up until the time I became seriously ill, I did a good job in spite of battling my illness and being in an un-supportive marriage. Motherhood is not easy and is especially difficult when you have any kind of illness.

I just wanted you to know that your efforts to educate and increase awareness about mental illness are helping my children understand me, and everyone else with mental illness. That means so much to me. You are impacting families and helping them learn to love and support one another, while they become more compassionate people. I thank you deeply for that. It means so much.

After 8 years of pain and struggle, I have been affirmed by my children as they expressed their love for me, and I start a full-time job tomorrow that is just right for me. Not what I was educated for, or the salary I made in the past, but good, honest work that is not too stressful, so I can continue to maintain wellness. I will never be wealthy or have material luxuries, but I have wonderful daughters all graduating from college and making it on their own.

Thank you again for helping them see that their family situation was not so out of the ordinary, or anything to be ashamed of. What you are doing is so very important in ending the shame and stigma that come with mental illness and for the family members that are painfully affected by it, often times in silent isolation. My goal is to promote advocacy and ministry to families with mental health needs within the church and create church outreach to the community. I am very glad to have BC2M as a reference in this endeavor.

No family should have to hide in shame in order to feel accepted in a community that should be demonstrating the compassion of God. My vision is that one day, people with mental illness will be eager to come to church because they know it is a safe haven of understanding, love and practical help in time of need, instead of being afraid of being misjudged, met with suspicion and mistrust, or just totally ignored out of ignorance. Or worse, being blamed for their own illness, which creates unimaginable suffering for all, and may very well prove to be fatal. Thank you again for being a voice for those that may be too ill to speak and a blessing to children with mentally ill parents.

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