Friday, May 10, 2013

How I Put the Happy in Mother’s Day

By Dawn Brown, NAMI HelpLine

When someone wishes me a Happy Mother’s Day they have no idea what it means to me; if you have an adult child with mental illness perhaps you can understand. Before I could have a happy Mother’s Day, I needed to recreate the mother I was and become the mother I needed to be.

When a woman becomes a mother everything changes as we take on the mantle of motherhood. Since there is no job description for mother, we tend to combine different experiences and expectations to create a rosy notion of motherhood. But nothing prepares you for being the mother of someone who develops a mental illness.

As my son began to experience the symptoms of mental illness, I believed as his mother that we could overcome anything, even schizophrenia. I was wrong. I was unprepared. I was doing more harm than good. He was slipping away, and as I stood in the kitchen and looked at the screaming, irrational stranger my son had become, it quickly became obvious that he needed a very different type of mother. Everything changed. My sense of loss was profound. My ability to protect and nurture my child was limited by my lack of knowledge and understanding. I needed to grieve and get my bearings, but mental illness demands action. I didn’t know what questions to ask, what people to see, and where to go. I didn’t know much, but I knew just enough to reach out to NAMI.
Using a nationwide network of NAMI State Organizations, NAMI Affiliates and a large Web presence, NAMI is ready to help you find information, gain insight and get support when mental illness strikes. NAMI was created by and for people like you and me, and today tens of thousands of volunteers offer themselves to help individuals and their loved ones find recovery and build better lives.

Being the mother of an adult with mental illness required me to become an expert on community mental health support services, psychiatric medications and psychosocial treatments. I learned a whole new vocabulary for a confusing, disjointed system that was adequate at best and harmful at its worst. I graduated from the NAMI Family-to-Family education program, plugged in to a NAMI Family Support Group, added the NAMI HelpLine to my speed dial (1 (800) 950-6264) and learned the art of patience and persistence.

It has been over 10 years since my son was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and everything has changed, including me. Today I am strong and assertive in advocating for my son. My boundaries are clear and defined. I respect him and expect respect. Treatment and medication are non-negotiable. I don’t indulge any illusions about what living with a mental illness means. My son and I have been through some very bad times and traveled through many dark places.

I’ve also learned that my son is not a burden that I must carry through life. His life is his own. Life’s lessons are best learned through natural consequences, both good and bad, resulting from our choices. And, I’ve learned that my son desperately needs me to walk alongside him offering love, support and guidance, as he finds his place in life. I love him dearly. He is doing well. I am very happy to be his mother.

This Mother’s Day if I could send every mother who has a child living with mental illness a Happy Mother’s Day card it would have this message taken from NAMI’s Family-to-Family education program.

Sometimes Love Means Let Go…

  • To let go does not mean to stop caring. It means I can’t do it for someone else.
  • To let go is not to cut myself off. It’s the realization I can’t control another.
  • To let go is to allow someone to learn from natural consequences.
  • To let go is to recognize when the outcome is not in my hands.
  • To let go is not to care for, but to care about.
  • To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.
  • To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
  • To let go is not to expect miracles, but to take each day as it comes, and cherish myself in it.
  • To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody, but to try to become what I dream I can be.
  • To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future. To let go is to fear less and love more.

This Mother's Day, share your video or story and let others know what the day means to you.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing.

Marcia said...

Thank you so much for your story! I am struggling with the letting go and not taking care of portion of parenting a child with a mental illness. We too graduated from the Family to Family and are in a NAMI support group. I am very grateful for the support we receive! Happy Mother's Day to you!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the beautiful Mothers Day message. These are very useful tips to help deal with the mental illness of a child. Realizing it is not in your control is very difficult . One day at a time is the best advice!

Dotty Quist said...

Thank you for this! I'm a Mother of three sons who suffer from mental illness. My oldest has schizophrenia, my middle has schizo affective and my youngest committed suicide ate the age of 15. For the past 6 years I've had to become an expert on mental illness and advocate for my children. Letting go has to be the hardest part, I work at it every day. I take life one day at a time and learn to be happy for the little things in life!
HAPPY MOTHER's DAY to you as we'll and thank you for sharing your story!!

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful...

Anonymous said...

excellent post: rings true from start to finish.
hits the spot on Mother's Day.
many thanks.

Don Norman said...

Am not a Mother but as the Father of a son who has suffered Schizophrenia for 30 years (over half his life). I totally understand. He is now in a mental health facility and denies us any contact with him, which makes the day especially difficult.

Anne Costa said...

Your son is an incredibly blessed man to have you for his mom.

Monica said...

What a poignant and beautifully written piece. Thank you for sharing.

Monica
HelpToHopeBlog.net

Anne Townend-Duffey said...

This could be my story too. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

God bless you and your son. Our son was also diagnosed with Schizophrenia when he was in his early 20's. Unfortunitly our story did not end happily when he took is own life 8 years ago.

susan2david said...

Thank you for your mother's day post. I am new to this. My son had his first psychiatric illness. He was released a few weeks ago. I don't know who to turn to for help. Anyone can help I would appreciate it. Happy Mother's Day to us all with mother's with mental illness.

I need some help, about resources for mental illness, but no one responds can someone help.

Deborah said...

As a mother of a newly diagnosed daughter of 19, I needed this more than ever!! I cried as I read it. and as I scrolled down to see what others said. It seems like no one understands what a parent goes through and every day is hard like walking on egg shells being careful not to break any of them before it all breaks lose. Thank You so much for posting this !!!

Kirsten Newman said...

I am going through exactly what you wrote. My son is 8 and has been diagnosed with a mood disorder not otherwised specified, adhd combined, and ODD. The docotrs are now leaning towards child onset bipolar but are being cautious before giving him that official diagnosis. I have just recently learned of NAMI and have reached out for help. I am a single mother of two and have exhausted myself on trying to handle work, school and my son's mental health while balancing a two year old on my hip.

Anonymous said...

I said to myself this morning, I'm going to get in my car and drive away. I feel that way a lot living with a son with mental illness.I know it's not his fault or mine,and we do the best we can on a daily basis.The sleepless nights,the manic episodes, not taking his medication, missing therapy, no phone calls back from resource people he has in place is very frustrating.Will I give up? NO! Thank You for sharing this on such a special day, it gives me hope as I read about your perseverance and persistance in educating yourself on the horrible monster that mental illness is.I have not lost my adult son to the illness, but some days I feel as if I have.I take each day as it comes, it is the best I can do until he is on his way to independence. Bless you

Terri Dow said...

Great article!
Our son suffered with mental illness his entire life and was on and off of meds since age 4.
He took his life at almost 25.
It's important we survivors be there for those still on the journey.

Sheila Clark said...

I was too late for my son. I hadn't realized how bad things had gotten for him. I suspected he had Bipolar II like me, and knew he had PTSD from his Marine Corp days, but wasn't prepared for his death. I asked him if he would come with me to get help, but got a "I don't think there's anything wrong with me mom" response. Later that night, I found out he was shot to death by a deputy when he pulled a knife on him. I just burried him on the 8th and couldn't stay in church when I began my breakdown. I went to his grave and fell apart instead. I have two other sons to be with, but just can't imagine not seeing my first born for another 20 years or so.
Sheila Clark

Anonymous said...

susan2david. Contact your local NAMI organization today! I hope they can get you some answers.

Anonymous said...

Indeed a very wonderful summary. You "let go" points were very meaningful. I,too, hold the NAMI Family to Family degree. Have a son who is bi-polar and we experience the roller coaster life. Thanks to NAMI we are better able to cope.

James

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this!

I had to put my son out of my home the day before Mother's Day. My heart breaks and you here truly understand that feeling.

My son has emotionally abused me for years, but lately it's been much worse. The last straw was him telling me I was a worthless piece of shit- I just couldnt listen anymore and his threats to "push me over the edge" and he has "unleashed a personal vendetta" troubled ; for the first time, I put him out. He's 23 and needs to understand consequences. I love him but can't let him take his frustrations out on me.

I'm glad the mom's here understand, I feel less alone!

Taxibike60 said...

I am with you. It's hard to hear others tell us to love and support when we are abused, manipulated and taken advantage of. I threw my 23 year old daughter out too. In addition to being mentally ill, she is a crack addict. It's a good thing that she just went back into treatment. At least it wasn't jail or dead yet. She's been to 13 treatment programs in 9 years.

Sheila said...

Cotinue to pray for him and ask God to let His will not ours be done.Happy parents day to you both. Let go and let God.

Anonymous said...

Mother's Day has not been a very enjoyable day for me for the past several years. I stopped over the past few years, trying so hard to include on my son in that day, most holidays as a matter of fact. He has no self control with his words and he has become more and more verbally abusive. He will soon turn 21 and I am finally realizing how enabling I have been and that I need to let go and ask for help. It is not easy and it comes after much heartache and more to come, but I love my son and I want him to be able to learn to live with what ever diagnosis he is given. Be it Anxiety, ODD, depression, bipolar? As mentioned by multiple people, you have to do a lot of self research and advocating for your child along the way. The resources will not jump out at you and even the resources you do find will take you to many dead ends and force you to start your search all over again. The urgency to come to grips with some of this is settling in for me, but it has taken some 8 plus years. Right now I find the legal system to be the biggest obstetrical. They are always present, but do not want to get too involved. They involve themselves just enough to make the situation more tenuous and then remind me that my son is of age and I do not have the parental rights I once had. I have to wait for a situation that makes him a potential danger to himself of someone else. It does not matter how many citations they have already written in his short life. I am right in the middle of trying to get help for him as an adult, since my childhood searches cam up empty. I am starting the process of applying for disability and hopefully more services will open up for him? Only time will tell, but I will continue to be his advocate, his mother and support him as best I can. As one reader said, it is nice to know you are not alone in may of the thoughts expressed. Thank you again for the article.

Anonymous said...

I am a mother with a child with mental illness. I have to learn to let go because I self medicated myself with food because those dark spaces are spaces I fear & never want to revisit & I don't know when it may occur again. So I been eatting to self medicate now I have jeopardized my own health. To the pt i could have a stroke due to my weight gain or die. I find my child's mental illness my worse fear. I am out of control.

Darla said...

I am a mother of a 24 yr old who has been diagnosed schizoaffective disorder at the age of 21. It was the hardest thing we had ever been through! So hard to find the right help. I have finally learned to breathe, step back, and do what I am able for my beautiful boy without harming myself in the process. Thanks for sharing your message with us who need to hear from others going through the same thing. I need to find the family to family program in my area

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the Mother's Day Essay and the follow-up comments. I have delt with my son's paranoid schizophrenia for twenty years. It is a deep deep pain that a mother feels. I am still taking one day at a time with him, eventhough I never know one day to the next what his illness will present.

Taxibike60 said...

Bless you, Anonymous. Trying to understand and cope with a child with mental illness is horribly frightening. It's understandable that you are not coping well. My love and support to you. May you find strength to live your life and not your child's. Look beyond the problem with your child to what YOU need. It's ok to be selfish. This life is so stressful we must give ourselves permission gifts of grace.

Anonymous said...

LOVE AND CARE OF A MOTHER IS THE BEST CURE TO SCHIZOPHRENIA IN ADDITION TO THE MEDICATIONS . GOD BLESS YOU .

Skin Tightening said...

Thank you for your story. My family and I appreciate it :)