My mom’s birthday is February 12, so just a few days ago. Being the good son that I am, I will not tell you her age. But, her birthday got me thinking about the nature of my life with and without her. She has been a constant and has been, next to my wife, my biggest advocate (along with my dad) for my mental illness.
Now, my mom and I have a good relationship. I was the only child for the first three years of my life and, then, she and my dad promptly had two kids in the space of 15 months. So, our family had 3 kids under 4. And, I went from being the be all end all of my parents’ life to one of three and the one who, I felt, was neglected. In fact, I felt neglected enough that I went to my kindergarten librarian, who was a friend of my mom’s, and told her that my mom did not have time for me anymore. My mom and the librarian thought it was cute and they get a laugh out of it now.
I was my mom’s buddy. We spent a lot of time together and we did lots of different things together. And, when my wife and I had our first child, my mom stepped up and offered to watch him while I was doing my dissertation and my wife was working. Now, my mom and my oldest are buddies (as she is with each of her grandkids). And, it’s cool to see that come full circle.
Like, I said, my mom is one of my biggest advocates. I wrote an article for Stigma Fighters on telling my parents about my mental illness. That article did not tell the whole story. My parents have always been attuned to the fact that I am different. For example, when I was an elementary student, my parents, and my mom especially, noticed that I was incredibly hard on myself and that I would stress myself out. She finally took me to the doctor and the doctor just said that I was a serious kid. The real answer was that I was struggling with anxiety, but no one had the categories for that. My mom, though, was my advocate in those moments, trying to get me help that was necessary for me to thrive.
Similarly, when I was 17, my parents sent me to a counselor. It was a disaster because he had not one iota of a clue…but my parents sent me. They noticed that I was struggling and struggling seriously and they advocated on my part to get me help. It was just unfortunate that the help they got me ended up being no help at all. A different counselor and things may have turned out differently for me. And I am forever grateful for them doing that, attempting to get me help. I look back on my life and realize that my parents knew something was “up” with me, but no one had the ability to figure it out: not doctors, not teachers, not counselors. I was able to slip through and it frustrated my parents.
So, my mom has been an advocate for me. But, further than that, she has loved me even when my anxiety and depression and bipolar have made me feel unlovable. I remember a time when I had to have surgery (I had to have my gallbladder taken out) and I knew that it was going to cost my parents some serious money. This made me feel like a burden to my parents and to my family (my anxiety can take this form anyway, as I often feel like a burden to my loved ones). My mom told me I was not a burden, but could tell that I did not really believe her. So, she got me a card and wrote a nice note in it telling me I was not a burden, and gave it to me. This was really important to me because I was able to go back to that card time and again, realizing that I was not just a responsibility to my parents, but someone who was loved and cared for.
And my mom has been a huge help to me since I was diagnosed as bipolar in 2012. She has taken time away from her life on a consistent basis to spend time with my kids; my parents have taken my boys when I feel like crap and cannot function; they have been there when I have counseling or psychiatrist appointments or when I just need to get my meds. My mom has given me the space and ability to deal with my mental illness and for that I will be eternally grateful.
So….a few days late, but happy birthday mom. And thanks for all you have done for me and continue to do for me. I really do not know where I would be without your help. And, more importantly, I do not know where my kids would be without your help. You have been a godsend to them and my wife and our whole family. So, happy birthday.