Has mental illness touched your life? Nearly one in every five people, or 43.8 million American adults, has a diagnosable mental health condition. For my mother, who suffered from bipolar disorder, that meant that with the exception of short-lived manic phases, she experienced consistent depression bordering on despair.
That kind of depression feels like you’re drowning while looking around and seeing that everyone else is breathing. That was her experience of life. As a child caregiver, I was groomed to look through life with that same lens.
In 2013 when I wrote my first TEDx talk, I became deeply connected to my strong desire to share my story about growing up with my bipolar mom.
Loving my bipolar mom was not easy. Because of that my childhood was extremely hard. The impact of that experience would shape how I feel about myself, how I think, and who I have become today.
For many years I believed that I wasn’t good enough and what I had to say in a book would never matter. Yet, something always tugged at me to share my story. I knew I had something to share that could help someone. And anyone who knows me knows that making a difference for other people is truly what lights my heart on fire.
That propelled me into action and I started to write this book.
Writing this book took years. It took countless weekends and many hours of crying and reliving some of the most painful aspects of my youth, which I just wanted to forget. Yet, recalling those experiences and examine them and my patterns in the process proved extremely cathartic. So this venture turned into a healing journey.
Iyanla Vanzant wrote, “When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.”
I hope my story helps heal or empower caregivers to better navigate the challenging waters of loving someone with mental illness. If my little book helps to eradicate the stigma so that there can more authentic conversations and mental illness awareness, I will have achieved my goal.
I want the world to know that those struggling with mental illness need more compassion, more conversation, and much more support so that they don’t feel they need to shamefully suffer in silence. I want those struggling to come out of the shadows and get the treatment they need and deserve before it is too late.
I also hope that what I learned from loving my mentally ill mother helps others and inspires them to realize that they aren’t defined by their past or current circumstances, and that they get to say how their future goes from this moment forward!