So why do I want to write about my family’s history of mental illness and its effect on my life? After all the responses I received from my last blog, I think many of my generation already know. I need to write about mental illness in families because so many people have lived with it and through it without any help. Children of the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s were not always parented in a nurturing way. It was tough times for our country- depression, war, death, and despair. Families were just trying to get by with enough to live on. Some children were lucky and had a parent or a sibling that they were nurtured by, but many were just ignored and told to do their work and stay out of the way. Some children, like my husband’s aunt, were even sent to other families to be raised because there were too many in the house. (She was one of nine of a widowed mother and lived with another family during the week to go to school.)
What effect did this have on Baby Boomers? Parents who sometimes didn’t know how to be nurturing parented us. We were sometimes lucky and got one parent with a kind and loving heart (my dad), but many times we got two parents who didn’t know how to nurture and, therefore, we were treated like WE didn’t matter. Ask any Baby Boomer about summers when they were a kid and they will tell you the same thing – “I was told to leave the house and not come back until supper” After supper, you were told not to come in until it was dark. Our parents didn’t know where we were. My parents never even asked me where I was. The important thing is that I wasn’t bothering them.
I didn’t just come up with this idea. I took a class for Early Childhood Development that stated very clearly that you parent in the way you were parented, even if you swear to yourself that you “won’t become your mother”. You can’t help it. It is innate in your psyche. What you can do is make a conscious effort NOT to follow in your parent’s footsteps and be a BETTER nurturing mother or father.
That is what my book is about. It is about my journey to be BETTER. It is my fight against the stigma of mental illness in families. My dear husband’s father battled depression his whole and ended his life with suicide. That means our daughter has familiar mental illness on BOTH sides of her family. This is my battle to let my daughter know that she CAN talk to her family about mental illness. Think how different Kevin’s father’s life would have been if he had received the help available in today’s world WITHOUT the stigma associated with mental illness.
That is the reason for the book. It has taken me many years to get strong enough to write it. I will be reliving many painful memories. But I will also be educating others through my experiences and I will be confirming that you can get better. You can get help. I was in college before I started feeling good about myself as a person. Eighteen years to feel I was worth something. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through, but I can’t ignore my past. I kept it inside for so many years and it finally exploded in my 40’s. If reading my experiences helps even one person feel more confident about their experiences, then I will have accomplished my goal. If it helps one person to seek help for mental illness, I will be ecstatic. I believe this is God’s purpose for me at this point in my life and I am devoted to doing His will.
Speaking of God, my book will have a lot of God in it. For one reason and one reason only-when no one was there for me, GOD was. My parents did one thing completely right- they raised us with in a wonderful church and instilled in ME (I can’t talk for my siblings) a faith that has never failed me. I promise I won’t be preachy, but this book can’t be written without a strong testament to my faith in God.
I have written the Introduction and first chapter of the book as of today and I am deep into the second chapter. The first three chapters are about my maternal grandmother, my mother up to my birth and my father up to my birth. The chapter on my grandmother is very short, because I know so little about her. This has definitely made me realize that even though we live 2000 miles away from Molly; if she has children we WILL be involved in their lives. I lived 30 minutes from both of my grandmothers and what I know about them I can write on very few pages. So sad for our whole family and the experiences we missed out on.
I am writing the chapter about my mother’s early life and it too has holes in what I know. My mother only shared what she wanted you to know and how she wanted you to know it. I have pictures. I have Ancestry records. I have my memories. I have my TRUTH and it is worthy of being heard. It is a journey that is just beginning. Please join me.