by Kristen Abell
It’s been just over a year since your father and I tried to explain my depression to you. I still remember you stepping tentatively into our bedroom after Daddy talked to you and saying, “Mommy, I’m sorry you’re sick.” You hugged me as I did my best to hold back my tears…again. You told me it was okay if I cried, you understood if I needed to do that.
I wish I didn’t have to explain my depression to you. No nine-year-old should have to deal with mental illness. But I know you’re not alone in having this burden. Children are often unrecognized victims in the battle against mental illness. When you’re battling for your own sanity, being a parent can become a secondary role.
I’ll be honest – as a parent with mental illness, I’m scared as hell for you. I’m scared people will judge you because of me. I’m scared I won’t be as good of a parent as you need and deserve. I’m scared you may suffer from mental illness yourself someday. And I’m scared you may learn to fear and hate me for my illness, too. There are a lot of people out there that think that mental illness is something to be afraid of, something that is bad – mainly because they don’t understand it. I hope for both of us that you won’t listen when they tell you to be afraid of me.
You might wonder why, if I’m so afraid people will judge you for my illness, I share so openly about it. I do it because I hope someday that people will learn not to judge. I do it because I want to help others who also suffer – sometimes people just want to know there is someone out there like them, and sometimes I am that someone. I do it to give a voice to the voiceless. Not everyone can talk about their illness, for a number of reasons. Because I can, I help others see that there are people like us who struggle with mental illness and are still living their lives, families that are affected by mental illness but still love each other. Most importantly, I do it because I want you to live in a better world – one where you won’t be judged if you do end up battling mental illness.
As we fight these battles together, know that I love you, and I always will – no matter what. And know that just as important as my love for you is your love for yourself. You will need both as we move forward – both together and alone.
I love you forever and always.
Originally posted at the Student Affairs Collective on May 25, 2015.