Mental Health and Motherhood: how my mom impacted my life

Mental Health and Motherhood

I wasn’t sure I wanted to write this story. I’ve written about my childhood in the past, so it’s not the vulnerability that concerns me. I guess I don’t want to be misunderstood. This post isn’t a pity party, nor is it a cry for attention. I just want to shed light into an angle of motherhood that you read about in the news or you hear about in political posturing, but maybe you’ve never seen the real face of it: mental health and motherhood. So, in order to explore this topic further, let me tell you my story.

My mom was a drug addict who suffered from bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. You might have noticed I used the past tense “was” in introducing her; that’s because she died in 2009, when I was 22 years old. She struggled with addiction and impaired mental health for all of my life. I’m pretty sure her battles began before I was ever born.

She once told me a story about my older sister that illustrates her mental instability. As an aside, my older sister died before I could ever meet her – she had health issues and severe mental retardation, probably owing to the fact that both her parents conceived her while under the influence (we didn’t share a father). Anyway, one night she was crying inconsolable, and my mother, exhausted and delirious from unsuccessfully comforting her wailing child, covered her face with a pillow to escape from the mind-numbing screams. She left the pillow there until my sister quieted; she had lost consciousness. My mother didn’t kill her, but she relayed to me many years later that it was this night when she realized she was unwell, mentally. She also said it was this night when she began to hear the voices in her head that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

This story is only one example of how my mom’s mental health struggles impaired her ability to relate to her children in “normal” ways. I could tell you many such stories, all equally horrifying. Like how she asked me to burn my stepdad’s clothes in the yard after they had an argument, and rewarded me by burning my new Easter clothes 3 days later when they reconciled. How she taught me how to weigh out marijuana, and asked me to bury it in the yard once when the county was on their way to raid our house (I was 10 at the time). How I discovered her sitting in a cold bath, covered in blood, after her first suicide attempt when I was 12. Or like how she kicked me out of the house when I was 13 years old because I refused to place my body underneath her boyfriend’s truck to prevent his abandonment of her.

I could tell you about how she was in and out of jail up until she died, arrested on charges like forgery, possession/distribution of controlled dangerous substances and larceny, which happen to be the primary offenses for women incarcerated in Oklahoma. At one point, she was even listed among Oklahoma’s Ten Most Wanted, which I discovered by seeing her face broadcast on TV during a public service announcement.

My mom was just one woman of many just like her in Oklahoma, which incarcerates nearly twice the national average of female offenders, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In that same study, critical issues for incarcerated women are explored, and chief among them are history of substance abuse, mental health issues and women offenders as mothers. My mother was a classic example of the mental health crisis in Oklahoma, and how it affects the rate of incarceration for women in this state.

As an adult, my mom’s mental health has not affected me as directly, but it still impacts my life. When I was in college, I was ultra sensitive to the reality that I could very well develop some of the same mental health disorders that plagued my mom. I did struggle with anxiety for a while, but I learned how to cope through spirituality and lifestyle adjustments. Since becoming a mother myself, I have felt the absence of having a healthy mother to mentor me or to turn to for guidance and wisdom. As a mom, I can’t understand the decisions she made towards my siblings and me, or how she treated us as her children.

I tell you this story for two reasons: one, to give a human face to something that’s more than just a policy issue; two, to motivate. I will be the first to admit I’m not as involved as I should be in making my voice known to those who have the power to do something about it. But, I hope by writing this story, I’m taking one step towards being more active.

My mom may have had a chance at rehabilitation if there had been a mental healthcare system that could provide her the help she needed. Instead, incarceration was the bandaid applied to the gushing wound of her mental instability. My story, her story, is not unique; a quick Google search of “mental health issues in Oklahoma” will illustrate the gravity of the mental health crisis in this state.

From postpartum depression to personality disorders that fuel substance abuse, mental health and motherhood are inseparably linked. If we don’t give a voice to these issues and put a face on them, they will remain as simple policy positions and budget line items. Nothing will change if nobody tells their stories. This one is mine.

Mental Health and Motherhood

Introverted Motherhood: how I deal with it

Are you an introverted mama? Here are some tips for how to deal with it.

Even though I don’t feel like writing tonight, I made a goal to blog 3x/week this month, so here we are. Since Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, I want to share some different angles on motherhood throughout my posts this week. Something that plays a bigger role in my mothering than I expected is my personality type: I’m an introvert. I’m an INTJ if we want to get specific, but I’m focusing exclusively on my introverted side today.

A quick Google search including “introvert” and “mom” will give you plenty of reading material on how to survive as an introverted mom. In other words, nothing I am about to share is revolutionary or life-changing, and there is plenty of other material out there if you’re looking for a good how-to guide. However, I was surprised by how much my introverted side affects how I relate to my children, so I wanted to explore that in writing, because maybe you’ve found yourself in that position as well.

What it means to be an introverted mother

If you don’t know much about personality types, the simple explanation of what it means to be an introvert is that you derive your energy from within instead of without. Extroverts are energized by those outside of themselves; introverts, on the other hand, need time alone to refuel and renew their energy. We’re not antisocial or isolationists, we just need to escape from others occasionally to avoid being rundown or burned out.

Now, it’s not a huge leap in logic to see how being an introverted mother might be a challenge. Particularly if you have little ones, your children need and want your attention almost exclusively throughout most of the waking hours (and sometimes throughout the night as well). If you’re an introverted mother and you’re attuned to your kids’  every move and every word all day, your energy supply is quickly drained and you’re exhausted by the end of the day.

That is how most days feel for me. Although I don’t spend all day with my kids throughout the week, I am physically, emotionally, and mentally drained by about 7:30 pm every night from their demands for my attention and affection. I’m not complaining or whining about that, it’s just the reality of being an introverted mother. And since providing something as basic as love and care is a nonnegotiable, it’s helpful for me to understand how being an introvert affects motherhood. I have to take care of myself in order to take care of them.

How to deal with being an introverted mother

Since being around others literally sucks the life out of me, I have found that I have to be intentional about how I get and use alone time in order to renew my energy effectively. As a mom, getting time alone is a precious commodity, and as an introvert, I need to use that time wisely or I’ll remain drained and exhausted. So, here are some things I do to deal with introverted motherhood.

  1. I put the kids to bed early. There’s nothing wrong with an early bedtime, especially if your day starts out early, anyway. Since I’m a working mom, this means that my evening time with them is shorter than I’d like, but it’s a compromise I have to make to ensure they get the most of my energy and attention. So, bedtime begins at 7pm in our home. I let our 3-year-old stay up a little later, and she’s usually in bed by 8. An early bedtime means I still get some time for myself as well as time with my husband, which are both vitally important for my sanity and the sake of my marriage.
  2. I spend my alone time pursuing my passions. Sometimes I use my alone time to watch Netflix mindlessly, but I get the most renewal out of spending my time alone to enjoy the hobbies/activities that bring me joy: reading and writing. Whenever I get a chance to pursue my passions, I experience personal fulfillment and I’m a better mom. Spending my time this way means I don’t resent my children when I devote myself to them, since they’re not distracting or taking away from the things I love to do for myself.
  3. I say no to things that aren’t life-giving or things I really want to do. As a middle-child people pleaser, this practice has been a hard one to develop, but it’s so important to my well being so I’m learning to do it more. You don’t have to answer every opportunity that comes knocking, and you don’t have to accept every offer that comes your way. From social engagements to professional pursuits, I try to be wise about what I say yes to, knowing that my time and energy can only go so far and my kids deserve it the most.
  4. I just get over it. Some days, you just have to put on your big girl pants and deal with it. Life is hard, everyone is tired, and children are only little for a short time. Someday, they’ll be teenagers and they won’t want my attention, so I better soak it up while I can. I’ll have plenty of time to catch up on sleep and hobbies in a few years. So, on days when I’m exhausted but the kids are circus monkey crazy, I just suck it up and deal because that’s just what you have to do. I don’t always deal with it gracefully, though.

 

Introverted motherhood can be a challenge, but motherhood generally is hard. However, we take care of ourselves and love our families better by understanding how our personality traits affect our relationships. What’s your personality type? How has it affected your mothering?

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

 

Mother's Day Gift IdeasSince Mother’s Day is less than two weeks away, I thought it might be a good idea to compile a list of ideas for gifts to celebrate the moms in your life. When it comes to gifts, my husband and I have an agreement: we should just tell the other person what we want. Maybe you think that’s unromantic, but it works well for us. This arrangement removes the guesswork since we’re not mind readers, and even though we know each other well, it ensures that we always receive something we like and want.  If your wife or mom isn’t controlling hasn’t given you a list and you’re stuck, here are some links and loves for Mother’s Day gift ideas:

  1. Mint Floral Journal from Rifle Paper Co. Maybe your mom isn’t a writer or journal-er (I think I just made that word up), which is totally fine because anything from Rifle Paper Co. could be in this list. They have planners, recipe boxes and cards, calendars, phone cases, journals, stationery and more. Their designs are feminine and absolutely lovely. Any mom would be happy to receive something from Rifle Paper Co. for Mother’s Day.
  2. Tartini Drop Earrings from Anthropologie. I cannot stress enough how much I want these earrings. I’ve been looking for a classy and delicate neutral set of “statement” earrings that I can wear to work, and these are at the top of my list. I like these earrings in the “assorted” color (which is clear, I’m not sure why it’s called assorted on the website). They are so versatile and can be worn with almost any outfit, which is a major plus to me when shopping for jewelry.
  3. Tessa Stud Earrings from Kendra Scott. A couple of months ago, my go-to pearl studs broke and I lost one of the pearls. It was very distressing for me because they were an anniversary gift and classic pearl studs are my jam. Since then, I’ve debated whether I want to get a new set of pearl studs or some other versatile earrings that could be worn with anything. Cue the Tessa Stud Earrings. . I love these in the slate color because it matches the majority of my wardrobe, and I love neutrals, but they come in a variety of different colors that are all gorgeous and sure to suit any mom in your life this Mother’s Day.
  4. Volcano Candle from Anthropologie. Have you smelled this candle? It’s basically heaven in a jar. Anthropologie offers a variety of designs for this candle, but I love the mercury glass. Though it’s a bit pricey for a candle, it is worth it because the smell is divine. I have one friend who told me she won’t let her husband burn this candle when she’s not home because he doesn’t appreciate it enough. That’s how special this scent is. Your mom will  light this candle and forget how you put her through 19 hours of labor as she inhales it’s exotic fruity scent. Or maybe she’ll just be glad you appreciate her enough to buy her an almost $30 candle. I’ve heard it both ways.

These are just a few suggestions for Mother’s Day gift ideas that any mom would be delighted to receive. I hope my husband reads this and takes notes, because I would personally love all any of these gifts. Of course, flowers and sweet treats are always welcomed, too. If you’re a mom, what are some of the items on your wishlist this year? I’d love to hear them!

35,000 Moms

There is much that could be said about motherhood as we approach Mother’s Day. From beautiful portraits of the realities of life as a stay at home mom to funny comics about parenting, the internet and blogosphere are filling up with Mom-related content by the minute.

Until last year, this holiday had always been a struggle for me. For the majority of my life, I didn’t feel much like celebrating on Mother’s Day. My mother brought more pain than joy into my life during her few years on this earth (you can watch my testimony here), and then she died suddenly just a few weeks before Mother’s Day five years ago.

As a result, Mother’s Day was an annual reminder that I lacked something. I had a void in my life and heart that only a mother could fill, and while I celebrated the other “mothers” and grandmothers in my life, I would lay low on Mother’s Day, hoping to just get through the holiday unscathed by the emotional battle waging in my heart.

And then I became a mom. Last year I had cause to celebrate Mother’s Day from the vantage point of Mother. I looked into my baby girl’s eyes, inhaled her sweet baby scent and thanked the Lord that I had been called to the sacred role of motherhood. 

Even now while my Mother’s Day has been redeemed and I can look toward it with joy, I understand that this day is not a cause for celebration for some. Having been in the pit of emotional turmoil on Mother’s Day, I’m all too aware that this day can be a bitter reminder of the injustices of this life and the evil in this world. 

Which brings me to my title: 35,000 moms. At this very moment, there are thousands of mothers around this world whose hearts are breaking, whose futures seem hopeless, whose empty homes are deafening whispers of their daily sorrow. I’m talking about the moms of sex trafficking victims. 

Just a few weeks ago, I gathered with about 2,300 other women from around the state of Oklahoma for the annual BGCO Women’s Retreat. During our time together, we were given the opportunity to become acquainted with a ministry called One Brothel: China. As we skyped with “B,” a missions worker for this ministry, she educated us about the reality that there are more than 35,000 young women in her city who are sexually exploited and enslaved. Additionally, she informed us of her work among them, how God gave her a vision to rescue these young women through a bakery ministry. 

She had me at cupcakes. As I heard her share about the red light districts, the pimps, and the challenges of reaching these women, I began to weep. I thought, they are someone’s daughters. My mother’s heart ached for the moms of these young girls who don’t get to hug their neck each night and tuck them in to bed, or greet them with a kiss and a smile as they wake each morning. 

And for many of these young women, prostitution was their only choice. They left their rural homes for the urban promises of a brighter future for themselves and their families,  and they found bondage and exploitation instead. As I think about my hopes for my daughter’s future, I wonder about the hearts of the 35,000 moms whose daughters’ futures haven’t turned out anything like they had hoped. 

As I was challenged to pray and give toward this ministry, this is my challenge to you this Mother’s Day. While you are celebrating the lives of mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and the multitude of other mothers in your lives, will you pray for the ministry of One Brothel: China? Will you give to help rescue these young women from spiritual and physical bondage? Will you pray for the 35,000 moms who don’t get to kiss their baby girls goodnight? 

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the LORD his God,

who made heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them,

who keeps faith forever;

who executes justice for the oppressed,

who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

  (Psalm 146:5-7 ESV)

P.S. After we skyped with “B,” 2,350 women in Oklahoma took the challenge and gave over $20,100 to support One Brothel: China. These funds will keep the safe house and bakery open for a year. What can you do?