my daughter
Blog,  Health

Talking To My Daughter About Mental Illness

Even though I would fall asleep praying to God to take me away, I would wake up and cry for having those thoughts. I love those girls more than anything and I knew, despite all my flaws, it was best for them to have their mother in their lives. Those horrible feelings lasted for a couple weeks.

In the meantime, I found another provider to help me. This woman put me back on the Cymbalta (an idea that terrified me. I begged her no, but was assured there was no other way to stop the withdrawal symptoms I was experiencing) at the lowest dose, 20 mg, and did a much more rigorous weaning schedule. The aches and pains I felt coursing through my body during the weaning off process, and even after the drug completely left my body, were crippling. I could barely walk up and down the stairs. I couldn’t pick up my 3-year-old daughter, I hurt so much.

The pain was so embarrassing. I didn’t want anyone to know I couldn’t blow dry my hair anymore because my arms hurt too much to hold up the blow dryer and brush. “Never let them see you sweat” has been a mantra I’ve held myself to for as long as I can remember. I was terrified of my “secret” getting out because it was getting nearly impossible to conceal the pain.

Finally, I was in a place to begin a new medication. I started Paxil. She started me on a low dose and I quickly realized I needed a higher dose. I called the new practitioner and she called in a higher dose. I had my two kids with me when I ran to the pharmacy.

my daughter

Telling My Daughter

My oldest is 7-years-old. She asked me, “Mommy, why are you taking medicine?” My little one said, “Mommy sick!” The oldest said, “Oh, is it your ear infection again?” I’d had two ear infections earlier this year in addition to everything else. I smiled at her attention and concern for her mom. I said, “No, sweetie. It’s not my ear infection.”

For some reason, I had never planned to speak with my daughters about my mental illness. I honestly thought I would talk to them about it when they were older – maybe in their 20’s. I didn’t plan on them being so young, asking such questions.

We’re driving away from the pharmacy at this point and my mind is racing. Fortunately, she can’t see the look on my face because I’m sure she would have seen panic. I took a deep breath and said:

“Mommy has to take medicine to help her brain. You know how people worry about things and have anxiety? That’s completely normal. Everyone worries and gets anxiety about different things. But mommy’s brain worries too much. And it makes it hard for mommy to be herself. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it does happen to mommy.”

My stomach was in knots. Would my daughter accept this information? Would it make sense to her? She’s a very thoughtful child and I braced for what I imagined would be a hundred more questions I also wouldn’t be prepared to answer.

She asked, “So if my brain started to worry too much, I would have to take medicine?” I said, “Well, I don’t know. We’d have to talk to a doctor. Only a doctor can decide.” She nodded, “but if my brain did worry too much, the medicine would help me?” So I said, “Yes, if a doctor said you needed medicine, it would help you.” Gratefully, she was satisfied and started singing happily in the car.

I didn’t even realize I’d been holding my breath. I exhaled loudly and started breathing quickly until my breath normalized.

It was scary talking to my daughter. This isn’t a topic I speak freely about with just anyone. Then, knowing her young age, she might say something to someone and then it would be taken out of context and I would have to explain myself with a person I definitely didn’t want to share my story.

To be continued...

Do You Need To Talk to Someone?

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 911, go to the nearest emergency room, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, or text MHA to 741741 at the Crisis Text Line.

More resources here on how you can help a suicidal friend.