I am a mom of kids with mental illnesses. Yup – read that again.
This is a difficult statement to say out loud. It was a difficult statement to type out. To say that I have completely processed these diagnoses for my kids would be a lie. I am still processing and learning how to effectively help each kid with their mental illnesses.
Do I accept the diagnoses? YES because mental illness runs on both sides of our families.
Do I know what I’m doing? NO but I’m determined to learn and create a space where I can help them manage their mental illness. Then ultimately, send them into the world more empathetic and aware of themselves.
Teen mental illness in on the rise
Teens and young adult suicides are on the rise. Everyday stressors such as school, friendships, and extra curricular activities can cause mental distress. Especially, if the teen or young adult have compacted schedules with no ability for self care or things they enjoy. An unspoken stressor in the Filipino community is cultural beliefs. These stressors are not new but the way families deal with mental distress is the huge difference between young Filipinos and their cohorts.
In the Asian community, according to the APA, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Asian-Americans aged 15-34. The major barriers for immigrant Filipinos and Filipino Americans are the negative perceptions of the use of mental health services and the perception of the person dishonoring their family by asking for help. This, in turn, halts the conversation between generations causing even more mental distress to those who need the help but do not reach out for services.
Why is all of this information important? It is imperative that we engage with our teens and build a relationship away from the screens. We, as parents, are the first teachers of how our children interact with the world. In a future post, I will share our family’s experience with mental health and how we go about our daily lives.
Mental distress is real in young adults and teens. If you are in fear that your teen or young adult is having mental health issues you can take a mental health screening here. If you are young adult or teen you can also take the screening yourself here.
Moms supporting moms
This series will focus on parenting a child with mental illness. I will also share an experience from a mom whom has a child with special needs and sensory issues. What I can say about her is that she a Christ follower and probably the strongest women I’ve met on this journey. Come along on this journey with us as we unpack a small part of our lives supporting our brave kids.
Have you experienced an inability to talk about mental health with you family?
Remember – it’s ok to not be ok because tomorrow is a new day!
My legacy as a mother will extend far beyond my life here on Earth. I have learned through the years and from my own mom that what you teach your children stay with them for the rest of their lives. Please take this reflection post with a grain of salt. I have only just begun this journey but I feel the need to encourage those who feel as though their work — yes, Jesus it is work — as a mother doesn’t seem to matter.
Four kids under six
I was a young Mom with four kids under the age of six with no sense of purpose. At my lowest point – my relationship with my husband was extremely rocky, we were at the brink of divorce, and I wanted out. It was not until we decided to do Christian counseling and a recovery bible study group that things slowly got better. I would like to say that our relationship continued to get better through the years but that would be a complete and utter lie. It would take over 10 years of multiple relapses, codependency work, refocusing our relationship with Christ and setting clear boundaries that our marriage began to get better. While we are still working on ourselves daily, I will say we are in the best place we have ever been. If you knew my husband and I at the beginning of our relationship, you would say we are now the most boring couple ever and I would agree with you. We have worked hard to be boring. I like boring and mundane because that means that we truly understand each other.
The invisible woman
There were many times when I was knee deep in diapers, tantrums, and sleepless nights that I felt as if none of it mattered. I resented the fact that my husband could drive to/from work alone without having to listen to The Wheels on the Bus for the umpteenth time. I resented that he could eat lunch by himself and look at his phone in peace. I resented that I did not have adult interaction until my husband came home from work and even then it was a recap of how exhausted I was. I felt invisible. It wasn’t that I wanted praise for what I was doing, I just wanted to be acknowledged and understood.
Looking back I also see the symptoms of depression and anxiety that I never acknowledged or didn’t want to acknowledge. My first reaction was always anger. Compassion and empathy were never a response I gave to my kids. I wish I had known the signs of mental illness back then. I may had been able to truly be present instead of resentful. I have learned through therapy that anger is the secondary reaction that masks my true feelings of sadness, guilt, and shame.
I mean who wouldn’t be ashamed especially when you were the center of the tsismis (gossip) — yes Titas (Aunts) and pinsans (cousins) I heard all of it. It would take me years to find my self worth through my relationship with Christ and not listen to the tsismis. Now a days, when I hear the latest tsismis, I will go to the source and ask a directly question. To me, this is my way of ending the tsismis and not allowing negative energy into my life and the person being talked about.
My perspective on motherhood had change when I gave birth to my son. I am slightly more patient and slower to anger. My girls will say that I spoil my youngest and I would say that I am trying to rewrite my motherhood story. Parenting is definitely a learn as you go job and I am thankful for my past experiences to help me parent all of my kids today. I could list all of the ways I should have parented my older kids but I don’t think that would be productive. I am learning to be more self-compassionate and accept that I am doing the best I can with the abilities at the time.
I would like to leave you with a You tube video that was shared in a MOPS Mom’s Night In. It seriously brought me to tears because most days I do feel invisible but I have learned over time that my job as a mother is so important. This role is more important than being seen because I want my kids to know they are accepted, loved and seen just as they are – at home. Keep pushing forward Mamas! You’re doing amazing!!!
I wrote this post for a Motherhood series for The Barefoot Preacher Project. I wanted to also post it here because it is such an important part of my history that I believe it needs to be included on my blog as well. I highly recommend you visit Jennifer’s blog to read more about her journey and how Christ has been the center of her strength to move forward. I am so blessed to have met her and I know once you read her blog, you will be blessed too.
**TRIGGER WARNING ** If you are easily triggered by recounts of assault, please use discretion when reading this post.
My life would not be the same without Christ. He has been the cornerstone of my existence – even when I didn’t believe He cared about me. My life hasn’t been ideal to say the least as I am a survivor of childhood trauma, codependent to a recovering drug addict, experienced miscarriages, and became my own mental health advocate. All of the events in my life could have truly brought me to the end of myself but with Christ’s grace and mercy, I am here today sharing my story…
I grew up as a devout Roman Catholic. I did the whole deal – baptism, first Holy Communion, and confirmation. I never understood why I had to put time and effort into all of these traditions. All I knew is that it was important to my parents; it was absolutely required that I complete each step. We were taught never to question our religion and if I did, I would be called disobedient.
I became disobedient.
Being noncompliant was my M.O. (modus operandi) from childhood to young adulthood. You see, my parents are immigrants to this country and their values didn’t make sense to me growing up. So I rebelled. I rebelled so hard that I’m not even sure how my parents loved me through it all. I did everything in my power to be defiant at all costs. Looking back, I was just trying to find my voice and where I fit in the world and forge my own path with acceptance.
Along with my rebellion, I was dealing with a huge secret that ultimately caused a large part of our extended family to disown me and my immediate family. I have experienced childhood trauma at the hands of a relative. And I did not share my horrific experiences with anyone until I was in 6th grade. By then, I had experienced multiple episodes of assault that no child should ever experience.
To this day, I can’t compute the amount of time these encounters would go on. I just knew they were horribly wrong. Once I shared my truth, our family became divided. I felt responsible for this major rift. Fortunately, my Dad (who is not emotional at all) stood by me through it all. This is one memory I will hold close to my heart because when the world was crumbling around us, he stood firm and believed me. I went to counseling and worked through my feelings. I can now talk about my experiences without crying.
This trauma had directly affected my relationships with the opposite gender. I was looking for acknowledgement and acceptance in all the wrong places. I was “that girl” in high school. I allowed teenage boys to use me at their leisure. It was demeaning and I didn’t know how to pull myself out of it. So much so that I had a few pregnancy scares. By the end of my high school career, I vowed to be single through my first year of college. I wanted to meet new people, reinvent myself, and be a better version on me…
Well that vow didn’t last very long.
I met a guy through a friend on AOL Instant Messenger (am I dating myself – absolutely!). He said he had a friend who didn’t know the area and wanted to see if I could show him around. The “new” me decided that would be a great idea! I asked this guy what he wanted to do and he said go to all the mall in the area. So we did and I haven’t let his side ever since.
Yup, we got married!
Four years into our relationship I got pregnant. I took a test around my 21st birthday, it was positive. I went to Planned Parenthood and took another test, positive. We were both young college kids who knew nothing about the real world even if we swore we did. This pregnancy didn’t last as I had a miscarriage at 11 weeks. I was devastated and relieved but we had not learned our lesson. A few months later, I was pregnant again. With this pregnancy, I was urged to get an abortion. I made the appointment. Thankfully, I did not go through with the procedure. We got married a year and a half after my daughter was born because I didn’t want to get married just because I had a baby. I wanted to know this guy was committed because I didn’t want to be a divorced single mom.
Life continued on – and then four years into our marriage, I learned that my husband was hiding an addiction to drugs. I was floored and felt betrayed. I mean I was consumed by three toddlers under the age of 5, of course I never saw that coming!
We unofficially separated for a short time and decided that we would have to go to counseling – Christian counseling. Prior to us getting married, I decided to convert from Catholicism to a Christ follower. No special or fancy conversion process, just praying with my whole heart that I believe Christ is my savior. So this relationship with Christ was very fresh and important to me when I discovered my husband’s addiction. I can honestly say, the recovery process through our then home church, saved our marriage and our lives. I credit our marriage to them. I was taught how to say NO and have healthy boundaries. I learned so much about myself and it was up to me to change my own behavior. While the road to recovery isn’t an easy straight one, it has definitely been rewarding to see the transformation in myself, my husband, and our marriage.
I Have No Joy
God had a sense of humor when he blessed us with our final (and I do mean final) child, nine years after our last child was born.
That’s right guys, we had to start all over. Unfortunately, this pregnancy was a very difficult one for me. Since I had girls prior to this pregnancy, I believe that my body didn’t know how to grow a boy inside of my womb without torturing me. I experienced so many things in this final pregnancy that I didn’t know how to deal with from major acid reflux to major food aversions to car sickness the entire pregnancy. I was also commuting to work everyday until I began to have preterm labor and I went on maternity leave early. He was delivered via c-section after I would not progress past 7.5 centimeters and his oxygen levels began to drop.
I didn’t know it at the time but I was experiencing antepartum depression, depression during pregnancy.
Looking back, the symptoms were there but I didn’t want to see it. On top of a difficult pregnancy, my Dad went through multiple serious hospital stays and a genetic disorder diagnosis. It was a rough year, so much so that once my son was born, I began to experience depression even more. I finally came to the realization that I had depression after I self-diagnosed through Dr. Google (I don’t recommend this – it’ll make you a hypochondriac. The best way I could illustrate my symptoms is that I felt like Sadness from the Disney movie – Inside Out. So sad right?
So in my bathroom, while my husband was in the shower – perfect time for a serious talk right – I told my husband that I “think” I have depression. He had apprehensions at first but quickly became my biggest supporter through this mental health journey. He encouraged me to do whatever I needed to feel like myself. I believe he is the main reason why I have become a mental health advocate because he believed me and now I believe in myself.
Through It All
While it doesn’t seem very apparent, God was in all of that mess.
He took everything I went through and made it hope for others. I was tested, time and time again. I went through an enormous amount of life lessons and I have become a testimony to other survivors and codependents that there is hope. Today, my life isn’t perfect. I’ve gone through some huge life changes! But the most consistent presence in my life is Christ. He has shown me that he will not leave me or forsake me. He will carry me through when I can barely stand. He is my rock and my shield. He has a plan for me.
This plan became apparent in the middle of a major health crisis in my immediate and extended family. God told me to start a blog about mental health specifically in the Filipino community. In the Filipino culture, it is absolutely unacceptable to talk about your feelings and your struggles. You are taught to “stuff it down” and ignore it. With all that I’ve gone through and learning that sharing my story bring hope and comfort to others, I decided to start my blog. I wanted to change the narrative and be the change in our community. Too many people were suffering in silence and I wasn’t okay with it anymore. So I became obedient and put my experience in my blog to show how Christ can make a broken, girl into a woman who strives to show others they are not alone.
Disclaimer: This is a journal entry that I wrote in the very beginning stages of creating this blog. I am sharing this very raw entry because it is truly what I hear in my mind. While I do still hear these lies, I amlearning that I am strong than my thoughts. I am strong than the inner narrative I have for myself.
I am writing this in the wee hours of the morning because I can’t sleep and my negative self talk is filling my brain with words that hurt my spirit. The hardest thing about this blog is not content, I have a lot to say about my experience with mental health in the Filipino community. My biggest obstacle is myself, the negative self talk screaming at me all day long. There have been many nights that my mind fills with so much negativity that I didn’t want to create this blog. I have spent more time pushing through all of those thoughts that at times, I nearly want to call it quits. I know the information in my mind needs to be shared because I KNOW there are others hurting who can no speak for themselves.
Have you ever spoken to a person who is trying to manage their mental health and they say they are so exhausted from the day? Even if they haven’t “done much”? The reason they feel so exhausted is because they were battling the lies their mental health has fed them for years. These lies have become what they believe for themselves. What I believe of myself.
I am my own worst enemy. I am my own worst best friend. If I were to say the things I say to myself outloud, well you wouldn’t believe them. So I’ve decided to write them here because deep in my heart, I know they aren’t true.
What my mind tells me:
This is stupid. NO one is going to read this.
What you say isn’t important.
This isn’t even good content.
You are wasting time and money.
Who told you this was even a good idea.
This is awful. Just stop now.
You will not succeed. You will fail like everything else in your life.
No one cares.
What you say don’t matter. It won’t help.
Challenge your thoughts
Awful right? Like down right hurtful, cruel, insensitive. I know — these statements are not true — my voice matters; and what I have to say needs to be heard. When my head fills with this horrendous self talk, I force myself through an exercise my therapist taught me:
Acknowledge your thoughts
These thoughts exist in your mind and they are real. Don’t dismiss them.
Know you have power over your thoughts
Your thoughts have power but you are even more powerful over your thoughts.
Speak truth statements – words of affirmation
I am a child of God.
I am worthy.
I am fearless
I will help someone with my journey
What I have to say matters
God knows my heart
Make a choice of what you would like to do once you have spoken truth into your life.
Know that these thoughts are temporary and they have no hold on you.
Choose to move forward and challenge those negative thoughts
The more you challenge the negative thoughts, the more they will not have a hold on you. It takes practice but over time, it does work.
Standing in The Word
Why is this important? I want you to know that you matter. God placed you on this earth because he has a purpose for your life. You are enough. These tests in your life will be a testimony. The mess you feel your life is, will be a message for others. You are so loved and wanted. I am here for you because you matter to me.
When I am consumed by negative thoughts and feelings, I blast my favorite worship music. So if you see me in my minivan and I’m rocking out to some worship music, its because I’m reminding myself who’s I am.
I have embedded two of my favorite songs right now. I hope it helps you wherever you are.
What do you do when your mind is consumed with negative self talk? Comment below. I’d love to hear it!