On Mother’s Day and Mental Illness

How do you give a present to the person who dedicates her life to you?

Everyone will probably take this holiday a little differently: your mom could be your best friend, not be in the picture, your aunt or a close friend, have passed away when you were young, or you could simply have two amazing dads. Whatever your story is, we have so many amazing women in this planet to be thankful for in our lives.

I think the moment my Mom knew she really had it in for herself was some 16 years ago, when I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I can’t imagine how she didn’t scream right there on the spot, knowing her child was a little bit different. Then again, everyone in my family was a little off-beat. I’d like to imagine from there she just took a deep breath, bought the Tony Attwood books on Asperger’s syndrome, and went from there.

I was part of a special needs preschool, and by the first grade, I was on an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for my disability. Mom was there every step of the way for every meeting, making sure I got the best help possible along the way.

When I figured out I have ASD in the fifth grade, she did a great job of always reassuring that I was going to be okay, and that it’d just take a little extra longer to figure everything out. It’s nearly impossible to raise a special needs kid like myself, but somehow she always made it work.

By the time I hit high school, her job became even more complicated. She got me into counseling, and from there, I was given Prozac for anxiety. My mother’s patience to get me help and encourage me to take my prescription and have faith in myself was what I needed.

Post-high school, however, things have been going downhill at the speed of sound. Between breaking off a two-year relationship and a big reality check, you could say mourning has the better of me. Doesn’t hurt that spring this year started off with a fresh diagnosis of depression, either.

And so, this is what my mother is up against. With physical injuries like a scrape or a broken bone, repair is as easy as bandaging the wound or visiting the doctor to have it placed in a cast. With mental illnesses, you have no clue what to bandage, how to heal it, and what to prescribe. I don’t know my age in terms of maturity; I have no idea how to act. My spirit animal is essentially a terrified turtle constantly taking shelter in its shell.

The help my mom has prescribed to me has been a bitter pill to swallow. She is dealing with a 20-year-old child who doesn’t know what’s going on with her body and does little to help herself. She has a 9-to-5 job in a town 30 miles away from home, where her patience is tested by her coworkers and lost of passion for her work.

However, she has yet to give up. My mom is beautiful not only by the conventional standards, but because she is strong; she is a provider, a healer, and a friend ─ even when she doesn’t have all of that in her own life.

Being a mother is a work of art in and of itself; being a mental health mother is a lesson in patience and grace on top of an already-impossible job.

Mother’s day is never just about the flowers or the gifts, for how can I give a gift worthy of someone who does so much?

Instead, I reflect. I have a mother who does everything for everyone she loves, who wants to make sure that everyone is as they should. The last person my mom feeds and nurtures is herself. She’s the textbook definition of selflessness and having a servant’s heart. Someday, when I finally get a grasp of how life works and who I am, I want to be that great provider to her.