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Mothers and Mental Health

It’s very easy to pass Mother’s Day over as a holiday invented (or at least commandeered) by Hallmark to sell cards. However, celebrations of moms go back hundreds of years, with multiple different days of celebration and specific traditions. This includes both the Ancient Romans, who celebrated the festival of Hilaria on the Ides of March to celebrate the mother goddess Cybele, as well as the residents of the former Yugoslavia, who celebrated Mother’s Day around December by having children tie their mothers to their beds (seriously). These facts demonstrate that, if nothing else, we as humans have been grateful to our mothers for as long as they have existed. Mother’s Day is, despite all our cynicism, a great opportunity to recognize all that our mothers do for us.

I have a pretty awful memory. I very often forget important meetings, important dates, and even what I had for breakfast this morning. But I find that I effortlessly remember most of the times I’ve talked with my mother about mental illness. I remember explaining to her that sometimes I did things that I felt like I had no choice to do. I remember talking with her when I suddenly couldn’t stop laughing. I remember her comforting me when I was at my most depressed. My mother was there for me even when I, myself, was not there for me. She supported me when I could not.

Not everyone has a mother or a motherly figure in their lives, but I’m willing to say most of us have had somebody to take care of them in their life, even if briefly. Talking to a figure like this about mental illness is not always the easiest conversation to have. We all want to please our mothers, make them proud of us. It’s very easy to be ashamed of mental illness, and even easier to assume that it will distance us from the ones we love. Stigma can, unfortunately, seep into the relationships that we hold with our family members. Being able to openly talk with a mother can change a life in this context.

Consequently, Active Minds was not where I learned that mental illness shouldn’t be stigmatized. It was not via the internet, friends, or any other source – it was my mom. My mother never once questioned the legitimacy of the problems I was experiencing. She never hesitated to give me the support that I needed. And above all, she never made me feel ashamed of mental illness. She was willing to hear me out and accompanied me on my journey of health. My mother championed my mental health in ways that I still cannot fully comprehend.

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, I felt the need to recognize how hard mothers work to fight the stigma of mental health every day. It seems that everyday I hear another story about somebody with a story like mine: whose mother was invaluable on their journey to better mental health. There’s a lot of things that we can take from this, and a lot of ways to celebrate all the contributions your mother has impacted your life. We just advise against tying her to a bed.

Thanks, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!