Mental illness, motherhood and writing
After reading Let’s pretend this never happened by Jenny Lawson, I started to realize a trend in the literature that was coming my way. I then read This is happy, which is Camilla Gibb’s recent memoir about her life and her relationship with mental illness and motherhood.
It’s wonderful how the universe does that, puts in front of you exactly what you need to be reading at any one moment.
I bought Camilla’s book after reading Sweetness in the Belly, which was magical and transformative, and I still don’t know how that book ended up on my bookshelf. But thank the Goddess Above it did!
Jenny’s book came my way through a friend, her exclamation of “I absolutely couldn’t put this down!” was enough for me to open right up to it. (Thank you so much, Deirdre!) And again I was faced with a book about a writer who struggles with mental illness and being a mother. And I started to think, don’t we all.
The books forced me to think of my own past because I naturally do that, compare my experiences and pain to others, if only to understand I’m real and possibly to calm myself somewhat. I realize, others have experienced this too, and I feel vindicated and more than a little broken open.
I had been with my son’s father for over 10 years when he said to me one day that he was no longer in love with me. Our one-and-a-half-year-old son lay sleeping in the next room, and I fell completely apart. Not literally. I had to stay strong for my baby, but my heart broke that day.
I can still feel how terrifying it was. Of course our relationship hadn’t been going well practically since our son was born. He couldn’t handle being a father, it wasn’t fun anymore he said. I think that was his way of saying he wasn’t getting all the attention anymore, and that made him spiteful and angry. A consummate child in a grown up body.
I didn’t tell anyone what he told me. I was deeply ashamed. I thought there must be something wrong with me if he wasn’t in love with me anymore. I’d given birth to this beautiful gift, and he loved me less than he had before. I felt like a failure, and thus began my spiral downward into self-loathing.
It wasn’t until over ten years later that I had a breakdown, but in retrospect it had been coming gradually ever since that day I was no longer loved. The breakdown transformed me. It gave me the courage to get out of an abusive second marriage and to become a writer. Before that I’d worked as a writer, but I’d never felt I truly was one. I’d felt like a fraud.
Now I’m writing my book. I write every weekday. It’s work, and I do it for love.
It’s really ironic what we find out when we break open. It’s extremely scary to know I have a mental illness living within me, but at the same time it also reassures me. Now I must look after who I am because that overflow line is so much lower than it was before. And I respect that, and I pay attention.
Reading about other women like myself, who have raised their children and managed who they are at the same time is life-altering.
I love them for their courage to write about it.
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