Did Being Brave for a Love One Affect My Mental Health?

I often wonder if lifting up my mother throughout my youth affected my mental health. Is that wrong?

For the majority of my childhood, my mom struggled with severe depression brought on by a sexual abuse experience when she was a teenager. For awhile, her feelings were suppressed with strong medicine and silence. But after the passing of her mother, she took a nosedive. Slowly, my mom developed a life-threatening addiction to alcohol.

When I experienced her first depressed binger, I was only ten years old. My dad tried to take us out to eat and act as if everything was normal, but it was impossible. She yelled at my father, threw my sisters in the car (ages 6 and 3), and drove away leaving both he and I in the cold. We walked a couple of miles in the snow to get home only to be locked out. After an hour of knocking and snowballs against her bedroom window, I slept at a friend’s house and my dad slept in his car.

For the next 12 years, my family battled more of these drunk incidents. They became frequent and dangerous. Her mental health was deteriorating quickly and we all could see it. I tried to disassociate my loving mom from the monster her struggles created but it was extremely difficult. When I attempted help and she was drinking, I was told that I was a “mistake” and that she “wished I was dead.” It hurt, but deep down I knew it wasn’t true.

Love and perseverance: that is what saved my mom. As expected, at the root of all of her issues was an unbelievably severe depression. It was the cause of her multiple suicide attempts and her out-of-control drinking. It took ultimatums and rock bottom, but my family and I were able to find my mom the help that she needed. She went to rehab, found the right psychiatrist, and found medicine that helps with her depression.

64,000 people died from drug overdoses alone in America (not including alcoholism which my mom almost died of). At the root of most of these addictions, if not almost all, is a multitude of mental health issues. Sharing our stories and eliminating the stigma that surrounds taking care of your mental health is immensely important in saving so many of our loved ones.

So do I think that being brave for my mom affected my mental health? Honestly, I don’t know. Our experiences shape who we are, but we have the ultimate say over who we become. Regardless of whether it affected me, I would go through every bit of my mom’s struggles with her again if it meant that she would be “alive” again like she is now.

–  A. T. Micalizzi

“Together, we are Strong”

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