A Letter to My Children About My Mental Illness

To my children,

You may have wondered why I’m not quite like other moms. I get tired easily and haven’t always been there to play. I haven’t taken you to many places. I don’t know what else, but I apologize

When you were very young, I had a psychotic break. That’s when you lose touch with reality. I was thinking strange thoughts, seeing things and hearing voices of people I know weren’t there.

It seemed like it came out of the blue. I kept to myself and didn’t say anything. I was going to work, your father was at home, but no one seemed to notice. People at work asked if I was OK and why I was sad, but that was it.

It wasn’t until Aunt Kim called. You know she’s a nurse practitioner. She recognized I wasn’t making sense and told Dad I needed to see a special kind of doctor called a psychiatrist. He prescribed me medication.

I went to the hospital for a short time. Leila, I know you were worried when I was gone. I’m sorry for about that. I want you to understand so you won’t have to worry if I go to the hospital again.

I have a mental illness. You may be familiar with other words people use like “crazy,” but I’m not crazy. I need medication for my brain to work right. Now, I don’t have those strange thoughts or voices.

I thought I would answer questions as you asked them, but you didn’t ask much. Leila, one day you helped me make a poster for a National Alliance on Mental Illness class. You asked why I was making it and I told you. You just said, “I didn’t know that,” and went back to playing. That was years ago. I don’t know if you remember.


Recently you made me a friendship bracelet that says DBSA (Depression Bipolar Support Alliance). I thought you might ask something when I asked for it, but you forgot what letters I asked for. I do love my DSBA bracelet.

Jonah, I know you’re well aware of my medication. I take you to the pharmacy sometimes. I don’t want you to worry that I’m physically ill. I recently tried to explain this to you, but I fumbled my words. You didn’t want to hear any more.

I want to say how proud I am of both of you. Leila, you are so smart, talented and pretty. Jonah, you are so athletic, funny and hard working. I always worried I wouldn’t give you enough, that somehow having a mentally ill parent would inhibit you. But you are the greatest kids.

If you have questions, please ask. I know you can imagine things worse than the truth. I want to be honest with you. I don’t want to keep my illness a secret from you.



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