When My Mom Told Me I 'Wasn't Special' for Experiencing Anxiety
My mom still has a hard time accepting I suffer from a mental illness.
She’s sad, because I suffer from something she can’t fix.
She’s confused, because she doesn’t know what the trigger was that brought on my symptoms.
She’s concerned, because of the influx of young women my age who suffer from mental illness.
She’s worried something in my world caused my mental illness when I was young; the divorce between she and my dad, the shared parenting that ensued afterward. I try to explain my mental illness to her, but I understand why it’s hard for her to wrap her head around.
I wasn’t given my first diagnoses until after high school, which meant there had been no prior conversations about mental illness between my mom and I. After I was diagnosed, there still was little talking about it. Neither of us knew what to say; I didn’t know how to cope and she didn’t know how to help me. It wasn’t until recently, and after my second diagnosis, that I began to open up to my mom, and she did the same.
One Saturday morning, we sat in the kitchen drinking our coffee and watching my daughter play, when I told my mom I had woken up anxious, and do almost every morning. I went on to tell her how much I hated it, and how the medication doesn’t carry from the day before and help with anxiety in the morning. It was then that she said something to me, the best piece of advice I have received from her thus far: You’re not special.
My reaction was the same as yours — I was offended. What does she mean, I’m not special? Of course I am! I am going through something nobody understands. I didn’t want to, but I let her explain. She told me she also wakes up anxious. In the morning, she is anxious about being late for work. In the afternoon, she worries while she’s at work about all the tasks she has to complete at home. In the evening, she is anxious over what she didn’t get done, and goes to bed anxious, as well. I was surprised, because I never knew we had anxiety in common.
She went on to say again: You’re not special.
She then clarified: You’re not alone.
My mom continued, explaining I’m not the only one who goes to bed and wakes up high on anxiety. The only difference between she and I is that I can’t come down from that high as easily as she can. I need the help of therapy and medication, and she told me that’s OK. I’m not special. There are many, many people who suffer from mental illness and require medication to help them function. It was then I began to understand my mom was telling me I’m not the only one who experiences anxiety, and I found comfort in that. Part of what makes me feel so anxious is the feeling that I am alone; the only person feeling the way I feel. My mom telling me I’m not special really resonated with me; I really, truly was not alone.
At first, “You’re not special” sounds like an awful thing to say. It sounds like whoever said it is not even trying to understand what you’re going through. But when my mom said “You’re not special,” she meant “You’re not alone.” And that is the most helpful thing my mom has said to me throughout my battle with mental illness. I am not special, I am not alone. There is a vast mental health community with sufferers just like me, who need to hear the same thing I did. We are together in this fight, and together we are not special.
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