“I have some advice for you” they said…

“Would you like some parenting advice?”

“If you were a little better about discipline, this wouldn’t happen”

“It’s just a phase, they will grow out of it”

“They are just asking for attention, spend some more time with them and this won’t happen”

“Maybe you should quit your job?”

“Maybe if you worked outside the home…”

“Just ignore it, they will stop doing that”

“I’m not sure our kids should spend time together..”

“Don’t medicate her. That stuff is poison.”

Good morning mammas. Last night while I was sleeping, ice fell from the sky and coated everything. Everything. The driveway is an ice rink and the trees look like God decorated them for Christmas. It’s a wonderful, beautiful sight – mainly because I am inside with my pjs on and I don’t have to experience the cold and the very likely fall on my ass if I interact with it.

The ice outside reminds me how beautiful something can be, as long as you don’t actually interact with it. Sound familiar to you?

Last night I was talking to a friend on the phone – Megan had just left for the airport to go back to school after a bout of illness. (Read her blog to hear from her what she went through last month. Ugh. Medication can be a bitch of a friend.) Anyway, this friend was asking how she was doing and I was telling her how proud I am of my girl for working her way through it. And she said something this friend isn’t normally prone to say:

“You should look into her not being on medication – that stuff is poison.”

Umm kay. Thanks. I’ll have Megan get right on that. Because sharing head space with constant anxiety and the occasional bout of living in darkness is a total picnic.

I remember when our family first came together to help Megan when she was a sophomore in high school. This was our first real introduction to mental health and recovery. It was flat out terrifying. This was life and death stuff and it felt every bit like it. It was scary for us, but wow, it seemed to bring out all the advice and judgement of others.

We told one side of our family but not the other. One could handle it. And one just couldn’t. We told a few friends what was going on. But not many.

But still, the judgments and advice came out in force. What I should do, what I shouldn’t do, whose fault it was (!!??), diet, exercise, medication, therapy. You name it and suddenly everyone I knew was an expert in mental health.

Or they uttered the killer phrase:

“You poor baby. I can’t even imagine having to deal with that.”

Ouch. Not helpful.

I understand how you feel when you hear that - been there, done that. All I can say is this: remember that you get to do your journey in the way that’s best for you. And you don't need pity or to carry their emotions about mental health. You are not a poor baby. You are a strong Mom with an extra load to carry right now. Your load is different from theirs. Comes with different emotions for sure. But peeps, we are all in this parenting thing together. Actually we are all in this life together.

We don’t know a lot about mental health in this country and we certainly don’t deal with it well. Here’s the other weird thing. We ALL know someone who lives with a mental illness. A friend, family member, co-worker, neighbor. As I learned more, I got better at thanking people for their advice. And then using it as an opportunity to educate them on mental health.

Thanks so much for your advice – did you know that mental illness is due to brain chemicals being out of whack? Just like a diabetic has a wacky pancreas? We see a great Dr. and are getting our shit together in really amazing ways. Want to hear more about what I’ve learned about mental health? It’s fascinating!

You would be amazed at how many people stop in their tracks when you say that. And then say, “I would like to know more. I have a (friend, family member, co-worker) who gets depressed sometimes and I never know what to say…”

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