Why I Do All This…

Writing about mental illness is hard. It makes you vulnerable. Writing about your child’s mental illness is harder still. It makes THEM vulnerable…

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When I started this blog last year, I really had no idea what direction it would take. I just wanted to write. Stuck at home and unable to commit to regular work because of the unpredictability of Mercedes’ health,  I needed an outlet  for all the words running riot in my head. I could never have imagined just how all-consuming it would become.

Late at night after the kids have gone to bed and the husband is snoring in his lazy boy, I sit with my Macbook propped on the arm of the sofa and write. Some nights, the words come easily, other nights, not so much. And every time I hit that shiny little blue ‘Publish’ button on a new post, I worry. I worry that no-one will read it. I worry that no-one will like it. But most of all, I worry about the impact my words will have on the little girl I’m writing about when she’s old enough to understand them.

I didn’t set out to blog about childhood mental illness. When I wrote about her battle with anxiety for the very first time, it made ME so anxious I thought I would vomit. I thought people would judge me, or worse, judge HER. Because children don’t have mental illnesses – do they?

I couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, I was overwhelmed by the comments and messages of love and support that came in the wake of that post, and that have given me the courage to keep documenting Mercedes’ journey.

I’ve learned a lot in the process. When I write about my own journey – about addiction, sobriety and living with OCD - I own it. It’s mine. I’m not answerable to anyone, and the thoughts and feelings are my own. But when I when tell Mercedes’ story, I’m very conscious that I’m only sharing it. I don’t own it. It belongs to her. I often wonder if writing about her is the right thing to do.

Some nights when I’m tired and overwhelmed, I think about giving it up. About not writing any more because cathartic as it is, it’s also incredibly draining. Every time I publish a post, I open myself up to scrutiny and critique. Every time I publish a post, I open HER up to scrutiny and critique. But fate always seems to know when my spirits are waning, when I need a little reminder of why I put it all out there.

Last week it was a mum in the school playground asking where to find online resources for her child who also suffers from anxiety (Mercedes is not alone). The week before, it was a Facebook message from an acquaintance who is at her wit’s end trying to get help for her daughter and needed a little moral support (Mercedes is not alone). Last month it was an anonymous comment left on a blog post telling me in reading about Mercedes’ worries, the commenter had recognised some little signs that their own child might need a little extra reassurance and support (Mercedes is not alone).

And at the heart of it, that’s exactly why I do this. That’s exactly why I write. I write because children DO struggle with mental illness, and not talking about it doesn’t make it any less so. While the stigma around mental illness in general is slowly (slowly) being broken down, the idea that our kids might be affected just as much as we are as adults, perhaps even more, remains very much unspoken.

Yes, I continue to worry about how much to share – with every post, every photo, her digital footprint grows. When she’s a teenager, how will she feel about that? My hope is that she won’t see it as a bad thing, that it will serve as a journal of her experiences through my eyes and that through these words, she’ll see just how far she’s come.

Only time will tell. Until then, I’ll just keep on writing, because it’s the only thing I know how to do…

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Comments

  1. Renee Wilson says

    If she is anything like you then she will know you documenting her story and sharing it with us was based on good intentions. She will understand that her story has helped so many others. If anything I’m sure she will proud of you and how you cope. I think you’re doing a wonderful job. I completely understand your concerns and misgivings, but hopefully the benefits will outweigh any negatives xo
    Renee Wilson recently posted…Work versus playMy Profile

  2. Toni @ Finding Myself Young says

    I go through the same feelings with my blog now that its mainly focused on Hayley. I just hope that when shes older she understands and appreciates the fact that she can see her life growing up through my eyes. I also think that these kids are going to create such a huge digital footprint themselves that it won’t be as huge an issue as we think it could be.
    Toni @ Finding Myself Young recently posted…Mummy Must Have | Litecups (including giveaway)My Profile

  3. Kylie Purtell says

    Beautiful post. I think it’s very important to share both of your stories, Mental illness, especially that amongst children is still so misunderstood and everything anyone can do to shed a little more light is a good thing in my book. xx
    #teamIBOT
    Kylie Purtell recently posted…Tales from the ICUMy Profile

  4. EssentiallyJess says

    It’s a hard balance to find isn’t it? I’m a lot more reserved now than I used to be when my kids were a little younger. But now my eldest can google her name and she is there. Unlike most of her friends who just find people with the same name. That’s a little confronting.
    You do a beautiful job of normalising mental illness Emma, and that can’t be understated. I’m sure Mercedes will share that value as well. If in doubt I would just talk to her about it. See if there are things she doesn’t want you to share. That might give you more peace. xxx
    EssentiallyJess recently posted…So Long Young, Good-Looking Friends… #IBOTMy Profile

  5. Bec @ The Plumbette says

    Aww Emma, I love that you write about your kids and what they are battling because there are other mums that are probably going through the same thing and need encouragement and reassurance and your blog does just that perfectly. It can be worrying about how much we share about our kids online, but I like to look at it as a positive diary that we can all reflect on when we’re older and we can be proud of where we’ve come from and what we’ve been through. Keep writing lovely and ask Mercedes what she feels comfortable with when you share about her. x
    Bec @ The Plumbette recently posted…Can’t stop chewing my nailsMy Profile

  6. Val C says

    Thanks Emma, your blog is written with thoughtfulness and caring and I am sure your daughter will appreciate and understand that.

  7. Tegan says

    I think it’s an important story to share, as you say there are people out there who are feeling like Mercedes. There is still so much stigma around child hood mental illness and it is often swept under the rug as just kids being kids, then teenagers being teenagers..then we have a 20 something man or woman who has been struggling with their feelings and thoughts for years and could have put them to stop if they’d been helped when they were a child. Or if their parents even thought that maybe something was a bit amiss with their child.
    Tegan recently posted…I know I’m not a dogMy Profile

  8. Hope @ Nanny Shecando says

    I can understand your dilemma, or internal battle. On a similar scale I have the same issues about the risk of over sharing details important to the kids. But I’m glad that you write, and love what you write about. The fact that you can help others through your writing is truly special!
    Hope @ Nanny Shecando recently posted…The Weekly List | 31 May 2014My Profile

  9. Mums Take Five says

    Yeah its a tough call. I’m with jess maybe as she gets older talk to her more about what you can share about her but this is also about you love. your outlet, your sharing, your needs if nothing else to know on the tough days there is a whole cyber space waiting too see how your day went :) x

  10. SarahD @SnippetsandSpirits says

    Emma I think eventually Mercedes will appreciate this record of what she went through as a child. It will provide her with an understanding of where she came from and how she became the person she will be in the future. I think as long as you keep telling her you have written her story keep her informed she will be ok. Kids have a greater understanding than we give them credit for. I can totally relate to the anxiety over posting something. When I was in my black hole I wondered if putting myself out there was good for my mental stability. It s a hard one. I cant believe you are only blogging a year> So glad you decided to put your words out there x
    SarahD @SnippetsandSpirits recently posted…Unconditional LoveMy Profile

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