Thom's Story

Not all mothers are created equal.

This isn’t a set up to tell you my mama is better than your mama. It’s an intro to a long post discussing the reality that mothering isn’t the same for all women - my mother being case in point.

I was young so I don’t remember if it was 1978 or 1979 when my mother had a “nervous breakdown”. She was diagnosed with manic depression. It is more commonly referred to today as bipolar disorder. Since then, she’s struggled to fill the traditional role of what a mother is “supposed to be” as she’s battled this mental illness.

As a result of her challenges with bipolar disorder, our family situation has been unique to say the least. She’s never been able to truly manage her mental illness. Because of this, mama didn’t do things that many “traditional” mothers did. She just couldn’t. And as a child, I struggled with this. I wondered why my mama wasn’t like everyone else’s. She didn’t drive me to soccer practice or make little star-shaped sandwiches for my lunch. Although, I’m sure she wanted to. She didn’t help me pick my homecoming date’s corsage or make sure I practiced the piano. That wasn’t how she functioned. I’m not going to lie - I didn’t accept the limitations of her illness and hospitalizations in my youth. It was hard for me to see how my mama was versus how everyone else’s mothers were. For years I longed to have a different type of mother.

But one day, my heart changed.

I remember clearly maybe 15 years ago driving mama to a mental health facility after she had an episode. When things got out of control for her, it was best to take her to the psychiatric unit to get her out of potentially dangerous situations at home and to alter her medications to get her functional again. On this particular drive, I witnessed before my very eyes how her mind succumbed to the effects of the chemical imbalance in her brain. It was as if she became a different person right before my eyes - a product of her disease. In that moment, God came. He helped me know that my mother wasn’t this illness. Unfortunately she was suffering the effects of her mortal condition. She was not the person bipolar disorder made her appear to be. In an instant, I saw her in a different light. I saw the beauty of her soul. God gave me a glimpse of who she was before the illness and who she was inside despite the illness. And in that moment, I knew one thing for sure - my mother loved me. She has always loved my sister and I with all the capacity she can love as our mother.

Now, when I look back on the hard times we endured as a family, I realize the one constant that the disorder has never taken away is my mother’s love. Although she still struggles today, she is managing the best she can.

I take this day, Mother’s Day 2017, to salute all the mothers who struggle to be the type of mother they envisioned themselves being. I extend an arm of understanding to all the children who feel like their mother wasn't what they wanted them to be.

Not all mothers are created equal. But Laura Emma Reed is the best mother for me!

Love you, mama!

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