I have been putting together this series behind the curtains for a while now, almost as long as Betty’s Battleground has been live, and I am really excited and honored to launch it today.
“Parenting with Mental Illness” is an interview series featuring parents battling mental illness. Mental illness is an unparalleled struggle even without having children in your care, but when the pressures of being the caretaker for a beautiful young life gets paired with the battles of living with mental illness, the difficulties sometimes feel insurmountable. But they are surmountable. Those of us who live through it prove that everyday. We often live this reality in silence, however, feeling judged and ashamed by our circumstances. This series aims to lift some of stigma surrounding parenting with mental illness. My hope is that those on the outside will gain some compassion and insight toward what we deal with on a daily basis, and that those also living through this will realize it is okay to be who they are, and to seek help. Please remember: Shaming drives people further into the darkness. It is only through radical acceptance that people begin the journey of change.
Before I introduce you to the first brave interviewee, I want to say a few words about my Abuelita. She died one year ago today, at the age of 100. She lived a long and full life, so her death was no tragedy, but I still miss her every day. Sometimes my grief is quiet, like a murmur in the background of my day, and sometimes it wails and brings me to tears at random moments. My Abuelita was a beautiful woman. Born in Chile to a Cuban mother and British father, she traveled across Latin America during her childhood, before finally settling in Cuba, where she would marry the love of her life, an English teacher, and bear her five children. In 1966, amid the turmoil of a new government, she would leave her mansion home with the tadpole-filled pool in the back, and jasmine bushes in the front, to move with her family as refugees into a small studio in New Jersey. She would live in New Jersey the rest of her life, and though she would never regain the comforts she had known in Cuba, she would improve her economic situation enough to be a world traveler through her 80s. She was a vivacious, gentle soul who love to sing, write poetry, and read Agatha Christie. She possessed a rare, youthful beauty which did not diminish with age. She died one century and a handful of months after she was born. Though she had five children, she would be a grandmother to only one-a little girl who she would love unconditionally through all of the child’s various turmoils and disgraces. She would live to hold her eldest great-grandson, and to talk on the phone with her two younger great-granddaughters, all of whom she cherished.
My Abuelita was perhaps the only person who loved me no matter what, and I suspect I will miss her for the rest of my life.
Stella Blair with one of her daughters, 1916-2016
And now, I present to you another beautiful soul: Maria, who mothers with Postpartum Depression.