Parenting with Mental Illness: Andolina (Major Depressive Disorder)

Meet Andolina-on

Parenting with Mental Illness, a feature interview series on bettysbattleground.comI am honored to introduce Andolina as this month’s Parenting with Mental Illness interviewee. She’s a beautiful young mother who lives with Major Depressive Disorder and moderate anxiety. She also lost her father to suicide. I can only imagine what that kind of loss is like, and I thank her for her sharing her story here on Betty’s Battleground. It breaks my heart to hear about yet another woman whose birthday has been ruined possibly forever–this time by a tragic loss.

A person recently left a very interesting comment on my blog post about forgiving our loved ones who commit suicide. She (I’m actually not sure of the person’s gender, but am using “she” for the sake of clarity) noted that she had lost her spouse to suicide several years back. Then she asked me to re-write my post to exclude the term “commit suicide.” She informed me that there is now a movement to have people say “died by suicide” rather than “commit suicide,” due to negative connotations associated with the word commit, and the idea that suicide is an act for which the victim is not culpable.

I’m familiar with these kinds of language movements. There’s one also in place around the word “addict,” for which I’ve had several losing battles with editors on the titles and language within certain of my articles. My problem here is that I’m not sure I agree. I don’t agree that the word commit is inherently negative, nor do I agree that people who attempt suicide have no volition whatsoever. They’re ill, usually, but if we say they have no power, that can be dangerous to people struggling with suicidal ideations. Is our commitment stronger to the living, or the deceased? I do believe we should respect and honor those who lost their lives to suicide. I do believe in awareness. I don’t know how I stand on the language. Will you leave your thoughts in the comments?

And now, Andolina:

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The Light That Shines Through: A Post About Dissident Happiness

Read about the good days in a crappy year on

I have not been very happy this past year. Just over a year ago, on an innocuous evening in June, someone knocked on my door while I was in the bathroom. My husband answered, and accepted a packet that an unfamiliar layman was delivering for me. My world changed while I was taking a piss.

The packet was a lawsuit; a motion for genetic testing to establish paternity. Had I answered the door, I would have been able to identify the layman who’d delivered it to my home address as the father of the man who physically and sexually abused me for four years when I was a teenager. The paternity suit in the packet was legitimate; my abuser fathered my eldest child, though he had been uninvolved in my son’s life for almost as long as my son had been alive.

The parentage suit, which was quickly followed by a custody suit, threw my world into a darkness almost as deep and suffocating as the four years of our relationship. I had to recount, and then defend, the worst instances of my abuse. My abuser submitted intimate letters and photographs, which he had apparently kept in his possession for ten years, with the seeming sole purpose of humiliating me. I was obsessively fearful for my son’s safety, especially because he is a non-verbal autistic. My PTSD was aggressively aggravated, and my lowest shames were paraded before my abuser for his amusement and use. On top of that, my beloved Abuelita (grandmother) had died just a month earlier, and I was struggling to recover from my PTSD related suicide attempt. The past year has been a hell.

But this isn’t a post about hell. This isn’t a post about the custody case. This post is about the little pricks of light that shone through the darkness of the past year, sometimes impossibly so; those fervent, stubborn moments of happiness and joy that kept me dragging onward through the fight. This is a post about happiness that chose to exist beyond all odds. Dissident happiness.

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Eighteen: A post about birthdays and

As I write this, the hours are counting down on February 7th.  Soon it will be February 8th.

My birthday.

My birthday.  This used to be the most exciting day of the year for me.  This used to be a day I loved so deeply, I prided the number eight, the month of February, the astrological sign Aquarius, my birth stone amethyst.  I prided myself.  When February rolled around and I knew that my birthday was only a week away…less than a week away…just a couple days more…tomorrow…I would relish the anticipation.  The mounting excitement.  I planned parties and outings with friends.  Perhaps not the safest or most appropriate; I spent my 15th birthday tripping on acid at a rave, but nonetheless it was always a day to rival all other days.

Now, I want to stop time.  I want to obliterate February 8th from the calendar, bomb it from existence, leave a charred smoking pit in its place and skip to the 9th.  Now, I hate my birthday.

I’ll be twenty-nine this year, but I know that tomorrow, I will spend the day fighting not to  turn eighteen again.  Last year, when I turned twenty-eight, the ten year anniversary of having turned eighteen, I spent the night of my birthday in the Emergency Room being  treated for a drug overdose after I attempted suicide.  I remember being halfway out of my mind high on the drugs I hadn’t taken to get high, crying for my birthday cake while the nurses, just a few feet away, openly mocked me.  I remember being chastised by acquaintances for trying to abandon my children so permanently.  I remember bearing the brunt of my husband’s fury and distrust for weeks.  I remember having to explain to CPS that I hadn’t been with the kids, that it hadn’t been about the kids at all.  I remember hearing from my mother how wrong it was to spend the money she and her sisters had given me for my birthday on drugs, how I had taken food from my children’s mouths by spending those $20.  I remember the whole world thinking I had acted like a petulant child, attempting suicide because I didn’t get the party I wanted.

None of those assumptions were correct.

This year, I’ll tell you the truth.  I’ll tell you all, whoever you are reading this from the United States, from Japan, from Australia, from Spain, from wherever, why I hate my birthday.

Which is to say, I’ll tell you how I spent my eighteenth birthday.

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