Hello! I’m so glad you found my little home on the internet. My name is Brooks, and I’m the proud owner of Our Parent Place. If you’ve found yourself here, I’m guessing you’d like to know a bit about the girl behind the headshot.
I created Our Parent Place to be a safe spot for parents with mental illness to learn, be inspired, grow, and connect with one another. But, what gives me any sort of authority to speak about such personal subjects? I’m hoping a shortened version of my life story might answer that.
I have struggled with mental illness for the better part of my life. I can recall quite clearly the time when I was 11 years old trying to harm myself with a dull camping knife. I remember a “friend” I had that would come over and we would compare scars and create new ones. At that time, I didn’t know what depression or anxiety were. I simply knew that it felt good to experience external pain.
I lived like that for a few years, unable to voice what I was feeling, but knowing it probably wasn’t normal. When I was 13, my family moved from Illinois to Utah. I became fiercely lonely, my mental illnesses had essentially taken over. I started using drugs to numb myself from the pain. Slowly, ever so slowly, I stopped eating. I became obsessed with school work, I would redo notes I had taken in class so that the handwriting was cute, clear, and color coded.
Eventually, the depression was too much and I begged for help. I went to see a therapist. Then a psychiatrist. Thus began a marathon of different medication in the hopes of evening out my chemistry.
By the time I was fifteen, things had gone downhill, fast. I managed to pull off straight A’s in school while drinking myself to sleep each night, and using drugs before, during, and after school. I landed myself in rehab after admitting to my psychiatrist that I had a problem. My parents were shocked. If they hadn’t found the five empty liquor bottles and countless pipes and other paraphernalia hidden throughout my room, I’m not sure they would have believed me.
In rehab, I hid my eating disorder and essentially replaced my rampant substance abuse with full-blown anorexia. They weighed us once a week and eventually caught on. However, they weren’t equipped to deal with an eating disorder and I continued to restrict my food. I ended up with a feeding tube stuck up my nose, my meals consisted of cans poured into my tube. I was miserable, and no one was working on the root of my problems, they were simply keeping me alive.
The day I was released from treatment, I had lost more weight. I was released regardless (gotta love insurance issues). My medications were more or less keeping my moods even, but I would still struggle. I had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and panic disorder.
Things were better for a while. I started drinking again a few months later. Drugs quickly re-entered my daily life. Although my parents now knew some of the things to look for, I wasn’t what most people would think of as a “typical” case. I continued to excel in school, I functioned on most basic levels. I slept a lot, but don’t all teenagers? Sometimes I would go days without sleeping, but I’d also been suffering from insomnia, so that was normal, right?
When I turned 18, I was a wreck. I had no energy, was depressed, suffered crippling panic attacks, and experienced wild mood swings. I went for an assessment at an eating disorder treatment facility. Things happened quickly after that. I was admitted and spent weeks “refeeding”. Even fairly small meals would leave my stomach hurting from how stretched it was. I later found out it was only a matter of time before I would have done severe damage. As it is, I have a heart condition and memory issues. I can’t say for sure that those are related to drugs and starvation, but I suspect they are.
I got kicked out of my treatment center because I was back on drugs. I think it’s fair to say that as soon as one issue started to resolve, the other came back with a vengeance. I attribute this to how much emotional pain I felt. Even though I was medicated and seeing a therapist multiple times a week, I was still hurting.
Then, in December of 2011, I overdosed. To make a long story short, that was my wakeup call, and where my life took a turn for the better. I was over 18 and didn’t have money to go to rehab, nor could I ask my parents to pay for another one. I got serious about therapy, I threw myself into my job (retail!) and my college education, and I met the man who would become my husband.
Fast forward four and a half years after getting married, I got pregnant. So many issues floated to the surface. Would I be a decent mom? Could I be a decent mom? After all, I hardly had my shit together. I had just relapsed on both drugs and my eating disorder. Luckily at the time I got pregnant, I was clean and trying to eat again. I was often a mess. I had deep-rooted anxiety.
But I wanted this baby. I wanted a baby with everything in my heart, mental illnesses and addictions be damned. I knew I wouldn’t be a perfect mom, but who was, really? So I prepared myself (as much as you can, which honestly isn’t much).
After giving birth, my whole life changed. And I was ashamed to say that every moment wasn’t pure bliss. I was sad. I was a ball of anxious nerves. I cried. I couldn’t even talk to my doctor through the tears. As soon as he asked what was wrong, I just shook my head and burst into tears.
What was wrong with me? I wanted to be a mom. How could I be so ungrateful? My son didn’t deserve this from his mother. I loved him so much, but… But it was hard. It was so hard being a mom to him while my mental health wasn’t where I wanted it to be.
I made this blog, my friend, to talk about that guilt and shame. I crave, more than anything, a connection with other like-minded mommas. I want to show the world that mental illness isn’t “less than”. We are not unworthy of being mother’s simply because we aren’t as mentally well as we’d like to be. Different is not less than.
So, if you’re feeling brave, join me on this adventure. Together, I think there are some great things in store for us.