Telling your mum you’re not well

As my mum has just created her very own blog over at Proud Mumma Bear, I thought I would write a post which I’ve been meaning to do for some time: how to tell your mum, dad, brother, sister, other half, friend – anyone – that you’re not well.

I get so many comments, tweets and emails discussing how open I am with my mum about all the issues that I have. I get messages like ‘How do you do it?‘ and ‘I wish I could be that open‘ all the time.

mum

I haven’t always been that way, but I love that I am now. I had a lot of problems as a teenager and if I could disguise them and ‘put on a brave face’, that’s what I did. I felt like I was being silly and I thought it was easier to just get on with it on my own.

These days of course I don’t really have a choice but to tell her about my agoraphobia, because it’s hard to fake leaving the house when I spend a weekend with her, but I do  tell her the rest as well. I tell her about the highs, the lows, the risks I’ve taken and then regretted, and all the other messy bits to my mental health, or lack there of it. I do this because for me, it’s nice to have someone unconditionally on my side.

But parents seem to be the one limitation that a lot of you have when it comes to sharing your own mental health experiences. So often I hear bloggers say that they have to remain anonymous because the fear of their parents seeing what they’ve written is too much, and even those that do have faces are often anxious at the idea of mum or dad discovering their writing.

I’m not here to say whether or not that’s right or wrong. If keeping your problems away from some of the people you love – for their sake or yours – is the best thing to do, then carry on. You know yourself and what is good for you better than anyone else. I also appreciate that not everyone’s mum is like my mum, and some people feel misunderstood and stigmatised in their own homes, making it much harder to be open.

Additionally on the flip side, it can also be damaging towards the parent. I know that my mum loses sleep over me and my problems constantly. She’s always stressed and worried because she wants me to be as happy and healthy as humanly possible, and none of us want to be a ‘burden’, which is another reason we often downplay our troubles.

But what I will say is that if you have a strong desire to tell someone what’s going on in your life – do it and just trust that they care about you as much you do them.

And this doesn’t mean you have to go into vast detail if you don’t want to. I don’t necessarily explain how bad some situations are to my mum. I might say ‘I’m feeling depressed at the moment‘, but that doesn’t mean I have to go into anymore detail than that. What it does mean though, is that I know she’s there, ready to come and rescue me if I need her.

If you want to tell somebody, find a way no matter how hard that is. There is always something you can do to make it easier for you; you just have to figure out what it is.

For me, when I’m sad or scared I find it incredibly hard to speak. When I’m face to face with someone my mind goes completely blank and no words come out. So whenever it has come to telling my mum something important in the past, I have left her a note or a letter.

Sometimes these have been rather amusing in hindsight, like telling her that my boyfriend when I was fifteen had a three-year old child, or that the boyfriend before that was in a youth offenders prison, but I have also told her about family abuse and deep depressions I’ve suffered through letters.

It may not work for everyone, but it works for us.

I love how open we are. It makes my life so much easier to be able to share with my mum. And sure, sometimes I feel guilty because I know it upsets her, but I know she’d be more upset if she knew I didn’t feel like I could come to her.

If you need someone to share your battle with, then take the first step and make it happen!

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48 thoughts on “Telling your mum you’re not well

  1. acquiescent72 says:

    You have some great themes here that probably play well to your benefit: openness, acceptance, understanding. You offer great insight for others, trust me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Alicia says:

    I think this post is critically important. Many people have different ways to deal with depression and anxiety, but the healthiest people I know are willing to share their struggle to some degree.
    I didn’t talk about my issues for 7 years and went to extraordinary measures to keep it secret. In the last 6 months I have sought help and part of that was telling my mom. I know she worries and I know she has spent nights crying , but she is also extremely supportive. I have found the easiest way to share my struggle is to write about it. I can organize my thoughts and my family can go through it at their own pace.
    Hang in there! Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Zoe says:

    Great post. My mom is my unconditional but she has GAD and OCD, so there are some things I keep from her for the sake of her health, so you’re right on how sometimes it’s not a lack of wanting to share, but caution.

    I’m so glad your mom can be there for you and has started a blog. It could totally help her let out some of her struggles and anxieties, as well as connect with other parents who are trying to juggle it all. May she have fun and good results from this adventure. 🙂 She sounds like one amazing, admirable woman.

    Liked by 2 people

    • bylaurenhayley says:

      She is, thank you! And I agree. I think much of a blog will focus on how she struggles with my problems etc, and it will be good for her not to bottle it up. I hope both you and your mom are doing well 🙂

      Like

  4. proudmummabear says:

    It may be hard to hear/know sometimes but I will always rather know what is happening. I am here for you unconditionally. I also echo what Lauren says – everyone needs someone to talk to, even if it’s not family. When Lauren was a child/teenager we had a deal that if she didn’t feel able to talk to me about a problem then she could talk to my best friend Kerstey. Kerstey promised to keep her confidence but only if Lauren specifically asked her to. In other words if she didn’t ask her to keep it a secret, Kerst could come to me and we could deal with it together. Luckily there was never a situation where this deal was needed, but I felt happy knowing that she had someone to talk to even if it wasn’t me. Sharing a problem can help, even if the person you tell doesn’t completely understand the situation or how you are feeling x

    Liked by 7 people

  5. crazygrrl123 says:

    Wow, just reading this made me tear up. I’ve wanted that relationship with my mom for years but things are a little different in my family. I will definitely be following your mom’s blog to see how parents should react to handling mental health =)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Aidan not Aiden says:

    I think it’s great that you can be so open with your mother. I’m actually incredibly jealous that you can talk to her about those things and she doesn’t take it out on you or get upset with you for what you said.

    My mother knows about my mental illness, but I can’t really talk to her about it (and scared to blog about it, because she reads my blog) in detail because (ongoing) emotional abuse from her has contributed to my issues, but I live with her so the last thing I want is to potentially end up homeless. =/ When I’ve tried to explain to her how her behavior affects me, she tells me I’m making it up and overreacting, so I can only imagine how she’d freak out if I posted about it online where other people could read it.

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    • bylaurenhayley says:

      I’m sorry that your situation is so difficult. It’s unfortunate that you can’t have that relationship with your mum, but please try and find someone else you can have the relationship with if you haven’t already. It’s important to have a support system and there’s nothing to say it needs to be a parent! I hope things/living arrangements become easier for you soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. lizziecarver says:

    When I was a young woman and struggling with depression it was impossible to be fully honest with my own mother because of her frail mental health – my role was to protect and support her, not the other way round. In the end, I crashed and it was messy at the time, but I found my own solutions in the end.
    Now that I am a mother of a daughter with depression, I try and hold a loving space for her to be just exactly who she is. I know that I have tried to “fix” her in the past and that this was unhelpful as it just underlined the “wrongness” that she felt. But, as a Mum, you just want your darling child to be fine!
    So glad you have a great relationship with your Mum 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. EdenNoMore says:

    I love this. It definitely will never work for me and my mother. That whole situation is complicated and messy. I am able to tell some of my family, but it’s challenging. They’re disappointed in me because I’m not able to manage things they think I should be able to. It’s like they recognize it as a challenge, and not as debilitating.

    I hope some day I can reach out the way you have. It’s not easy feeling so trapped by my own condition. Much like you, I write notes whenever possible because I can’t talk about things as easily as I can write about them. I hope some day I can just write it all out and leave it for my mom. Maybe some day she’ll understand.

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    • bylaurenhayley says:

      Maybe some day you have to just take the risk. I think sometimes detail works in favour for situations like yours because without the detail of you explaining how bad it really is, it’s easy for them to belittle your problems. If not though, it’s great that you can find your support system somewhere else. It doesn’t have to be your mum by any means!

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      • EdenNoMore says:

        It’s sad, but details won’t help. I’ve tried telling her before, even in counseling, but she turned it into me blaming her. She strongly believes you just don’t speak about these things, especially since it might come back to her being a part of the cause. She doesn’t tell her friends about me. We rarely talk, and when we do visit, plans need to be made through a third party. I don’t even have her phone number. It’s hard, but we stopped talking because she wasn’t supportive. None of my family really has been. It’s been rough.

        Like

  9. Matthew Malin says:

    Great post my friend! I am also lucky to have parents by my side through thick and thin. Both of them have dealt with depression and can relate to some of the things I experience. It truly is a blessing.

    Like

  10. tracihalpin says:

    That’s great you and your mom are so close. You both look beautiful in the picture😊
    I can share my stuff with my parents but sometimes I struggle with my mom bc she is controlling and has anxiety like me. She thinks she’s being helpful but she’s treating me like a child. Even when I express how I feel she doesn’t care; things have to be her way. Then we fight and I’m working on interacting with her in a new way.It’s hard to break old habits. Yay for you and your mom!

    Like

    • bylaurenhayley says:

      Thank you, Traci ☺ I understand what you mean. Sometimes it’s hard for parents to know what to do though I guess and they naturally feel like they have to parent you of somethings wrong. It’s great that you’re open with them enough though ☺

      Liked by 1 person

  11. BrizzleLass says:

    A lovely post Lauren. I had no choice in my family knowing as was diagnosed and under child MH Services aged 9 at my Mums request! My family for the most part are wonderful esp my Mum but she does struggle from time to time and need “time outs” which sometimes coincide with when I need support most. Now that I’m married though I rely on family a lot less so that helps.

    Like

    • bylaurenhayley says:

      It must be so difficult for a mum to watch their ‘child’ suffering and struggling with life, however old they are. I think a lot of guilt comes with it, I know it does from my mum, even though there’s absolutely no need,but we both developed our problems as children under their care. It’d fantastic that you have a new support system though, my boyfriend is fantastic too I do have to say!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. jennymarie4 says:

    Lauren, this is such a great topic to bring up! Thankfully, I haven’t had to really worry about it, because I also am very close with my mom, and Talee is with me. I know I’m blessed and don’t take it for granted. Because when you have to deal with such a difficult part of your life, you need someone to help who loves you unconditionally and won’t judge. I have that with my mom, and I’m sure (I hope) Talee thinks that of me 🙂 I’m following your mom’s blog, I was hoping she’d start one! I definitely can relate to her. Adorable picture of you two!

    Like

      • jennymarie4 says:

        I agree. My mom has dealt with depression, so she has always understood my anxiety (when I finally opened up about it). Thanks for your nice words.. My daughter and I are very close, so I know it helps.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Rebecca says:

    I so enjoyed your post! Such fabulous insight and great advice! I hope others will be as brave as you and reach out. It’s wonderful that you and your mother have such a good relationship, too! Hugs!

    Like

  14. magickmogwai says:

    I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t have such a strong connection with my mum. I can tell her anything and know she will always be there to help me in any way she can. I’m glad you have a similar relationship and urge others to form their own close relationships with people around them. It really helps in the bad times

    Like

  15. violaswift says:

    I really, really love this post. I’m definitely one of the people who struggles with talking about my issues. As much as I love my family, they aren’t the most understanding. I’m trying to work up the courage to seriously bring up my anxiety issues to them, and reading this post has given me a bit of a push in the right direction.

    Like

  16. Lulu says:

    I just wanted to thank you for your openness, candor, and most of all your advocacy on behalf of yourself and others! I loved this post about disclosing mental health problems to the people we’re closest to in our lives. After I was finally able to accept my eating disorder, the next biggest step that made recovery possible for me was telling everyone in my life about it. My parents definitely struggled to understand, and at first they adamantly refused to accept my diagnosis, but over time and with the help of my therapist, they came to appreciate what my mental health issues meant, and now our relationship is probably healthier than ever before. Instead of being a trigger for me, my mom is now a source of support! Thank you again for your hard-earned words of wisdom and for having the courage to share your journey with the world.

    Like

  17. jen2point0 says:

    Brilliant. It took me till age 23ish to start telling my Mum. Im 24 now. Ive always been jokey with it. Sad I tell her Im sulking. If im really depressed I tell her “I’m about 5 minutes from learning how to drive then jumping off a cliff”, its silly and jokey but a weird kind of code. I have a similar thing with my spouse, “Just turn the gas on when you leave n Ill be fine”. Sick sick humour but its as close to honesty as I get when Im ill.

    Like

    • bylaurenhayley says:

      I think that’s nice! Me and my boyfriend definitely have sick humour to go with it too haha! It’s hard when things are serious all the time. I have Borderline Personality Disorder and anytime anyone says something’s borderline on TV he looks at me and goes ‘like you’. Haha if you’re happy with humour then there’s nothing wrong with it, and it’s great that you’ve found something that works for you 🙂

      Like

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