Mental Health

How My Daughters Taught Me To Open Up About My Mental Health

It took my daughter's own battle with depression to recognize that for years, I'd been ashamed of my own mental health.

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This post is part of a collaboration with Inspire, a healthcare social network with more than one million patients and caregivers.


While walking out from a recent screening of a documentary about teenagers living with anxiety, I realized something.

I turned to my youngest daughter.

“I have lived with anxiety as long as I can remember,” I told her.

“I know,” she replied, and smiled kindly at me.

I never told anyone before about the paralyzing anxiety I experienced starting in 7th grade. I would blush till I felt my head would explode my pulse would pump in my throat like a hammer. I feared to be called on. One bully would taunt me, “Why does this happen to you?” My only exit then was going to the bathroom and hide.

“I have lived with anxiety as long as I can remember,” I told her.

Despite my intermittent anxiety, though, I built a great life. I married an amazing man, and together, we had two of the most caring, wonderful girls I’ve ever known.

But then seven years ago, when she was nine, my oldest was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with severe depression. My world stopped. Standing in an elevator with other parents leaving that hospital unit, I realized I was just inducted into the club of parents with children who live with a mental illness.

Yet even as we helped our oldest through her own treatment journey, it wasn’t until I had that post-movie exchange about anxiety that I realized that my daughter’s mental health issues were closely linked to my own.

I realized then that the stigma I felt about my own anxiety issues had prevented me from talking to my own children about them. I was a nurse, a mother, and a person living with anxiety, but I had never told them that mental health issues were was normal to struggle with. In fact, my husband and I both come from families with long lineages of mental illness, but it was never discussed… and so, in turn, we had not talked about it with our daughters.

I was a nurse, a mother, and a person living with anxiety, but I had never told them that mental health issues were was normal to struggle with.

When my daughter was diagnosed with depression seven years ago, my instinct when family members had told me to hide the truth was to fight as a family in the open. I wasn’t going to make my daughter think I was ashamed of her.

But now, as I considered the rhetorical mirror my youngest daughter had had held up to me, I realized I needed to do more than just advocate for their mental health. I needed to live openly with my own anxiety issues as well. We pass so many things on in our genes to our children. I did not want to pass shame on to them by example.

So now, I’m trying to live life the way I want my daughters to live it: by accepting my own mental health challenges, and listening to them when they arise. So I try to sleep more, eat healthier, and unplug when I feel overwhelmed. And when I feel the old me, the anxious me, rising up? I take her to the yoga room at my gym, and give her a hug. Because she is me, and I need to accept and love myself if my daughters are going to do so as well.

We pass so many things on in our genes to our children. I did not want to pass shame on to them by example.

Anxiety is part of who I am: not knowing and not understanding what was happening to me was like walking with a small rock in my shoe and not able to take it out .Its extremely uncomfortable but you keep walking.

My daughters are now thriving teenagers. Both have mental health issues, but they are under control, because we helped them find the right tools early on. If only I had done the same for myself, but it’s never too late to stop ignoring your issues and practice some self-compassion.

It’s easy to say, “Remember to do some self-care.” It’s harder to implement. The notion to always care for your children before yourself is something that I have always done. It’s hard to reprioritize, but by relearning to care for my own mental health, I now think I’m in a better place to be the mother my two strong, brave daughters truly deserve. A mother who embraces not just their mental health, but her own.


This post is part of a collaboration with Inspire, a healthcare social network with more than one million patients and caregivers.

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