Mothers Day is in May, Mental Health Awareness Month

The MIX featuring Mental Health Awareness Month
I don't know if it is intentional, or a Freudian thing, but the choice of the month of May for Mental Health Awareness Month is suspicious. May has always been for Mothers Day, and it always sneaks up on us. But it is chock full of emotion, for many, and can play with our mental health. So perhaps that had something to do with the choice.

For what it's worth, other months host mental health awareness days and weeks for different disorders. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness lists February as National Eating Disorders Week (Feb 23-March 1). March 30 is apparently World Bipolar Day. April is reserved for Alcohol Awareness.

May not only hosts Mothers Day and Memorial Day, but the month is divided into consecutive weeks:
Children's Mental Health WeekAnxiety and Depression WeekOlder Americans Mental Health Week, and Schizophrenia Week
But Mothers Day gets all the attention. I caught a woman just a little younger than myself lingering at the flower display in the grocery store. I thought, She has one! And it made me sad. i realized this is my first Mother's Day without one. This past winter must have been good for flower growers because they are spectacular. A visual masterpiece.

Of course, even if you have one there's no saying this is going to be a fun or a stress-free experience, not the day, nor the gifting. There's stress built-in, especially if mom has always been difficult. The day's approach can be so depressing (or so I hear at work) that it is easier to carp about the commercial crassness of this otherwise benign Hallmark holiday.

But maybe it isn't so benign. It can be a comparison holiday for those who look around and see nothing but others with superior families, more functional families. They rank. Imagine seeing the day as a splendid opportunity to say, You matter. Let's do lunch, just the two of us. Or just family. Impossible.

Functional could look like this, how I did my brother's last birthday. He has one in early May. I popped by his office late on a Friday afternoon with a clunky box of documents that our mother and father had left behind, things that only my sister-in-law, a lawyer, knows how to decipher, cash out, or pitch. But I'm there with no birthday present. He sees me and is clearly happy to see me. But me, bearing no gift, first thing, before hello, guiltily blurt out,
 "I didn't get you a gift OR a card!" 
Thrilled, he flips back,
 "Great! Because I never have time to get you one either!" 
This can be loving, no gifts. I think if families dropped the gifts in general, they would have a lot more fun. But there would still be comparisons, who has fun, who doesn't.

Not having a mom, or having lost one, it doesn't matter how long ago, many of us are going to have difficulty on May 11, Mothers Day. And the reminders in the media won't let up until next week, when it is over. We will choose no brunch with Bloody Mary's (I just heard this, that people have pitchers of Bloody Mary's at brunch). Rather we'll opt out to go to a cemetery, have a discussion with relatives, some long gone, some new residents. Memorial Day is also in May. My thinking, one visit will do.

One of my kids sent me a link to a good podcast about Mental Health Awareness Month. A local radio station, THE MIX, WTMX (101.9 FM Chicago), features a social service agency, TURNING POINT. Susan Wiencek conducts the interview. I had wanted to write something substantive about mental health month, but didn't quite know where to begin.

Now I'm off the hook. You can listen to therapist Julie Rooney, and Ann Fisher RaneyCEO of Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Services, They do a better job. Turning Point, a social service organization in Skokie, Illinois, has been there for thousands of families over several decades. The agency hosts a new program called The Living Room, and it is literally a drop in center, an actual living room. People stop by and can talk to a professional, let go of some of their stress. Such a great idea, isn't it?

When asked,
"What can we do to become more aware of mental health issues?" 
either Julie or Ann, not sure  which panelist, replied, and I'm paraphrasing,
"Take a look inside yourself. You matter. Seriously consider your own mental health."
I loved that because we all do it, often, think about ourselves, look deep inside.  But this month we're supposed to consider ourselves important enough to deserve someone else to share in the process, too. Someone like a mom, in some ways. Or a sister or brother. Or not. No matter, no gifts are allowed.

So Turning Point, and surely hundreds of other creative social agencies have torpedoed the myth that mental health isn't affordable,  therapy is too expensive. Community mental health is alive and kicking. If you're lucky enough to have an agency with open doors, one like Turning Point, stop by.

My guess is that they serve cookies, too, and make a decent cup of coffee.  Just a guess.

Here's the link to the podcast.



Mound Builder said…
I really appreciate what you wrote here, especially the part about not necessarily having gifts or even a big celebration. One of my daughters lives across the country and works on Sundays to boot. The other daughter is here and trying hard to work enough hours to make a livable amount of money so she was at work, too. I was feeling a little bummed on Sunday as the day wore on and I couldn't help noticing all of the people on [social media of your choice] who were posting photos of grown children who were doing this that and the other thing for them, big family pictures and everyone together and smiling. As the day wore on, and no children at home with me, I felt glum. And then I got a text message from daughter on the other side of the country and she told me she loved me. And daughter here came home with beautiful tulips and a nice card and a little gift, something within her budget and sweet. And even though she was tired, she and my husband and I ate outside, grilled burgers, and didn't say much, but still, it was nice.

Since it can take a long time to go through one's parents things after they have died, there are things I'm just now going through and one of the things I found, just in time for Mother's Day, was a notebook with some things my mother wrote. She wrote a lot, but I'd never found these things until now, an essay about how she felt about loving us, being our mother, written when she was 25 years old and at that point had three of the four of us, my brother not yet born. Honest and thoughtful and deep inner feelings, not all sweetness and light, but for sure some of that, too. And a couple of descriptions of me, of who I was at that point, of how joyful I was at my father's return home from work. Those were lovely gifts this Mother's Day.

Feeling tenderness for you for the first Mother's Day without a mom. I know what you mean when I see other people and realize their mother is still alive (I started to write that as "alove" and maybe that's a good way to think of it).
therapydoc said…
Thanks. I went to see a friend who just lost hers and felt a sense of community. Pretty big club.
Hilary Kimbel said…
Last year, my kids and I were in a car accident. Luckily, nobody was seriously hurt, but I still feel like my children are pretty shaken from the experience. Would it be a good idea to turn to family therapy for something like this?
therapydoc said…
I'll always say yes to that question. Sure, work it out together.
Lorri M. said…
The first Mother's Day without a living mother is difficult. The successive ones, are, also, in a different way. Time doesn't lessen the might lesson some of the pain (might), but the loss or void is ever present.

On Mother's Day, I light a candle, speak to her photograph, and remember the moments of joy we shared.

This Mother's Day, my daughter, mother of my two precious grandies, decided to go on a three-day "Mother's Day cruise" with a girlfriend. My son-in-law was okay with that, and watched the grandies.

I was okay with that, also, as she is a mother, and is entitled to spend Mother's Day doing something for herself. She left me a beautiful card and some candy and donut treats that she knows I love.

I treated myself to a movie, and enjoyed the rest of the day.
Unknown said…
I totally agree with you that everyone needs therapy. Especially this month, I think it would be important to encourage everyone to go in for at least one session. We all have issues that we need to work through, no matter if we have a serious mental condition or not.
Kat Brennan |
therapydoc said…
Right, Kate.
Lori, thanks. I honestly don't remember ever saying to my own mother, "Hey, is must be hard for you without Bubbie here anymore (her mother). And she never brought it up. It kills me not having had that sensitivity.

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