Emma’s mom gives insight on mental health awareness

Susan EspirituOur Town Neighbors, West Knoxville

Last week I reminded readers that May is Mental Health Awareness Month and my young friend Emma allowed us to understand some of the unique struggles that affect those who are dealing with mental health challenges. This week, I am sharing insights from her mom who I do think of as a “super mom,” although she cringes at the description.

Mom says the main questions she is asked are, “How do you do it? How do you stay so positive, work so hard for Emma, advocate and raise the other babies?” She continues, “They ask this as they compare me to a superhero, a super mom, a supernatural human who somehow has the ability to do a million things at once. I cringe at the kind compliments.” She says simply, “I am Emma’s mom.”

She says that all she knows is how to fight each day for Emma to have a successful life as defined by love, peace and fulfillment. Mom says she is vocal and her daughter’s biggest champion, but she is just a mom with a kid who has a disability, and she is grateful for a life where she can provide her child with the medicine, therapy and educational supports she needs.

Mom explains the reality in the terms we understand too. She says, “Sometimes I am tired. I am sad more than I am tired. I am scared more than I am sad. I am numb more than I am scared. There are nights where I lie awake and listen to her giggle at the voices in her head and I am stunned into a numbing paralysis where real-life hits for a moment. And I am tired, scared, sad, lost and numb all at once. Real-life sometimes hits me right in the gut and I can barely breathe. ”

She also explains it terms we don’t understand. “This real life is one where no one else views her the way I do: as someone with strength, empathy, kindness, humor, a temper like her mama and protectiveness that is fierce for the people she loves. There is a world out there that sees her as crazy, who is less than, who is scary, who they think could be violent. She is viewed as broken. When I remember what life is actually like out there for the mentally ill and not the life I am fighting for her to have, I get paralyzed with a grief that cannot be explained.”

Mom makes a plea to all moms. “I am not a super mom. I am a mom who has a child with a disability and so my work is different than other moms. I call it like it is. Do you know what would happen if each mom of a child with a disability, addiction or mental illness just said it like it was? Eventually, our kids wouldn’t scare others. Eventually, we could normalize the conversation and erase the stigma.”

“How do I do it?” you ask this mom with an admiration she feels she doesn’t deserve. Her answer, “I do it each day, bit by bit, and always with a plan and then a plan B. I do it with an intensity and focus that is my shield from my own emotions. It is my work. It is our work, Emma and me.”

All of us have a story and I want to tell yours! Send them to susan@knoxtntoday.com


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