Yes, you read that right. I have been wanting to open up about this situation these past few months, but every time I would go to write I didn’t know what to say. Honestly, I still don’t know how to write about this. These words I write are raw, so please bear with me and have an open heart as I share this story.
Back when Michael and I first got engaged, my mind had already wandered down the road to our wedding day and I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be surprised if my mother was not there. It’s really tough to admit that, but that’s how it was for me. Whenever I would share about my wedding with her over the phone, I felt uncomfortable because I knew it was hard for her to talk about. I wanted to tell her about all of my creative decoration ideas and details of the ceremony, but I always felt guilty and out of place whenever I did. There were times when I’d be really excited about something new about the day and I’d share it with her and I could just feel the uncertainty in her voice over the phone. When we would go home on college breaks, I would avoid talking about the wedding as much as I could. It was a delicate conversation and I didn’t want to set myself up for expectations that would not be met.
You see, my mother has struggled with extreme social anxiety for the majority of her life. I have seen her battle it, including deep depression over the years. She has always taken proper medication for her anxiety, which helped her extremely well in my young years. My mom would take me to every dance competition I was in since the 3rd grade to the 12th grade and the medicine would be enough to help her through the day. It’s sad because I know she loves people, but her anxiety has always tried to convince her that people don’t like her and worse. Over the past few years that I have been away at college, her anxiety has gotten even worse. She explained to me that it’s hard for her to go out to social events even with taking medication, because she’ll start shaking and then feels even more out of place. Anxiety is a terrible, terrible thing. It is horrible.
A few weeks before my wedding, I was still left in the unknown if she would be there or not. I was constantly being torn – believing that she’d pull through and enjoy herself, or that she really wasn’t coming at all. On top of social anxiety, my wedding was also 6 hours away in a place that was new to her. So that throws 2 more fears in her way.
Two weeks before the wedding, I was talking with her on the phone and I finally got the guts to ask her one final time if she had any idea if she’d be coming to my wedding or not. She told me the truth. It was one of the most emotional conversations I have ever had with my mom before. I was trying my best to keep it together, but once she started to cry, so did I. I could hear the sadness in her voice and it broke my heart. I knew she really wanted to come, but her anxiety just wasn’t going to give at all. I asked her if she could at least drive up and try to come to the rehearsal, but she didn’t think she could do that either.
After I got off the phone with her and began to dwell on the conversation more, I got angry. I started to battle with my flesh and my feelings, which battles like these can get very messy. I was angry with her and with her anxiety. I was absolutely astonished that she wasn’t going to even try to come up. I thought that the least she could do was try to come. I was so hurt. I convinced myself that I was just in denial of the inevitable the whole time.
But then the next morning, I felt God soften my heart again. Right when I awoke I had such a peace surround me and I just felt God saying, “it’s okay”. In that moment I knew I had to forgive my mother. After all, it wasn’t my mother’s fault. She wasn’t choosing to not come. She just could physically and mentally not have it in her to survive it. God reminded me of the anxiety I struggle with and how much more my mother struggles. I was humbled and touched, and my mind was renewed that morning. I felt and still do not feel any anger towards my mom about this. The power of God is outstanding.
To those who’ve read through my post in its entirety – thank you. Raising awareness for mental illness will always be near to my heart and one of my strongest passions. Those who struggle with a mental illness are not selfish or weak, nor do they chose it. This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. I hope that my mother’s story and my story will be inspiring to those who need it. If there’s someone out there who can relate, please know you’re not alone.