Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Literary Mama Rewind: Mental Illness

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Welcome to Literary Mama Rewind!  Every few weeks we'll round up some of our favorite essays, stories, poems, columns, and reviews from the Literary Mama Archives relating to a particular theme.  This week we're exploring what it's like to live with a mental illness that challenges our mothering. All you have to do is click and read....

 

  • Marooned by Erika Trafton in Creative Nonfiction

The sunny day lured us to the park. I'd just picked my son Julian up from preschool. Parents sat on benches circling the play structure. They looked bored. I cried silently behind black sunglasses, my brain under siege, again.

It is 9:30 a.m. Winter sun streams in through the frost-marked bedroom windows. I haven’t brushed my teeth, haven’t slept since 2:00 a.m., I haven’t eaten since retching on toast the night before. I am standing on the top of our stairs swinging our crying baby in her car seat, up and down, up and down.

  • Absolution by Erin Sullivan in Creative Nonfiction

I own the books. The bible for families like ours, Surviving Schizophrenia by E. Fuller Torrey, sits on my bookshelf, unread for years. I should read it, of course, but there are things that I don't want to know.

Conceal from your husband that you don't get dressed until right before he gets home from work. Go into psychoanalysis. Learn that you are an ambivalent wife and mother. Feel relief at the ease with which your daughter starts school.

  • Down Comes Mama by Rebecca Kaminsky from the Column "Down Will Come Baby"

Ever since the accident, I felt like I was disappearing. I no longer participated in conversations. I hid behind Simon. Everyone fussed over him with his beautiful blond hair and fat red cheeks. All the store clerks knew him by name.

Sign here, please. Then I was in. Through the security post with its codes and keys. Past the nurses' desk where curious looks followed me. Into a hospital. The place smelled like a hospital. I hadn't thought of this as a place for the sick, only for the mad.

And instantly I want to speak to your mother. To tell her how peaceful you look and how your face seems dream-like and content, as though you'd known you'd done the right thing. Just as suddenly I want to grab you and shake you and scream at you for what you'd just done to her. She's your mother for God's sake, I'd say, how could you do this to your mother?

Postpartum depression (PPD) afflicts somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of all women who have recently given birth, and yet it is one of the most misunderstood and overlooked illnesses in American society.


Amanda Jaros is a freelance writer and blogger, focusing on nature and science stories. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines including Terrain.org, Newfound, Life in the Finger Lakes Magazine, Highlights for Children, and Cargo Literary. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Chatham University.


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