The IMPACT Project – Zeenat Ladak

This is the first time my mom has openly discussed how having a child with mental illness impacted her. It’s the story of any mother who worries about her kids, tries to fix everything, and feels bad when she can’t. Opening up to my mom was the hardest for me, because we’ve always been really close and I felt so guilty about the pain my mental illness was putting her through – while she felt guilty about the pain my mental illness was putting me through. I don’t think I can say thanks enough, Mom.- AL


When Ameera asked us, her family, to add our perspective on her mental health, I must be honest – my first reaction was, I can’t express myself through writing, I like to talk! I did however quickly remind myself of the title of one of Ameera’s blogs: “No is my biggest motivator, “and so I begin…

Here is a mom’s story of her precious daughter going through some very sad times and I, her mom, asking “WHY didn’t I notice sooner?”

Chronologically I am a little foggy with the details of the exact sequence of events. So, I will start with what I thought to be the beginning (that is, for me). But for Ameera, it was much earlier. It was in the last two months of Grade 12 when Ameera was going through such a difficult time and the symptoms were stomach aches, headaches, not wanting to go to school, etc. that I noticed something was wrong. As a mother, I always tried to get the help of a doctor for all the physical symptoms. How many times I as a parent had said, “take these meds and get back to school,“ not realizing the depth of these symptoms.

I was frustrated with myself at not having the answers! Isn’t a mother supposed to “kiss all the owies better?“

I was feeling guilty for maybe not totally believing her, or believing her but not knowing what to do as I too succumbed to the daily pressures of life: work, chores, etc. I thought this would pass.

During these painful times, one of the activities we did together to take her mind away from the “pain” was to go on long drives. We would stop by at McDonalds to pick up her comfort food of chicken nuggets and Tim’s French Vanilla, pretty much what Ameera could stomach at the time. We would listen to music with Ameera educating me on the latest songs and making sure I could sing along with the correct lyrics!

I could not understand why she kept listening to the haunting music of this one particular soundtrack over and over again: the soundtrack of Aashiqui, a Bollywood movie about a musician who deals with mental health issues and alcohol abuse. I went along with it but couldn’t understand why at the time.

Why did the two movies Aashiqui and It’s Kind of a Funny Story (based on Ned Vizzini’s book about his hospitalization due to depression) mean so much to Ameera? Why did she make sure we watched these two movies together?

It wasn’t until later that I realized what Ameera was trying to tell me. At the time, I was totally clueless!

I quickly reacted to the physical symptoms (stomach aches primarily) and her physical health but ignored her mental health. These symptoms were there but often they are the silent ones so they get missed. When a person’s physical health is not strong, we as a society are more apt to respond and react appropriately and without judgement. When a person’s mental health is not strong, we judge instead of act.

Both the physical and the mental health are equally important and need to be nurtured. As a society, we tend to nurture the physical health more than we do the mental health. This needs to change. It must change.

In all honesty, I did not realize that Ameera’s mental health also needed to be nurtured until she had left home to go to university. This realization was followed by guilt.

Why didn’t I pick up on these signs? If it was a physical sign, I would have! Why didn’t I have those conversations?

I was right there beside her!

But was I? I couldn’t stop these thoughts.

Why was she going through all these experiences in the hospital by herself away from home?

Why couldn’t I bring her home? She could come back to her nest. Wouldn’t it be much easier to bring her home?  She could always go to university here in her home town rather than follow her dream of going to UBC.

Why? Why? Why?

Amidst the feelings of guilt, sadness and helplessness, I did not feel anger. I am not sure why.

It is not easy for a parent to leave a child in school after being to the hospital numerous times alone! No matter how old the child, no matter how close or far away from home.

Luckily YVR was only an hour plane ride away. It was going to be tough!

How will I cope?

One thing I was certain about was that here is a girl who has worked so hard to come to her dream school. At that moment, I vowed that I would do everything I could to empower her so she could fulfill her dream. Thankfully this was something our family believed in too. In June 2016, Ameera fulfilled her dream and graduated with honours from the Sauder School of Business.

But ultimately, this is not about me. It is about Ameera! If she can be so strong and determined then here is a lesson this child is teaching us, her family: to be strong too.

So now to understand the “why’s”?

To understand the “why’s”, conversations within our family unit became extremely important and helpful. Thanks so much to Shazya (my daughter) and Din (my husband).

My sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, the entire family has given and continues to give a great deal of support (only a phone call away) as I have continued to work through the “why’s”. Faith, prayers and meditation have helped me personally as I work through the feelings of guilt. Prayers are healing. It was Ameera, through her writing, sharing, and strength, who also helped me.

I still haven’t totally forgiven myself for not realizing earlier the “dark” space she has been in. One thing I do hope is that I can be part of that conversation constantly moving forward.

She doesn’t need to be alone. She is not alone. She has the tremendous support and love of her family and friends.

I would like to thank Ameera for coming out, sharing her feelings and her thoughts, and letting us into this “dark” space. I would like to thank her for starting this conversation. It can’t have been easy!

It is my hope that these conversations will continue to help her.

I urge all to nurture both the physical health and mental health, be it through medications and/or conversations. Keep the conversations going. Try to reserve judgement. I hope that one day these conversations will come easy without worrying about any stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness.

I am so PROUD of Ameera! I am so proud to be Ameera’s mom!

ameera - mom's blog

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One comment

  1. Zeenat this was such a beautiful piece. God bless your courage and strength as a mom and more importantly Ameera’s willingness to share her story. We love you both dearly. Mahmood and Khatun

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