by Sarah Fader
Originally published: June 26, 2016
I am a neurotic Jewish mother living in New York City with my two children, ages five and eight. It’s a familiar story here in the Big Apple. Where my story starts to diverge, however, is with my mental health. Unlike many of my fellow mothers, I am not just neurotic—I live with a panic disorder, PTSD, depression, and ADHD. On paper this looks overwhelming (no pun intended). But like so many of us living with mental illness, my diagnoses don’t define me, nor are they immediately apparent. Upon meeting me, it’s unlikely you’d feel something was particularly “wrong” with me. I come across as quirky, funny, and maybe a little anxious. But I certainly don’t look like the stereotypes we see in pop culture—you know, like the cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? (Thanks for that, Jack Nicholson.)
To be clear, I work hard to manage my mental illnesses through therapy and medication. I am endlessly dedicated to self-care. Unfortunately, as a parent I often feel the need to conceal my true identity from other parents, school administrators, and even colleagues. Disclose a mental illness? Are you kidding? We’re not even supposed to admit we sometimes choose the bottle over breastfeeding. I know I’m a loving mother, and yet I do have a disability that requires daily attention. I don’t want to give anyone another opportunity to question my skills as a parent. But it’s an exhausting and unnecessary charade.