With Mental Health Awareness Month coming to a close, Smoot and I want to share a little more about our personal experiences with this important issue. I’ll preface that we were inspired to share our stories from the brave work of Val Van Galder, one of Smoot’s longtime friends from Los Angeles. Val’s passion project, Depressed Cake Shop, aims to raise awareness about mental health by partnering with local bakeries to create “depression-themed” treats—cookies and cupcakes with greyscale frosting. The goodies are meant to start conversations, promote awareness about self-care and mental-health resources, and raise funds for local mental health organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Val left her job as President of Marketing at Columbia Pictures in order to care for her father, who suffered from severe depression. Through the Depressed Cakeshop, she has found a way to honor her father’s life by helping others work through their own struggles with mental illness. Her work has prompted us to want to do the same, because we know that reading someone else’s story can bring awareness, compassion, and understanding to someone dealing with the same issue.
Both Smoot’s mother and my mother were stay-at-home moms who loved their families dearly, and both women suffered from a form of mental illness. My mother battled major depression and anxiety. Smoot’s mom struggled with bipolar disorder, which causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).
Being raised by parents with any type of mental illness can wreak havoc on children and can leave deep emotional and psychological scars. When we were growing up, it was taboo to talk about these issues--which led to very little understanding of how to cope. We are thankful that there is less stigma today, but this issue needs to be highlighted more than ever so anyone dealing with mental illness or living with a loved one with mental illness can have access to tools.
In looking for reference material to include in this post, I came across the following excerpt from a book by Michelle Dickinson-Moravek, whose mother also had bipolar disorder. Her crusade is to equip young people with information and more understanding.
In Dickinson-Moravek’s memoir Breaking Into My Life: Growing Up With a Bipolar Parent and My Battle to Reclaim Myself, she writes:
“The goal was not just to tell the story of my childhood, but to help people understand what it’s like to love someone with a mental illness. There’s been too much silence around this issue, too much hush-hush, too much stigma. I want to cause conversations to happen, so people realize that having a mental illness is just like having heart disease or any other health condition—it’s not anything to be ashamed of. The more we talk about it, the more people will get the help they need for loved ones or themselves. And, tools like the app 18percent that facilitate immediate peer to peer support can make all the difference for those struggling.”
Our ultimate goal is to join forces with other allies to make mental illness more understood, treated and accepted--to empower those with mental illness and their loved ones to find help and learn skills to cope.
The links listed are intended for informational purposes only. If you are in need of help, please reach out to a loved one or to a HelpLine like the one run by NAMI: 1 (800) 950-NAMI