A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.6 “Mental Health”

I have been struggling with my mental health issues lately, so I feel this letter is really important.


Dear daughter,

I have lived with schizoaffective disorder most of my life. Recovery and treatment have taught me to ask for help when I need it.

I hesitated to ask for help for my mental health issues when I was younger, but when I finally asked grandma and grandpa for help, they were right there and with treatment, life got a lot better. I wish I would have addressed my problems sooner. If you ever need help, I will be there for you, too.

I also had a destructive secret as a teenager and young adult — I was struggling with an eating disorder. What started out as skipping meals sometimes as a teen turned into a daily cycle of binging and fasting. Then when I got older I abused diet pills and laxatives. 

As you know me today, I’m no longer obsessed with restrictive diets or weight. In fact, I’ve gained a lot of weight with years of taking medications for schizoaffective disorder. My eating disorder is easier to cope with now that my other mental health issues have been addressed. I’m not saying things are perfect — just easier.

Food still causes me anxiety. I’m a picky eater often scared to eat at other people’s houses or restaurants I don’t know. I tend to eat the same foods over and over again. Sometimes I feel like these behaviors are the “leftovers” of my eating disorder and I really don’t know if they will ever change. Dad and I hope that you don’t inherit these habits.

I never want you to go down the same road I did. Always speak up if you are not feeling well — physically or emotionally. I understand how hard it is, but you really aren’t alone. We all need help sometimes and know that help is available. You don’t have to suffer. I will always support you and help you in any way I can. 

Every day you see me take pills for schizoaffective disorder; I will be taking pills for the rest of my life. It might sound discouraging, but I feel it is a small price to pay to live with fewer symptoms. Just like everyone else, my mental health symptoms are exasperated with stress, so it’s important that we all know our limits and when to say “no”. 

Unfortunately, considering your genetics, you are predisposed to mental health issues, but you should know by now that it’s not the end of the world. I’ve had a lot of success and happiness in my life despite having a serious mental illness. You are a part of that.

Take care of yourself mentally and physically. I will always be here for you.



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