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Great mental health and addiction stories offer fodder for downtime reading

MinnPost photo by Andy Steiner

Not sure how you spent your Memorial Day weekend, but I tried to find some time over those three days to catch up on my reading. Some of that reading included digging into a novel I’m enjoying for my book group, but I also spent a few hours online, looking at stories focused on — what else? — mental health and addiction. 

For your reading pleasure, I’ve compiled a list of a few of my favorite recent online MH&A reads. Read ’em now, in one fell swoop, or save them for later — maybe over the next long holiday weekend. They’re all worth your time.

My first pick is this awesome piece from NPR and the excellent Only Human podcast, focusing on a 24-year-old doctoral student named Rose and her struggle to talk to her immigrant mother about her diagnosis of clinical depression.

The story does a great job illustrating the generational and cultural differences that exist between this thoughtful young woman and her loving-but-resistant-to-change mother. (My favorite line in the story is when Rose’s mom, after being asked if Rose’s diagnosis of depression makes her think of her differently, says, “I am proud of you, and you are the angel of our life.”) Special bonus: You can read the story — and listen to the podcast!

I’ll have to credit my friend and colleague Adam Wahlberg for the heads up on this piece from The Daily Dot, an important source of originally reported stories on online culture. The story, by Dot staff writer Selena Larson, focuses on the lifesaving power of Crisis Text Line, a 24-hour, volunteer-run all-text crisis line created by Nancy Lublin. This month, the service, which launched nationwide in 2013, announced plans to expand internationally. Larson’s story also includes a set of fascinating graphics based on stats gathered by Crisis Text Line.

Extra credit: If you are looking for more information on Crisis Text Line, you can always dig in and read this year-old New Yorker story about the program and its founder.   

I read a lot of blogs, because I am fascinated by people’s willingness to put their personal stories out in the world. Over the weekend, I stumbled across How is My Son?, a blog that details a mother’s years-long fight to keep her opioid-addicted son sober and alive. Blogs are not unbiased reporting, but rather an opportunity for an individual to tell his or her story. I may not always agree with each blogger’s political or religious opinions, but I always feel humbled when I am let into their lives, if only for a moment. 

• On the topic of parenting addicted adults, I found this Psychology Today article, with a list of seven key coping tips for mothers of addicts. The focus appears to be on how to strike a careful balance between love, independence, assertiveness and self-care.

• Over the weekend, I also found this painfully honest and important piece by blogger extraordinaire Bonnie Ratliff, in which she talks about her own depression — and about the personal damage caused by growing up under the shadow of her mother’s untreated mental illness. Ratliff, now a mother herself, calls her depression a chronic disease, and makes a point that helped me build a greater understanding of the impact of medication on depressive disorder:

“A few years ago, I read something online from a person comparing her depression medications to wearing glasses for the first time. She said that before she put her glasses on, she never knew that trees were made up of individual leaves – all she could see was a green blob.

“Before she tried anti-depression medications, she believed she was a lazy person who couldn’t be bothered to do things right and this made her hate herself. After the meds, she was able to see clearly for the first time that she wasn’t lazy; she was depressed. She wasn’t a bad person; her brain just wasn’t working right.”  

It may seem hard to find inspiration in stories of parents losing their young children, but this story by Joanna Moorhead in The Guardian manages to dig deep enough into the story of a woman’s life after the death of 19-month-old son to get to an important kernel of meaning, asking the important question, “How should a grieving mother behave?”

• And now, time for a little humor. Those of us who have had the honor of being a parent know that the job is one of great highs and lows, moments of overwhelming love and joy accompanied by moments of exhaustion and hair-pulling anxiety. Last night, right before I signed off the computer for the evening, I ran across this darkly humorous piece from Brain, Child magazine, by writer and photographer Jennifer Mattern. It’s part day-in-the-life story, part cry for help. Enjoy.

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