Content Warning: Depression, anxiety, OCD, disordered eating, self-deprecation, social ostracization, therapy, medication
My daughter’s journey with mental illness has shown me how these invisible struggles can quietly consume someone you love. For years, I watched as her bright spirit was dimmed by depression, anxiety, and OCD. Simple tasks became monumental efforts; leaving her room felt impossible some days. My vibrant child was suffering, and I felt powerless.
I cannot fully convey the depth of her inner turmoil: the constant voices telling her she was worthless, broken, and alone, the exhausting rituals she did just to feel safe in her own mind, the bone-deep fatigue making it impossible to even get dressed or eat. She described it as walking through quicksand, desperately fighting against forces trying to pull her under.
In public, she could often pass as “normal” in brief interactions—exchanging pleasantries, even smiling. But this performance came at a great cost. After any social encounter, she would have to pay the price through complex, private rituals to feel clean again. The pressure to conform to expectations of “normal” was immense.
But normal is different for each of us. One person’s normal is another’s impossible struggle. We must ignore the pressure to conform to one narrow definition of normal. My daughter’s normal is managing relentless rituals and fears—and that is okay. She should not be ashamed of her version of normal.
Throughout the years, we pursued multiple resources, searching for an understanding of what she was going through, why she was going through it, and how to make her life a little easier—therapy, medication, treatment centers—but progress was slow. Judgment from others worsened her withdrawal. Because mental illness is often invisible, people doubted her pain was real. “She seems fine!” they would say, misreading her smile. Their disbelief intensified her shame and isolation. My heart broke watching her isolate further into darkness.
Just recently, we found a ray of hope to lessen some of her struggles. After years of searching, we found a psychiatrist who truly listens and connects with her. With the assistance of medication and sincerely personalized therapy, new doors are slowly opening for her. She’s beginning to see possibility again, and she’s starting to recognize her inner strength. There are good days now, moments outside her four walls, and even a few stolen hours of feeling “normal” again.
To all families walking this difficult road—you are not alone. Celebrate small steps. Surround your loved one with patience and compassion. Keep nurturing that fragile light within them. My daughter is proof that with support, even deep wounds can begin to heal. There is always hope.
A mother who understands