'When My Mom Was Depressed, She Was a Stranger'

A reader responds to the heartbreaking story of Destiny, the 14-year-old reader whose mother died three years ago after a history of health problems:

If I may be so bold, I’d like to contribute my story of losing a parent at a young age; maybe there is something that Destiny can take away from it. My mom, Debbie, took her own life on September 28, 1989. I was 12; my siblings were almost 11, 8, and 5. My mom was 34.

All the stories I hear about my mom from my family and friends paint a picture of a woman who loved her husband unconditionally and flourished through motherhood. She loved children, and having four of her own who were healthy and happy was an endless source of joy for her.

She and my dad realized another dream when they bought a house on the coast near our home, and every Friday night we’d pile in my dad’s pickup truck for a weekend of togetherness in the tiny 800 sq. ft. house. I have fond memories of her pulling us to the beach in a wagon, or waking up to smell her cooking breakfast in the tiny kitchen, or raking pine needles that never seemed to end …

I don’t exactly remember when it started, but she began to obsess about her weight and started having intense mood swings. She was subsequently diagnosed as being bipolar and anorexic, which it turns out is a particularly horrible combination. She was in and out of inpatient mental health facilities for the last three or so years of her life and I learned to walk on eggshells; I assumed the role of enforcer in our home to make sure that no one or nothing “set mom off.”