Relationships

“Missing out on mum”: Learning to love my mentally-ill mum

Justine Ocampo // March 20, 2018, 9:53 am

How to honour my mother-min

I missed out on a lot of things as a girl because of my mum’s mental illness.

I didn’t have someone to talk to about boys, about my period, about skincare. And I never had someone to nag me about inappropriate clothes, poor grades, my messy room or whatever else it is mums and daughters talk about. I couldn’t talk to her about my dad, sister or brother – and almost everything I talked about with my dad, sister and brother was about her.

I don’t think we had a relationship – and I’m not even talking a Gilmore Girls type of mother-daughter bond at all. I just don’t really know what I mean to her, and I don’t really know what she means to me. Our relationship was never normal, because practically everything was always centred on her – her struggles, her insecurities, her future, her past.

There are many young people out there who experience similar struggles in their relationship with their parent(s).

My hope for this article is that it would encourage those who are struggling to know that a parent is indeed a channel of God’s love for you – no matter how unconventional or non-existent your relationship may seem.

Just because I feel like my relationship with my mum is non-existent doesn’t mean I don’t love her. More importantly – and this a concept I’m still learning to accept – it does not mean my mother doesn’t love me.  

I always prayed for God to heal my mum, but my prayers had become more of a habit than actual fervent intercession. Part of me had already come to accept that her condition is just who she is. As a result, my love for her didn’t look like God’s unconditional love, but more like a dismissive form of acceptance.

My love for her was simply expressed as tolerance.

I thought that not being angry with her or the situation was already the best kind of love I could show. I thought that was already the best she deserved, because I deserved a “real” mum and she took that away from me.

I wanted to remain in a place of hurt because I knew it would hurt her as well.

But that’s not the love God has called us to give – like the love He has already given us through Jesus.

God’s love is sacrificial, selfless and forgiving. As children, we always just expect to be on the receiving end of the relationship with our parents – but I realised that God’s love calls us to do more. To love despite one’s weaknesses, to love without expecting anything in return – unconditionally.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—” (Ephesians 6:1-2)

Learning to love unconditionally was just one side of the coin. Over time, I realised I became a person who just didn’t expect to be loved in return at all. The idea of being loved had long been buried under the piles of disheartening and hurtful reminders of my mum’s unstable condition, which expressed itself in loud tantrums, irrational paranoia and violence outbursts.

A deeper struggle surfaced, which was my reluctance to believe and accept the fact that I needed and wanted to be loved. It became a form of self-protection. I refused to be vulnerable, fearing I would allow my mum’s condition to hurt me again.

God’s grace and forgiveness became difficult to accept because I had internalised the ungodly belief that it was OK for me not to be loved.

But wanting to be so loved isn’t a selfish thought – the ability to receive love is just as important as giving love.

Living with such a mindset, you could miss the greatest love of all that has already been given. You might shortchange yourself believing something other than the absolute truth, which is that you are unconditionally loved by God.

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

While doing my devotions one night, I suddenly began receiving many messages on my phone which was very distracting.

I thought it was a group chat or something – but it was my mum. She usually messages me random nonsense that I ignore, so I just continued with devotion. I even got angry at her because she was interrupting my quiet time. I was set on ignoring it even after I finished my time of devotion – but I felt prompted to read it then.

The message I opened read, “I hope you know you’re a blessing in my life.”

God broke my hardened heart as tears burst forth. I was reminded that amidst the frustration, selfishness, fear and anger – there is always love. Just as Romans 8:39 tells us, nothing can separate us from God’s love. No matter what form or shape it takes, God’s love for us is always present.

A part of me knows that these moments are rare and most days won’t be like this. She won’t always be in a good and rational mood, she won’t always express herself lovingly and I won’t always have the patience to love her.

But she is still my mum whom I am called to love and honour. Hers is the motherly love God has chosen to bless me with – to accept and receive in my life – and I am at peace with that.

“With His love He will calm all your fears” (Zephaniah 3:17)


This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway. From now till the end of March 2018, we are giving away a pack of limited edition Thir.st “Greater Love” Stickers in exchange for every story. Stories must have a personal/local angle and be of 800-1000 words. Send us yours here.