Mental Health Awareness Month & Mother’s Day - Coincidence?

May 8, 2024

It’s Mental Health Month and Mother’s Day - in comedy that’s what we call timing! I’m tickled by the chance to recognize mental health and my mother in the same month! What is it they say? Your parents know where the buttons are - they installed them? Lucky for me the worst “installation” my Mom did was to seize any opportunity to tell me, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” I’ll let you consider where hearing that often as a child might lead you. If you guessed 30 years, on and off, of mental health support, you win! And honestly so did I. Yes, I’m one of those therapy-is-good-for-everyone people. Like going to the gym. Instead of throwing up a red flag when I hear someone talk about what they do to stay mentally and spiritually fit, I admire them for their courage. My mother, may she rest in peace, although unlikely, was more of a shopper. She was an early adopter of retail therapy. In the era of Loehmann’s, that’s how she referred to her two to three hour Saturday excursions.

As much as I wish it were true, shopping has never done much for my mental health. It was this otherness from my mother that greatly contributed to my pursuit of professional help. That, and my father’s genes. Bipolar fits the profile of most of my ancestors from his side. Fabulously creative, too smart for their own good and wildly moody.

Interestingly, I always thought my mother was content with her life of shopping and thumbing through Gourmet Magazine. Until she came to visit me when I first moved to California. I have a clear memory of her sitting across from me in my one room apartment, glass of chardonnay in one hand, a Kent cigarette poised between two manicured fingers in the other. Following a long, sad exhale she said, “Good for you,” and then waving smoke away, added, “I never had your gumption.”

Gumption! What a fabulous old school word. I had to look it up. “Initiative; aggressiveness; resourcefulness, courage; spunk, guts.”

Although she wouldn’t say it outright, characterizing me that way was almost a compliment! From what I saw, it could also be used to describe some of the women rifling through the sale rack at her favorite store. Seeing me there in my own apartment across the country from everything familiar and more importantly her, I felt a crack in her armor.

When it comes to mental health, I’m grateful for my gumption. In fact, this month if you find yourself needing a nudge to feel better about anything in your life, think of my mother and her one big regret and allow me to loan you my gumption to get help. Use it to get outside for 15 minutes, dance around your room, or make the call to get the help you need. Because as a tribute to the late Ilon Specht - the eminent copywriter who famously penned the phrase my mother’s generation swore by, you’re worth it.