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  • Writer's pictureDawn Helmrich

It’s Ok Not To Be OK

Updated: Feb 22

Ten years ago, when I was 42, I got asked to contribute to a Washington Post article. The title was “‘I need to tell you something’: How survivors of sexual assault tell their children.” I wanted to help other parents understand my struggle in telling my children what I had been through. Because of all my mental health issues I often wondered, am I telling my children because I need to do this for them or for me? Was I trying to absolve myself of the guilt I felt inside? One of the most profound things that came out for me by doing this article was the following quote I gave.

“I think in the beginning I thought of it almost as an absolution. I wanted to absolve myself of the guilt I felt. I thought, ‘If I tell them and they think I’m stupid or did something wrong, at least they will get it off their chest, and I will move on. ‘


“But as I got older and a little wiser, I changed my perspective. I thought, ‘How empowering it can be for them to know the kind of resiliency that is within them. Here I am. Their mom. I got married. I own a home. I got a Master’s degree. I teach at a college, and I have a full-time career. I did all these things. Despite what happened.

Even though I know that all these things exist inside of me, and I am proud of my accomplishments, one very important thing stands out for me. When I told my children, they were so proud of me. It was a wonderful feeling, yet something my son said has stayed with me over the last 10 years. He said, “Mom this explains a lot, now I finally understand why you act the way you do sometimes.” I didn’t realize that my mental health was having any effect on them, but it was and it was important for me to recognize that, acknowledge that I played a role in how they have suffered for their whole lives and what I could do moving forward to help them process what I had been through.

I know even now, now that they are adults, I often keep my deep emotions to myself. It’s still hard for me to share with them when I am not doing well, when I am depressed, or sad, or lonely, or scared. I don’t want them to have to bear that burden. But they do, whether I think I am hiding it or not. Plus, my daughter can almost immediately tell when something is wrong. She has a lot of practice.

The best thing that I can do for them is to be honest. Honest with them, but also honest with myself. I don’t have to be an emotional superhero. Or maybe my superhero powers are to provide them with an understanding that sometimes it is simply ok to NOT be ok.

The second episode of “Shining Light on Shadows: A Candid Conversation About Mental Health” will take place Thursday, February 22 at 6pm CT. My co-host Neil Parekh and I will focus on the impact of our mental health challenges on our children. My good friend Candace Sanchez will be our guest. We will be live on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and Neil’s website. If you can’t watch the show live, you can watch the recording at your convenience.

*We won't know the exact urls for Twitter and Instagram until we go live. The Twitter link goes to Neil's Twitter account. The Instagram link goes to my Instagram account.


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