Trying to Parent While Parenting Myself: Single Mom; How? Memorandum to My Son

Depressed, overwhelmed, angry —there is nothing wrong with these emotions. Life can feel like a tremendous responsibility when our stress meter rises above our capability. Feeling negative or having negative mind speak is not pleasant. As a single mom with two kids with disparate ages – 8 and 21, I am called to look at life with as many perspectives as possible especially when I feel these particular heavy emotions.

My son was recently diagnosed manic depressive severe with psychosis – essentially schizoaffective disorder. For the last year, I was aware his behavior presented atypical and I desperately wanted to believe, “If he moves back with me, he’ll get the attention he deserves. That’s all he needs.” Nothing could have prepared me for the heaviness of his symptoms or the aching divide I feel when I struggle between enabling and empowering his state of being. I’ve been riding a roller coaster of short highs and deep lows. I often ask myself — “How?!”

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How can I be strong enough to support both my children’s needs, how do I learn and cope with my son’s mental illness (it feels abusive and overloads my nervous system), how do I manage my household (something always needs repairs at the worst time), how do I grow my family-owned business, how do I ensure my romantic relationship thrives, how do I keep growing relationships that are important to me, and how-in-the-world do I parent myself inside all of this and keep my health and mindset in the green? (volcano errupting in my head)

It feels intense some days —to wade through all the to-dos, have-to’s, and want to’s. The tendency to fall back into feeling ‘I have to do it all now’ or ‘I’m not doing enough’ or ‘I’m doing it wrong‘ is pervasive but I’m learning new ways to explore the inner-critics.

As insidious as the-world-wide-web and social media has become, it has a diversity of advantages like being able to connect to amazing thought leaders, individuals, groups, and communities that illuminate ways to thrive in every-day-modern human experiences. I have spent time combing through preferred subjects and have developed a list of go-to strategies, managed in a playful way, and decided to create ‘a guide’ for my son who has a healthy yet equally arduous pursuit of demanding I explain in precise detail, how to do everything in life.

Even though my son has a mental illness that tends to grossly limit his capacity to break from cycles that keep him in a state of calamity, cyclical nature and patterns are intrinsic in human beings. He’s not the only one that falls victim to vicious cycles.

With that I begin a set of perky thoughts and ideas about self-development, growh, awareness, choice, and actions.


To: My son
CC: Anyone that reads
Date: September 02, 2022
Subject: How To Do Everything in Life – Part 1

  1. Strategy #1: My Brain + Breathe, Gratitude, and Awareness

Where would I be without my brain and breathe? Let’s face it, both are equivalent to life! So, I would like to acknowledge some truths about, first – our brain – and then breathe.

Fun Brain Facts

Reviewing these facts, my favorite three are (1) our brain isn’t fully formed until 25, (2) our brains can generate enough energy to power a lightbulb, and (3) information travels up to 268 miles per hour. Whoa! Imagine that! As much as I would love to elaborate on each fact, there’s so much more to cover; so I’ll leave it to you to choose which you enjoy best and why. And if you’re feeling up for it, I’d love to hear about it.

Now breathtaking facts about breath:

Fun Breathing Facts

After these two really cool facts about breathe, I feel it’s worth sharing some perspective about gratitude. I feel it’s essential – at any given time outisde or within internal conflict, circumstsance, and heavy emotions – to recognize the privelege to be self-aware, to process emotions, to imagine, think and take action, and breathe through it all. Recognizing this, in other words, is the essence of embodying gratitude. Gratitude. Being grateful that we are alive and conscious.

Gratitude Benefits

Maybe you’ve asked yourself, as I did, “How does being grateful help me when I’m angry?” Right on, I hear you. I notice when I’m feeling overwhelmed and angry, it’s not always true that gratitude helps on the spot. We will get to that point later on. Gratitude, though, requires a committment to practice. It’s considered intentional gratitude and developing it into a practice that becomes a habit.

When we choose to honor this practice, we add indefinite value to our lives and those around us. We start being able to appreciate so many things we are unable to notice when we run rampant with negative thoughts and high-ranking negative emotions. With a gratitude practice, we learn to build a new-found relationship with narratives that empower us and find joy and happiness in the process.

So, what is next? I’d recommend determining how much time and energy you are ready and willing to invest into yourself. A rule of thumb: it’s easier to change a little at a time than all at once. Decide the practice that looks and feels right to you -time and energy wise – but do it. I find it helpful to follow a guided gratitude journal like The Gratitude Sidekick Journal by Habit Nest or Big Life Journal – Adult Edition.

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The fact of the matter is, there are other skills and toolsets that support a trajectory forward in life. With that, I want to share three words:

Awareness. Choice. Action.

Depending on the circumstance and intensity of the moment, you will always have a choice to make. But first, I’d like to present a thermometer to help you gauge the intensity of what’s happening within your body and mind. When you stop to notice what’s happening, you are actively in the process of self-awareness. The more you stop and notice, the easier it is to implement (also known as integrate) information about yourself and others that you pick up along the way of noticing.

Feelings Thermometer

Let’s assume the following:

Green: You’re feeling calm, stable, and confident. That means whatever is happening, you’re collected and skilled to handle it. You are not easily distrubed.

Yellow: You are grounded, upbeat, energectic and can experience ecstatic moments of prolonged joy and enthusiasm.

Orange: You start to notice that something didn’t feel good to you. You have a judgement about someone’s behavior or experience followed by a sensation of disturbance in your body. You may recognize how irritated you are but it’s not something you can easily articulate. You’ve descended into feeling highly uncomfortable.

Coral: It’s a bit hotter in your body. You might start to notice racing thoughts along with repeated negative mind speak. You may notice a range of emotions from irritated to furious, maybe embarrasment, guilt, and shame, or hurt, sad, and depressed. You may withdraw entirely from the situation feeling resentment, misunderstood, anger, and/or sadness or deep grief.

Dark Coral: You’ve reached a level of intensity that is overload. You may identify areas in your body that radiates high level of tension. You’ve moved into an area where you’re not in control of your thoughts and you’re in extreme sensitivity – everything is magnified inside your head.

Red: You may be ready to take a physical course of action like scream, hit or punch something (hopefully not someone).

To be continued…

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