Hanging by a Thread

Who hasn’t been there? Your grip on personal control unravels…and fast. Stability and confidence slip away, depleting strength and resilience. Suddenly your capacity to cope is at risk. Women, particularly mothers, understand this at the cellular level.

Personal strength and resilience fluctuate throughout everyone’s life. Still, expectations for parents run high. Self-imposed expectations cause the most damage. Parents with marginalized sons and daughters heap judgement on ourselves for not always measuring up. It’s rooted in being painfully aware of what’s at stake.

Protective instincts and vigilance are lifelong for parents with vulnerable sons and daughters. Mothers typically assume the role of chief advocate in the family. We become particularly tenacious, in search of better. We push, stretch and contort ourselves to support, connect, understand and glue relationship fractures.

We tend to deal with those struggles stoically, without proactively seeking help. But there’s a price to be paid. Hanging by a thread is real and dangerous. Putting great effort into keeping everything else afloat while ignoring your own needs sets you up for a free fall. Sidestepping a free fall takes courage.

Our personal vulnerability is exposed bare when we disclose life’s messy entanglements, our human frailty and fears. As with raw wounds exposure to fresh air and the light helps. Candid sharing invites fresh perspectives and much needed parental support.

Decades of advocacy have taught me that no matter how strong an advocate may appear, we all need support. Reaching out is both simple and daunting. The key is to act. If hesitant, try looking in the mirror, speaking your truth, then daring to say it aloud to others who you trust.

Nurturing a web of support offers far more secure than hanging by a thread. But maybe you knew that already.

Susan Dunnigan

November 2023