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This story is the sixth installment of our Time to Talk series, exploring different aspects of mental health in Douglas County. In this installment we talked to several Douglas County mothers and local and state medical and mental health experts talk about the importance of seeking support and treatment.
• Maternal depression and the importance of feeling connected
• "Moms need to know that they are not alone"
• "I felt like I was failing all the time’
• Pregnancy related mood disorders affect the whole family
As an infant, Maureen Lake’s daughter was restless, finicky. In her younger years, she was prone to tantrums, boisterous. When she turned 16, she had no interest in getting her license or dating.
“She played with kids that were younger throughout her entire life,” Lake, who lives in Lone Tree, said. “She really, maturity-wise, was four years younger than her same-level peers.”
In her teens, Lake’s daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, Lake said. Now in her 20s, her daughter manages her mental illness with medication, therapy and holistic practices, including acupuncture and meditation. Next year, she will move out of state to start school for her master’s degree in acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
Life at the Lake household wasn’t simple or easy. Having one family member with mental illness impacted everyone in the family, from Lake to her husband to their two sons. From that experience, Lake has become passionate about helping other mothers and women who have been through similar challenges. She understands the sense of isolation, the feeling of not being a good parent. Moms need to know they are not alone, she said.
“If you don’t take care of yourself,” Lake, 63, said, “you can’t take care of your child.”
Lake, who worked as a special education teacher in Douglas County, had her own struggles in raising what she calls a “spirited” child. The stress was overwhelming. She worried about her daughter’s state of mind and the side effects of the prescription drugs she was taking.
“There were plenty of mornings I would wake up and really wonder if she would be alive,” Lake said. “There were some times that were just so fragile. Her depression and anxiety were crippling.”
Her daughter’s behavior was unpredictable. Her two sons, when they were grown, moved out of state to distance themselves from the family. Her husband worked long hours to cope.
“I kept her illness hidden from other people because I was ashamed,” Lake said. “I had my own personal journey that I had to work through to accept her for who she is. I’ll forever regret that I didn’t do that sooner because I know it impacted her.”
For years, Lake put her physical health on the back burner. She was forced to reevaluate her lifestyle four years ago when she developed a thyroid autoimmune disease caused by stress.
She stepped away from teaching and became a health coach. She changed her diet. She found solace in meditation and yoga. She cut loose toxic friends and family members in her life.
She wrote a book to empower and guide mothers with spirited children, called, “Being Happy, Raising Happy.”
And she takes pride in how far she and her daughter have come.
“The biggest gift I gave her,” Lake said, “is that I was always there for her.”
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