A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

My Mental Health Journey (Part 1): A Halloween Retrospective

Looking back on old Halloween pictures has me feeling a little nostalgic today. Time sure flies when you’re herding a litter of babies.

I’ve always loved Halloween. Now, as a mother, I love it even more. (Most of the time.) Some years are better than others. It all kind of depends how I’m managing the crazy. 

This was a really good year:

Iris and Nature Boy as A Farmer and her Prize Eggplant, Halloween 2000, Oakland California

That was back in the day when I had only one child. Things were simpler back then. Hard to believe my big hulking 12 year old Nature Boy was ever *that* little (or ticklish).

The next two years are a blur…

Cowboy, Halloween 2001, Winston-Salem, NC

Dinosaur, Halloween 2002, Winston-Salem, NC

We moved from California to North Carolina so I could take a big fancy executive job. It was not what we thought it would be. Less than a year later, I got pregnant with Mini-Me and quit that horrid job. Then we sold our new home at a loss and moved to Georgia. Soon after, I would be diagnosed with clinical depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Good times.

Our first Halloween in suburban North Georgia, I didn’t have a job or any friends yet so I kept busy nursing the baby, sewing things, and crying.

Little Miss Muffet and The Spider, Halloween 2003, Metro Atlanta, Georgia

So proud of his eight legs.

Damn, that was a rough time. Several months later, we lost one of our young nephews to a tragic car crash and my only brother was nearly killed in a freak sledding accident. Most of 2004 is a fog to me.

Yet life goes on.

The older the kids got, the less ambitious I became with their Halloween costumes. Not unrelated, this was around the same time I started developing a taste for wine.

Kitty and Spiderman, October 2004.

Then we got new neighbors who would become our BFFs. The next year was a good year…

Princess and Vampire, Halloween 2005.

So good in fact, that I went and got myself knocked up again like a dumb ass.

And that’s why the following year I was way too tired to do anything but borrow a plushy unicorn costume from a neighbor and rip up some of Nature Boy’s clothes to turn him into a zombie at the 11th hour:

Gestating Iris performs last minute zombification, Halloween 2006.

Zombie and Unicorn, Halloween 2006. The socks kill me.

Not my favorite Halloween. Hard to keep up with the big trick-or-treaters who want to run from house to house when there’s a bowling ball on your bladder. I may or may not have publicly urinated that year. I’ve blocked it out.

So that was our first six Halloweens…some bitter, some sweet, but all part of the journey. Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of My Mental Health Journey: A Halloween Retrospective and see the one and only time my husband dressed in a costume. Spoiler alert – there’s lots of skin. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Stay tuned…


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris. All rights reserved.


  1. Pricilla - Famous SpokesGoat

    Fortunately I don’t have to dress up although the publicist made me wear pearls for a photoshoot once. The things a famous SpokesGoat must do.

    I wish I could give you a goat hug in person. They are very healing you know. So I send you a cyber one instead.

    • The Bearded Iris

      I’ll take it! Thanks Pricilla. 🙂

  2. Leighann

    Love all the costumes!
    I also love your determination. You’ve been through a lot, and although I’m sure you may have wanted to give up, you didn’t!
    You are pretty awesome my friend.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Thank you Leighann! Sure makes me feel grateful for the good times, remembering the times that weren’t so good. It’s all about perspective. xoxo – Iris

  3. Another one

    So glad for your honesty. Glad there are others out there. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago everyone had a story about their grandmothrrmvisiting the sanitarium. All we have is wine!

    • The Bearded Iris

      You are so right… our generation probably uses wine the same way our grandmothers used valium and/or the sanitarium. Shoot, I tell my family all the time I would gladly welcome a 28 day rehab with Dr. Drew… it would be a fucking vacation away from all these kids and pets and rolling dust-bunny tumbleweeds. BRING IT.

      Thanks for being “another one” and helping me feel more normal! 🙂

      • Michele

        I pine for the days of valium and/or the sanitarium. For reals. All I have is coffee and Vyvanse, and it ain’t enough. I need 6 months away from these people, guilt-free.

        • The Bearded Iris

          It totally ain’t enough. I hear you! Sometimes I fantasize about running away, hobo style with a bandana on a stick and nothing but a can of corn and a bottle of wine in a paper bag. Is that wrong?

  4. Mary the Oinkteller

    As the song goes, I think I love you. You’re an amazing woman and mother and I very much appreciate that you put yourself out there in the way that you do. Thank you. I wasn’t ever diagnosed but I had awful postpartum depression – the kind that lasted until Small turned three. You’re so right that remembering the challenging times puts the present in perspective! Keep the faith, lady. And keep the corkscrew handy. I’m tipping a glass to you at cocktail hour (which may or may not start early today – we’ll see how well I handle the glue gun today).

    • The Bearded Iris

      Aw, Mary! That makes me feel all warm and tingly…in a totally not creepy way, either. Thank you.

      It took me three days to write that… I kept deleting and starting over and cringing the whole time hearing certain people’s voices in my head telling me to keep it to myself and not embarrass my family. But fuck that. “We are only as sick as our secrets.” Of course, I don’t think I could have written this before now. It definitely takes some distance to feel confident that the darkest days are behind me. (Knock on wood.) And cheers to you come cocktail hour today. Good luck with that glue gun, honey.

  5. Meili

    Iris, I’ll just add my voice to the ones that say, “YOU ARE ONE HELLUVA MOTHER,” and I mean that in a good way. Hallowe’en is a rough time at my house, too. Spazzy Girl’s birthday is right before, and I always remember her first Hallowe’en and how simple things were when she was 5 days old and my whole world. Sleep deprivation and nipple blisters seem like a cake walk compared to ADHD, PDD, plus 2 other little girls and all the related detritis. So, you make me feel like mothers of the planet are all dealing with the same struggles, and however we get through it, (wine, prayer, scrapbooking weekends, girlfriends, Xanax), as long as our kids are the priority and we do right by them FIRST, I say we’re well within our rights. After all, what’s a little public urination compared to electro shock therapy????

  6. Sarah

    I have been known to yearn for a 72 hr lockup. They have showers there, right?

  7. Mel

    Wow! These are some cute kids and one really determined mama to make it fun for them. It’s funny how when you’re the kid you don’t realize how much work goes into making all of these things special! Can’t wait to see the next installment.

  8. Didi

    LOL!!! Kudos to you my friend!! I can empathize, no, not sympathize, EMPATHIZE!!!

    I have 5 kids, 2 of them twins… I can honestly say for at least 7 yrs of my life, I honestly don’t remember… the kids do, strange. They keep telling me how I did this for them, how I did that… that this was the best….
    I have no clue what their talking about!! No I’m not joking!! I never went to a dr. but I’m sure I was depressed an had anxiety issues. No I KNOW I DID!!! But obviously in my case (and in yours), the mommy gene kicked in and we did what we had to do…
    That’s the good things are kids remember… do they remember us drinking enough wine to shame a celebrity?? Ummmm probably not, I say that’s a GOOD THING!!

    My older kids are now in exact birthing order; getting married next year (INSERT WTF BRIDEZILLA HERE) *hmmmmf clearing throat*, twin A has no clue what she wants, but enjoys working and putting money away, COOL!!! Can mommy have a loan??? What????
    Twin B; married a looser, finally realized it (after mommy TOLD HIM SHE WAS A FREAK OF NATURE) and is now in the midst of divorce!! What???
    Thank God!!!! No kids!!!

    Sixteen yo; National Honor society, amazing girl, beautiful… the most insecure child I’ve created!! WTF????
    14yo; Student council, class president, gorgeous, nice, considerate and mommy’s little girl… I ADORE THIS CHILD!!

    Yeah, yeah, save it!! Like we all don’t have a favorite, yeah okay!!!!

    So, back to subject at hand; Since I’m a nurse and I’m currently on disability cuz….. are you ready??? I had a heart attack on 9/11!!! Yep, 45 YO and I had a FREAKIN HEART ATTACK!!! Are you F… KIDDING ME???? Thier dressing up in my garbs as NURSES!!! Both are not trick or treating. One is going over to her BFF’s house to pass out candy. My baby is staying home to pass out candy…

    I’m really debating on dressing up as the dead and scaring the living daylights out of the kids… dh is not cool on that, I’M LOVING IT!!!

    What do you think???

  9. Shannon

    You are a great person and have an awesome blog! I know for some years, it would have been easier for me just to say, “Kids, can’t you just turn your clothes inside out and wear THAT as a costume?!” Wish I could find a wine that I like….I think the best wine I ever had was some that one of my ex-boyfriends’ dads had made. Little did I know that it’s probably the equivalent of prison hooch but it was awesome!

  10. Michele

    Homemade Halloween costumes occupy their own level of unrealistic-mothering-expectations hell. Nobody cares except the poor woman torturing herself into the wee hours to make the d@mn things. My time is precious – and I’ll spend it commenting on blogs and drinking wine, thankyouverymuch. 😉

  11. Jill

    How strange and co-dependent is it, that no matter how depressed we are we suck it up for out kids. You managed to get costumes no matter what. Way to go mama.

    Never feel guilty about the wine, it helps.

  12. KC

    We don’t really do Halloween in Australia. That said, my son and two of his wee friends have raided the cupboard and between them come up with an octopus, cyberman and skeleton to go round the corner to another mate’s house to beg for sweeties. I’m staying here and drinking the wine.

    Mental illness affects 1 in 5 adults each year. Half of Australia’s population will suffer a mental illness at some point in their life. It is only by people talking about mental health issues that we begin to tackle the ridiculous stigma around it. Thanks for sharing. Right – I’m off to have that glass of wine and nick a sweetie or two from the boy….

  13. j

    Thank you for your honesty woven in with impeccable humor, done only as you are able.
    You keep it real and that’s why we love you!!

  14. jenny

    I knew there was something awesome about you! Here’s to keepin’ it real. (raising my glass to you).

    • The Bearded Iris

      Cheers, Jenny! Thanks!

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