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  • Writer's pictureEmily Johnson


I see you, mom. I see your tired eyes, your strong shoulders and your gentle hands. I see the endless ribbons of love you wrap around your most precious gifts.

I feel you. I feel your pain, your frustration and your desire for quiet moments alone.

I know you. I know your joy, your courage and your unconditional love. I am you.

We are mothers and motherhood is the centrifugal force ubiquitous to us all.

So here we sit; in the mayhem - dizzy. Together and apart with endless parts and pieces revolving around us.

In the past nine years, every stage in the game of motherhood mayhem for me has presented different contestants. The competition this year is fierce. It’s name is not COVID-19. It’s name is PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptoccocal Infections).

In mid January I watched my third grader’s behavior and personality drastically change almost overnight. It was like a switch had been flipped and my baby was gone. Our casual, relaxing afternoons, evenings and weekends were replaced with rage and destruction. A laundry list of neuropsychiatric signs and symptoms appeared which included OCD, Tourette’s and suicidal ideations. This I was certainly not prepared for. I was also not prepared for the lack of answers or the lack of support beyond a bandaid for a hemorrhaging wound as I quickly tried to seek support for my child and our family.

Motherhood exposes us to a myriad of forces we barely even understood in high school physics. Personally, the journey has often resembled a game of tug o’ war; a constant pushing and pulling between the undeniable energies of dreams and reality. Pull too hard and you could hurt someone; or let go and break your ass. There is no equilibrium and even if there was, no one would advance. ( I should let you know by the way, that while I took AP Physics, I failed the exam miserably so don’t use this as a science lesson for your kids).

I was not prepared for my first born to have six emergency room visits and four inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations in the past three months - much like my own mother was not prepared for when my brother had a tragic accident on Mother’s Day eleven years ago leaving him a paraplegic. Mayhem happens on all scales - big and small. The tug o’war can leave you with a bruised tailbone flat on your back or with a lacerated forehead face down in the mud. But it’s the centrifugal force of unconditional love spinning deep within that holds mothers together even when it feels like we are falling .

And let’s be honest - right now the entire world might feel like it is collapsing. You might feel an incredible heaviness; a cumulative result of grief that has been building. I’m pretty sure we’ve all felt moments of this in the past weeks as we wake up to Groundhog Day with no magic yellow school bus in sight. But do me a favor - take a breath - feel that.

Feel the INHALE and the long, slow EXHALE. It’s ok. Look at those little people (or bigger people) you tenderly care for day in and day out. See those people growing up right before your face? Lock eyes with those people - that’s where the equilibrium lies and no one falls down.

What a privilege.

What a joy.

What an experience - motherhood mayhem.

Alone and together… maybe even in and out of mental hospitals.

PS - For more information about PANDAS or PANS please visit or

Or drop me a line. I share this so that no other parent has to go through this alone.

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