“I’m Glad My Mom Died”: The Sad Reality Behind Our Favorite Childhood Shows


Elizabeth Ippolito

Author: Jennette McCurdy

Rating: 2.7/5

Trigger Warning: This article contains a discussion of alcoholism, depression, eating disorders, domestic abuse, and anxiety.

I hate being known as Sam. I absolutely hate it. I’ve tried to find peace with it, but I haven’t. When people say ‘you look like that girl from iCarly’ I just say, ‘Nope, not me’.

— Jennette McCurdy

“I’m Glad My Mom Died” is a memoir written by Jennette McCurdy, who many of us know from her role as Sam on “iCarly” and again as Sam in her spinoff “Sam and Cat”. As these shows molded many 2000s kids’ childhoods, much like they did mine, the abuse going on behind the camera was masked. McCurdy wrote this memoir as a way to cope with her mother’s death and a way to expose her true feelings about the entertainment industry.

McCurdy describes her early childhood and her start in acting as anxiety-inducing and forced into the spotlight. She recalled many moments where she often went along with her mother’s ideas just so she wouldn’t upset her. Most of the book relates to Debra McCurdy’s battle with breast cancer. She beat it when Jennette was very young and it ultimately caused her death in 2013. Debra constantly reminded Jennette of her cancer and used it to emotionally manipulate her. 

Debra McCurdy’s personality was difficult. She was manipulative, meticulous, and stubborn. She revoked Jennette’s childhood by forcing her into acting and punishing her if she didn’t get the roles she had auditioned for. She homeschooled her and made acting Jennette’s entire life. She forced her into beauty habits meant for adults at a young age, Jennette remembers, “Each ‘good’ thing Mom says about my ‘natural beauty’ is followed up by a downside, which serves as the justification for its need to be enhanced by a little good old- fashioned store-bought beauty”. Jennette talks about how this added to her stress with work and her OCD. She mentions that she had to mature at a young age and present different versions of herself to casting directors, and portray herself in a way that wasn’t her.

The main focus of her book is her struggles with anorexia and bulimia. McCurdy hid her eating disorders and struggles from the public for years. Now while she is still in recovery she explains that she is in a much more healthy place than she had been in the past. One of the most heartbreaking behaviors of her mother was how she taught Jennette how to restrict calories when she was only 11 years old. “‘Well, sweetheart, if you really want to know how to stay small, there’s this secret thing you can do… it’s called calorie restriction’”. Jennette describes starving herself to delay puberty so she would stay looking younger longer and be able to play younger roles. All of this was her mother’s idea.

What most people picked up the book for is Jennette’s inside scoop on Nickelodeon. She explains that she was offered $300,000 to keep quiet, which she ultimately refused. She describes creepy and predatory behaviors of a character who she refers to as “The Creator” but fans know she is referring to “iCarly” creator Dan Schnieder. “I feel similarly around the creator as I do around Mom– on edge, desperate to please, terrified of stepping out of line. Put them in the same room and I’m overwhelmed”. She describes the mental abuse she faced from Schnieder for fans’ entertainment and the promises that never followed through. When she worked on “iCarly” she describes partaking in behaviors that broke the rules of her Mormon religion and her comfort zone. She was also promised her own spinoff, “Just Puckett” during season one of “iCarly”. Ultimately she was given “Sam and Cat” and ended up sharing the spotlight with Ariana Grande. 

The final aspect of the memoir is Jennette’s struggles with alcoholism. “When I’m drunk all of my worries disappear– hating my body, the shame I feel about my eating habits, coping with my dying mother, starring in a show I’m humiliated to be a part of– it all just goes away”. Jennette describes using alcohol to cope with the triggers listed above. McCurdy is not the only child actor to go through this toll. Amanda Bynes, Jodie Sweetin, and Macaulay Culkin to name a few had a very similar experience to McCurdy and faced similar difficulties with substance abuse.

This is linked to “Child Star Syndrome” which is the term used to describe the troubled adult life of a child actor. Paracelsus Recovery links child actors to PTSD and other mental health challenges. Many child actors are working while their brains are still developing thus making what happens to them during this period influential on their mental abilities. “When a child experiences a traumatic or abusive event, their brain releases ‘toxic stress’. Prolonged and frequent exposure to toxic stress levels can rewire parts of their brain, setting the stage for post-traumatic stress disorder later in life.” This shows why Jennette was so affected by her time on Nickelodeon and how her unhappiness during her career lasted into her late twenties.

Overall, while “I’m Glad My Mom Died” is a high-demand novel right now, it is not a read for everyone. Every single one of the 91 chapters can be deemed triggering. With intense details and memories, Jennette McCurdy gives a 360-degree view of her life. While I was disappointed by the lack of coverage on her Nickelodeon days I was intrigued by her journey. But, “I’m Glad My Mom Died” has an interesting nontraditional approach to a memoir and covers a lot of topics prevalent in today’s society.