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Parenting with a Mental Illness

People often assume that those of us with mental illnesses are not capable of being parents. I’m not sure where they get that idea from exactly, but I think it is wrong.

For people like myself, one of the main issues in our life is not feeling enough love; whether that’s from a parent, a friend, or yourself. When you have children, not only do you feel an impeccable amount of love for them, but you feel it coming right back at you.

These little humans know they depend on you. They know your protection and guidance. They feel your love and only know how to love you. 

I can’t sit here and say I haven’t thought about how me having these conditions would affect my kids. I have, a lot.

I wonder if they will understand when I’m going through one of my tougher times or panic attacks. I wonder if they will begin to show signs of the same conditions just because they are watching me go through them. 

I just don’t want to fuck them up.

For the most part, I am pretty well disciplined in being able to hide my excessive emotions. I do my absolute best to not let them see me when I am frantic in my own thoughts. 

Just the other night was one of those nights. I was stressed, depressed, irritable, and just wanted some time alone. It was 11 o’clock at night. I really wanted to get out of the house and go for a drive to clear my head. My husband, being the worried man that he is, tries to convince me not to go. He knows my eyes are terrible in the dark.

I had just put Pickle to bed not long before this occurred. I knew he was still awake, but thought maybe he wouldn’t hear me leave.

He must have heard us both go outside (Chris had to move his car) because as I am approaching the car I hear him crying and yelling. We both came back in the house and I talk to Pickle.

He told me I upset him because he wanted to come with me. 

I do my best to be honest with my kids. I don’t want them thinking they have to hide their feelings from us. So I explain to him that I was feeling upset and just wanted to go for a drive to relax. He is still upset because he is convinced that he needs to come too. He even said he would sit quiet in his seat, in the back, while I sit in the front seat. He’s 4. He doesn’t understand why he can’t be out at 11pm when mommy is allowed to. I get that, but I explain to him how he needs to be in bed. 

Our conversation continued for probably 10 minutes. Then he says to me, “you made me upset, but I just love you.” It was then that I realized I wasnt going to leave. I couldn’t do that to him. So I told him I would take a bath instead.

I like to think I handle these situations delicately, but also honestly. I know that he sees when I am upset. Which then means he is watching how I deal with it. I am aware of these things and I like to believe that makes me a stronger parent because of it. I am always thinking about his perspective. 

In all honesty, I think the fact that I do have these conditions makes me more aware of his feelings and his perspectives so that he doesn’t have to go down the path that I did.

I really just don’t want to fuck up my kids.

I think all parents feel that way. We want the best for them. We want to give them more than we think can even offer. In a way it is wanting them to be a better version of ourselves. 

Having these conditions does not make me treat my kids in a negative way. Which, I think, is what people picture when they are thinking about someone with a mental illness being a parent. 

If one day one or all of my kids have a mental illness, I will show them the same love they have shown me through mine. Unconditional. I would hope they would find comfort in knowing I survived it, even in the toughest times. I would like to think I would give them strength to keep going, just as they do for me everyday. 

They are my reason and I am so grateful for them.

-Jenn

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