Parenting with Mental Illness

Mild anxiety and depression have always been a part of my life. I hid it well in my younger years; coping by using eating disordered behaviors to ease any feelings I didn’t like. I purged my food after binging while alternating that with periods of restricting my intake of food.

As I got older, I began self treating in other ways. I would abuse prescription pain medication that was given to me for a chronic arthritic spinal disease. I abused my anxiety meds by taking whole bottles at a time so I could spend the day in bed.

Being a mom is hard and brings a new, additional set of challenges. Dealing with my mental illness has not been easy. But, I learned to give myself grace… it was the only way I could, and can, keep going.

My children have been to the sterile white walls of a psychiatric hospital to visit mommy. They knew only that mommy was sick and not the exact reason why. They have visited me in residential treatment where I spent 30 days away from them getting an accurate diagnosis and trying to find a treatment that would make me able to function.

I love my kids. With every hospitalization (which now is over 70 days total spent in a psychiatric facility) I have had to deal with the mommy guilt. As if there isn’t enough guilt with parenting all on its own, I had to learn to tell myself that I was doing what was best for them by helping myself. I told myself that over and over and it took years for me to accept it.

Life is far from perfect now. I’m more stable and my suicidal ideation has dissipated for the most part. I no longer look for ways to hurt myself. But, I still have my days where depression looms and I want to hide away in bed for the day. I know my children are always watching. So I try with everything in me to push on if for no other reason than to teach them strength and resilience.

I want them to know that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t want them to stigmatize others or feel stigmatized themselves should they ever have any sort of mental illness. They know I go to therapy, take meds and have ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) twice a month. I’ve talked to them about mommy being sad sometimes and that it’s ok to have down days.

I want them to know that I fought for myself and for them. That I fought to be here for the little moments and the big moments. That I gave myself enough grace to accept the bad days and embrace  the good ones.

~Lindsay