Being a parent is hard, and having a mental illness is hard. But when you are a parent with a mental illness, it almost seems impossible.
It has been a long road for me to be finally be able to admit I have a mental illness, and the one thought that always held me back was, ‘I’ll have my kids taken off me’.
I mean I can’t tell the doctor what I really feel and how I really act when I am depressed and/or manic. They will think I’m a bad mother, they will chuck me in a padded room and my kids will go into care. Those thoughts, though irrational, are extremely real for those parents who suffer.
The guilt that I feel is unfathomable. Guilt is a huge part of depression and it’s also a huge part of being a parent. So imagine how guilty I feel on a daily basis, I’m forever feeling like I don’t do enough for my kids.
Because as parents, were judged anyway. Our choices are picked apart and our decisions are ridiculed at some point or other. Especially if you’re a new parent. Or a young parent. Or a parent with a mental illness. I was all of the above once upon a time.
There have been sunny days I’ve spent curled up in bed, whilst the kids are playing in their rooms and the sun is shining through the windows and I know I should take them out to play, but I just can’t face the day.
They have seen me cry, and wiped my tears and my eldest boy has shown tremendous strength and a maturity beyond his years. Although I have never deliberately put them in danger, there have been times where there emotionally wellbeing hasn’t been met. The days I can’t look after myself, and I have struggled to look after them too. I always meet their basic needs but I just never feel like it’s enough.
That’s why I am working with a few agencies at the moment to help support me. They reassure me that I’m doing great and who knows, maybe I am. I’ve managed to keep myself and three children alive and that to me, is an accomplishment.
But no matter what they say, and how much they try to reassure me I will always feel a tremendous amount of guilt for not being well over the years. For being the fun parent one moment, and depressed the next. For not building those relationships with other parents in the playground because I’m too socially awkward, for not always completing their homework projects, for getting them to class late. I constantly feel like I’m letting them down.
The painful truth is that I was before, when I was in denial, hiding things from doctors and refusing to accept my situation. But I am taking my medication, I am engaging with health professionals, and I am trying my best every god damn day to be here for them.
In an ideal world it would be wonderful to be the perfect parent every day wouldn’t it? Healthy home cooked nutritious meals, perfectly neat uniforms, never snapping or shouting, an immaculate home and the best of the best of everything.
Though the reality is far from the above for a lot of parents, and you know what? it’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to be a parent and lose your shit from time to time, it’s okay to cry in the shower, to moan about the monotony of parenting, to want a break. To be a human being. It’s okay.
And for all those imperfect parents out there who don’t feel you’re doing enough, as long as you love your children – you are doing enough and you are enough. Hiding how we feel, mental illness or not, is when parenting becomes stressful and problematic.
So don’t be afraid to say it. Don’t suffer in silence.
I am a mother, and I have a mental illness. I am a mother and I have struggled. I am a mother and I love my children.
At the end of the day, that’s all the should matter.
Love, Laura xo