Mental illness hurts to talk about, well really mental illness just hurts. I don’t mean just mentally and emotionally; there are many times where your body physically hurts. Maybe it’s all in your head but that doesn’t make it feel any less real when you’re caught up in it. Your body aches and cries out for sleep even when you just slept the day away. When you have a mental illness and become a mom, sometimes it seems like you’re trying to climb up the Andes naked in the middle of winter. I know that sounds dramatic to most of you but if you’re a mom with mental illness, it probably sounds more accurate than dramatic. Most of my life I’ve struggled with keeping my symptoms in check.
Lately I’ve felt like I have a handle on it, thanks to things like; being in touch with myself, honesty with my loved ones, therapy, medicine, and herbs. But it’s always out of the blue that the symptoms come back and there I am desperately treading water again. Sometimes the episode only lasts an hour, other times it lasts a month. It’s true that everything is different when you become a mom but that doesn’t mean your mental illness symptoms magically go away. In fact for many moms they may get worse. Even in my worst moments I’m still been able to smile at my son’s antics. Yet, it’s hard because on top of those incredibly difficult symptoms, as a mom, I have this deep guilt and anger at myself for being sick. I do believe it’s a sickness and yet such a large part of me believes that I should somehow be able to be normal for my son’s sake. I worry every day that I’m going to set my son up for failure or create a negative inner voice in his head because of my own sickness. Mental illness runs rampant through a lot of the women in my family. Some of them have completely lost the battle with their sickness and are no longer in this world. Others are here but they’re not really themselves and haven’t been for a long time. I’ve witnessed firsthand the devastation that mental illness can cause on children.
Yet I have to keep hoping against the odds that it doesn’t have to be like that. I have to keep hoping that a mom with a sickness like mine can raise happy, healthy kids. On the surface I try to act like nothing is wrong because the judgment that gets thrown at mentally ill moms is way to much for me to bear on top of that deep self loathing and guilt of my own already simmering under the surface. All I know is that I try to acknowledge my feelings as real instead of ignoring them or writing them off; and then find a healthy outlet. For me the outlet I choose can vary greatly, but the how is not as important as the results.
I believe that any mom suffering from mental illness is not at fault. I believe that they deserve to take time to self soothe and pamper themselves. I believe they deserve a day in their pjs watching Netflix with their kiddos if they need it. Yet when I find myself needing those things, I get angry at myself. I often have to remind myself that being honest (with ourselves and those close to us) about our capabilities day-to-day is so important. Sometimes we have to stop to breathe and leave the dirty dishes in the sink, and that’s OK. Every day we are fighting this uphill battle against an invisible illness and trying our best (and more) to not let that invisible illness touch our children. Just remember moms, it’s not our fault we are sick and we are so much more than our diagnosis. As long as we stay honest and push ourselves for our children we are being great moms, illness or not.