I do not have children, and I am not pregnant. My husband and I are not planning on having kids in the immediate future. And yet from time to time, my mind wanders towards the tiny humans we will bring into this world and how my mental illness may very well get passed on to them.
I struggle with bipolar II and anxiety — two illnesses that stand a chance of being passed on along with the rest of my genetics. It’s not a 100 percent certainty — I know this — and it will happen no matter how much or how little I worry. I know that too. So all I can do is prepare for the eventual possibility our child may be like his mother in a way no parent would choose.
On the bright side, I’ll be able to guide them a little. While no two cases are the same, I have a blueprint, however messy, I can pass on to them. I will do everything in my power to smooth the path. And if that is a path we must go down, here is what I will tell my child:
1. There is nothing wrong with you. This is an illness. This is not you.
2. You will get through this. It won’t always be easy. You will have good days and bad days, but your father and I will be there through both.
3. You will watch me have bad days. Don’t be afraid. Just because we have the same illness does not mean we will experience the same way. Please don’t think that you will have to fight every battle that I do.
4. Self-care isn’t selfish. Learn what puts you at ease. Think about what makes the stress and the sadness and the uncontrollable energy go away. Those are the things we will make a point to do, and if you need to stay home a day, say so.
5. There’s nothing wrong with taking medication. Don’t get me wrong, we will do everything to make sure you are on the right medication. But lots of people take medication for lots of things. This is just yours.
6. You are strong. You are a gladiator. I know you won’t feel like it some days, but you are.
7. It’s not as rare as you think. When I finally started telling people about my bipolar disorder, people opened up to me about the bipolar people in their lives and their own struggles. I also found out how many people struggle with anxiety, so when I got my diagnosis I didn’t feel quite so alone.
8. Not everyone will get it. Give them credit for trying. Just because they don’t understand doesn’t mean they don’t care about you.
9. Celebrate the little victories. You’d be amazed how quickly they add up.
10. I will always love you — good days, bad days, difficult days and celebratory ones. Your father and I love you.
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Unsplash photo via John Flobrant