What I Will Tell My Future Children If They Inherit My Mental Illness

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via John Flobrant

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Bipolar Disorder

Group of people under umbrellas in rain

What the Weather Would Look Like if It Was Actually 'Bipolar'

The weather is particularly tricky to diagnose, as any meteorologist will tell you. Yet so many of us are quick to confidently call it “bipolar.” I know society is generally becoming more educated about my disorder, and I’m not even offended by that saying anymore. However, it does us all a disservice by spreading the [...]
man with leaf

Diary of a Mixed State

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. My eyes open. It’s 10 a.m. Nothing but darkness, with a slight shine breaking the edge of the black sheet blanketing the window. I shield my eyes with the [...]
woman's hand delicately holding pink rose with drops of dew

How My Mind With Bipolar Disorder Is Like My Rose Garden

While in my flower garden recently, pruning and watering my long-suffering rose bushes, I began to think about my life with bipolar disorder and how I, too, am like a plant that is often slow to flower, with medicinal fertilization and psychological pruning hardly providing relief. There has been no master gardener able to clear [...]
black and white image of woman in checkered shirt sitting in field looking at camera straight-faced

When People Invalidate You Because of Your Bipolar Disorder

Hi. I’m in a bad mood — a murderous mood in fact. Call it being moody, call it irritable, call it stress; for me, it’s cyclothymia or bipolar III disorder. A mood disorder, whichever name you know it by. This title earns me the privilege of — when stating my grievance — to be asked [...]