Why I Won't Have ‘Mommy Guilt’ About My Mental Health
Mild anxiety and depression have always been a part of my life. I hid it well in my younger years; coping by using eating disorder behaviors to ease any feelings I didn’t like. I alternated between periods of binging and purging and restriction.
As I got older, I began self-treating in other ways. I would abuse the prescription pain medication that was given to me for a chronic arthritic spinal disease. I abused my anxiety medication by taking whole bottles at a time so I could spend the day in bed.
Being a mom is hard — it brings a new set of additional challenges. Dealing with my mental illness has not been easy, but I’ve learned to give myself grace. It is the only way I can keep going.
My children have been to psychiatric hospital with the sterile white walls to visit mommy. They only knew that mommy was sick and not the 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 allow me to function.
I love my kids. With every hospitalization I have had to deal with the “mommy guilt.” As if there isn’t enough guilt surrounding parenting by itself, 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 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 medication and receive other types of treatments. 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. I fought to be here for the little moments and the big moments. I gave myself enough grace to accept the bad days and embrace the good ones.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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Thinkstock photo via Anton Bogodvid