When Being a Parent With Mental Illness Makes You Feel Inadequate

I used to wonder if I was worthy of having children. Was I going to pass along undesirable characteristics or my worst traits? Would my child inherit my mental health issues? Or would I just plain ruin he or she with bad parenting? I thought it would be safer for the world if I didn’t procreate.

Despite all of this, I got pregnant. It was a surprise and I spent some time contemplating my options — thank you 2011 America for giving me choices. I ultimately decided that I was going to have the baby, and I was never happier. He gave me something to focus on outside of me and my “messed up” brain. He gave me purpose.

I was able to suppress most of the feelings of inadequacy and fear. They still sometimes rear their ugly heads, and when I was told of an ugly conversation between “friends” about how I was unfit to become a mother, those feelings surfaced. I dwelled on those words for weeks, because they verbalized what I always feared could be true. Why was I going to be entrusted with a baby when some perfectly lovely, “normal” people have fertility issues? Why was the “crazy” one being given a gift?

Overall, I absolutely adored new motherhood. I was home all day with this beautiful baby boy. I didn’t have to worry about the immense stress of my job. All I had to do was keep this baby alive. I was good at that. I had no postpartum depression. Things were pretty awesome.

But life goes on. I went back to work, which became overwhelmingly hellish. I struggled financially and lost my day to day support system when I had to move. My stressors increased and my mental health began to suffer. I slowly began to sleep less, feel down more and became increasingly irritable.

My son became older and more challenging. He reminds me a lot of myself and that worries me. Although I am cognizant of his struggles, it does not allay the guilt I feel that it was my genes or my parenting that causes his internal pain. He’s the sweetest, smartest, most adorable little blond haired, blue eyed creature you’ve ever laid your eyes on. And I don’t say that just because he’s my son — everybody loves him. He’s just got that “something special” about him, and an old, attuned soul.

I still worry and wonder. I imagine what he could achieve in life if he had been blessed with a mother who never contemplated suicide or doesn’t have trust issues or who can get up every day without sobbing. But I’m working on me. Every day I tell myself that I’m the best “me” I can be today. And now I do it all for him. I hope it’s enough.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via Taws13

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