What Parenting With a Severe Mental Illness Looks Like

I have had mental health problems all my life, but I did not grasp the severity of them until after I had started a family. Had I known, I probably would have considered not having children. However, my children are my life. They are where the sun rises and sets, they are where heaven begins.

I would have opted for my children to not grow up with a mentally ill mother and I would have opted to not have them witness what they have witnessed, but they are and they have. I hide it as much as possible, but I know time will tell the truth. They too, will one day grasp the severity of my mental illness. Growing up with me as their mother, my children experience life differently than their peers.

There are dark depression days when I spend all day in bed, for days on end. I lay completely still for hours and hours. They bring me handmade “Get Well” cards and pick me roses from the rose bushes out front. My daughter usually brings me her favorite bunny. There are days when my anxiety is so high that I can’t sit down and all I can do is pace the hall and cry. There are times when I have a severe anxiety attack that leaves me hyperventilating and crying hysterically. There are times when I am suicidal and I can’t trust myself, so I am taken to the suicide crisis center. There are times when I am admitted to the hospital and I’m gone for several days in a row.

I struggle to wake up. I struggle to get out of bed. I struggle to participate in life. My children force me to participate. I have to wake up, I have three children that need breakfast. I have to go to the assembly, how could I not be there when my daughter receives the principal’s award. My 4-year-old needs supervision, so I have to drag myself from the bed to the couch. He wants to ride his bike, so I have to go outside. I drag myself around, forcing myself to participate in life because my children force me to participate because I want what’s best for them.

We have had to leave events before because my anxiety is unbearable or I’ve become paranoid and need to go home immediately. We have missed out on family BBQs because I’m too depressed and we have turned down invitations because my hallucinations are too intense. One year I missed almost all of the Christmas traditions due to severe depression. Sometimes I wish I was alone, so I didn’t have to drag my children through my chaos. But I know the truth. They are my calm. They are my center. My children are what keep me grounded.

They are why I take my medications even when I don’t want to. They are why I go to the crisis center rather than the alternative. My children save my life every day by simply existing. It is because of them that I sought help. It is because of them that I continue to see doctors and therapists. It is because of them that I have to participate in life. It is because of them that I push myself. I am alive because of them.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Unsplash photo via Blaise Vonlanthen

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