My Secret to Parenting With Borderline Personality Disorder

When I first discovered I was pregnant with my son, Jack, I was terrified. I was only recently 21, newly engaged and I didn’t have my own home. But even worse, I was living with untreated BPD (borderline personality disorder) with frequent and severe dissociative episodes. There was no way, I thought, that I would be a good mother.

For years prior to my pregnancy I was living in a completely manic state, with a few of severe depressive episodes. I was constantly suicidal. I wouldn’t take my medications or talk to a doctor. I was afraid they were all conspiring to lock me away in an asylum or make me go numb from medications. I was living in fear and surrounded by my mental illness.

I could feel the depression coming on during my pregnancy, so I decided to reach out for help. I joined an IOP (intensive outpatient) program that taught me DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) skills. Suddenly I wasn’t so afraid of my mental illness. I was learning the tools that would help me be a great mom.

When Jack was born, everything clicked. In the first few moments and days he was alive everything made sense. My head was clear for the first time in ages. However, it didn’t stay the same when I got home. I was hit hard with PPD (postpartum depression).

I couldn’t stand not being able to connect with my son, the way I had always dreamed of. So I got more support. I started taking medications, which at first made me sad because I had to stop breastfeeding. But the medications were working! I was finally more stable than I had been in years, and my son and I were finally connecting.

It’s been two years since I had Jack and my mental health, although still struggling from time to time, is the most stable it’s ever been. Since having Jack, I have found it easier to reach out to get help. I am not fearing that my doctors are conspiring against me, but instead are there to help me be the best mother I can be. I still have severe depressive episodes, but I have plans for those days to just turn on a movie and cuddle with my toddler.

The truth is, although he drives me absolutely nuts some days, my toddler has helped me with my mental health. I’m not so hard on myself anymore. I can’t get manic when I’m with him. I’m staying sober and exercising as much as possible. I have found a reason to take my medications every night and to continue taking them. And although I have suicidal ideations, I have no plans to kill myself anymore. I have too much to live for, and I have a little boy who is relying on me.

My secret to parenting with a mental illness is to always ask for help. It is OK to be sick, it’s not OK to struggle in silence, especially when you have little ones looking up to you. You’re not weak for asking for help; you’re the strongest person out there. If you can’t ask for help for yourself that simply, think of the example you’ll set for your kids by seeking help when it’s needed. They’ll know it’s OK to talk to someone if they ever feel bad. You’ll set a great example for your kids.

Parenting with a mental illness can be rough. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I look at other moms, who flawlessly look so happy in their photos with their perfect kids, and sometimes I get jealous. But I just remember I’m doing the best I can for my son. He doesn’t know that I’m sick. He just loves me, no matter what. With my son by my side, I know I can tackle this ugly monster called mental illness. And it turns out, I make a pretty great mother, by the way.

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 reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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