When Both Parents Have Mental Illness

Having one partner in a relationship with mental health difficulties is a challenge. When both partners struggle it’s a whole new ball game. Add kids in the mix and it can be a wild ride.

I have bipolar disorder and my husband struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. We have three beautiful children under the age of 12. Sometimes life is beautiful and unmanageable all at once.

On the upside, it’s easier to empathize with each another when we’re struggling on different days. One partner needs the support and the other can be there to help and pick up the slack. Dad is stuck on the couch fending off panic attacks while Mom gets the kids dinner and readies them for bed. Alternate and Mom is cordoned off in her room “relaxing” while Dad plays games and keeps the kids occupied.

It’s a delicate dance that usually works out OK.

However, on those days when both of us are struggling, it makes it quite the challenge.

I’ve spent many a mixed mood fending off suicidal thoughts while helping my 6-year-old with math facts. My husband has staved off panic attacks while driving the kids to baseball practice. We both have times when we are strong and times when we are barely getting by.

There’s a solidarity that comes with this dynamic as well. We are a team. No matter what life or our brains throw at us, we know we can handle it together. Even if we are both crawling through our days desperately trying to keep ourselves moving, we know that if we just keep going for the sake of ourselves and our kids, we will make it. The storms pass. The sunlight shines through.

The kids know Mommy and Daddy each have an issue with their brains that causes them to not work right sometimes, and they know that we need “alone time” to feel better. Just like someone battling a cold.

The best lessons we can teach our kids are by example. We hope as they grow they will learn lessons of persistence, strength and teamwork by watching us battle our demons while keeping the household afloat.

To all the parents out there with mental illness who are struggling and striving: keep moving, stay strong, stick together, and have hope.

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 741741.

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

Getty image by Archv

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

Related to Bipolar Disorder

group of female friends at home laughing together having fun

3 Reasons I'm Actually Grateful for My Bipolar Disorder

I can be high, and I can be low. I can be flaky and sometimes show up. I can be Ms. Chatty in a crowd or I can be Ms. Bitch. I can be nice in one moment and the next snap on you, making you wonder what went wrong. I used to think all [...]
illustration of a woman crying

When Mental Illness Makes the Emotions of Grief Confusing

Grieving the loss of a loved one is difficult for everyone, whether you struggle with mental illness or not. This Christmas Eve, I lost my grandfather. He was a fighter, so his death came as a bit of a shock. It was particularly difficult because since I was a child, every Christmas Eve was spent [...]
close up of woman with long hair and focus on lower half of face

A Letter From Your New Bipolar Love

Dearest Her, You and I have been dating for three and a half months now. Those who know the intricacies of queer female romance would tell you that’s more like six or nine months.  Regardless, it doesn’t change the fact that you have expressed having no idea what you are dealing with regarding my newly [...]
woman sitting in field of pink flowers looking melancholy

The Side of Bipolar Disorder That Has Landed Me in Hospital

Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here. I have bipolar disorder type II and as many people know, this comes [...]