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21 Things Parents With Mental Illness Want Their Children to Know

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It can be hard for children when parents are sick — and especially confusing when Mommy or Daddy don’t look sick. While mental health challenges certainly don’t make parenting easier, having them doesn’t mean a parent loves his or her children any less.

We asked parents in our community who live with a mental illness what they wish their children knew. Their answers prove that a family touched by mental illness, like any family, can be messy, confusing and atypical — but also, full of love.

Here’s what these parents want their children to know:

1. “My love for you has been my anchor.” — Sandy Villarreal Garza

Quote from Sandy Villarreal Garza: My love for you has been my anchor"

2. “The guilt of not being like other moms weighs on my heart. I just wanted to let you know I love you more than myself.” — Laurel Holtz

3. “It’s not your fault.” — Christine Suhan

4.I hope I showed you more love than fear.” — Crystal Hatfield-Adams

5. “My biggest fear is that you will never get to see me at my best. My biggest hope is that you will.” — Vee Janes

quote from Vee Janes: My biggest fear is that you will never get to see me at my best. My biggest hope is that you will.

6. “As much as it scares me to interact with your friends’/classmates’ parents and attend school gatherings and birthday parties, I’m trying and learning to cope with my anxiety disorders so I can enjoy these moments with you.” — SC Vang

7. “Even though I spent the first six months of your life shrouded in darkness, you’re the reason I searched for the light even when I couldn’t see it. You’re the reason I got the medical treatment I needed. You’re the reason I finally feel the joy and peace I’ve been searching for my whole life.” — Alicia Nelsen

8. “If I seem sad or unhappy, know it’s not you. On my dark days, you’re the sun.”  — Shannon Trevino

quote from Shannon Trevino: On my dark days you're my sun.

9. “My kids don’t know yet (I was just diagnosed recently), but when they do know I want them to know Mommy got help so she could be the best Mommy she was meant to be.” — Stephanie Whitworth

10. “I want you to be able to do all the normal kid things: sleepovers, sporting events, school carnivals. Just the thought of these things almost brings on a panic attack. I hate that there are days that Daddy is basically a single parent because ‘Mommy isn’t feeling good.’ I love you with all my being. I hope you know the things that happen on my bad days are not your fault.” — Stephanie Hall

11. “I try. I make mistakes. It’s hard. I won’t give up. Our family doesn’t look like others, and that’s OK. It’s no one’s fault. I love you more than anything. I hope you can forgive my shortcomings, but if you can’t that’s OK.” — Amanda Talma

Quote from Amanda Talma: "Our family doesn't look like others, and that's OK."

12. “You kids brightened some of my darkest days. I hope you will seek help if you think you need it. I love you.” — Debra Eagleson

13. “I’m sorry you have to miss out on things when I’m not well enough to cope with leaving the house. Thank you for understanding even though you’re disappointed.” — Jen Cooksley

14. “I love you no matter what my mood, and I’m not your responsibility. You absolutely do not have permission to put your life on hold because of me and my illness.” — Nikki DeMeyers

15. “Mommy is fighting. She’s fighting for herself and for you. By showing you all my emotions, I’m showing you my reality. It’s not a weakness but an extreme strength.” — Stephanie Berger Trzyna

Quote from Stephanie Berger Trzyna: Mommy is fighting.

16. “You don’t have to apologize for me. You don’t have to be ashamed and you don’t have to carry this alone.” — Kami Genus Baldwin

17. “I will always try to be better for you — to be the stable, healthy mommy you deserve. I promise to always listen to you. I promise we’ll be here to support you through anything.” — Bekah Pettiford

18. “You save my life every single day.” — Christian Osborn

Quote fro Christian Osborn: You save my life every single day.

19. “I love you to the moon and back even when I can’t show it.” — Victoria Torgerson

20. “My anxiety is not your fault. My anxiety will never be your fault.” — Emily Mathiak

21. “You’re doing a great job. Making honor roll, immersing yourselves in hobbies, becoming thoughtful, kind people. I don’t know if it’s because of or in spite of the way you’ve been raised by a mother with bipolar disorder, but if there’s anything in my life that’s never distorted by my illness, it’s my pride in who you are.” — Tiffany Howard

quote from Tiffany Howard: If there's anything in my life that's never distorted by my illness, it's my pride in who you are.

*Some responses have been edited and shortened for brevity.

Originally published: December 23, 2015
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