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No One Tells the Single Mom With a Mental Illness How Best to Parent

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Being a single parent is hard. Halfway through my marriage I was diagnosed with a laundry list of issues while I was working full-time on active duty. My children are amazingly smart, having got the best of both their father and me. When we split, I got the kids, which was fine by me — they were the best thing in my life. He wasn’t a bad man, he just wasn’t the best for me. We made beautiful children though.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

For the last six years, I have been raising two boys and a girl on my own. No one tells you when you have bipolar disorder with anxiety and a laundry list of other issues, how to be the best for your kids. So I started long before their dad and I split — when I was diagnosed to be exact — little by little, educating them and myself about what was going on with me, letting them know Mommy had an illness they couldn’t see. If I walked away for a moment it was because I had an issue but not with them — they were good and fine. Mommy was always there for them, just sometimes it all felt harder for her than it may for others.

As they got older, we talked more about why it was harder — why sometimes Mom didn’t like being touched or why I just tensed up for no reason. The upside to not hiding this from my kids is I believe they are now far stronger in themselves and have a better understanding of others. My children have learned to express their needs and feelings in a healthy way and have a stronger bond with each other. I have never seen siblings get a long like they do.

No one tells the single mom with a mental illness how best to parent. My advice? Learn to communicate about the unseen illness, don’t hide it behind closed doors, and try to explain any behaviors. Own your choices. Because your children learn from your example.

Originally published: May 2, 2017
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