For Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to share my experience with being a mom and having a mental illness. Being a mom is a tough job on its own and it can be overwhelming. There is a ridiculous amount of pressure to be a perfect mom and there is always some sort of debate on how we should parent. Moms are typically the ones that are blamed for anything that goes wrong with their children. We are held to a standard by society that is impossible to achieve.
We’ve seen movies made about this, where moms get tired of trying to conform to societies’ standards. I bet a lot of moms out there can relate in some ways to Bad Moms or the upcoming movie Tully. I want to ask you a favor, think of all the things you might go through as mom and how stressful it can be. Trying to get it together in the mornings, to rush out to work after having to struggle with a toddler over mismatch shoes or a baby who is getting sick and you don’t have enough PTO time to take a day off. Think of all the stress that comes with motherhood and how you might handle all of that. Have you ever had a meltdown at any stage, the teething, the terrible two’s, the tantrums? Were you ever so sleep deprived you thought you might over dose on coffee? Ok hopefully you get the point. Now imagine you have Bipolar, Depression and anxiety. What kind of toll would that take on you? How would it affect your ability to mother your children?
Those scenarios I gave you were me. I am diagnosed with bipolar II and I am a mom to 4 beautiful children. Mothering was a challenge and very difficult for me.
You see society does not allow for moms to get sick at all, much less allow for a mom to have a mental illness and make mistakes. Moms are almost not allowed to be human beings with flaws. I was undiagnosed for many years. It wasn’t until I had my 4th child that I knew something was really wrong. I had severe postpartum depression. So severe I am surprised I didn’t go into psychosis, I know I borderline on it many times. With zero support and no one to help me I suffered, as did my children. At the time my spouse did not take my illness serious. He chalked it up to me be dramatic or over reacting. I didn’t get help or have a support system, most days all I could do was make it through the day. Everything seemed like an uphill battle. I had zero patience for my children and as a result I didn’t get to nurtured them as I should have. Instead I spent most of my day battling all the demons of a mental illness. I did not get to enjoy my children’s younger years.
I spent many mornings driving to work in tears; I was so sad all the time and never knew why. In Sept 2007 I had my first suicide attempt; everything was spiraling wildly out of control. I was alone scared and in a lot of pain. I was completely exhausted from trying to fight so hard; I just wanted to sleep (forever). The EMT crew arrived and to my shock the lady EMT who was treating me talked about me as if I wasn’t a person. I was in and out of sleep but I could hear her. She accused me of faking it, and then told me I was selfish; on and on the whole ride to the hospital. My husband was also angry and shared the same sentiments as the EMT lady.
No one thought to ask me about my mental state or what brought me to think that ending my life was the only solution. They assumed I was a selfish and cowardly mother who was unfit to have kids. I was told I didn’t deserve my kids. After I drank the charcoal (so that my organs wouldn’t fail) I was sent home but not before I was told how lucky I was to be alive and to have a husband that tolerated my behavior.
I wanted to share this one example because of the severity of the situation and give a glimpse to what I endured but also hopefully give a different perspective of what might a mom go through who isn’t treated for her mental illness.
When I finally did get help I began to heal and forgive as well.
Here was my silver lining :If I didn’t know what was wrong with me how would anyone else know. After my diagnosis I began to research and understand what was happening to me. I was in the dark about what was wrong with me for so long, the diagnosis was a relief. After many years of working through my illness, talking about my illness and sharing my story I now know I am not alone. There are many others just like me, who went through or are going through the same thing.
I took this as an opportunity to share my story and educated others. I challenged the ones close to me to research and listen to me. I asked them to try to understand what I was going through. If they couldn’t understand I needed them to have compassion at the very least.
We have to do better as a society to provide support and safe environments to our mothers who are suffering with a mental illness. Judging them and shaming is not going to help them or their children. We have to start listening better and lending a helping hand.
Let’s not forget it takes a village to raise happy and healthy children. Let’s start by taking care of moms out there who are struggling. Let’s do better.
Young Me around 1996. My oldest son is 2 1/2 and my second oldest is only a few months here.I went on to have 3 more children of which I have up the 5th one due to my depression.