Should You Have Kids If You Have a Mental Illness?

I often wonder if I’ve screwed up my children. Not only do I enact terrible punishments like limited screen time or healthy options before sugar, but I also insist they do homework and get to bed at a reasonable time.

Most of all, though, I worry that I literally screwed them up. You know, genetically.

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I have a veritable soup of family history maladies to pass on to them. Plus; I have my own limitations, bad days, breakdowns, and personal failings they’ve had to witness. They continue to witness. They witnessed just this morning.

The real punch to the gut comes when they exhibit signs of mental illness themselves: anxiety, fixation, depression, and negative self-talk.

As I rub my kid’s back and tell him advice didn’t follow the day before, I wonder, What have I done?? The unhelpful voice in my head adds, This is your fault, You are a terrible mom, and You shouldn’t have had children. Some days, it adds, They would be better off without you.

Back when we were deciding whether to have children yet, I worried about such ‘logical’ conclusions. I didn’t feel like the best genetic specimen.

The thing is: no one is the best genetic specimen.

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True, there are some people with very serious cases and/or horrible genetic diseases. Those people are true heroes, in my mind, for choosing the difficult option to not reproduce.

Besides those, I’m really just about as crazy as the next person. Mostly. In fact, compared to many of my relatives and ancestors (who obviously procreated), I’m stable enough to run a small country. But, as I said, they still had children. I even have a few distant relations who I think shouldn’t have had children and still did. And you know what? Their kids are fine. Mostly.

In trying to play Devil’s Advocate to my own mind; let’s suppose a hypothetical situation: What if I were a perfect parent? To continue that fantasy, my kids would have to be born perfect. Their kids would. And so on. Then, as happens in every sci-fi story line, the rest of the world would hunt us down and assassinate our family out of envy.

No one is perfect, at least by the definition of making no mistakes.

Further, despite what one of my kids thinks, mistakes are essential to life. Mistakes make us human and that’s not a bad thing to be. Frankly, we don’t have another option since we were born like this.

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To specifically answer those negative thoughts of my mind:

  • This is your fault: Blame doesn’t matter. What can we do moving forward?
  • You are a terrible momI am a good mom because they are alive and we keep trying.
  • You shouldn’t have had children: I’ve had the children and will continue to raise them well.
  • They would be better off without you: Of course they wouldn’t be better off without me. Have you seen how stepmothers in fairy tales are?

Having kids is hard no matter what. Beating myself up over their problems only adds to my mental strain and depressive triggers. Choosing to be pragmatic and move forward with what I have is a better option than giving up and hoping they’ll still turn out. Even if “moving forward” means that I might have to get checked into a recovery program, that makes a better future (one in which mom’s still around) than trying to maintain an impossible reality.

I saved the best benefit for last: since everyone deals with some sort of mental or physical issue at some point in life, my struggles and authentic life lessons are preparing my children for their own futures. Because of what they start with, what they learn, and what I teach them; they will be loving, honest, supportive, and self-aware.

They will, as every parent dreams, be able to make the world a better place. Someone’s got to live in the future, after all. I may as well try to help mine be better. Mostly.

 

Photo Credits:
Jenna Norman
Aditya Romansa
Sai De Silva

Being a Mother and Mentally Ill

I am a mom. I am mentally ill. When I was thinking up the title I wasn’t sure which one to put first. I’m still not sure. We want to believe that being mentally I’ll doesn’t define us. But sometimes it does.

It sucks but there are days when being a little crazy wins over being a mom. Those are the days when I come home and turn on the tv or I phone it in on dinner and get happy meals.

Other days I am supermom. Like this day! I work, I pick them up, go to activity #1, home for dinner, then activity #2. If only I could be supermom every day.

I am honest with my children. Two boys. One is six, the other is four. My six year old understand, sometimes he sees it before I do. He hugs me when I need it before I can say I need it. My four year old is largely oblivious. He has moments when he says the perfect thing. He had one tonight. He told me “You’re not a crappy mom. You’re a good mom.”

It is my belief that being honest with them is the best way to go. Then when mommy loses her cool they can know that it isn’t just them doing something wrong. So I tell them that “mommy suffers from mental illness. Sometimes it makes me really sad, sometimes I cry, things get overwhelming, I can’t always focus.” You know the list.

My mother never talked about her mental illness. She suffered for years never finding what she needed. She was so wrapped up in herself that she forgot my brother and I.

When I was 13, I planned my suicide. My parents went out for their anniversary dinner. I locked myself in the bathroom with what I needed and then my brother knocked. He asked what I was doing and I told him. He called our parents. When they got home they didn’t offer me the help I needed, there were no comforting words. They told me I ruined their night out.

I didn’t really want to die. I wanted someone to save me or hold me and tell me it would be better. My mother failed me. I didn’t get the help I needed till I was 20-21. I don’t want to do that to my children.

My littlest has ADHD. He is hyper active, has impulse control issues, and becomes physically agressive. Lately he has been heard saying things like he hates himself or he is no good. So even though I’m not a big believer in positive affirmations… Every night we repeat the same thing. “I am a good boy. Sometimes I make bad choices, but I can be better. I love myself and others(then he makes a list of who he loves.”

I am a mom with mental illness. Even though my mental illness has shaped me it does not define me completley. I am a mom, I will remember that, and I will make sure my children have me when they need me.

Parents, How Do You Do It?

I’m 25 years old, not married (but in a two-year long relationship) and I have no children. I would like to get married one day but I’m not sure about being a mother.

One of my countless worries is my ability to parent with a mental illness. I know people have babies and parent every day with mental health struggles, but I have no idea how it is possible.

There are days when I can’t get out of bed. When I can’t focus on anything but the ruminating thoughts in my head and all I want to do is be alone. How do you care for your children when you can’t care for yourself?

I’m also afraid of my child growing up in this hellish world. I hear horrible stories every day about the evil acts done to children at my work so I can’t not think about the possibility of something traumatizing happening to them. I worry that they could be born with a physical or mental disability or a mental illness like myself.

I would feel so guilty! I imagine that I would never feel that I was good enough and could never give them the life they deserve.

Parents out there who have a mental illness, please comment below and tell me how you do it! What are the struggles? Do your child(ren) also have a mental illness?

I would really love some insight on this.

P.S. I also know that parenting is not for everyone. I don’t know if it’s for me which is why I am asking questions. It’s for science!

If Only, a poem about motherhood

“If only, if only,” the young mother sighs, “I did all the chores;” there’s hope in her eyes.
She washes and foldses and relocates toys.
She vacuums and bleaches and separates boys.

“If only, if only,” the young mother shouts, “You’d not kill your brother when I’m not about.”
She wrestles and time-outs and wait till Dad’s homes.
She chastens and kisses and picks up her phone.

“If only, if only,” the young mother frets, “I didn’t buy takeout whenever we’re stressed.”
She hustles and buckles and drives to the queue.
She searches and scrounges and pays for the food.

“If only, if only,” the young mother fears, “When I spent the money, the money was there.”
She saves scraps and worries and checks the receipts.
She eats less and coupons and admits defeats.

“If only, if only,” the young mother pleads, “You’d all go to bed so that there’s time for me.”
She chases and washes and brushes their teeth.
She last-drinks and stories and wishes sweet dreams.

She closets and darkens and blocks all her calls.
She’s lonely and hopeless and sees only walls.
“If only, if only,” the young mother cries, waiting for change till the day that she dies.

If you feel trapped like this, send me a message. At the very least, we can swap diaper stories.

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Daiga Ellaby

Challenge Yourself! – Find 5 Meaningful Things To Do

Ever get so caught up in the day to day crap-you-have-to-do that you lose sight of what you actually need to do… or what might actually enrich your life?

Of course you do!  If you don’t, you’re probably kidding yourself.  That, or you need to immediately publish a book enlightening us on your secret – probably make a million dollars while you’re at it.

Today I was trying to distract my mind from the typical stress at work (and procrastinate from doing the crap-I-had-to-do items detailed on the to-do list sitting on my desk) so I started cleaning and organizing my office.

After reaching the bottom of a formerly bottomless desk drawer, I found a note from my predecessor.  It was a to-do list filled with 5 mundane tasks that were not unlike the ones I was myself putting off that moment.

The note was unremarkable in every way but one – the date; it was dated from just before he went out for the last time.  You see, his cancer had returned, and this time it would not be beat.  He passed away in the months that followed.

It made me think about what I was doing in that moment – just going about the motions of the day, looking at the clock, wishing it was over.  What if this was it?  What if I was running out of time and I didn’t even know it?

How many of you are doing the same thing?  How many of you are wishing for the hours to slip by so you can do something that’s actually meaningful to you?  What is actually important to you?  Challenge yourself to make a list of what you actually need to do.

I scribbled off the list sitting on my desk and made a new one:

5 Things I Actually Need To-Do:

#1 – Help My Kids Find Their Passion.

There is one really important word in that goal – “their”. I want to help them find their passion, not mine.

I love football. I’d love to have my kid in the NFL.  But I have two daughters that probably aren’t going to share that goal.  Also I don’t see many women in the NFL in 2018.

This was something I think I missed as a child; I never found something that I was really into that I could also do for a living. It wasn’t until after college that I really started developing true passions other than drinking beer and spending money.  What a waste!

Also, I think it’s really important that kids have at least something they know they’re interested in before school’s over.  Otherwise how the hell are they supposed to decide what they’re going to do after high school?

Here’s what the decision making process looked like for me:

Dad: Alright, here’s a book of college majors, you need to pick one.

Me: Wait, what?

Dad: Yep. You’re 18, and it’s time for you to decide what you want to do for the next 40-50 years.

Me: Can I just play X-Box?

Dad: Nope.

Me: Ok, let me see that book then…

Me: [Flips through book of alphabetized majors, loses interest at the letter ‘C’]

Me: Chemistry sounds good!

Dad: Excellent.

Me: [Wastes next 10 years of life stumbling down misery-path]

I really, really want to avoid that, which I know can be difficult.  I know my parents tried to get me into things and it was me that resisted.  I know you can’t make your kids do anything once they get to a certain age, but I hope I’ll be able to help them see how what they are interested in can become a career.

Here’s an example that would have worked for me. I’m really into video games.  That’s one of the only things I was consistently into growing up.  That sounds like a horrible waste of time, right?

Cut to 10 years later and I discover a passion for computer programming. Now I program video games in my spare time for fun.  Imagine if I had the creativity and vision to see this as a possibility when I was 18?  I could be doing this for a living right now, and I would have loved it!  Sometimes you need to be creative.

#2 – Pay for Kid’s College.

My wife’s parents paid for her to go to school, a generosity for which I am extremely grateful. We bought our first home when I was 24, and she was 23, because of the financial boost her parents were able to give us after we graduated.  We had an incredible head-start.

I graduated with $25,000 in debt, which is probably pretty low since I went to a public school. $300 dollars a month to student loan debt payments really sucks when you’re 22 – A huge percentage of your paycheck simply disappears.

Thankfully, I actually have a pretty decent head-start plan on this. It’s called the Stop-Obsessively-Buying-Ridiculously-Irresponsible-amounts-of-Ethanol (that’s alcohol for you – remember, chemistry major)-This-Year also known as SOBRIETY.

The math looks something like this:

$20 dollars per week for margaritas on date night.

$35 dollars per week for beer.

+             $45 dollars for Woodford Reserve because I’m one of those classy alcoholics.


$100 dollars per week

×             52 weeks in a year


$5200 per year on alcohol.

×             18 years


$93,600 saved over 18 year period.

That’s a decent head start!

#3 – Finish One of Those Damn Mania-Projects!

If you suffer from bipolar disorder you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re manic, or hypomanic, and you’ve fallen in love with… something. You have all this energy and you’ve decided to direct it towards writing a book, or starting a blog, or making movies, or learning an instrument, or learning to paint, or going back to school… or all of those things at once!

The problem is that bipolar disorder is a cruel mistress, and now two weeks later your depression is back and you have absolutely no interest in doing any of those things anymore. So what was just days ago an all-consuming passion project is left abandoned and incomplete.

I’ve spoken at some length about how mania or hypomania may be thought of by some as a blessing, but I’ve started to view it as a curse.  In my days or weeks of depression immediately following a hypomanic period I find myself surrounded by husks of beautiful, useful, and creative things that I was only able to take halfway to completion.  The sense of failure does nothing to help the depression.

Just once, I’d like to finish something. Write a book, learn a skill, finish programming that video game – anything!

I can say I have found one way to scratch this itch; break it down into small, bite size pieces! When you get the bug to start writing, instead of only working on that 100,000 word manuscript, why don’t you write a blog post!  I finish those all the time!

#4 – Travel Abroad With Family

I’ve been to two countries in my entire life. The United States, since I happen to have been born here, and Canada, since I happen to have grown up about 30 minutes from the border.

I never had a strong desire to travel (or really, to do anything) when I had the (relatively) easy opportunity to do so in college. Many of my friends did however, and it always seemed like a great adventure that enriched their lives.

I’d love to do this with my family, or if we can’t all go, I’d like to send the kids when they’re young, in college, and life is still (relatively) simple.

#5 – Start a Business

Is this every manic person’s dream, or is it just mine?

Imagine taking your energy, and your sudden, intense focus on something, and getting so good at it that you can actually start a business around that thing. Then you can screw the man and ride off into the sunset!

Ok, so I understand in reality that starting a business isn’t actually easy, and the whole riding off into the sunset thing is not likely to happen, but can’t a guy dream?

So that’s it!  That’s my What-I-Actually-Want-To-Do list – my 5 Meaningful Things.  I challenge you all to do the same thing!

Unfortunately, reality always seems to get in the way.  Speaking of which, these expense reports aren’t going to approve themselves. Back to it…