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

To Be(er), Or Not To Be(er)

“Please Drink Responsibly” is the phrase slapped across every product you must be twenty-one years of age to purchase in the United States. Alcohol has been, is, and always will be one of the most controversial matters in history for many reasons. Our grandfathers’ fathers made it hidden in the south eastern mountains to provide for their families in the most lucrative way they could. A tradition has been made out of its’ recipes and stories of bootlegging and prohibition. It’s the one thing that even the United States government couldn’t stop.

As with anything however, where there are pros, there are cons. As with anything, if enjoyed in excess there are many debilitating effects it can cause on your health and the health of others. Poor judgements and decisions are made which can impact many people for the rest of their lives. If you live just below the Bible belt as I do, don’t be surprised if some mega church preacher attempts to release you from the grasp of the Devils’ nectar as he lovingly embraces you while reaching for your wallet and groping every square inch of your wife with his eyes.

The point I am trying to make is that we live in a society that welcomes the use of alcohol like an old family friend. It’s as American as apple pie, baseball, McDonald’s, and this messed up obsession we all have over reality television. So if no one else seems to have a problem, and it all just is a natural part of life, do I really have as big of a problem as I think I do?

If you have followed me or my blog for any amount of time, you may have stumbled across my introduction or several works about alcohol and my battle with the bottle. Today I want to give you a little background about it, as the subject weighs heavily on my mind lately. I have been drinking since I was fourteen years old. It started out as simply as it typically would. Tall bottles of Smirnoff Ice which eventually led my curious tongue to tall cans of malt liquor. I drank A LOT of gut rot, gas station specials as an early teenager such as Steel Reserve 211 and the likes, until I finally calmed down into normal domestic beers.

At around the age of eighteen I began to indulge in liquor. Trying a little bit of anything I could get my hands on, I quickly discovered that vodka and gin were two of my least favorite liquors. As stereotypical as it will sound, I was a bourbon guy through and through just like my father. The smoky taste, the warm burn of eighty proof tingling down your throat, and that decadent smell of oak as it swirled around in my glass could make my mouth water with every sip. I had made it my mission to become a connoisseur of bottom shelf bourbon. Even when I moved out on my own, the only things I had to my name were a few pots and pans, a record player, a futon mattress, and most importantly… a bottle of rye whisky.

It wasn’t until last year in September that a panic attack made me really look at myself and question my life. Once I began my journey for better mental health, I realized I was using the alcohol to self medicate my anxieties and possibly even some of my bipolar tendencies when I look back in retrospect. I made a lot of changes to my lifestyle with help from my wife. I decided to not keep beer in the apartment we share and she agrees because she feels it’s a waste of money. We agree to only drink when we go to restaurants or concerts and I stopped buying liquor all together because if it’s in my reach, I will drink it.

It’s not uncommon for me to become my own worst enemy. I am my worst critic, my worst judge of character, and the last person I ever want to have to confront. Lately if I’m out somewhere and decide to have a beer, I look at myself in shame and feel regret over my decision. I feel as though I’m letting myself down and even you down. Even though I don’t drink for the same reason anymore, enjoying one beer throws so many questions into my mind, it almost makes me wonder if it’s worth it. On the other hand, I’m not drinking for the same reason anymore. I enjoy beer as a craft and a beverage. Taking barley and hops and creating a flavorful masterpiece is a skill I am honestly envious of. There are so many good things about beer that go far beyond alcohol content.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a situation that is different. I am not writing this to sway someone who is struggling with addiction to drink. If you are someone who is on the fence, I encourage you to please take the plunge and reach out to your local alcoholics anonymous program or outpatient rehabilitation center. What I am writing this for is to tell my story and to pose a question to my friends, the readers.

With the habits I continue to follow, I find myself wondering if I really have as big of a problem as I think I do. Am I more in control than I realize? Am I blowing this entirely out of proportion? If no one else seems to have an issue, then what is my problem? I am fine with not buying liquor, but am I wrong if I buy beer from time to time? What are your thoughts, and do you struggle this as well?

How I Have Dealt With Death on my Journey

I wanted to link the feature story on Courtney before this post. You can find all the interview features I have written here.

How I Have Dealt With Death on my Journey

I wanted to talk today about death and how I have dealt with it during my ten-year journey since being diagnosed with Bipolar One.

It’s been three and half years since I lost my grandfather to cancer. I will be writing a piece on the anniversary of when we lost my grandfather in July. Today, my grandfather was on my mind I decided to write about him. Its how I deal with life now. It also should make a good chapter for my memoir. I also was thinking a lot about the time after my grandfather passed, and how I dealt with his death by not dealing.

I didn’t deal with it well for the first year.

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I was close to my grandfather most of my life. For the last year that he was with us, I took care of him as he battled cancer. I made sure he made his appointments by driving him. When the home health nurses came I was always there to let them into our house. I made sure that they took good care of him. I made sure my grandfather took his medication and I also made sure he ate three meals a day or as much as he could.
It was one of the worse experiences when my grandfather passed. I went deep into a depression cycle afterward. It was tough for me because for most of the year leading to his passing he was always in good spirits. He was active even though he had to spend most of his time in bed. 

When my grandfather passed it was quick. It was sudden when he took a turn for the worst. I remember he was okay during the weekend. My grandfather was lively. Then three days later on July 3, 2014, he was gone.

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So many thought went through my mind that day.

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I thought for one, I would have more time with my grandfather. My second thought was it happened too fast. I lost him. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. There were times when I didn’t think I would make it leading up to the day of his funeral. I was a mess inside lost in thought of what ifs, and what comes next.

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When death happens for those of us living with a mental illness it can be the worst case scenario. When it’s someone you love, and someone you are close with, it seems worse. I am not sure if it’s because of our own morality. Death is never easy to take, but most people bounce back out of necessity. It wasn’t so simple for me.

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It was tough for me because I was a few years removed from my last suicide. I didn’t think I would make past my last suicide, and when I did, I had a new appreciation for life. I know that death is inevitable in all our lives. You are not supposed to outlive your parents or grandparents.

I wasn’t in the best place to deal with death when it happened.

For weeks and even months after we lay to rest my grandfather, I struggled in a deep depression cycle. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was starting to be a bad cycle. I would have vivid dreams that my grandfather was still alive. In these dreams, he wouldn’t have to eat, but he would always be there for me. I would dream of different days walking into his room to have conversations. For months that was all, I dreamt about most nights.

When something strange happens in my house I know my grandfather is watching us. I always chalk it up to my grandfather letting us know to never forget. I refer to the room where he spent so many years of his life living in as, “grandpa’s room.”

Death was hard for me to take in 2014 and I can remember it wasn’t until the next summer before I got my depression under control. It helped that I had my therapist. I took a semester off after my grandfather passed because of spiraling depression. It was the beginning of the summer of 2015 that I finally broke my depression cycle.

Cancer sucks.

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When I looked at my grandfather’s life it was a good one. But he had no control over getting cancer. My thoughts after my grandfather’s death centered around one simple fact. For years I had no appreciation for life, and to see my grandfather lose his because of something uncontrollable, it changed me. I felt sorry for everything I had put people through during my journey up to that point in time. I got a better perspective.

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You still have to live when the people you love pass.

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This event became one of the catalysts for why I am in such a good place to even write a post like this one. Three years ago I could hardly discuss it. Writing it gives me perspective and with it, I can continue on my journey.

I like to end my posts with a question. I want to ask my fellow bloggers this: how have you dealt with death in the past?

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoTyler Quiring

All other pictures from my personal collection

 

What I have Learned from Blogging

Its been over four months since The Bipolar Writer went live. I have learned so much and I wanted to impart my wisdom. I am by no means an expert in blogging, but I have done a lot four months. I have reached the end of the year goal of 2,000 followers towards the end of December, and its been climbing ever since. My blog is one that is a shared experience, how to guide, and things I think are relative to my blog’s theme.

It has also been a great place to share the stories of others. My latest Interview Feature is of White Fox, its a great read.

I have been asked a few times by email what has worked for my blog, and I usually just reply to the email. I thought it would be good to write about it in a blog post.

So I thought why not share my experience in blogging over the past few months. Maybe there is something that you will learn that will be helpful on your own blog.

1. I have learned first and foremost to be myself. I write each blog post about my experiences by letting the reader into my life. I write about my experiences surrounding my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. I am sharing my triumphs and losses. Always be honest and people will keep coming back to your blog.

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2. Getting an actual domain name is very helpful. I have gotten many followers because I have a domain name. If you are serious about blogging then you can find the $99 price tag for a domain name and the premium themes that come with it. It was the best thing I did.

3. Use free photo sites like unsplash.com to add color to your post. In my opinion, adding photos will help your post feel more like a home to the reader. Also, it’s important to note to always give credit for the photos you use. The website I talked about gives you all you need to do just that in your blog post.

4. You can add Grammarly to your web browser so that you edit your post on WordPress. It’s a great tool to have because even when you think you have edited at your best, you can still miss things. You can go with their premium service but it’s not necessary.

5. In my experience, the Hemingway App is a great tool for writing blog posts. It’s not the greatest of proofreading tools but it tells you when you are using passive voice which is important to writing good quality posts. It also allows you to post straight from the app to WordPress. I paid the $19.99 price tag because it’s a useful tool. I never used the actual free version (if there is one I don’t remember.)

6. As a writer, I like to have as many tools at my disposal when writing. One app that has been amazing for me when I want to free write a blog post is Ulysses. For me when I just need to write its the best place. It also connects to your iCloud so what you have on this app is functional on your computer, your phone, and iPad. It’s my best functional app. I can write a post on my phone and it will automatically be on my computer. It’s great for taking notes when you are out and have an idea.

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7. Try your best to answer all comments. Its the connection to your readers that will get them to come back to your blog. The stronger the connection the more they will feel at home on your blog.

8. This also goes the other way. You should take time to read the blogs of others. I admit I don’t do this as much I would like, but the better connections you make, the more people will come back to your blog.

9. Make your blog post and blog reader friendly. My first two attempts at writing a blog my posts felt too much like WebMD. It was too technical and not really my goal. Share your experience your way. That is all that matters.

10. Set aside time to go to the Reader in WordPress and find blogs that you find interesting. Follow them. Leave a comment. Become a part of the what ever community you are blogging about. When you become a part of something your blog has purpose.

This is all I could come up with in my own experiences. Always be yourself and your fellow bloggers will come to love your blog. It takes time and dedication, but I know you can do it!

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J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

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unsplash-logoBen Kolde

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unsplash-logoCourtney Hedger