Being a mum is hard, and having a mental illness is hard. But when you are a mum with a mental illness, it almost seems impossible. In her own words, one Llandaff mother describes what it’s like living with the condition
My name is Laura and I am a 27 year old mum and writer, and I have Bipolar Disorder.
It has been a long road for me, to finally be able to admit that I have a mental illness. Suffocated by stigma, and silenced by fear, I battled my illness alone for many years. I was unable to tell the doctor how I really felt and how I was really acting when I was depressed and manic.
‘They will think I’m a bad mother; they will throw me in a padded room and my kids will go into care,’ is what went through my head.
Those thoughts, though irrational, are extremely real for those parents who suffer. The guilt that I feel is unfathomable. Guilt is a huge part of depression and it’s also a huge part of being a parent. So one can only imagine how guilty I feel on a daily basis; I’m forever feeling like I don’t do enough for my kids.
As parents, we’re judged. Our choices are picked apart and our decisions are ridiculed, especially for new parents. Or a young parent. Or a parent with a mental illness. I was all of the above once upon a time.
There have been sunny days that I’ve spent curled up in bed, while the kids played in their rooms. They have seen me cry and wiped my tears. My eldest boy has shown tremendous strength and maturity beyond his years. My kids tell me that they love me all the time and they never complain.
But no matter what they say, and how much they try to reassure me, I will always feel a tremendous amount of guilt for not being well over the years. For being the fun parent one moment and depressed the next. For not building those relationships with other parents in the playground because I’m too socially awkward; for not always completing their homework projects; for getting them to class late. I constantly feel like I’m letting them down.
The painful truth is that previously, when I was in denial, I was hiding things from doctors and refusing to accept my situation. In an ideal world, it would be wonderful to be the perfect parent every day wouldn’t it? Healthy, home-cooked nutritious meals, perfectly neat uniforms, never snapping or shouting, an immaculate home and having the best of everything.
The reality though is far from the above for a lot of parents, but you know what? It’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to be a parent and admit that you struggle from time to time; it’s okay to cry in the shower, to moan about the monotony of parenting, to want a break, to be a human being. It’s okay.
And for all those imperfect parents out there who don’t feel you’re doing enough, as long as you love your children – you are doing enough and you are enough. Hiding how we feel, mental illness or not, is when parenting becomes stressful and problematic. So don’t be afraid to say it. Don’t suffer in silence.
I am a mother and I have a mental illness. I am a mother and I have struggled. I am a mother and I love my children.
At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
One thing that really helps ease my depression is getting out and about with the kids in the fresh air. I’ve put together a list of my favourite places to go and visit. You can read it here