Like any other parent, you live with the guilt and question yourself if the job you are doing is ‘good enough’, with that and my own mental demons I would bring myself to breaking point.
Being a parent is difficult for anyone, but being a parent with bipolar does come with a unique set of worries and challenges.
I cannot count the number of times I have stopped and wondered how much damage my illness causes to my child. I remember many sleepless nights worrying about the day I would have to explain to my child what her Mummy had to go through on a daily basis.
I will never forget the words my mum said to me one day “We will explain to her in age-appropriate terms.”
Growing up, children naturally have a lot of questions – when they don’t get answers to their questions they tend to come up with their own, which can be incorrect and scary for them!
“Why does my mummy cry and shake sometimes?” She asked her Nana.
UH OH!! How do you explain to a 5-year-old about panic attacks?!?!
I felt as if my whole world came crumbling down, I thought I was doing so well by putting a brave face on, day in and day out for my child, hiding away at the fact that I had to take medication several times during the day. That I cried or felt suicidal at times. That I was tired, so tired of being ME!
First thing I could think of saying was “Mummy has really bad headaches and sometimes gets really poorly”
I asked a child psychologist on how to deal with this kind of situation, to which her professional advice was to talk to her in words she understood and to always speak the truth. Each parent and child’s “beginning conversation” about bipolar and anxiety disorder will be different depending on the child’s age and ability to understand. Nobody knows your child better than you do.
This seemed the appropriate explanation for a 5-year-old, and it was, I answered her question and on she went about her day without giving it another thought.
Now at the age of 7 years old, she knows that her Mummy is different, that I have good days and bad days, she knows what a panic attack is, she also knows to call her grandparents straight away if she thinks Mummy is really poorly. She knows she can ask me anything, tell me what she is worried about and Mummy will always answer.
The hardest thing to live with is knowing that seeing me live with bipolar may have caused her to feel unsafe, caused her to feel upset, or blamed herself – breaks my heart.
Every day I wake up, setting my parenting expectations so high. On my good days, I may meet them all, and on others, I fall short. But the one thing that never falls short, is how much love I have for my child and some days that is ENOUGH.
A few tips I have learned along the way, may help others reading this :
- Don’t be scared to ask for help! : Let your loved ones know how they could help you. It’s brave to admit you would like some help.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff: If you can’t do the dishes today because you need an early night, don’t worry, they will still be there tomorrow !!
- Self-care is important: You need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of your children.
- Your self worth exists outside of your family: It’s important to develop outside interests so you can feel worthy
If you would like to share any other tips or anecdotes please email me, I would love to hear them. You can also follow me on Facebook @Mswillowbipolar
Ms Bipolar x