Parenting While Bipolar

When I was a fifth grader, I wrote poetry.  I didn’t want to submit a collection of poems for a school writing fair, because I felt it wasn’t good enough.  My teacher approached me and asked me if I’d written the poems myself.  He found it hard to believe I had experienced the deep and powerful emotions I conveyed in my words.  I was shocked he asked me that question (of course, I had written them myself, I would never submit something dishonestly represented as my own) and although he implored me to submit the collection so that it could be on display, I refused.

This was my early memory of the feelings and scattered emotions tied to my bipolar disorder.  To have a little girl bring out such powerful words and creativity made the teachers look again at who I was as a person.

I wasn’t abused or neglected or any such thing.  I had a decent childhood, the last born in a quad of four girls with varying emotional disorders, but strong confidence and intelligence.  I was blessed, but still tormented inside my own mind and soul.

This torment continues to this day.  When I was 26 and planning the birth of my first child, I read an article and a book both of which advised that if you were bipolar, it was best to reconsider having children.  I was offended and felt demonized, like my mental illness was such a horrible and awful part of my identity, that passing it onto a child would be an act of great injustice.

That sentiment has stuck with me to this day, because the stigma against mental illness still bears a strong hold on my psyche.  To see it so blatantly and outrightly written out in a published book or published article, made me lose confidence that I seem to never have gained back.

When I am impatient with my kids, which often I am, I try to remind myself that it is not a result of my mental illness, and that many parents have difficulties similar to my own when parenting.  We yell and then wish we had softened our voices.  We don’t have time to play, even though this time with them is so short.  We do the dishes, but neglect their yearning for our time and attention. The house may be clean, but what about the time we are missing playing, teaching, talking, laughing.

I want to change these things about myself.  I cannot take away my illness, but I can show them they are loved and I will pray that they grow healthy and happy.  Mental illness or not.

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One response to “Parenting While Bipolar

  1. Do you remember any details of this book that suggested you shouldn’t have children? In all honesty, I don’t encourage bipolar clients to go through pregnancy unless they study it all first and understand the implications. I had no idea that I was bipolar at the time and my sanity nearly departed me entirely in the period after giving birth. Saying that, once you’re through the drama that the hormonal changes inflict with the bipolar, I think it’s an even playing field as to who’s a good parent and who isn’t. I know for a fact I’m a good parent, because I’m bipolar I am incredibly self aware and that helps me be a good parent. There are a lot of people, yourself included I dare say, who end up being ‘better’ parents because their bipolar makes them check their behaviours often and ensure they are behaving in a healthy manner towards their children. There are so many people without a mental illness who are doing their children a disservice because they never self analyze, they never stop to think how their behaviours effect their child so really, I think it can be a positive thing if you force it to be :)

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