A mom with bipolar disorder comes to terms with motherhood.
I remember the first time I held each of my boys in my arms; the emotion swept through me. Counting all their fingers and toes. Making sure they were healthy, breathing. I was in love from that moment on. Motherhood was going to be a piece of cake. Or, so I thought.
Nothing could prepare me for the ups and downs. The struggles and heartache in thinking I was always messing up. I was a bad mother. I couldn’t do this. I never should’ve had kids. Why? I have a mental illness.
Being a bipolar mom isn’t easy. It requires balance and care. You have to know your limitations, along with being honest about what’s going on with you. Not just with your partner, if you have one, but with your children, too. If you don’t it can lead you down a long rabbit hole.
That’s why I decided not to keep my bipolar disorder a secret from my boys. I explained to them what it means to have a mental illness, and why sometimes I freak out for no reason. I get angry or irritated. I shout. I cry. I get overly emotional.
I can only imagine how scary it was for them to hear, but it’s pretty scary for me, constantly battling with the questions, “Am I doing this, right?” and “Am I good enough to love them?” But I’ve had to push those feelings aside and parent just like everyone else. I’ve had to set boundaries for the boys and myself, and open communication that has allowed for questions and answers to be shared between us. No secrets. No lying about the disorder or my medication. I want my boys to feel secure in knowing I love them with everything I have, but sometimes pieces of feel broken for reasons that are not their fault.
Bing honest and open about having a mental illness with my children has given us the foundation for a strong bond. My boys are stable, confident young men. They accept others for who they are. They stick up for those who are less fortunate. And at the end of the day, they even crack jokes about having a “manic mom” who they love and adore.
So, as Mother’s Day approaches, I know the day is sweeter for me. I never thought I could do this—be a mother with a mental illness—and I was wrong. I am doing it, and I’m loving every single moment life throws at me.
Sure, there are times when I want to stay in bed for a week and allow the depression to swallow me whole, and times when I look at my boys and second-guess myself, wondering if I did right by them. But I realize all those emotions tangled up inside of me are quite normal. In fact, other mothers feel this way. I guess it’s part of the journey we take in order to enjoy and cherish those waking moments as we hold our kids close to our hearts.
Mother’s Day represents a day where I can look at my sons and know that my mental health doesn’t define me. My kids do. They make up all the specialness about myself that I love—the joy, achievements, the steppingstones I’ve conquered. There’s no happy pill in the world that gives me this feeling. It comes just from being a mom.
Jodi Shaw is the writer behind Just Jodi, a lifestyle blog focusing on family life, parenting, entertainment, recipes, DIY projects, beauty and fashion and products to help make life easier and more affordable.