IT'S hard work actually. Parenting is really hard at the best of times. You are always juggling priorities, sacrificing, compromising and attempting to keep the peace. Crowd control is a daily ritual of mine. I have two gorgeous boys who are constantly at war over silly things like lego, pieces of bread or captain underpants outfits. It's all deadly serious. I find myself standing between them with a hand on each of their heads holding them apart! I have locked them in the house before and talked sense into them through an open window it's been that bad.
But my condition adds things in to the mix on top of the normal self doubt and fear a parent feels. Having crippling low self esteem makes me constantly critique myself and all of my decisions. If one of the children has a bad day I can assume they are depressed or showing signs of breakdown. I have a genuine fear that they will inherit my illness and struggle the way that I do and it's not something you want for your children. It's like you have a mood antenna on and every little ilk or ism they have you wonder if it's an expression of the lurking mental disease. It's quite terrifying. Your mind plays horrible tricks and I constantly have to reassure myself that it's only me that's ill and not them. Children have their own moods and childish ways and it's nothing to do with being insane. They are just bonkers like all other kids.
The other issue is when you have crippling depression finding the emotional energy to be available for your children. When they were really young I had to plan my days like a military operation with milestones throughout the day to get me through. You are exhausted anyway and trying to find that extra bit of energy to give it all you've got seems impossible. All you want to do is curl up and go to sleep and not bother. This is when the guilt and shame creeps in too as you are keenly aware that most mums actually enjoy having their children and relish fun afternoons and activities. You feel like you just want to give up. I remember turning up at a play group once and someone making a smart arse comment about breast feeding and thinking I'd cheerfully wring your neck, if you only know how hard my situation is you might shut your gob! Simple things become monstrous tasks and seem insurmountable. I remember spending a large amount of my time silently crying and hoping bed time would come soon. It's a sad reality that I didn't enjoy parenting for the first 3 years of my childrens life as I was so ill. But, even though I didn't want to do anything, I forced myself to do what they needed. I went to the bees bloody knees and played in the ball pit. I did painting and play doh, I cooked with them and played with them. Don't get me wrong - there were times when it felt an absolute joy and seeing them grow and develop was wonderful, but it wasn't consistent and it was a fight the whole way.
Parenting whilst hyper manic on the other hand is fine. Seriously. Boundless energy, humour, exciteabilty....whats not to love about it. You want to do everything and anything, but then you burn out and crash from the heights. Finding the middle ground is the only way forward, and knowing this gives me a reason to go on most of the time, and is a really important factor in my recovery. Normal parents struggle - I have to remember that and not give myself such a hard time. But that is hard especially when you set yourself a target of being a good parent despite the obstacles. Other people have problems not just me. It would be self obsessed to think I was the only one with a personal battle going on.
I have tried to talk to the children about being mentally ill and I explain it as having chemicals in my brain that don't work very well. I tell them that sometimes I just feel very sad and one day it will be better. They know I have to take tablets for it too. I remember them telling the mums at school that I couldn't drive as my brain chemicals had gone wrong! Bless them. They are so accepting and are so sweet in the morning when I feel all sedated, they come and drag me out of bed! They have had to come to appointments with me too at times and bound around the shrinks office causing chaos. I don't want them to be frightend of mental illness but I also want them to know you can get on with the business of living too when you are ill.
I know I fear my children having mental health problems in later life but I have to accept that I have very little power in that situation. All I can do is try my best and trust that the right messages get through and that they have my husbands mental genetics and not mine. And if they don't, then I'll have to deal with that as it comes along won't I.