Having a Mental Illness and Children

Depressed woman

This is a guest post written by Jessica Trunk for the official blog of the Mental Health Awareness Project. The views and opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of those involved with the Mental Health Awareness Project. We are publishing this guest post in hopes that you may find it helpful or informative.

“You should be grateful you have children.”
“You should be happy!”
“What do you have to be sad about? You have children!”

Oh, I’m sure a lot of parents, especially mothers, have heard these phrases uttered at them at least once. They’re rather hard hitting statements, expressed to attempt to induce gratitude in a person who is having a hard time in their life. Often, it has the opposite affect. The parent will then feel guilty. Ashamed. Betrayed by their own brain. Isolated. Afraid.

I have four children. I have had post-partum depression with each one of them, and ante-partum depression with at least one. It never fails that someone would tell me to “be grateful” that I have living children. I have depression, anxiety, paranoia, and PTSD. My brain doesn’t tell me the right things just because I have children. It tells me the wrong things. “You’re wrong. You’re doing this wrong. They hate you. They’re better off without you BUT you’re the only one who can raise them, they’ll be worse off without you. If you leave you’re selfish.” Its a daily struggle, and I often have to vocalize that, YES I AM A GOOD MOTHER. Even after I say “for fuck’s sake” under my breath 300 times a day.

Parents. Mothers. Fathers. Caregivers. You are allowed to be depressed. You are allowed to have anxiety. You are allowed to defend yourself when someone gives you one of those phrases. Take what time you can find to collect yourself. It can be difficult to get a sitter to go out and have a coffee by yourself, but you can take time in the shower to just “be”. Cry if you need to. Meditate. Ignore the yelling at the door for a moment. Again, its hard because your first instinct is to parent.

Having a mental illness does not make you a bad parent. It doesn’t make you any less than someone who doesn’t have a mental illness. If you have safe people to talk to, reach out to them when you need help. If you don’t, reach out to this blog so we can find someone to help you. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to, and we will help. <3

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