I’m Ready to Share: Mental Illness and Parenting

This post was written as a contribution to the Perfectly Imperfect: Parenting with Mental Illness Blog Carnival.  The participating bloggers are sharing their experiences, thoughts, and opinions on how living with mental illness affects their daily lives and parenting practices.



I have a bit of a confession to make, as this is something I haven’t had the guts/purpose to talk about on this blog before.  I’m bipolar.  Although, I struggle with that because I am not bipolar.  I am many many things, but bipolar is a condition and not who I am.  It is something I often suffer from.  It it something I have to deal with.  It is part of me, but it is not me.  I want to talk about it though because it is important to get it out there.  I know I am not alone and I would like, more than anything, for people who suffer with mental diseases and disorders to band together.

And more than that, I want people to understand what it can be like to live with a parent who is bipolar.  Not the story you read about the mother who flew off the handle.  Not the father who would disappear for weeks at a time.  But the mother with bipolar who has been striving for “normal”.  The mother who is constantly working to be stable.  The mother who has found the happy medium.

What does bipolar mean to me?
It means keeping constant awareness of my moods, my thoughts, my feelings, and most particularly my spontaneity.   It means making sure I am keeping a consistent regiment of meds and/or therapy…whatever is working for the time being.  It’s all about being aware.

To be more specific, I regularly deal with depression and anxiety.  Lucky for me, mania is not something I have to deal with often at this point in my life.

Today I’d like to cover some common myths about bipolar/depression/anxiety.

1. You have constant mood swings.
Bipolar is not mood swings, trust me.  It is much more than that.  So when you meet someone whose best friend is happy one minute and irate the next, it does not mean he/she is bipolar.  People with bipolar typically have a manic and depressive cycles lasting weeks or months at a time.

2. You cycle constantly.
Having bipolar does not mean that you are either depressed or manic.  Many people with bipolar often toe the line between for long stretches of time.  Some people may find help with therapy or drugs, and some may just be “lucky” enough to feel normal for a stretch of time.

3. You can ‘snap out of it’
If I only had a penny for every time I’d been told to “snap out of it”..  This goes for anyone suffering from anything.  I cannot snap out of the flu any easier than I can snap out of depression.  Believe me I have begged and pleaded to just let the depression end, and it just does not work that way.  I have tried every diet, every exercise…it just does not work that way.  So, the next time someone confides in you that they feel depressed…please do NOT tell them to just snap out of it.

4. A Manic Episode is fun or happy
Sorry, not so.  Manic episodes can be exhilarating, but they’re exhausting.  Imagine having the best idea of your life.  An idea that can make you millions…no billions of dollars.  It’s exciting and all you want to do is get this idea going.  You work for hours and days on end.  Exhaustion doesn’t set in.  You don’t get hungry.  And then you crash.  And you realize you’ve just spent days on an idea that sucks.
It’s like being on an IV of caffeine and you still cannot move fast enough.  You can’t talk quickly enough, yet you still try to slow down because you know you sound insane.  Your ideas are flying so quickly through your head that you don’t even have time to consider each one.  It’s a constant and quick ride that you have very little control over.
I cannot speak for everyone, obviously, but that is what mania feels like to me.

5.  Meds will fix everything/Meds will hurt everyone.
Medication for bipolar is not the end all be all.  There is not one medication that will make everyone happy and serene.  Every person needs to find a doctor and find a regimen that will work for them – and that may or may not involve medication.  Meds will not fix bipolar alone, and meds are not required for someone who is bipolar to live a stable life.

6.  People with bipolar should just…
I cannot express how many times I’ve heard/read “I have bad days but I just get up and go about my life”.  That’s not bipolar…that’s not depression.  If you think that you are depressed but you just put mind over matter to ‘get over it’…sorry, that’s not depression.  I’ve gone through weeks and months just doing the daily grind and getting through it, and that’s not depression.  Depression is more and depression is worse.  There is no quick and easy solution for depression.

Other things not to say:
1. My cousin/hair dresser/random person I know has bipolar, and this is what they do.
– It’s not that I don’t care what they did, but I’ve learned that chances are, other people only know a fraction of what was actually done.
2. Aren’t you worried that you kids will be bipolar too?
– Yes!!!  Of course I’m constantly worried that something bad will happen to my kids and that they may have to suffer too.  Thanks for reminding me…?
3. Bipolar isn’t a real illness.
Just shut up.  I can’t even respond to this, sorry.

Things to say to someone who has come out to you.
(please bear in mind this is no all-inclusive, nor will everyone agree)
– I know this was hard for you to tell me and I’m glad you feel comfortable enough to let me be there for you.
– Let me know how I can help you/support you/be there for you.
– I’m ready to listen whenever you need me.

I’d like to include a short history just so anyone reading this can know where I am coming from and what my history is.  I hesitate in sharing this because it’s quite personal, but I share it hoping that it will help someone.

I was first diagnosed with major depression at the age of 12 and later was diagnosed as bipolar at the age of 16.  I spent the better part of a year in psychiatric hospitals (it took quite a few before the right one was found).  Since that point I have nearly constantly been on a regimen of mood stabilizers and/or antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds.  As has been possible, I’ve seen a therapist.  I’ve tried many many many different medications and “cocktails” to find the right fit.  It’s a constant battle that I will continue to fight.

I’m now 29.  I can’t say that I have it all together or that my struggle is over.  I’ve made the mistake many times of thinking that I am cured or better or just doubting the diagnosis in general.  I have good days and bad.  I have days where I can feel myself slipping and I know to take action. I have days where I feel…normal.  I still see a doctor, a therapist, take meds, have a good routine.  It’s all about finding what works for you.

Please feel free to contact me if you just need someone to talk to or if you have any questions erin (at) royalbaloo (dot) com

I have a lot more to say on this topic, so I do anticipate more posts on this topic.  Feel free to ask any questions in the comments or email, and I’ll do my best to answer.  I’m not a professional, though I do have a B.S. in Psychology and I heavily studied abnormal psych while in college.

Read other posts from the Perfectly Imperfect: Parenting with Mental Illness Blog Carnival:
Andie from Crayon Freckles explores how living with bipolar disorder affects motherhood and the perceptions of those around her.  She also shares what she’s doing to combat the stigma that mental illness carries.  Find more from Andie on her blog, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Krissy, a work-at-home mama of 3, shares her experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and offers 8 Tips (compiled from other moms who manage depression) for Moms Who Are Feeling Depressed. Find more from Krissy on her blog, Facebook, and Pinterest. 
PlayDrMom, Laura Hutchison, PsyD, LP, RPT/S, shares her personal story about her lifetime struggle with depression spanning childhood through parenthood.  She hopes that with her post others may recognize similarities in their own lives (or the lives of their children) and not feel alone or helpless in their own struggles. She also writes a guest post on A Healthier Michigan about the importance of talking about mental illnesses in hopes to help end the stigma.  With openness of discussing the subject people will feel more comfortable with seeking help and continuing treatment.

Depression During and After Pregnancy: One Mum’s Story
The mum from What to Do With the Children, shares her experiences her heart-breaking struggles with antepartum and post-partum depression. 
Catherine writes on her sister’s blog about parenting a toddler and baby as a mother with depression and PTSD, including steps she takes to cope.
Can an introverted, anxious, depressed mom still practice Attachment Parenting? Believe it or not, with the right amount of planning and forethought, it might actually be possible.  Find more from Prickly Mom on her blog, Facebook, and Pinterest
Erin from RoyalBaloo.com talks about mental illness, how it effects her as a parent, and what parenting with mental illness means to her.  She discusses some common myths regarding Bipolar and gives advice to what to say/not to say to a parent with mental illness.  Erin is a mother to 3 boys who blogs about parenting and their homeschooling journey.  Find more from her on her blog,  Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google +
If you would like to share this carnival, you can use the hashtag #EndStigma

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  1. Thank you for sharing your story. My best friend was diagnosed with bipolar. While she has shared some parts of her story with me, your story helped me really understand what it is like for her to live day by day. That was incredibly brave of you to share something so personal. 

    1. I hope it helps!!  Bipolar is such an incredibly personal and lonely battle.  I'm sure your friend is lucky to have a friend who is, at the very least, trying to understand. 🙂

  2. Hi Erin, great post. I'm new to your blog, so I'm looking forward to taking a look around.
    Your post made me choke up a little because of the honesty and truthfulness of it (I'm also in the middle of switching meds, but still, you were right on).
    I'm just finding out that my 4-yo already has anxiety…as you can imagine, considering my (and my husband's) family history, I shouldn't be surprised, but it still crushed me. The good news for moms like us is that we lived through it and are on the lookout for it in our kids, so they'll have the advantage of early ntervention.
    We're still good moms!

    1. 🙁  I grew up with anxiety, undiagnosed.  I've play the scenario in my head over and over again of my kids being diagnosed with anxiety.

      It's amazing to me that you've been able to identify an issue so young and I so hope that it helps.  I grew up being labeled as "shy" but I didn't feel shy!!  It was very confusing.

      If anything, being through what you have been through makes you the perfect mom for your son.  🙂

  3. thank you so much for sharing.  i loved your suggestions on how we can help — so often i think people want to help, they just don't know what to do. 

  4. Thank you for sharing.   As the parent of a child who has bipolar, I understand and appreciate your thoughts and willingness to share.  Since my child has been diagnosed, this is actually the first bit of "real life" information that was useful.  Thank You

  5. Erin, I admire your guts and love your humor!  Love how your response to "it's not a real illness" is "-just shut up." 🙂  I considered joining in on this as I have severe anxiety (agoraphobia with panic disorder and OCD).  And I also have a degree in psychology,  seems we have some things in common! 

    1. Today has been incredibly eye opening.  Even though the blog hop has gone live, you should still write something!!  It's very therapeutic!

      Isn't it interesting how people with "issues" seem to flock toward the psych degree??

  6. Thank you for your post. This takes a lot of strength and is very brave. I am not biploar, but used to have depressions (fortunately, my pregnancy changed this completely).
    You speak from my heart, especially with the part of "snapping out of it".. I can't tell you how often I heard this from friends and family. I am not sure how to say in English, but I grew up with "get your sh** together" (excuse my language…) My whole family follows this mantra, weakness is never shown to anyone outside and even inside the family you try to pretend that everything is fine. They don't understand that it is simply impossible when you have a depression…
    I am just very thankful to have my husband, who went through this with me and never expected anything – only cared enough to stay and live through the bad times with me!

    1. My ILs seem to be more of the mindset of noth letting anyone outside the family see whats really happening.  I can't imagine having to hide in that "perfect" exterior.  I wish I could give you a hug!  I'm so glad that your pregnancy helped turn things around for you and that you found a husband who was able to support you! 🙂

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. I know it was difficult to do, but you are helping to educate those of us who don't know but would really like to. I have always admired you as a woman, and a mom. I admire you ever more so knowing the struggles you face. I'm always here if you want to talk or if you would like a matching gawdy orniment for the other side of your tree <3

  8. No one (including you!) are their illness … you are a person first.  You are a woman with bipolar.  You have bipolar, not are bipolar.  Just like have depression.  
    Thank you for sharing your story. You did such a great job with this post!

  9. This has been sitting in my reader all week, and I’m glad I finally was able to read it.

    I know at times I’ve said the wrong thing to someone, I actually did that earlier this week, and I need to make sure to go back and apologize to that Mom, because it was a stupid thing to say.

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