My kids help me manage my mental health
I am often told by other bipolar folks that they can’t fathom balancing parenthood with their disorder. Which I totally get. Being a parent is a lot of work. I often have my sleep disrupted, and sleep is pivotal for the management of bipolar disorder. Lack of sleep can easily trigger a manic episode. That’s not to mention the overall difficulty in caring for small children all day.
Nonetheless, and I’ve seen this sentiment mirrored, being a mom helps me manage my mental illness.
Not working lends itself to more self-care and less anxiety.
I want to start off by saying that being a stay-at-home mom is an incredibly privileged ability. My husband is an engineering manager, which means we have plenty of income to cover our expenses and then some.
Furthermore, I and my husband are comfortable and even happy to have me stay home with the kids.
As a result, I’m able to tend more to myself during my swings. If I feel like there are bees in my brain, I can leave the house. We can drive an hour and a half away to visit children’s museums or buy impulsive things for ourselves and the house. I’m able to harness my energy and pour myself into projects, whatever they may be.
I can’t lean into my swings the way I use to.
I was more able to follow the destructive paths of my swings before having two kids. I drank excessively. Got my nipples pierced, went to parties, and showed them to any girl willing to look. I spent money even more frivolously. I was able to follow every whim to buy makeup or clothing. I could throw away half our possession.
When depressed, I could stay in bed. I would take a shower, wrap up in a blanket-esque bathrobe and pass out. I could eat as infrequently as I wanted. I simply can’t do those things now. I have two children who need and deserve better from me. They need me to wake up when they do. They need healthy foods and clean clothes.
I practice self-care, and our children need to see that.
It’s incredibly valuable for our kids to see us care for ourselves. I’ve started off by telling my son that mom isn’t always healthy. I know he would repeat most of what I said if I told him I’m sick or bipolar.
So I tiptoe around to help him understand, in a way that isn’t likely to stigmatize me if my words are not kept in the immediate family. Furthermore, keeping the language simple and concise helps bring the issues to his level. And being unhealthy implies an ability to become healthy.
I often tell him that my yelling (mania often makes me particularly irritable) isn’t because of him. He’s not an issue. He isn’t making me yell. Mom is simply unhealthy and actively trying to get better.
I take long baths when the depression hits. I aim to eat light and healthier foods. I give myself space to rest and focus on the absolute priorities. They see me drop unnecessary demands and focus on my own health.
So while being a stay-at-home mom can be a thankless job, with constant demands, and limited alone time, it helps me manage my disorder in many ways. I’m thankful for my kids. They keep me grounded and keep me from more extreme behavior.