The other day someone sent me a message on The Lithium Chronicles Facebook page, asking me why I didn’t feel guilty for having children because I have Bipolar Disorder. Now normally when I get questions in my inbox I post them, not only to answer them publicly, but also to let others share their experiences and feelings. I left this question unanswered, and instead decided to address it here, in a blog post.
Do I feel guilty for having children when I knew I had bipolar disorder? The answer is an unflinching and resounding NO. I do not feel guilty. My children are a blessing and I, despite my illness or maybe even because of it, am a great mother.
But what if they are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder or some other Mental Illness?
Well if that’s the case, I had better blaze the best trail possible for them to follow. I now not only have myself to think of while trying to live my best and healthiest life, I have two beautiful daughters who learn by example, my example. I refuse to allow the anxiety and worry regarding what-if’s to take over my life. Trust me, I catastrophize enough stuff, this is a non-issue.
IF, in time my children are diagnosed with Bipolar or any other mental illness, we will deal with it. Because I have walked the path that I have, I think if they are ever faced with a diagnosis, WE as a family will all be better prepared for what lies ahead.
But what happens when your moods and health issues come before your children?
I admit, this part does leave me with a little bit of guilt, it has happened, a few times now. I’ve had to leave them in the care of their loving and supportive father to go inpatient on a couple of different occasions. And do you know what happened then? I came out healthier, stronger and more capable of handling my swings. I’m not perfect, and I yell and cry in front of them. I always come back and apologize; not saying that makes it right, but for someone to demand guilt from me by having my gorgeous girls is ridiculous.
I work on my health and my well being on a daily basis, and sometimes those days aren’t good days. Sometimes this does require a day, maybe even two, in bed, it sucks but it’s the truth. But are my children missing out? No, they certainly are not, and here’s why:
My children are not sheltered from my illness; I don’t believe that’s in their best interest. My children are six and eight now and while they don’t understand all of it, they understand more than most adults I know. They are kind, compassionate, empathetic, HAPPY kids, whose reality is just a bit different from some of their peers. Their mom gets sick sometimes, that’s just the way it goes. Their mom also gets really awesome sometimes too. Their Mom encourages them to stand up for themselves as well as for others who have no one to stand for them. Their Mom has taught them about Stigma and how sometimes people are just cruel and ignorant. Because of my illness, and what I do as an advocate, my children have been exposed to awareness and hope. Yes, they’ve seen the dirty end of the stick as well, and we’ve used that as a learning tool on what not to do next time.
Look no one is a perfect parent, but telling me to feel guilty for having the most amazing and brilliant children on the face of the earth just shows me how much farther we have to go to combat ignorance. I am completely aware of the what-if and the could-be situations, but that is not going to stop me from being the best Mom that I can be. Educating my children on mental illness is actually doing you all a service. I have two little warriors already doing what they can to combat Stigma. My oldest just recently made a poster for her class that said, “Mental Illness is nothing to be Ashamed of”, drew a green ribbon for BP Awareness, and had her entire class sign it. Her teacher has now proudly displayed it on their classroom wall.
We all have our ups and downs when it comes to being parents, but being parents with a mental illness can be exceptionally challenging. We don’t need people piping up to voice their concerns over whether or not we should feel guilty.
Look, if you choose to have children or not, that’s your call. I wish you all the best. To those who would shame me for choosing to have children, do you feel guilty for having children because you’re an asshole?
Edited on November 17th, 2015 to reflect the disgusting comments from reddit where someone decided to post this and call me everything from unstable to a psychopath. Stigma, folks, and here we go: