Meet Alysia, a member of the 2018 PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors who’s living with bipolar II disorder. Here’s what she had to say about parenting with a mental health condition, learning to adapt and how she “defies the odds.”
When I was younger I wrote stories about my alter ego who had kids. I lived almost vicariously through this alter, figuring I would never be a parent myself — that I was too damaged to be loved, much less be a parent. The resounding thud ending my hopes came when I was 20 and diagnosed primarily with bipolar II disorder, rapid cycling, during my first inpatient hospitalization. The relief of knowing what was going on with me was mixed with the fear and a sense of “no one is going to want to deal with this enough to love me.” I was wrong — I have an 11 ½ year old stepdaughter and a 3 ½ year old daughter.
To some extent they know that mom is “sick” and it doesn’t ever fully go away. It causes me to feel like I am not worthy of having kids or that they would be better off with anyone else as their mom. I worry constantly about the emotional damage I may be causing them because of my bipolar symptoms. That worry and my desire to do better for them, and myself, is a huge driving force to regain and maintain my stability.
When my husband and I were planning our family, I told him that:
“If our kid was like me, she would be in a great place full of love and understanding. Her family will know the battles they are about to face and how to face them.”
We will be as ready as we can be to help her. As a parent, that is all we can do — be there to help them through all of life — from learning to roll over, to walking, to homework, to heartbreaks and celebrations. Having a mental illness does not fully stop me from being there for them. I may not be as present and involved as I want, but I’m working on it, and the best part of kids is that they love you without hesitation.
My daughter is three, and she can be handful with her “three-nager” attitude that truly makes me fear puberty with her. She is also so incredibly compassionate, smart, funny, creative and loving that I’m in awe of her constantly. My stepdaughter is entering puberty and all of those joys and frustrations, but she is also: vibrant, headstrong, dynamic and an ever-evolving young woman. No matter what we face in the future, we are going to succeed because we are a family.
You can be an amazing parent with any type of illness; it does not define or exclude you from that. Every family has its own challenges and learning how to adapt and overcome your obstacles is vital to success.
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