Little Thoughts, Big Feelings: Mental Illness & Motherhood

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I thought for a long time that I would never have children. Not simply because I wouldn’t but because I shouldn’t. I had so many negative thoughts leading me to believe having children wasn’t the right path for me. Is it selfish to procreate when you are mentally ill? Most humans have an inherent desire to pass on their genes. There are a lot of primitive desires that we have evolved to ignore for the greater good. Is procreation, in certain situations, one of those things that should be avoided? How does one know if one is fit to parent? Should we all procreate? Certainly not. What a philosophical quandary.

Not only have I been diagnosed with bipolar but there is a history of addiction in my family. I was unhappy for a good portion of my life and I don’t think there’s much anyone could have done to stop it. My parents may have made mistakes but I can’t blame them for everything. It’s true, my dads addiction has been the focus of many therapy sessions but the deeper I dug the more I realized the issues were coming from within. DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) has helped me control my thought patterns and moods, lessening my struggle, but do I really want to have children, knowing they are predisposed to this type of internal struggle? My therapist does a great job of helping me differentiate between what I can change, what I want to change and what I need to accept. That alone isn’t enough to convince me I would be a fit parent. The thing is, I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that doesn’t always allow me to control my moods effectively. DBT does help but I have to use a medication called Lamictal in order to stabilize my mood. This drug regulates the sodium channels in my brain, essentially creating a floor and a ceiling on my emotions. This is not the ideal situation and this isn’t a medication that I enjoy taking. I miss being myself sometimes and I miss the “highs” that come with bipolar disorder. I never wanted my child to have to go through such adversity. So what do I do? I’m pregnant now. There’s no going back. 

All of the negative assertions and ideas I once had about my own competence have to disappear, they are irrelevant. There is no longer any reason for me to question whether or not I would make a good mother. Now I must ask myself how I will be a good mother. What can I do to make sure I stay on the right track? One of the most important things I must keep in mind is my own health. Mental health– spiritual health–and physical health. There is no way I can accomplish my parenting goals if I’m unable to take care of myself. If I am healthy I will be able to dedicate myself to making sure my daughter doesn’t struggle in the same way that I did. I believe everyone struggles, to a certain extent, so I will ingrain, in her, the skills to endure and conquer. I will provide her with a stable environment in which she can flourish. I, myself, will still struggle in many ways I’m sure, but that doesn’t mean she can’t live a healthy, productive life. She will be surrounded by love and amazing people that I’ve come to think of as family. One thing I can tell you for sure, is that while it may be a significantly greater challenge for some individuals to overcome the obstacles associated with childbirth and child raring, it is not impossible.

 

The first image is of session notes taken during the beginning of the pregnancy. The second set of notes come from later on during the second trimester.

 

bipolar parenting session snippet 2bipolar parenting session snippet 1

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