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I am a parent who has a mental illness. I remember in the early days of my bipolar 1 mood disorder, two years after my first hospitalization being in a relationship with a woman who had two young children. Her custody case coincided with my second major manic episode and I still carry with me the fact that her relationship with someone who was mentally ill was used in court to help award full custody to the father. That was 1985.
Since then, and lots of lithium I have had a successful 20 year high school teaching career, have been married for 17 years and have two beautiful, creative, loving, high achieving daughters aged 16 and 11.
After 20 years of wellness I had another episode in 2005 and it was the nurturing, loving, healing capacity of family that again got me out the other side. (The first time it was mum!) I left teaching and after a year off work began a new career as a carer of adults with developmental disabilities, and recently this new one day a week job as a consumer rehabilitation worker. I also am a volunteer ambassador for the Black Dog Institute and in that capacity give talks about the Institute and my lived experience of mood disorder.
Approaching fifty, I see so much possibility vocationally, as a father and as a partner.
Consumer Rehabilitation Assistant
Fernhill Place Community Rehabilitation Service
Fairy Meadow, NSW, AustraliaPosted April 30, 2010
When I wake up feeling depressed, I really feel caught off guard. I know I have to get the kids off to school. That means I have to get up and get breakfast ready, make sure they are getting ready, that they’re wearing clothes that are appropriate, and that they have their homework in their backpacks. But when I’m depressed, I feel too tired to move, I have a headache, I feel alone.
When I’m depressed like this, I try to just focus on one step at a time and keep my mind on the kids. I try to push away the negative feelings that are holding me back from getting things done and think about what’s most important. I want to make a good start to the day for both the kids and me. Sometimes this is really hard to do, but I’m a parent, and this is what I have to do.
Here’s what I do when I’m feeling down. Sometimes I just try to stop, take a deep breath, and start over. I shut the door to my bedroom and tell the kids I’ll be out in fifteen minutes. I sit on my bed and breathe deeply with short, clean breaths. I try to relax (not enough to fall asleep again), and then I get up, stretch, take a shower, and then look into the mirror and say to myself, I have kids who depend on me and I love them, so I have to start the day off right for them. If the morning starts out good for them and for me, I can make it through the rest of the day.
Taken from Parenting Well When You’re DepressedPosted April 29, 2010
My daughter had her second birthday just two months after I got out of the hospital for the first time. I had planned a party for her and had invited lots of family and friends to help us celebrate. I had worked hard preparing, sending out handmade invitations, cooking, and cleaning the house. On the evening of the party, just as the guests were beginning to arrive, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the prospect of playing host and ended up sobbing in my room. I called my doctor and told him that I had all these guests arriving and was holed up in my room, a total basket case. He said to me, “What do you want to get out of this night?” I told him I wanted people to have a nice time, and I just wanted to get through it. He asked whether I had help, which I did, and whether my guests were aware of my illness, which they were. Then he suggested that I just keep my thoughts on enjoying the company and forget about trying to make everything perfect. I was able to go downstairs and join the party and everything worked out. It doesn’t seem like a huge revelation, but I have often since then asked myself that question, “What do I want to get out of this day?” It really helps to keep me focused on the task in front of me and reminds me that it’s okay to ask for help and that things don’t have to be perfect.
Massachusetts, USAPosted April 28, 2010
Taken from Parenting Well When You’re Depressed