The baby who wasn’t 

I have three gorgeous children, aged 8, nearly 5, and 1.5. I love them more than I can fathom, and they drive me to the brink of full-on lunacy every day. I have three gorgeous children, and I have had seven pregnancies. 
My seventh occurred a few months ago. After my husband left for his most recent romp with the Navy, I realized I was pregnant. We have talked extensively about having a fourth child, and we both agreed that another baby just isn’t something we can do. With that in mind, I was at first afraid to call him and break the news. I chose to wait and process the situation for myself. 
For a few weeks I quietly prepared myself for the conversation I would have with my husband, my children, and then my family. I stayed up at night looking at options for a second vehicle, a bigger house. I started taking prenatal vitamins, and without realizing consciously, I was becoming exited. I talked with my sister about it, and my best friend, and decided that I was ready to tell my husband. 

At week 9, I miscarried. 
I have had SAB before, as well as late term, and what I have learned is this: it doesn’t matter if it’s week 2 or week 22, when you miscarry you lose a piece of your soul. The hopefulness that pregnancy can bring is ripped away from you, and all that was left was a crippling sadness, a feeling of worthlessness, and a rapid descent into an ugly depression that is all-consuming. The hint of joy inside of me is gone, and no matter what, it can never be replaced or recreated. When a living person leaves you, they take a piece of you with them. You grieve, you wonder if you could’ve done something to help. When someone dies inside of you, the guilt of having let this person-to-be expire, to deny them their right to life, it is a pain that stays fresh inside of you for as long as you live. Whether or not it was my fault is inconsequential, because no one will ever be able to convince me that it wasn’t. I’m a statistician and an historian – I am an entirely logical person. However, for me, miscarriage defies logic and understanding. Perhaps it’s not meant to be understood as a whole, because everyone’s experiences causes them to forge their own reality to cope with the unyielding pain that comes with unconscionable loss. 
My soul is ripped in seven pieces, but I am not immortal. In fact, with every tear my humanity is amplified in my own consciousness. Three pieces of my soul live on in the beautiful children I have helped create, and four live on in the annals of my heart and mind, never to be known by anyone but me. In my heart they have names, faces, and the sadness that I feel for them has shaped who I am, and who I have yet to become. 
On top of this furious flurry of emotions, I am still very much bipolar/BPD/major depressive. The demons hiding in my darkness have come out to play in full force, and at times I feel as though I need to scream to silence them. But silence doesn’t come no matter what I do. I hide, I cry, I hug my babies, I carry on as usual, I eat too much, I can’t sleep, I read the same page of the same book for days, I get dressed and force myself into normalcy. No matter what I can’t win. There’s no version of this story where I come out a better, more evolved human being. I leave this essay just as broken as when I started writing it, but feeling infinitely more exposed having vocalised what I have been trying so hard to hide. 

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100 Acts of Kindness

Looking through my house a while ago, I determined that we have way too many things. Toys, clothes, movies, books, too much of everything. In the interest of making sure that my children don’t grow into ungrateful little monsters, we have decided to make some much needed changes to the way we live.
One night while mindlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed I came across an article about a man from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, who was in the process of performing 1000 acts of kindness in his community. Feeling inspired, but knowing that 1000 of anything is likely too ambitious for my little ladies, we’ve settled on 100.
100 acts of kindness that can be performed throughout the year, starting with this Christmas and ending with the next. We have already performed our first act, and the girls were very happy to do it! Last night we took them to the mall where they picked Santa’s Anonymous presents. The big girls each picked a child off of a Christmas tree- L picking a seven year old girl and P picking a three year old girl- and then we went to Toys R Us to pick out the gifts. We had a lot of fun browsing and in the end the girls picked some great gifts that they each out a lot of thought into.
I was so proud of them for understanding what they were doing and for not asking if they could have something that my mind went immediately to rewarding them with some kind of gift. Knowing that they would defeat the purpose of this whole endeavor, I decided that the reward should be feeling good about helping others.
Our next act involves all of us packing up the things that we don’t need and donating them to a few different places. I have way too many clothes that go unworn, Big Daddy has way too many books. The ladies will be packing up the majority of their toys and too-small clothes. Toys that they actively play with, no more than ten each, can be kept. They can keep their art supplies, and the stuffed animals that have sentimental value. The goal is to strip the house of all of the excess. Relying on things to make us happy is not the lesson I want to teach my daughters, and I think that by teaching them go pass things on to others when they are done is a good way to help teach that. I want giving to become second nature to them, and even though we are starting during a holiday season, by continuing throughout the year they will see that is important to care all year round-not just when we think Santa is watching.
I have some more ideas lined up for our year of giving and learning, and I have every intention of continuing the cycle for as many years as i can. who knows, maybe when the girls have families of their own, they will continue the tradition!
If you have any suggestions for acts of kindness, please pass them on! Has anyone out there reading done something like this? Let’s talk about it! Reach me via the comments here, or on Twitter! (@thesagemum) Let’s get a discussion going on ways to make our children more kind, forgiving, empathetic people.
I will keep track of our progress here, so stay tuned for more good deeds!

From The Archives: ELEUTHEROMANIA

*This post originally appeared on my Blogspot in July*

ELEUTHEROMANIA is an intense desire for freedom, or a break from your usual routine.

Moi sans toi.. Ça n’existe pas!
My life as a Navy wife
Every military spouse has their own unique story. We all have a lot of the same challenges to overcome, and we all find different ways to overcome them. Here is a brief version of my challenges as a military wife, and why somedays I consider growing a moustache and assuming a new identity.
My military spouse career started almost 10 years ago. I already had a good idea of what the life was like, thanks to various family members serving in various branches and countries. We had our first daughter, and for the first 18 months, I was pretty sure that I had everything figured out. I was at the top of my game, going to school, looking after my kid, being supportive of my husband.
Now, three postings and (almost) three kids later, I am waving a white flag from my fox hole.
My oldest daughter, now six, is gifted – with an exceptionally high IQ, and the ability to rationalise thoughts that should be too complex for her age. After she was tested I read several books on how to help her, but there is no book on how to deal with the gifted child of a military member. During his first major deployment on this coast I learned that children like her can develop depression at an early age. It took several months to accurately diagnose what was wrong with her, and the stress of her not eating, barely moving, trying to quit her life, was very hard to handle. (Understatement)
I went to every professional I could to discuss why she ceased to function as a human child. I blamed myself entirely for not being able to kiss her emotional boo-boo’s. Why wasn’t I good enough to make her feel better? Finding out about the cyclical depression she suffers from was a huge step for all of us, though the knowledge didn’t make our day to day any easier.
Our second child was introduced in 2011, while my husband was on a course for his trade. Giving birth without him was surprisingly easy for me, because I knew I had no choice. What was hard was driving myself home from the hospital, and going back to business as usual with kid 1. I celebrated my birthday (2 days after she was born) by taking myself to Costco and buying a slab cake. I ate most of it. My husband’s first view of our daughter was via a text message that my mother sent him. I count myself lucky that I am always the one with the kids, because I have no idea what it feels like to miss out on these milestones. I’m sure it is a guilt that he will harbour for his whole life.
My primary job is to assuage him of that guilt. Be a constant reminder that he is our hero, and is always doing what is best for our family. 97% of the time I believe this to be true. The other 3% I wish he were at home more often so I could shower by myself.
We are now expecting our 3rd child, and a few weeks ago he was called away on less than 48 hours notice. While I am good at last minute planning, my children are not. This sail has been confusing and frustrating for both of them. I try daily to keep them engaged with activities. Take them to see friends, plan movie nights, to to events, but as a pregnant lady and cardiac patient, I need breaks. Between depression, PTSD, and a heart that will never function like it used to, (thanks to it stopping and then having a mild infarction when I came back to life), I am not the 10/10 mother that I wish I could be. (5/10 on a good day).
It’s a vicious cycle. I have fun, I slow down, I feel guilty, I exert myself, I have fun, I slow down, I feel guilty. I feel weak, and some days want nothing more than to lay down and hide while my kids destroy the house.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, it’s not an option. With a spouse who isn’t home, I don’t get to take the day off. As much as I feel sorry for myself, I can’t make my kids suffer. Although on days like today, a pillow over my face doesn’t seem like a bad idea….
As I mentioned earlier, I live with a gifted child – now two gifted children (Kid 2 was also tested). These two beauties that I love and cherish and blah blah blah can be ASSHOLES, and I say that in the most loving way possible.
Both girls deal with their dad being gone through anger. Kid 1 will tell me she hates me, tell me how much better life is when he’s home, how she wishes that I was gone instead of him. She knows that these things hurt me, and I’ve recognised that at the tender age of 6, she is a major manipulator. When I don’t bend to her I feel guilty. I know that she loves me, I should be more kind when she has these outbursts. When I do give in, I know that I’m enabling her to continue to treat me this way.Vicious cycle.
Kid 2 has found her voice and her fists. She kicks and punches and screams at the top of her lungs, and it’s getting harder and harder to dodge her blows. (Maintaining agility with beluga belly is not my strong suit).
Today after a particularly rousing screaming session that lasted from the park to our house, she grabbed a wrench out of the tool bag and threw it at me when I told her she was on time out. The first thing I thought was, ‘time to put the fucking tool bag away.’ 
On top of dealing with my charming kidlets who are currently in the process of planning my murder, I have a house to maintain. This is where I fall short. I have several friends who are also military spouses, and their houses seem infinitely more cared for than mine. It drives me batty, but most days I don’t have the energy for entertaining the kids and doing housework. It’s one or the other. Today I was up at 0700 doing the dishes and trying to clean up, while kid 2 sat on the floor cutting paper and scattering it.
On days like today, I put my kids to bed early, and daydream of the day when I finally have the balls to pack up my shit and run away. Make no mistake – I love my family – but when I am feeling stressed I yearn for a life with no responsibility. Laying on a beach in Europe, gently and consistently buzzed, sounds so appealing, and the psychosis inside of me has me convinced that I would feel very little guilt.
Are there flaws in my plan? Absolutely. We don’t make enough money for me to run away. I could get a flight, but I wouldn’t take the food out of my children’s mouths to fund my own sick fancy.
Also, the thought of knowing that I could never return prevents me from doing anything irrational. I would eventually get bored and want to come home, but I know in my heart that I would not be welcomed back – which is totally reasonable and understandable. I know the feeling of being abandoned by a parent, and just as I would never forgive my father if the opportunity presented itself, I would not expect my girls or my husband to ever forgive me.
So I plan little vacations in my head, picture going to fabulous places, imagine not speaking to anyone for days at a time, I read books in the middle of the night, and I remember that the little shits who want to murder me are also the best things that have ever happened to me, and they are the glue that bonds me to my amazing husband while he is away.
He is under an immeasurable amount of stress while he is away, worried that he’s left me at home with a broken lawn mower, broken washing machine, and children who pine for him. He deserves to know that I am working my hardest to keep things stable while he’s away. That is my biggest job as a wife. Keeping a home that is deserving of his daily sacrifice. He has given up being with us so that I can be at home, getting hit with wrenches. When he is home is a super dad, and I fade nicely into the background – free to do what I want. So should I complain while he’s away that it’s hard to parent? Whether I should or shouldn’t, it’s hard not to. Staying positive when I talk to him can be very hard. Choosing what to omit or gloss over so that he isn’t worried can be difficult, and sometimes I break down and tell him that I’m useless without his help and guidance.
Afterward I apologise, pull myself together, and remind myself that we live a very good life, and counting my blessings is just as easy as whining about my shortcomings.
The point of my story is this: my life as a Navy wife is a roller coaster of holding myself together and completely falling apart. Vicious cycle. Would I trade it for anything? Never. I’m proud of how far we’ve come, and I know that my kids won’t always be monsters. It’s all about perspective. Other women’s houses may seem cleaner, their children better adjusted, but I don’t ride their roller coaster, and I cannot stand in judgement or jealousy of any family that works as hard as we do.
If my children are still throwing punches when they turn 12, I will definitely consider the running away plan, but I’ll take my husband with me. He deserves the break, too.

I can’t handle your horror stories. Or your hugs.

As you may recall, two weeks ago I gave birth to my third little earth angel. Recently, someone decided it would be a good idea to talk to me about crib death, or SIDS. while their motives were pure and they only meant to help me, I must say, it was the opposite of helpful. Too often people either forget or don’t understand what true Generalised Anxiety Disorder is. GAD is not feeling nervous before a presentation at work, it is not the ‘socially awkward’ guy who enjoys telling people how awkward he is, it is true, crippling anxiety that can terrorise the sufferer.
During the first few months of my older girls lives, they did not leave my arms. I am a co-sleeper (deal with it) because my fear of not feeling them breathing is crippling. In fact, with my newest addition, I don’t sleep at night. I sit up with her while she sleeps. In the morning my husband takes her, and I have a nap. My fear of being away from any of my children causes a lot of problems for me, especially now that the two big girls are in school. Any time they aren’t in my line of sight I don’t function like a normal person. I try, but my thoughts are filled only with wondering if they are still ok. I struggle to leave the house, and I struggle even more when they go somewhere without me. Don’t mistake my fears for a lack of trust, I trust my family completely; I know that they can take just as good of care of the girls as I can – but t doesn’t matter. When I’m not with them not only do I feel immense guilt, but the anxiety of being away from them on top of it.
Approaching me about crib death was bad for me emotionally, because I cannot deal with the information properly. Instead of identifying it as reasonable information that could be helpful, I extract only the negative ideas from it. Quickly those ideas fester in my mind and cause me to no longer see the information rationally. Anxiety affects my appetite, my sleep, even my ability to go to the bathroom. My mood suffers, and I cling to my babes more than usual. It sounds unreasonable, and it is – but that’s the nightmare that is anxiety. I can see that I’m overreacting, I can visualise better reactions, but I can’t execute them because the bad always over powers the good. There is no sweeping the anxiety under the rug, there is no drinking some tea to relax. I don’t. Relax. The only moments of emotional safety I enjoy are when I am laying in my giant bed with my three little princesses. (And their dad!)
I do take medications to help take the edge off, but learning to deal with anxiety takes time and practice. The practice includes letting the girls go on dates with their granny, letting my eldest walk to her classroom lineup by herself, and going grocery shopping by myself.
I can justify my behaviour by thinking that my anxiety keeps me vigilant. I take good care of my girls while resisting the urge to helicopter over them. It’s hard, and leads to a lot of internal stress, but I work on it every day. I will continue to co-sleep with my kids, while taking all necessary precautions to prevent SIDS. Hopefully you, the reader, will do your best to remember that sometimes your advice will affect me in a way the you don’t intend, so please consider your audience before you start trying to help.
Also, stop touching me. I hate being touched. If I didn’t give birth to you, I don’t want to hug you. Sorry.

Postpartum Depression? Never heard of it.

Thursday October 9th, 2014, I gave birth to my third and final child. A daughter, a perfect mix in looks of her two older sisters and the final puzzle piece that completes my heart. As the excitement of visitors, gifts, and warm wishes dies down, I will receive a different kind of guest. Tomorrow a psychologist from Social Services will come to my home to ask me if i plan to commit suicide, or feel the urge to harm my family. I am ready for the visit, as unpleasant as I find the prospect of having a stranger come into my home and interview me about my mental health – I know it’s necessary, and I don’t begrudge them coming to check. After all, I could be the one that slips through the cracks and hurts myself, or worse, someone I love.

Postpartum depression is something that, oddly enough, I have never experienced. After each of my pregnancies I have experienced the happiest phases of my life – like a not quite manic version of postpartum euphoria. ‘The baby pinks’, as opposed to ‘the baby blues’, is very real, and like the blues, it goes away. The first few months after my children are born I am radiant, thoughtful, active, and genuinely happy. I take care of everyone like I was born for it. I float happily through 3 am feedings, I am not affected by endless crying, I even make friends more easily.

Now that I am properly medicated I am hoping that this pink phase isn’t as extreme as it was with the other two – although it feels like I will be doing her a disservice by not being as doting as I was with the other girls. The pinks are frightening because the inevitable come-down is devastating, and not just to me. I go from beaming angel of motherly excellency to the catatonic, stinky, angry, person that I normally am. I go back to not eating properly, not sleeping, and not brushing my hair.

I don’t understand any of it. Some have told me that I do better at the beginning because I feel like I have a purpose again; but do I not have a purpose to begin with? I am already a mother, saying that I have ‘new meaning’ makes me feel as though I didn’t love my older children as much. (I am fully aware that that is not the intent of the statement). I love all of my girls so much (understatement), why can’t I constantly be in the pink? Will I ever have enough to satisfy me enough to be happy with my every day routine? Fortunately for me, this is the last time that I will be enduring this unique form of mental illness – but I am scared of what is to come. Am I destined to a life of indifference and complacency?

Wake up, medicate, just get by, repeat.

My girls deserve a pink mom, and so does my husband. I have signed up to do volunteer work at my oldest daughter’s school in the hopes that I feel valuable for a longer period of time. I am determined to keep writing, to leave the house every day – even just for a walk around the neighbourhood. I want to fight back, and I want to succeed. I can be permanently pink, but it’s going to take a helluva lot of work – work that the cloudy part of me doesn’t feel interested in participating in. Be prepared for my struggle, I will document it here in the hopes that if you have any advice, you offer it up.

Even though The baby blues/pinks can go away with treatment and time, it is still a very serious and very real form of mental illness, and I think we can all benefit from keeping a dialogue and educating everyone on the risks and dangers of postpartum psychosis. As a community, we shall let no one else slip through the cracks. No more mothers harming themselves or their precious families. Support and understanding is something that we all need, but these women especially, need to know that we are here for them. I am here for you. When I reach my downward fall from motherly grace, I hope that some of you can be here for me.

Big surprise, I’ve offended you AGAIN.

I am pregnant. Some days I am a glowing beacon of motherly radiance, floating in golden crepe paper on a cloud made of love for all living things. Most days I’m a cranky bitch who wants nothing more than to be done being pregnant. I have two other daughters, and they do their best to make sure that my rest times are never restful, and that I never forget that I still have to make them sandwiches and dry their pickles even when I feel like a swollen hippopotamus. That’s ok, I need to stay humble. What really gets my goat about being pregnant is having to kowtow to everyone’s opinions of what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. This is MY pregnancy – my last pregnancy, in fact, and all I want to do is enjoy it. I don’t care if you think I should see my doctor more often, I don’t care what your opinions on taking anti-psychotic medications are during pregnancy, and I really don’t give a fuck if you think I shouldn’t be eating peanut butter or caesar salad. Guess what? I eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich EVERY DAY. Always have, always will. My other kids have no nut allergies, and if this one does I promise I will apologise to her profusely for the rest of her nut-free life. For now, WEEE! I love salad, I eat protein bars, I exercise almost daily, I eat as much junk food as I can get my swollen little fingers on, I use cleaning products several times a day specifically because I LIKE THE SMELL.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy discussing pregnancy with other women, ones who have and haven’t been pregnant. I enjoy sharing experiences, learning from other women, and finding out the differences between my generation and the generation before me. When sharing experiences turns into lecturing me on how you would do it/did it, I get a little frosty. My personal experience isn’t actually any of your fucking business. I will be polite as possible, but keep your advice to yourself – for both of our sake. There are a few people who I ASK advice from, my mother-in-law, my mother, my sister, because I genuinely respect and trust their opinions. If you don’t fall into that category, or if I don’t explicitly ask you – back off. Everyone has their own beliefs and methods, and that’s wonderful; but they are just that – your own. Not everything works for everyone else, and that’s not wrong. I don’t offer up parenting advice to friends of mine unless they ask, because it makes me feel incredibly vain. What gives me the right to think that my parenting or pregnancy skills are any better than anyone elses? That’s right; nothing gives me that right. I refuse to submit to my own ignorance and tell someone how it should be done, and I implore everyone else to do the same. Not only do I feel like shit physically, but I then have to deal with feeling terrible emotionally because someone saw me sniff my husband’s beer to see what it smelled like. Take your ass-masking judgement pants off and just be kind. No one cares what you think. Least of all, me.

I typed this sitting next to a container of Comet Cleanser. It smells like angels.

My kids know I’m messed up, they love me anyway

My kids are so amazing, you have no idea. 

The One Who Saved Me

My first daughter was born when I was nineteen. I was destitute, had no education, and was constantly trying to kill myself. I hated who I was, I had no self-worth, and I couldn’t feel the love that my family and friends were trying to give to me. I didn’t deserve it, they were wasting their time. I lived in a dirty neighbourhood with a landlord who had tried to kill me on at least two separate occasions, I hadn’t finished high school, and the clearest option for me was death.  When my little babe was born my boyfriend moved us to Halifax so he could pursue his career in the Navy, and I credit them both for saving my life. They both gave me a reason to live, things to hope for, and most importantly, they showed me how to accept as well as give unconditional love. My life is worth so much, and teenage pregnancy showed me that.

I was very lucky that I had the support that I did, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. My family loved me and did the best they could to help in any way that they could, everyone was determined that I would be a good mother. Their encouragement showed me that being alive was a worthy cause. I didn’t need to be an astronaut with a degree in brain surgery; just being me was good enough – being a good mom was good enough. If I could go to bed every night knowing that I did my best for my little family, then my life was worth living. I look at her face and see my own hopes and dreams reflected back at me. For as long as I live I will never be able to thank her enough or repay her for what she has given to me, but I will try every day to prove to her that I was worth saving.

When my daughter was eighteen months old we relocated to Vancouver Island, and the weather started to get to me. Seasonal affective disorder is not uncommon here, but when you’re unknowingly fighting other demons, it quickly takes its toll.


 

The One I Prayed For

After arriving on the island I went back to school, first to finish high school, and then to post-secondary. The rain and the depression that I was already dealing with made leaving the house very hard. People on the west coast are not as friendly as the people in the east, and I wasn’t prepared for people to not want to be friends with me. I was a young military wife, and struggled to find things in common with other people my age. Before my daughter’s fourth birthday, I gave birth to my second daughter. The one thing I was sure about in my life was the love that I felt for my daughter, and I was determined to fill my life with that same feeling. I couldn’t find friends; I was too far away from family, so another baby was what I needed. My oldest was gaining independence rapidly, and I was missing that feeling of being needed completely.

When I became pregnant for the second time I focussed completely on being the best prenatal mother. I took care of myself, read books, kept a journal, and was excited to be pregnant. There was no stigma attached to being pregnant with her, I just got to enjoy myself. I was happily married, we already had one child, my husband was an amazing caregiver, and no one had to worry about us anymore. It was a special feeling; the knowledge that people weren’t expecting me to self-destruct anymore. A lot of things happened for me during that pregnancy. We found out that our oldest daughter was gifted; I finished school, went through my first deployment as a military wife, and started learning about mental illness. I had suspected that there were imbalances within me, but I was still so afraid of the consequences of admitting it out loud. I thought if I learned enough about it, I would realise that I wasn’t suffering from the things that I thought I was. When my second daughter was born I was able to shift my focus from myself back to my kids, and that continued to work for quite a while. It’s easy to hide from yourself when you don’t slow down enough to see what’s going on.

 


 

The Sickness

          When my middle daughter was two I became very sick while my husband was on a long deployment. I tried my best to take care of myself, but a few weeks after he got home I was devastatingly ill. Being sick changed me in ways I still can’t understand. In some ways I am more relaxed than I used to be, I a more willing to let things go, less likely to become blinded with rage at the slightest inconvenience. In other ways I take things a lot more personally, I am also finally open and accepting about my mental health. When my body shut down, it took along with my power supply, all of the walls and barriers I had used to protect myself and my loved ones. My mental health problems were always just below the surface, but I had constructed elaborate masks to hide behind, and being sick stripped me of all of them. I was left confused and scared. My doctor told me that I would need to see a psychiatrist to determine the extent of the damage that my illness had caused. I didn’t tell my family. I met with the psychiatrist and he told me that he suspected that this wasn’t my first foray into mental illness, and that not only would I need to be medicated, but I would need counselling. I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and insomnia thanks to my near-death experience, as well as a deep-rooted major depressive disorder, and more than likely Bipolar disorder. It would take a few months to determine if I was bipolar, but I was definitely depressed, there was no getting around that.

          When I told my husband I shook and cried, and was positive that he would leave me. I was defective, officially. Even if we had both suspected that something wasn’t right with me before, no one with a professional opinion had confirmed or denied it. I was safe in not knowing. He has been nothing but supportive of me since my diagnosis, and has committed himself to learning alongside me. I know that it is no picnic to live with me, and I can’t imagine how hard it is for him to never know what he’s coming home to. He is always kind to me, regardless of how I treat him, and someday I hope he realises that he deserves better.


 

The One Who Brought New Hope

          In approximately two weeks I will give birth to my third daughter. Sometimes I feel irresponsible for being pregnant while I’m mentally ill, but then I remember that I have always been ill, and my other kids have turned out just fine. This third baby was to prove to myself that I could do it. I am a good mom, and no matter what the status of my mental health is, I will always be a good mom. Being pregnant as an openly mentally-ill person has been a very interesting journey, and I have learned so much about myself and about the people who I’ve surrounded myself with. My support circle is small but tight-knit, and I am confident that the people who love me will help me if needed. My daughters are very excited to be big sisters, and the thought of creating a new life after almost losing mine has been invigorating. I went into this pregnancy with the knowledge that not every day would be perfect, and that I will struggle to maintain my own health while looking after my family, but it is this kind of loving struggle that sustains me, and reminds me that my life has purpose.

 


 

Parenting with Mental Illness

          My kids are both aware that mommy has mental illness. I don’t sugar-coat it, and I don’t beat around the bush. I am emotionally defective, and I include them in my feelings so that they know that none of it is caused by them. When I am having a down day, I try to explain it. I ask for extra hugs, I ask for extra quiet time. I am open with them in the hopes that they will know as they get older that they can trust me with their feelings and emotions. If I don’t hide, why should they? We talk about everything all of the time, and I feel like being sick gives me a unique perspective on their lives and feelings. My oldest daughter deals with childhood depression thanks to being gifted, and who better to understand her confusion than me? We read books and articles together, she draws me pictures and tells me when she’s having a low day. My little one is always good for snuggles and hugs, and she loves singing us songs to make us feel better. As they get older and have to deal with the trials and tests of being young women, I will be beside them to remind them that not everyone is here to judge them, and that they are always allowed to trust their feelings. So often when I was younger I was made to think that what I was feeling was wrong or exaggerated – and now as an adult I am determined to never let my daughters’ feel that way. Every concern that they have is something that I will take seriously, because sometimes that’s all people need. To have their thoughts validated can be the difference between them trusting me with their feelings and not.

Not every day is sunshine and roses for us. I spend a lot of time reflecting on things that I could’ve done better, situations that I wished I could change. What I’ve learned the most over the past six years is to not allow myself to be hung up on the things that have already happened. The most important thing that I do every day is forgive myself – accept the things that I can’t change, and promise to try for better the next day. I wake up in the morning committed to doing the best job that I can for my family. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – but it doesn’t matter, I forgive myself and try again. Children are the best tool for learning forgiveness, because they love you so unconditionally. Instead of dwelling on the notion that they deserve better than me, someone who isn’t broken, I forgive myself and move on, because they forgive me, too. 

 From me I hope that that they will learn compassion for everyone, to be tolerant and non-judgmental of others. They needn’t be friends with everyone, but everyone has their own battle that they are fighting, and my daughter’s will not contribute to anyone else’s pain. My goal in life is to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness, and giving the world these three beautiful girls to help with the fight is the best gift I could give. A new generation of informed and gentle people who see every human as valuable, regardless of what’s going on on the inside. If they are taught to know that there aren’t varying degrees of illness, that cancer isn’t worse than depression, because it’s something you can physically see, then maybe we will start to experience a real change in the way society views mental illness.