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Mothering with Mental Illness: You are Not Alone


By Olivia Hinebaugh

 

I want to do a series of posts about parenting with mental illness. I’m hoping that by sharing my experiences, other parents will realize they are not alone in the great balancing act of caring for self and caring for children.

 

The most important thing I want to say to parents struggling with mental illness: You are not alone.

 

Not even a little bit.

 

There are lots of us, whether we talk about it or not. We fall everywhere on the spectrum from occasional blues to debilitating illness.

 

And, yes, there is a stigma about mental illness. A stigma that shouldn’t exist. It shouldn’t exist because people with mental illness did nothing wrong. It shouldn’t exist because people with mental illness should be encouraged to seek help.

 

The stigma is even worse when it comes to parenting. As someone with mental health struggles, I’ve often thought: Do I have what it takes to parent? If someone knows my diagnosis, will they question my ability to parent?

 

Do I have what it takes to parent?

 

Yes. I love my children. I would do anything for them, which includes keeping myself as healthy as I possibly can. It’s not always a straightforward path. For me the decision to medicate was fraught with anxiety about the babies I was carrying or breastfeeding. Anxiety that was just icing on my already very anxious life.

 

I spent many hours researching the effects of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications on a developing pregnancy. I spent even more hours thinking and meditating on what the right decision was for me and for my babes.

 

I know I’m not the only one who has devoted many hours and days and weeks to this struggle. And you’re not the only one either.

 

I’m a mother. I’m an agoraphobic. I suffer from panic disorder. The fear of going certain places, of getting stuck in traffic, of being far away from a bathroom, has impacted my life in many many ways. I’ve gotten depressed about it. I’ve worried that I’ll never be able to take my children to the zoo. I’ve stopped traveling three hours away to visit my in-laws. I’ve sought out therapy. I’ve sought out medication.

 

None of this, none of these challenges have stopped me from loving my kids and nurturing them. I take it a day at a time, a struggle at a time. If I’m not up to taking my son to the zoo, it becomes something special he can do with his grandparents. If I need to take anti-anxiety medications to get on a plane, that’s okay.

 

I made the choice to medicate. I made the choice to seek treatment, so that my children don’t grow up with a mother paralyzed by fear. So that my children know that it’s okay to seek help. It’s more than okay. It’s vital.

 

AppleMark

 

My life as a mother is full of joys. The joys make the struggles so very worth it.

 

Acknowledging your struggles is important. Acknowledging your triumphs is even more important.  And when I overcome a fear, I celebrate, and my husband celebrates with me.

 

So, other moms out there. You are not alone. You may not know another mother who is struggling as you are. Except now you know me. I’m there with you.

 

You are not alone.

 


 

 

 

Olivia Hinebaugh is a stay-at-home-mom to a three-year-old boy and baby girl. She is an aspiring novelist and steals time whenever both kids are sleeping to clack away at the keys. She tweets about mothering and writing @OliveJuiceLots

She can also be found on Facebook.

 

 

Top and Bio photos by Lauren Preti.

Comments (14)

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THANK YOU so much for posting this!!!
Beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing your story Olivia. 
You're very welcome. I plan on sharing more on this topic in the weeks to come.
Thank you so much!  It's often good to remember that I'm not alone. 
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Everything I have wanted to say for years, yet didn't have the words or courage. I am grateful for your authenticity and honesty!
Beautiful and Brave. I relate to you and admire your honesty. 
Olivia, thank you so much for posting this article! I have gone through acute PND since having my daughter 14 months ago and am only now in recovery. Mental illness can be debilitating, it can be crippling and it can be isolating. Had it not been for people like you who actually shared their own experience of mental health issues as a mum, I may not have made it to this point. I know how important it is that we talk about mental health and I would like to encourage anyone else who may have this issue also to be open about it.
I struggle with depression and PTSD.  Unfortunately, I have tried many medications but haven't found anything that works.  Therapy has been a literal life saver for me.  I am very open about my mental health issues.  I talk about it openly with anyone and write about it on my blog.  I will not be ashamed of it.
 
Thank you for sharing your story.  It matters so much.
These comments are amazing, ladies. I applaud you for sharing your stories with me. It has certainly made me feel less alone. And we're chipping away at the stigma!
As someone TTC with depression, I've read a ton about the effects of antidepressants during pregnancy and nursing and fretted about the increased possibility of PPD, among many other worries. This was amazingly reassuring to read. It's about doing the best you can for your kids, not about being perfect, and that's as true for those of us who struggle with mental illness as for any other parent or parent-to-be (hopefully).
Thank you for writing this. I have bipolar disorder and panic disorder, and have actually been told that I shouldn't even have children. My struggles definitely add some challenges to parenting, but my children are my life. They are very happy and well-adjusted. It's reassuring to know that there are others out there who can relate. I am open about my struggles, because there's such a long way to go before the stigma is eradicated. We should all be proud of ourselves for doing our best to be successful parents despite coping with mental illness. It's nothing to be ashamed of--we're strong!
Just read your article. I struggle with agoraphobia and panic disorder too. I have been in counseling for several years. It is an uphill battle. Have you found the medication to be helpful for you? I have thought about taking it and do have something for the when I'm in the middle of a panic attack, but it doesn't help with the fear. I have been hesitant to try medication because of the side effects.
Kelly, feel free to message me through my facebook page. I have found medication to be very helpful (especially when used in conjunction with exposure therapy, which I would guess you are probably already doing.) Every one has to find what works for them, but I'd be happy to chat with you more about what has worked for me. In the meantime, lots of (((hugs))).
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