This article was interesting for me. Not because I shared her experience but because I was the short fused person before having children and found myself becoming calmer after they were born. I didn’t want to be that frightening parent to my children.
So this isn’t to say she is wrong. Parenting IS hard. Doesn’t matter if you have neurotypical children, able bodied children, or special needs children. I swear children are specially programmed and designed just for bugging the shit out of YOU in all the worst ways in all worst possible moments. Murphy’s Law reigns supreme the moment you become a parent. The chicken or the egg isn’t even the question here, it was just a self reflection on my part. I was losing my shit before children and had to figure out how to pull it together. The author of the article starting losing it after children and then found herself in the same process.
Really it boils down to understanding the emotional chain and preventing the nuclear holocaust that is your temper. Your family doesn’t deserve the emotional equivalent of nuclear winter and its fallout, even when discipline is required. And those of us with Bipolar know fully well how fine a line this is to walk.
How do we reign our shit in while still teaching our children how to be decent, responsible human beings and not goblins – or worse, the demon hell spawn we sometimes feel they are becoming? Let me take the liberty of borrowing the headers from the article I’m featuring in this post and address them in my own way.
Take a deep, hard look at yourself and get real – really real – before answering any of these questions. I mean it.
- What can’t be compromised under any circumstances?
- Child safety should be a no brainer here
- But what else falls into this basket with your kids?
- What can be negotiated?
- What are you willing to entertain or allow for wiggle room with your kids?
- Bedtime an hour later on weekends for good behavior for example, etc
- What do you not give two shits about?
- Red shirt or blue shirt?
- Socks matching?
- Playing with dolls vs. playing with trucks?
Decide now, write them down and post them somewhere to be seen. Your kids don’t have to see it, but you do. Every day. This gives you a daily reminder of what’s important and what isn’t important. It reminds you of what is worth fighting for and what you need to just drop and let go. If you find that you are constantly fighting over something that is in the negotiation basket, you may need to re-examine it and ask yourself why. You have permission to redefine rules and move them into different baskets as your children grow and develop. It’s part of being a parent.
The other piece with self awareness is knowing your limits. Know what you can and can’t handle. Know when you need to ask for help. Learn how to clearly ask for that help when you need it – don’t drop hints, clearly state it. And most importantly, don’t wait until you’re in crisis to ask for that help – don’t wait until you’re drowning in laundry to ask someone to pitch in to help you out with a few loads.
Seeing My People as Actual Human Beings
Never, ever forget that your family are human beings and individuals. Each one of them are independent entities. As a parent you are responsible for their care and upbringing. This doesn’t equate to ownership. It never has and never will. If it’s not okay for someone to treat you in any particular way as an adult, then why would you ever want to treat any child in such a manner? I’m not saying you need to be best buddies with your children. You are their caregiver, their teacher, and their protector first. Take this seriously.
Those of us with Bipolar have a long, grueling history with medications. I know the struggle is real. The side effects more than suck. Sometimes they are scary. I would rather that this section of the author’s article focused on total self care. See your general health provider. Make it to all your med clinic appointments. Go to therapy. Make sure all these providers are in communication with each other so they are all on the same page. Keep your documentation all in one binder if you need to so you can help them out with that. Take the time to understand your medications. Keep a mood tracker. Stick to a sleep schedule and try to eat a balanced diet. When you feel better, you will do better. You can’t fill the cup of another if your cup is empty. This is the purpose of self care. In my experience, anger is actually a symptom that something is wrong and the brain is flagging a need for change. If we are finding ourselves angry all the time, then chances are it means we need to make a change in our lives – usually within ourselves.
Taking Breaks is Vital
This wraps back to self awareness and self care. Know your limits. Know when to walk away. Know when you need to rest. There is no shame in scheduling yourself a mini day off whenever you can. Remind yourself that you too are a human being and that you still need to do human things beyond just being a parent and spouse.
It becomes even more challenging when mental illness takes the stage but no less important. If anything it becomes more important. We need that social network and connection. We need that down time. We need that human touch point. Any other time we are struggling to keep our heads above water trying to appear that we are just like all the other parents doing their thing. There are going to be times when our illness requires recovery. Give yourself permission for that. Plan ahead for those times if you need to.
- Who will you be calling when the time comes?
- Who are the trusted folk you can lean on?
- Will someone come to you, or will you and the children go to them?
If you don’t have an answer for these questions don’t wait for crisis to come. Start networking while you are well. If your children are special needs as well, reach out to NAMI’s respite program. Join local support groups. There are families out there like yours. I promise you are not alone. When 1 in 5 people around the world are diagnosed with mental illness, we’re talking about a lot of people.
Forgiving Myself and My Children
Every day is a brand new day with a clean slate completely free from mistakes. Every. Day. It’s a fresh start like a clean towel straight out of the dryer and ready for whatever may come.
I know, believe me I KNOW, there are days where you will fight with yourself just to get out of bed. I have lost count of the days where the cozy nation of blanketville has claimed me as one of their own and I’ve had to emancipate myself with deep regret only to do the same with children. Believe me those are the days I wish wouldn’t happen at all.
There have been days where I have opened my mouth and partially wondered who the hell was speaking those words. Words that I can never take back. Thankfully those days are rare, but even one day is too many.
I yearn for the days of high spirits and higher energy, even if it means a week later I end up wishing I hadn’t spent grocery money on LEGO box sets. Thankfully since being put on this current round of meds, that doesn’t happen anymore either.
We need to be willing to embrace the newness of each day, like our young children do. There is so much potential for good things if we are willing to cultivate them every day. However, if we dwell on our past mistakes and allow them to overtake our garden of hope then the opportunities will wither and die. Anger and frustration will flourish and our tempers will flare again. Let’s channel that energy where we really need it – like IEP meetings, playing the role of soccer mom, or juggling any other number of impossible tasks that comes with parenthood.