Motherhood with Mental Illness

At the young age of 14, I was clinically diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

To sum it up in one word, you are INTENSE. Lots of highs and lows. Very impulsive and self-destructive. Your self-destructive behaviors may include self-harm such as cutting, pulling out hair, driving while impaired, promiscuity, or just simply putting yourself in dangerous situations. You’ll have crazy abandonment and trust issues, you think everyone will leave. When you’re happy you are H A P P Y. Almost euphoric. When you are sad or angry the emotions are so intense, even if it is over something so small. Your relationships are very unstable and you lack the emotional intelligence to maintain and establish boundaries. There is no cure, but it is possible to live a healthy life.

I’ll just be straight out and honest. I’m very proud of how far I’ve come and I like to express my hardships because people don’t talk about parenthood and mental illness enough.

To make a very, very long story short I was taken away from my mother by CPS when I was 9 years old. I didn’t have any contact with her for years, didn’t know if she was dead or alive. I moved in with my father and shortly after he was deployed to Afghanistan. I was about 10/11 years old at this time and even being so young I was aware of the possibilities. I waited every day to get a phone call that he wasn’t going to come home. With these two dramatic events at such an early age, I started cutting myself from the 5th to 8th grade. My parents eventually found out and I was hospitalized multiple times to find a diagnosis and medication that would work for me.

This affected my personal relationships, especially my romantic ones. The way I handled conflict was toxic and unhealthy. And my emotions were all over the place. I hated every medication I’ve ever tried (I’m not against medication, but I’ve tried so many and all of them made me feel worse). Life was always unstable and that’s all I knew, so why would it be anything other than that?

FAST FORWARD

At the age of 22, I started regularly going to talk therapy. This and finding God were my solutions to living with this mental illness. After seeing patterns in my life I could no longer deny that this thing is attached to me and I cannot get rid of it. After accepting this, I was finally able to breathe. Apologize. Take responsibility for my actions. Flip out, then stand back and say, “that was not okay.” It takes lots and lots of practice, but now that I know myself so well and have used the tools I gained in therapy I am able to manage my emotions.

Balance

I know when I’m on the verge of a breakdown and I know how to stay ahead of it. 

During pregnancy, I was SO worried.

“How will having a mental illness affect me as a mother?”

“Will I be a bad mom?”

“Will my son pick up my bad examples?”

“Will my marriage fail?”

“Will I survive Post Partum Depression? There’s no way I won’t have it. It will probably be severe.”

“Will I regret bringing another person into this world?”

How do I manage my mental illness while also being a mother, wife, student, and holding a job? 

I have a plan.

My ways of staying ahead of my illness are expressing myself.

I express myself through painting, my makeup, getting/having tattoos, blogging, keeping a journal to scribble, writing bad poems, or writing letters I’ll never send.

I work out to release the happy chemicals in my body.

I eat well and drink a lot of water. As basic as this sounds, it makes all the difference.

I make sure the first thing I do in the morning is brushing my teeth and drink a cup of coffee, even if the baby is crying. He can wait a few minutes in order for me to feel like I took care of some basic needs.

I make sure to go see a therapist every two weeks. I need therapy more than anything else.

I establish boundaries in all of my relationships. Family, friends, work, husband. And most importantly with myself!

Caramel frappes, baths with bath bombs, and face masks always call for a good little me-time, too.

I’m still very new to motherhood, my boy is 5 months old. I have had breakdowns and have gotten angrier than I should have in front of him. The amount of times though is so low because I am taking such good care of myself. I have to. I am not one of those people who can work all day, come home, sleep, repeat. I need rest. I need to say no to going out sometimes. Even when I don’t want to I need to make sure I am getting all of my frustrations and negative thoughts out before I end up taking it out on something insignificant (or someone). Sometimes taking care of myself is exhausting. As my son gets older I will teach him healthy coping mechanisms. When I act a way that is unhealthy I will explain that my behavior was not okay, I am not perfect, and I will apologize when needed.

I have made peace with having Borderline Personality Disorder. I no longer deny it or wish it away, but tune into the intense emotions that it gives me. I love so deeply. When I am happy, I am in a state of euphoria. I give credit to this mental illness for contributing to the pictures that are in my mind that I can bring to life through my paintbrushes. I sing not with my voice, but with my soul and emotions and you can feel it. My intensity matches my friends when they are upset or in love and it makes them feel good when I am excited or sad for them too. This illness no longer controls me but has let me manipulate it into using it for my own good. That’s how it will remain. 

My biggest piece of advice to you, if you have not been able to manage your illness, is to answer these questions. See a professional. Find one you like and trust. Talk to your therapist about your options. Would you like regular talk therapy or do you think medication will help you? Are there any bad habits you can cut out? People? Do you really enjoy your job? Do you know yourself well enough to know what you enjoy to do? How will you handle your bad days? Who can you talk to? What are some simple things you can do to make yourself happy? Do you know yourself well enough to know when a breakdown is coming on? Start there. It may take some time, but you can be in control and manage your illness. I am rooting for you.

I am not selfish for putting myself first. I am healthy for putting myself first. You can live with mental illness and be a successful mother and raise happy children.