How to Deal with your Mental Health as a Parent
Years ago when people had mental health issues, they were referred to an insane asylum and no one talked about it in families. This was a family secret. In the last 25 years, many of these places have closed down and people with mental health issues are wandering the streets homeless and without the proper medication that they need. We have witnessed all types of therapists advertising their services. The states have behavioral health facilities in almost every large city and independent counselors that work as well. The population has grown and the elderly are living much longer than they were 25 years ago. Cancer can be cured and there are many studies now that are linking brain injuries to early death and other mental health issues. The only people that have an actual place to live in these institutions are the cognitively disabled and many others with very severe disabilities. Group homes have sprung up in almost every city and rural community. What happens to you when you come to a place in life when you realize that you are in need of mental health intervention? Should you be ashamed of that or should you own it and share your experiences with others?
There are quite a bit more factors that are causing mental health issues now than in the last two centuries. Many of these issues were not talked about. Women had hysteria and were treated by their doctors, the Pioneers were used to burying their children and families because medicine was a commodity and many drugs were not invented yet. How did these people cope? How did many of our ancestors who lost their parents at a young age and came to America alone at the age of 9 copes? They just did and these are the people that built America. The difference now is we are fed with too much available information. The radio is on, the news is on, the television is on and we witness one tragedy after another daily on newsfeed through social media. Our brains are going a million miles a second at times. You work, do laundry, clean the house, help the children with homework, travel for your job only to start each day all over again. It doesn’t matter if you work at home or in the office, you still need to earn an income to survive and you wonder “how do I get off this merry go round?”
Parenting is a difficult job and a juggling act no matter what you have to put into it. You have to balance your needs and the needs of your child. You have to manage your time and have enough adequate resources to support your child.
Parents that are coping with a mental illness have issues that are amplified. When one is living with any type of chronic or severe illness, like mental illness, diabetes, cancer or a disease, there are times when you can’t function. Your abilities are compromised by that illness. There is good news though because this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a healthy family. Here are a few tips to help you overcome common challenges in life.
Parenting with Mental Illness
Mental illness can make a parent who is not always available when you need them. Research has shown that mothers that suffer from depression are less likely to interact or even talk to their children. Many times, you have toddlers who don’t know how to speak because mommy doesn’t talk to them. This has a definite impact on your relationship with your children and does impact language development, emotional behavior and maturity.
Consistency is the main key for children but with the ups and downs of mental illness, this also can be compromised. Kids start to become lonely and confused and start blaming themselves. The largest challenge is the stigma that our society tends to hold with negative attitudes and beliefs about mental illness. This can be just as difficult for you to acknowledge because you are struggling to seek treatment. These stigmas also add more pressure on parents to be the perfect caregivers. Parents feel like they are living in a glass house at times and everyone is watching them.
Tips for owning Mental Illness
Focus on your family and remember that mental health is family health, which means paying attention to the well being of others in the family. Watch for red flags in children because this is extremely important because parents with a mental illness are more likely to have a child with mental illness due to genetics and environmental issues.
Don’t be afraid to seek treatment because the best predictor of a functioning kid is a functioning parent. You might procrastinate because you are afraid of the unknown but do this for your children. Set an example with healthy choices and remember that seeking mental health help are signs of a strong person.
Connect with Others
Mental illness can be isolating and isolation is detrimental to both you and your kids. The experts say you should surround yourself with supportive people, whether it’s family or friends, church, counselor, mental health professional or parents with similar experiences. Seek people who understand you and respect you for who you are and your goals for your family. You should have other people in the world that your children can count on. These people help to provide consistency as well. Remember “it takes a village to raise a child” as they say!
Think about your illness and how this makes you feel, think and act. This will help you to pinpoint times when you are not thinking clearly and helps you to be ready the moment your child needs help and to keep your child safe.
Create a Crisis Plan
Establish a plan of action for emergencies, such as being admitted to the hospital with your healthcare providers. Do this during some downtime so you can think about where the kids will go when you are in crisis mode.
Recognize your Strengths
Try and celebrate your strengths when you are having a good day. Eventually, you might have more good days than bad days when you’re struggling with mental illness. Everything may look bleak one day and you think you’re a failure, but practice some of the skills you learned in psychotherapy.
Parenting and mental illness will consume the majority of your time. This is when you should start doing or even thinking about things you enjoy. Take a soothing bath with some chamomile and lavender for a calming effect. Enjoy a protein shake, go for a walk or plan an activity for yourself so you don’t keep dwelling on the negative. Do whatever it takes that reinforces the unique parts of your identity. Do this because this can be very beneficial to your children.