Navigating Motherhood And Chronic Illness
Written by guest writer Lauren Whitlock
When I pictured being a mother I never imagined that I would be raising my child while battling more than three chronic illnesses.
I thought my biggest problems would be sleep deprivation and dirty diapers. But what I faced was something entirely different.
I have Diabetes II…and Obstructive Sleep Apnea…and Bipolar Disorder II, plus Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Diabetes runs in my family. So does Bipolar Disorder.
The most difficult part is wondering what I have genetically passed on to my son. He has already been treated for Depression. My husband and I were sad and yet very determined to treat the depression. The same medication that worked for me when I began taking medications, Prozac, proved to be a good medication for my son as well. Within a few weeks, he was feeling better.
I can definitely say that the Bipolar Disorder II presents the biggest challenge to my ability to be a good mom.
I have had low periods where I cannot get out of bed and my husband has to take everything over. And, in general, I need a lot of alone time. I also worry about whether or not I’m teaching my son all he needs to know to be a successful adult.
I have always been very open (appropriate to his age) with my son about my struggles with anxiety and depression. Because of this, he is very forthcoming about his moods going on off the rails. I am so glad that the stigma surrounding mental illness has lifted somewhat in the last 20 years.
It provides an environment where my son feels free to talk about his mental health.
Related: Essentials For An Organized Mom Life
One of the most difficult things about parenting for me is dealing with other parents.
I’m an introvert and when I’m already feeling bad mentally, I cannot chit-chat. As a result, I’m a definite outsider to the other parents. This hurts, but it comes from years of trying to protect myself during episodes of depression and hypomania.
So I accept that I am not welcomed by the other parents.
By far, the hardest times are when I’m depressed and flat. My son is accustomed to me sleeping a lot when things get bad. I also tend to be very quiet.
Parenting with chronic illnesses provides many challenges. But I am stronger and more brave than I would have been without the illnesses. And it did prepare me for son’s struggle with depression.
If you are a parent with a chronic illness, I strongly encourage you to be honest with your children, as appropriate. Your child can learn what strength is by watching you cope with your chronic illness.
Lauren Whitlock is a mother and wife that has been fighting mental illness since she was 12. She loves the water and her three dogs, Maggie, Puck and Toby. She is also a wedding officiant that has performed over 60 weddings. Her other passion is taking pictures (check out her Instagram!) Her blog at MentallyInteresting is where she writes about living with a mental illness.
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