I have started and deleted ideas for this post ten times in the last week. Until I was cruising my online support groups last night and saw a cry for help, this post was going to be about splitting. I hope this post will help everybody, and not just people with mental illnesses. A member was almost in a panic attack when she texted that no matter what she did she felt like a horrible parent. Her profile said that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I do what I always do and got on google, which was a major mistake. I googled, “parenting with mental illnesses,” which ended up giving me a broad spectrum of results of “scholarly” articles that mostly talked in the negative about parenting with mental illnesses. Basically saying that we were going to damage our children in one way or another. I was of course appalled, so I, in not such a good mood at this point, was curious about what the world had to say about parenting with BPD.
By the fifth or sixth article/website, my mood was dark, and I was in a defensive, argumentative mind frame, but this was all I got from the search. Numerous websites, books, and articles devoted to the support for children damaged by a parent with BPD, articles that warned others about the abuse a child with a parent with BPD is likely to experience, and articles on how to ensure a child is safe emotionally and physically while being parented by someone living with BPD. There is probably a whole lot more out there, but since I know a little more about myself, my limits and my triggers, I stopped there.
Parenting and being labeled a good mother are touchy subjects for me. My therapist and I talk about this more than anything. So, you can imagine that feeling like I was doomed to abuse and damage my children both emotionally and physically was not a great feeling for me. It wasn’t until just recently, that my therapist got me to realize that I have really good children so I must be getting something right with the parenting. And, believe me, I have a sixteen-year-old daughter, a fifteen-year-old daughter, and a nine-year- old son that I KNOW are great children, but I’ve always felt that their greatness was because of something other than me. These articles were unfailingly telling me that having good children is an illusion, that parents with BPD WILL damage/abuse their kids in some way. These articles were also telling me that since I have BPD, parenting was going to be a hundred times harder than someone who doesn’t have this mental illness.
These articles saying all of this didn’t trigger an angry outburst or episode. It lit a fire inside of me, the kind where you see a kid push your kid down, right in front of the kid’s mother, and she does/says nothing. That kind of fire was roaring inside of me. I have been a parent for almost seventeen years, and between my impulsive habits, my anger that seems to stem from some dark place deep inside, and my black and white thinking that I can’t seem to get under control, parenting has been the most challenging and emotionally trying experience of my life. Even before I went through my withdrawal and was diagnosed, parenting was hard. From my experiences and the opinions on parenting that I have collected through the years, it seems that parenting is hard for EVERYONE. So, why are parents with mental illnesses being called out as abusive?
I knew I had to write about this in my next post, as soon as I wrote that woman back, and told her that I had bipolar disorder and BPD, and the next time she felt like a horrible parent, just know she’s not alone. I also gave her my link and what I was about to research some more and writeI had to stop reading all of that “scholarly” crap, and just write what I know and from my heart. So here are five things I CAN say as a parent who lives with borderline personality disorder:
1. I ABSOLUTELY love my children. Not in the splitting way either (which is a topic for another post), where I love them one day and not the next. One piece of knowledge that I know is set in stone and will NEVER change is the all-consuming, consistent love I have for each of my kids. Even on my bad days, they bring light to my darkest days.
2. I’ve learned to manage my anger. I have fewer and fewer angry outburst or episodes since I said yes to help and put all my efforts into therapy. Even so, as far back as I can remember, I’ve tried to keep my children out of any angry outbursts/episodes that they didn’t deserve, so I wouldn’t be accused of “abusing” or “damaging” them either emotionally or physically.
3. MY ability to be a good mother isn’t defined by MY diagnosis. I’m determined to be a good mother despite what all the articles say about parents with BPD. I work ten times harder to be considered a “good” mother BECAUSE I have BPD and other mental illnesses. My children mean the world to me and I REFUSE to let the stereotypical idea of a mother with mental illnesses influence who I am as a parent.
4. I KNOW parenting with BPD is hard. I don’t need to be reminded or told how much harder parenting will be because I live with BPD, I know how hard it is. I also understand that fighting harder everyday to manage my impulses, anger, self-destructive thoughts and actions, and black and white thinking is worth it, because each of my children are worth fighting for.
5. We’re going to be OKAY!! My children are always, no matter what, going to have a roof over their heads, food to eat, clean
clothes to wear on their clean bodies, and a mother who loves them. We have our good days, and we have our days where handling my “issues” is made difficult. But I know, because I am open and honest with them about my illnesses, that we’ll be ok.
In doing the research and writing this post, I’m starting to realize that I am not alone in my battle in raising my children while living
with BPD. I suffer MAJOR anxiety over two factors with genetics. For one, I worry that I have passed my crappy genes to my kids, and they will have to suffer the same hell that I do. Secondly, I worry that because of my genes and mental illnesses, I am destroying my children’s emotional values and their perception of the world, and then won’t be able to survive when they are out on their own. So, I am finding it wonderful to know that there are other parents living with mental illnesses that deal with the same struggles and anxieties that I do. I think we need to band together, so we each know,
WE ARE NOT ALONE!!