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Parenting with mental illness is hard but not impossible. Today I am sharing my story along with a list of tips and advice for parenting when struggling with mental illness.
The Truth About Parenting with Mental Illness: A Personal Story
So, I’m about to be very vulnerable and share my journey of parenting with mental illness.
It’s not a fun story. It’s not a light-hearted story. It’s nothing like I usually share here on Twins and Coffee. But I feel like I need to speak up. Not just for me, but for every other mother out there who is struggling with her own mental illness in motherhood.
So, hi. My name is Lynneah and I have Bipolar 2. I struggle with mental illness in motherhood and I am here to tell you, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Not in the slightest. I used to think I was. I used to think I was the only one with dark thoughts. The intrusive thoughts. The impossible thoughts.
Until I found the courage to advocate for myself and begin therapy where I talked about what scared me most.
Parenting with mental illness is not easy. It is a HARD fight, but I promise you, the hardest part is behind you when you first find the courage to say “Hi, my name is _ and I am struggling. Can you help me?”.
That conversation was one of the hardest to form the words for.
I tried many times before this last time, last March.
The first time was about three months postpartum. I was struggling hard. I was sobbing every day. My thoughts scared me. I wasn’t connecting with my newborn twins. I wasn’t sleeping. I had cut everyone out of my life. Every day around 4 I became a mess, collapsing on the kitchen floor with my head in my hands wishing it to get better. Whatever “it” was.
I was positive I was struggling with Postpartum Depression.
But I was terrified to call it what it was. One day, though, I mustered up the courage to call my OB’s office and schedule an appointment. I sobbed through my words, asking for help. They scheduled me an appointment for a week later. “Not soon enough”, I thought, but I can manage. I know I can.
A two days before my appointment, the office called. They told me I was past the postpartum window to be able to be seen by them and that they would find me someone else.
They never called back.
I got worse.
I picked up smoking again. Something I quit before becoming pregnant with my twins.
I became really good at masking. Pretending to be OK. Made a few friends. But still collapsed behind closed doors.
Eventually, I found the courage again a few months later. I called the therapist I had before having the twins and scheduled an appointment with her. I came to find out, however, that she had transferred locations and was now a 45min-1 hour drive away.
I decided to give it a go anyways. I scheduled care for my twins. Made it to the appointment.
I opened up about my thoughts. My kitchen meltdowns. Everything.
She told me I was too far along to have postpartum depression.
It felt like I had hit a brick wall. How could I possibly be feeling SO bad? So so bad. But not have any answers. I wasn’t even a year postpartum at this point. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Like someone had sucked all of the air out of my chest.
I had a panic attack the moment I sat down in my car before heading home. I tried to call my mom to calm me down. The call wouldn’t go through. I was spinning. I didn’t know how to get home from the new office and my phone wasn’t working. I finally got a call from my mom and she told me I had forgotten to pay the phone bill and our lines were shut off and that is what had happened. At the worst possible time.
I cried the whole way home. Wondering if I’ll ever be okay. Thinking to myself that my twins deserve better. They deserve a better mom. A more functional mom.
They were some dark thoughts.
And over the next year, it came in waves.
I was good for a while. And then I wasn’t. Every cycle became more and more extreme. I came to the conclusion that this is just what motherhood was.
I didn’t want to ask for help again. I didn’t want to speak up again. I didn’t want to feel more pain than I was already putting on myself.
Something no one seems to talk about is just how HARD it is to advocate for your mental health when you are your own worst enemy.
Then when you find the courage to do so, to ask for help, just to be shot down. It feels like a knife being pushed into your abdomen.
That changed in March 2019.
I was so low that I drove myself to my local hospital and sat outside. “I need to be admitted,” I thought to myself. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I didn’t want to risk losing my babies. I didn’t know what would happen if I was to walk inside. Parenting with mental illness is a sick joke sometimes.
But that night I realized I needed help. Both for myself, and for my twins.
The next day I called around asking for local mental health clinics. I came in contact with an outpatient walk-in mental health clinic close by. I made a promise to myself to go in the next morning when they opened.
I was scared. But I went.
Little did I know that clinic would change my life and help me learn how to manage parenting with mental illness.
They listened. They heard me. They cried with me. And they got me in contact with a therapist and psychiatrist. They helped diagnose me as Bipolar with PPD and got me on meds. They helped me realize it was possible and that I deserved the care. That they were there for me. All of me.
Over the last few years, I’ve discovered a lot about myself. I’ve gone to regular therapy, found a medication that works for me, and most importantly, found my worth.
It didn’t come without a lot of hiccups along the way. There is no clear path to healing. And I am in no way healed. Managing motherhood with mental illness is something you continue to work on every day.
But I wouldn’t have been able to find it in me to take that third chance at advocating for my own mental health if it weren’t for the amazing organizations and influencers out there working their asses off to normalize mental health awareness in motherhood.
Organizations like the BlueDot Project. Influencers like Katie Crenshaw. They have made a huge impact on my life and so many others. And at this point in my journey, I am over the moon happy to be able to call Katie one of my friends.
If you were waiting for your sign. For your “this is it” moment. This is it.
It does get better. I’m not saying my journey is over, it has only begun. Yours can too. You have to take that terrifying leap first, though. If you need help making that call, please message me. You are worth healing. Your life is worth saving.
You are worth more than pretending you’re ok.
1 in 5 mothers struggle with their postpartum mental health, and postpartum depression is the single most common birth complication.
You are not alone.
Starting Therapy as a Mom
I cannot recommend therapy enough at this point in my life. After it saved my life, I can’t help but assume it can save others.
It can be a scary thought but once you’re in it, I bet you will thank yourself for it.
Something that then might go along with your therapy is medication and I wanted to share a bit about the importance of safe medication storage and disposal.
Safe Medication Storage and Disposal
I have tried an assortment over the years and it has led to quite a few stockpiles of unwanted medication (which you really shouldn’t keep around) that I never really knew what to do with before learning about the LifeInCheck Consumer Drug Take-back ™ program here in Oregon and various locations around the US.
Patients of unwanted medications today take many forms, from flushing down the toilet or pouring in the drain, to throwing in the garbage, or worse. More often than not, the end result is damage to our environment, drug diversion, or the drug being abused by others.
In an effort to assist in reducing these issues and bringing awareness to the massive opioid crisis that is plaguing many families, LifeInCheck created a Consumer Drug Take-Back program created 2 ways that provide consumers with a safe option to discard their unwanted or outdated prescription medications in secure kiosks located across the US.
LifeInCheck Consumer Drug Take-back ™ has created this tool to help you safely dispose of unused or expired medications. Simply enter your zip code and we will provide a list of safe drug take-back kiosks in your area. Please note, in Oregon, you cannot put pet meds or sharps in the kiosk.
And as for the rest of your medications? Be sure to store them safely at home and out of reach from children.
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is April 30th so now is the time to raid the medicine cabinet and properly dispose of any unused medications!
I hope that by sharing my story of parenting with mental illness I have helped you feel less alone and a lot safer. If you need it, please talk to someone. It can be scary but oh so worth it. Especially as a parent when you have little ones depending on you.