My Truth of Parenting Mental Illness

What I am about to say may unsettle many but it is my truth.  There’s no point in pretending it isn’t real or hiding it.  My experience with parent/motherhood has been mostly unpleasant and unhappy.  In fact, I have disliked most of it so much so that I don’t ever want to have more children.  When I hear expectant moms or any mom gushing over stories about their children, I am reminded that that joyful experience has not been mine.  My experience with my son’s mental health issues has been so complicated, emotionally painful, agonizing, overpowering, lonely – just really hard.

When I think through the last 17 years of my life (18 when I include the brief time that I was with my son’s father), sadly I can count maybe a handful of really happy times.  I feel guilty and sorrowful because aren’t mothers supposed to naturally be happy with their children?  I feel bitter because my experience has been so unfair and undeserving; after all I’m responsible, I try hard and I do the right things.  I feel heartbroken because despite all my valiant efforts to turn around our circumstances and our relationship for the better, I don’t necessarily believe we’re at a better place.

At the same time, I know through all my work in therapy that I cannot wallow in all this negativity.  It’s not my fault that our circumstances turned out the way they did.  As my son becomes an adult and my time raising him is coming to an end, I am letting go of many things – of my hopes for a happy ending during his childhood, of the mistaken belief that good parenting always results in successful children and of a frustrated aspiration for my son to be happy.  The truth is happy isn’t him.  Happy isn’t us.

Ours has been a very long journey.  It is incredibly hard to describe it to those who haven’t lived it.  I like to run as a hobby; in 2017 I ran and finished my first half-marathon non-stop.  A marathon is an experience we all can sort of imagine in terms of the physical and mental stamina required.  At my 2017 pace, as of today my parenting experience is equal to running 72,775.5 half-marathons, non-stop.

For those of you who have had similar/the same difficult parenting experience, know that it is OK to feel everything (and more) that I have described.  It is our stories and our stories are real.  Own them.  Don’t deny or hide from them.  These kinds of experiences do not make you a failure.  They make you human, brave and deserving of compassion and respect.  You have done the best that you can so be proud of that.  You’re Not A Bad Parent.

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