Seeing Yourself Through Their Eyes
That’s the thing with kids – they love to see the good in people. They’re happy by nature. They don’t judge; they embrace. They love everything that makes me who I am, the exact same way that I love them. And whether or not I always feel like I deserve that (deep down I know I do), that love is there every day.
It’s taken me the better part of two years to stop blaming myself for my shortcomings and accept myself as a mother just the way I am: flawed, loving, creative, always trying my best, and brimming with the joy and wonder and frustration that comes with being a parent. I’ve learned that yes, I have limitations that healthy parents don’t usually have, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I have amazing strength as well – and most of the time, my kids give that to me.
It’s a wonderful sort of symbiosis. We couldn’t live without each other, and I can’t imagine life any other way. They’re a big part of the reason I work so hard to stay healthy, and they were the reason I checked myself into the hospital for a month last year when I knew I wasn’t safe from myself anymore. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was the beginning of so many wonderful new things for me, and I have my beautiful girls to thank for it.
So now when I feel like I’ve failed them, I look at myself through their eyes, and I love what I see.
Parenthood is scary and frustrating enough when you’re healthy. Nothing can quite prepare you for the ups and downs, the scrapes and bumps, the sleepless nights, the love and heartbreak. But for those of us parenting with bipolar disorder, we have to learn the hard way how to cope with the added challenges our illness brings.
We might feel like we’re lost, but I like to think of it as pioneering. We’re a new generation of explorers, forging ahead into unknown territory. We know the destination, but have no idea yet how to get there. All we know for sure is that we have to love and accept and care for ourselves. When we are healthy and happy, our kids are healthier and happier as well.
So do things your way; don’t fall into the ‘normal people do ___’ trap (what does normal mean, anyway?). Go with whatever works for your family, because no one knows them better than you.
Cherry-pick the good bits from your own childhood, and add in new stuff your parents never thought of. Take breaks. Ask for help. Share your experiences, both on and offline. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re frustrated or tired or feel like you can’t go on. We’re all here to pick each other up, brush off the dirt, and carry one another just a little farther down that long, hard road called parenthood.