Let’s state the obvious: Parenting is difficult! Now let me state the other obvious: Parenting with anxiety and depression is an added challenge! It is difficult. When a parent has mental health challenges or a mental illness (these are two different things) it can create a stressful environment for the child. It can also lead to mental health issues for the child as they grow into adulthood. They can develop their own emotional and behavioral problems.
I have been well aware of my emotional issues and my mental health (anxiety and depression) before I had a proper diagnosis. I recall reading books and reading articles about childhood trauma and parents having mental illnesses before I became a parent. I recall movies with parents that were abusive or ill. Somehow, I say through God and some emotional intelligence, I knew that I had to separate my feelings from my words and actions. But, just like every parent, at times I failed. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
Parenting through my depression when my daughter was younger was extremely challenging. She had to get to school no matter how I felt. She had to be bathed and dressed. I had to help with homework. I had to smile and be playful when I did not want to because of depression. I had to cook or I had to get up and go get something. Sometimes, we ate unhealthily a few days straight as a result because fast food was the solution and it was what was convenient near me. Overall, I cooked healthy meals (and I still do) so I don’t blame myself for the times my depression was so bad I made choices I wouldn’t normally make. For me, parenting through depression was more challenging during those elementary and middle school years. It got easier as she got older because I was able to explain to her what was going on with mommy. She was able to do much more for herself and for me. Yes. I needed help and I need help sometimes. However, this is not a responsibility I placed on my child. Moreso, mom needs help at times fixing meals or with the laundry or maybe she locks up the house at the end of the day instead of me. Perhaps, it was my turn to wash the dishes but, she gets them. I was careful not to “burden” my child. I also returned the favor in times when she too was going through things or playing sports and overloaded with homework. We were a team and when she is home from college, we are still a team.
I would say anxiety became a challenge with parenting when she reached an age, she could make her own choices that would have positive or negative consequences or impacts. The teenage years and now young adulthood. My anxiety has been through the roof at times with a side of depression here and there. It’s regular parenting concerns and woes with an exponent. The exponent could literally be from 2-20 depending on what is going on.
The team is changing again into this young adult game and I must say I am feeling all of the normal parenting stressors on top of my own mental health issues. As I continue to research and seek therapy, I know somehow, I will find my footing once again in this new phase of parenting. So far, the things I rely on are:
- Professional help such as therapy.
- I rely on my faith.
- I try to stay healthy in all areas of my life because this helps your mental and emotional “wits”. I mean if you are diabetic and your sugar level is too high or low it’s going to affect how you interact with anyone including your child.
- I research tips and read as much as I can about parenting at different phases.
- I ask for help and advice from proper (wise counsel, godly and spiritual source) people. I may ask my dad what does he thinks about the situation. I may seek out other people who have a parenting style like mine who’s gone through or going through the same phase. If you are going to do this, make sure you can trust the person.
- Vent. Journal it out. Woosah.
- Find joy in the little things and create more memorable moments with my child.
- Forgive myself over and over and make attempts to do better.
If you have mental health challenges or mental illnesses, it is important to understand how it affects parenting your children. It will help you to make the necessary changes and develop skills to get you through the already rough patches of parenting.
Rarely are their perfect parents. Most of our parents were not perfect and neither were/are we.