There is some unspoken expectation that mothers need to have it all "together" or they are deemed unstable. Even a mother that doesn't have a mental illness won't have everything perfect. A mother with a mental illness has many obstacles that a mother without an illness might not ever worry about. Bouts of uncontrollable, unexplainable depression, mood swings, fits of rage, fatigue, impulsive and harmful behavior.
All of these are things that mothers with an illness deal with, on top of other daily mothering duties. The isolation, some explain kills. Anxiety of meeting new people and feeling like they'll be rejected for no reason. Having to hide their mental illness for fear of rejection is another one. Everybody needs to vent or just let someone know what we're feeling. What happens when mommy is too afraid of not being accepted?
Having patience to cope with being a mom to small children is an obstacle that diagnosed mothers find difficult to hurtle. Some will go into fits of rage, out of inability to deal with overwhelming emotions. Some children get hurt, others end up fearing their mother. If this happens, the mother will feel that they need to bottle these emotions, to hide their illness from their children. One mom shares her experience with hiding Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) from her young children:
Borderline Personality Disorder is believed to be caused by early childhood and adolescent trauma. It seems to occur more in women, and this makes the diagnosis more prevelant in women with children. A study of mothers with BPD that went untreated, or not treated properly had less responsive or less positive responsiveness in infants when interacting with strangers. Symptoms of BPD include, but are not limited to:
A mother explains how her Bipolar has affected her motherhood in a negative way by saying, '"My 'episodes' have altered and changed my everyday life before I even had time to digest my own thoughts. I feel like I don't deserve my children. I made them go live with their Father. I still see them but I don't think I'm good enough for them. That's just the tip..."'
Many Bipolar patients seek help either by themselves, or are ordered by the courts to do so, for the well-being of their young family. Not receiving treatment for Bipolar is not only damaging, but can result in death, due to manic depressive episodes. Some Bipolar patients describe their episodes as an '"out of body, or 2nd personality experience."' This means that while the person is hyper-manic or manic depressive(highs and lows) what they feel isn't a part of them. They feel like they are another person and what they do doesn't affect anyone else. Their actions aren't selfish, because they have almost no control over what they do. There are three different types of Bipolar. Type 1 is the most severe, making it hard to hold jobs and be consistent with everyday life. Type 2 is alot less serious, with sudden mood change. And also, Cyclothymic disorder or Cyclothymia is the least severe, with less dramatic highs and lows. Symptoms of Bipolar are:
Other symptoms include seasonal changes in mood, psychosis, and rapid cycling bipolar disorder.
Agitation or irritation
Increased physical activity
Spending sprees or unwise financial choices
Increased drive to perform or achieve goals
Increased sex drive
Decreased need for sleep
Careless or dangerous use of drugs or alcohol
Frequent absences from work or school
Delusions or a break from reality (psychosis)
Suicidal thoughts or behavior
Low appetite or increased appetite
Loss of interest in activities once considered enjoyable
Chronic pain without a known cause
Frequent absences from work or school
Poor performance at work or school
Depression is often self-explanatory. Treatment for depression varies widely from using Lithium or even medical marijuana. Treatment for clinical depression is crucial. We all know what untreated depression can result in. Here are some symptoms and cause for concern of a family member:
Postpartum Depression is another mental health issue that many new mothers seem to overlook. It is very serious, and can lead to harm to mother or baby. The mother feels extreme guilt for not being happy with her new baby, and for not wanting to take care of the baby.
Mental illness takes a backseat in alot of cases, when you become a mother. Feeling guilt of taking care of your needs, when your children have needs that go unmet is a major factor in not being treated. Appointments get in the way of soccer games, or buying medications could sometimes come before a new pair of pants or shoes for the kids, etc.
If you know someone with a mental illess and have trouble tolerating them, just remember that they are sick. They don't have a choice in having this illness, just as much as a diabetic has no choice in having diabetes. People need to educate themselves on mental illness, instead of fearing it. If you ever encounter someone who has trouble accepting your illness, give them some references in which they can educate themselves. Most of the time, reasoning with someone who doesn't understand your illness will not work, and only makes it worse.
Mothers, it may seem selfish to seek help for your illness, but you're helping your family in the long run. A healthy mommy equals healthy children.