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Parents with Mental Illness Raising Teens with Mental Illness

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Parents with Mental Illness Raising Teens with Mental Illness

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Parents with Mental Illness Raising Teens with Mental Illness

I'm a mum who has depression and PTSD raising my teenage daughter who has Bipolar I, PTSD and anxiety.


I'm hoping to hear from other parents who are in a similar position to me. I've done a lot of work on learning about my daughter's issues and parenting her more positively, but never about how to deal during those times I'm not well myself. 


I carry a lot of guilt because I know there are times when I'm not the parent I need or want to be. The obvious solution is to try harder and be the parent I want to be, but it's not as cut and dry as that unfortunately. It's not through lack of trying or love that I still fall short. 


It leaves my daughter asking me if she's done something wrong, if I'm upset with her. It breaks my heart. As if she doesn't have enough on her plate.


This morning I lost the plot. I hated myself, really despised myself and I was angry and being really mean to myself. She came out and asked me if I was angry with her. I told her no, and she went and shut herself in her room. I was trying to get things done as we were going out a bit later but of course because I wasn't ok, it felt like everything was going wrong, adding to my feelings of inadequacy and self despise. My beautiful girl came out again and asked if I needed a hug (a thing we have at home with each other). Being in a state I went to say no then realised it was actually what I really needed. We had a big hug and I cried like a baby. Then I felt much better.


My girl's nearly 15. Not a child but I feel like it's a lot for her having a mum who's not always the rock she needs. My outburst of anger and tears this morning is the usual, a build up of a few things, but still not a great example I showed. The tape that runs in my head is 'poor kid, having a mum with my issues'. It's guilt.


How do other parents deal? Is there more I can do in the repair to cause less long term impact on my daughter?  


Even if you have no tips and struggle at times yourself, I'd love to hear from you. There's something reassuring (?) about knowing you're not the only one in any situation.


Re: Parents with Mental Illness Raising Teens with Mental Illness

My heart went out to you when I read your post . You sound like an incredibly loving , reflective , kind, giving and emotionally intelligent Mum . The very fact you are aware of your daughters needs , emotional pain and your impact on her wellbeing tells me that you already have the tools to be the best Mum you can be despite your issues . Even Mums who don't have depression and PTSD sometimes are nowhere near as switched on as you !  

Many of us feel we are dreadfully inadequate parents sometimes ! I always worry that each time I lose it with my two I am doing them irreparable damage and they will both be in therapy when they are 30 ( along with the dog ) . I remind myself that I am not perfect and that as long as I apologise  when I have overreacted and take the time to explain why I was upset and that even when I am mad at them I still love them enormously, they will be ok .  I also make sure there are plenty of times when I am feeling good that I engage in loving comments , praise and involve them in my day , do things with them and share my experiences and stories and take joy in theirs .  These are  all credits in your relationship bank , so that when there is tension or anger , they see it as just that, rather than a reflection of your core feelings about them . 

Everytime you have a solid debrief  and analysis of a huge explosion of emotion , it helps to repair and heal that event . What damages their soul is when our children go away feeling that the situation was not resolved , they were to blame , the parent takes no responsibility for their own reactions or behaviours and it is washed under the carpet . Healthy emotional wellbeing is also in part contingent upon  balance , if there are more positive healthy interactions than negative ones , this is also a buffer against damaging long term effect on the psyche of negative experiences together . Too many upsetting experiences and not enough loving experiences is how resentment builds over the years . Children then carry anger, guilt, frustration and pain with them from year to year . They then express this in their new relationships and it can be very damaging over time . 

You are doing the right thing ! I was so impressed with how you handled the situation afterwards . Not only are you repairing as you go , you are also teaching her that real loving relationships are not fragile, that massive show of negative emotion is not going to devastate forever , that suppressing frustration and pain is not healthy and that it's ok to express it sometimes and that none of us are perfect all the time and we have the capacity to learn valuable insights about ourselves through the expression of emotion .   Being vulnerable with her tells her that it's ok to be that way with someone you love and feel safe with . You have done all this ! Well done you !  You are enough . 


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Re: Parents with Mental Illness Raising Teens with Mental Illness

Thank you so much for your incredibly honest post @taokat It's such a privilege to share experiences with you all.

I completely agree with @motherbear , I don't believe our kids see our 'issues' they see our behaviour and from what you describe you sound like an incredibly devoted and loving mum.


There's so much of what you describe that I hugely relate to. A few years back, when I was going through a particularly difficult time, I used to drink two very strong pots of coffee each morning, to try and overcome the intense desire to stay in bed, and then I would just scream at the kids until we left the house.  It was an utter nightmare for them. Almost every morning they would have to cop me losing it. I can't even bear to think the impact it had on them. I knew it was worn but I just did not have the capacity to change, at the time. What I could do though, was apologise and explain. I would tell them it wasn't their fault, that I was being inappropriate and unfair. That when I yelled at them it was because I felt bad about myself and they were just unlucky enough to be there. That even though I was angry I still loved them as much as I always did. That I was doing things that should help me get better and I wouldn't stay like this forever. And I think, most importantly, I would say this before I said left them at school, so they didn't sit with it all day.  Not great, but it was the best I could do with what I had.


I also think that it's important for parents who have mental health difficulties to connect with other parents in the same boat. There's something very special about talking to someone in the same situation as you. There are unique aspects to your journey that only parents who have been there can understand. Which is why I think it's so wonderful that you've started this thread. I really hope other parents who have been, or are going through this, find it so they can share their experiences with you.

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Re: Parents with Mental Illness Raising Teens with Mental Illness

Thank you both for your lovely and affirmative comments @motherbear and @Ngaio-RO. I agree with you both that it is in the repair. Thank you both for your understanding and I appreciate hearing your experiences @Ngaio-RO. I've been on the forums quite a bit and to be honest I felt it was a safe place where I could be open. When we are seeking help we need to be able to tell it as it is, otherwise we're not going to get what we need.


@motherbear I laughed out loud at your comment about your worry of your kids being in therapy at 30, as well as the dog. So funny because I know what you mean. I love to be able to have a laugh.


Thank you for reassuring me I'm doing ok. and not damaging my girl for life! As you say @motherbear, it is teaching my daughter positive lessons for her relationships. It's not all bad!


I hope other parents in similar situations will feel comfortable to share too. Personally I like knowing that I'm not alone. It feels less isolating.


Re: Parents with Mental Illness Raising Teens with Mental Illness

You most certainly are not alone.


 I don’t have any answers for you, I can only share what I attempt to achieve with my kids.

I just try to have open dialogue with both my 16 yr old girl and 14 yr old son regarding feelings, especially if I have had a ‘meltdown moment’. I try to explain to them what was going on for me, apologise for losing myself and having them bear witness to ‘it’. I also acknowledge that my actions will have made their issues harder to deal with and tell them how I wish I had been able to manage myself. And most importantly remind them that it wasn’t them who caused my melt and that I love them. I guess the tricky thing with trauma is not realising you are about to be triggered, it can be sudden and illogical. I figure that by doing this hopefully they are able to forgive themselves when they have a moment the same way they are able to forgive me.


if either of my teens have a moment I generally ask what they would like me to do. If they don’t know I generally suggest a drive and play chilled music, eventually start singing and know we are all good to head homeward again when they join in.


if any of us wake up full of anxiety we let each other know. They know then it’s best to keep noise down, talking to a minimum and we manage to get done what has to happen.


 I do know that feeling guilty is definitely not helpful. You can only do your best and try being kind to yourself.

And lastly, aiming for perfection is completely unrealistic. No human is perfect so don’t try to be!