Caregiver mental health is important. The last couple of weeks were quite a struggle for me. Maybe this was related to the constant speed of life or the change in seasons. I'm not sure, but as a spouse to someone with mental illness, I take on extra responsibilities and my mental health as a caregiver comes into play.
Family Experience with Mental Illness
Recently I was asked how I cope with caring for a partner with mental illness. Do I cope day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, or does it vary? What a complicated question.
Mental illness can impact a family in many ways, and the children of parents with mental illness need loving support. Children are very sensitive and sometimes clue into differences in behavior that adults miss. As adults, we are often caught up with other concerns: our careers, finances or the latest Netflix series, to name a few. We sometimes forget to pay attention to those around us and may overlook subtle changes. Children, on the other hand, notice everything. I say this from experience: children of parents with mental illness see and feel all of it.
When my first son was stillborn, I had no idea how to live with grief while balancing my mental illness and my family (Complicated Grief and Bipolar After the Loss of a Loved One). But after having two more amazing children with a husband who continues to stand by my side, we've learned how to live with grief and my mental illness. Nine years after we said goodbye to our first son, I have learned how to grieve while continuing to care for my mental illness and enjoy my family.
When you have bipolar, grieving the death of a loved one can be complicated and downright dangerous (Complicated Grief, PTSD, and Your Brain). Since the stillbirth of my son almost nine years ago, I continue to learn how to cope with this deep loss and remain mentally healthy as I care for my bipolar disorder. Complicated grief with bipolar after the death of a loved one is not an easy thing.
Keeping a marriage together while you balance life transitions with mental illness can feel impossible. It's taken my husband and me almost 16 years to anticipate and manage transitions in life. After many missteps, we have learned a few techniques that help our marriage with mental illness survive life's transitions (Why Is Even Good Change Sometimes So Hard?).
Living in a family with mental illness, it can feel impossible to find peace. Even when I find a way to be stable and healthy while living with bipolar I disorder, mental illness and its effects still run rampant through my family. Countless times, I have looked at my doctors and asked them, "How do I find peace in a family with mental illness?" Their answer is always the same: "Give up trying to find peace in your family. Instead, find peace in yourself, in your own life, on your own terms." As I order my own world, I find a greater level of peace when dealing with my family, despite the havoc mental illness may cause.
Nothing has challenged my journey with bipolar 1 disorder more than when my family has undermined my mental health plan. Not only must I continue my full-time battle of self-care and adjustment (Mothering with an Invisible Mental Illness), I must also work overtime to address the vicious words of family members that infect my mind and impede my wellness. After 15 years of living with bipolar 1 disorder, I have learned that when family members attack my mental health wellness plan, I must readjust my definition of family in order to stay well.
Before the new year begins, every mom needs to hear these simple words to preserve her sanity: good job. "Good job" may seem simple and a bit trite, but Christmas has a way of leaving mentally ill mamas strung out, exhausted, and defeated (Stressed Out! Stress, Mental Health, and Our Sense of Control). After all of the efforts spent making Christmas magical for everyone else, the house is a big old mess, the kids are exhausted, and daddy's gone back to work. Mama's left, again, to put it all back together, take down the decorations, and get the family ready for a brand spankin' new year. It all seems a bit impossible. So Mama, before you start undecorating, washing dishes, and folding another load of Christmas pajamas, hear me out. Let's talk about what every mom, mentally ill or not, needs to hear before the new year begins.
Sometimes it is best not to go home for the holidays and avoid mental illness relapse. If you have a mental illness, it can be hard to tell if your illness or good sense is winning out when you make your holiday plans (Mental Health Issues Over The Holidays). But if any of the following reasons are true for your family with mental illness this holiday, you may be better off finding a different place to spread your holiday cheer in order to avoid mental illness relapse.