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.
Recovery in Mental Illness
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.
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.
This year, I invite bipolar moms to join me in resolving to meet our own needs in 2017. Instead of focusing on our faults this January, we can instead look past those faults to see the needs they represent. And instead of berating ourselves over that need, discrepancy, or flaw, I want to make 2017 the year we find a way to meet our needs and live healthier lives (Taking Care of Myself is the Best Way to Care for My Family).
Enjoying the holidays with your mentally ill loved one can seem like an enormous challenge. But even if you have to alter your expectations and change a few traditions, it is still possible to have a great holiday together. Here's how to enjoy the holidays with your mentally ill loved one.
For the mom considering suicide, please don't give up (What to do if You Are Suicidal). I know what it feels like to be so tired and so desperate that nothing feels more appealing than just not being here anymore. But please listen to me, mama: you are worth saving. You are worth fighting for. Your family is worth fighting for, and they need you to be well so they can be well. So, friend, if you are considering suicide, if you think your family might just be better off with you, this is for you.
Mental illness and addiction runs through my family alongside codependency. Mental illness is hereditary, flowing through families, from parent to child, from uncle to nephew. Where there is mental illness in a family there is a heightened instance of addiction (Substance Abuse and Mental Illness). But we don't acknowledge enough that where there is mental illness and addiction in families, codependency is often passed down as well.
Before cutting ties with family, take time to heal yourself and forgive them. Admittedly, no one can wound us like our families can. Even if we rarely spend time with our families, no one can topple self-esteem and wound us deeply like our families. In families with a lot of dysfunction (every family has some, right?), it can be easy to get overwhelmed by repeated hurts. Sometimes it seems like the best way to heal that hurt is to cut ties with your family. But before cutting ties with your family, take time to heal yourself and forgive them before making this life-altering decision.
When mentally ill spouses shift focus onto their marriage rather than themselves, everyone benefits. Giving to your spouse is absolutely necessary to keep your marriage going, no matter how mentally ill you are (Mentally Ill Spouses: Give What You Can To Your Marriage). Before I became ill with bipolar disorder, I was an equal partner in my marriage. After my diagnosis and subsequent medication regiment, it was impossible for me to be the same partner to my husband. But as time went on, I found ways to give to my husband and have a better marriage despite my bipolar disorder diagnosis. I, the mentally ill spouse, did this by focusing on my marriage.
The cost of making mental illness and marriage work can be extremely high for both partners. After a mental illness diagnosis, there are many decisions both spouses must make that will affect their marriage. Will the mentally ill spouse accept the diagnosis and comply with treatment? How willing is the newly diagnosed spouse to include their partner in their treatment plan? How willing is their partner to help his or her partner achieve wellness? The effects of these decisions have longstanding consequences for both partners. Whatever they decide, making a mental illness and marriage work affects both spouses' lifestyles, finances, careers, and freedom.