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Mental Illness in the Family

Moms with mental illness, you need naptime during the summer. Your kids might be well over the napping stage. But as you plan your summer, consider cutting out a period of your day for naptime. Summer affords so many freedoms to families, but without a few built in rest-stops in the day, moms with mental illness can become very overwhelmed. Kids also become overstimulated in the sun and play. Everyone can benefit from a naptime this summer.
Moms with mental illness: we need a summer survival guide. At first, the lazy days of summer seem like a Godsend to the routine-weary mom. But sooner than we can run out of Otter Pops, the kids are screaming and hitting each other and complaining that they're bored. If I'm not careful, this mama’s losing her cork before we even light the sparklers for the fourth of July. Here is a summer survival plan for all of us moms with mental illness who need a little extra help to survive so much family togetherness this summer.
Bipolar moms are superheroes. I know we don't look like it, usually. We're dressed as ordinary moms, wearing our yoga pants at pick up and our baseball caps at little league games. That's what you see on the outside. That's how we blend in. But if you could see the battle we're fighting each and every day to stay healthy and to love our families, you'd see our superpowers at work. Every bipolar mom is a superhero, whether you can see her superpowers or not.
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.
If you belong to a family with mental illness, you need a support group. Between the genetic factors of mental illness and their coexisting conditions and effects (addiction, codependency, criminal activity, divorce, abuse, and more), families with mental illness need a place to sort it all out with people who share their experiences. Different from one-on-one therapy or chatting with a friend, you can find strength, validation, and belonging in a support group for families with mental illness.
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.
In every marriage with mental illness, taking care of the caregiver is as important as taking care of the mentally ill spouse. Too often we focus on the needs of the mentally ill spouse and forget that the partner supporting them needs love and support as well (The Role of Caregivers for People with Mental Illness). Without much-needed support, caregivers can experience burnout. Not only can their health be compromised if they experience caregiver burnout, but they will also be unable to support their mentally ill spouse. In every marriage with mental illness, taking care of the caregiver is essential.
In marriages with mental illness, one of the biggest struggles can be the loss of a couple's sex life. But, you can revive your sex life. Because of the side effects of medications, symptoms of mental illness, and conflicts within the marriage, many couples struggling with mental illness are also suffering from a lack of sexual connection. But, there is hope. Here are five ways to revive your sex life in spite of mental illness in your 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.