My Child Has a Mental Illness and So Do I

March 31, 2021 Sarah Sharp

Life is tough when your child has a mental illness. It gets even tougher when you do, too.

I've had depression and anxiety since I was a little kid, and my child has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). To top it off, my husband has combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Needless to say, life can get messy for us, and we've had to learn how to navigate our own way through the struggle. We're still finding our way, but we've also made a lot of progress.

The Relationship Between My Mental Illness and My Child's

My mental illness aggravates my child's ADHD. When I feel tired, irritated, and depressed, he feels it, too. It stresses him out, and when he stresses out, he acts out. He gets frustrated more easily, throws more tantrums, and acts defiantly because he doesn't understand what's going on. All he knows is he doesn't like it.

Then, a cycle begins that can keep us both bogged down for days. The more my kid acts out, the worse I feel. I get more and more guilt-stricken, irritated, and overwhelmed, and he becomes more and more anxious. We get stuck in a loop. It's not his fault, though. It all starts with me. It's up to me to find coping techniques that work for both of us. 

How I Balance My Child's Mental Illness and My Own

Fortunately, over the last couple of years, I've found techniques that do work for both of us. They've helped me balance my child's mental illness with my own.

  • I try to keep everyone busy. The last thing anyone needs is for me to give in to my depression, sit around and do nothing, and get stuck in my black mood. And the last thing my kid needs is to let all that energy of his go to waste.
  • I step away when I feel myself losing control. When I lose control of my emotions, it isn't healthy for my son or me. I need to set an example for him of how to control his volatile feelings.
  • I try to keep us on a schedule. I try to serve meals at a certain time and get everyone to bed at a certain time. Some days it's easier said than done, but it's well worth the effort.
  • I share my coping techniques with my son. From deep breathing to meditation to long walks, I share the techniques I use to cope with my own mental illness with my child. My hope is he'll use them, too.
  • I get outside help when either of us needs it. I've gotten my fair share of therapy, and my child will start treatment for his mental illness in June. There's no sense in being too proud to get the help that we need.
  • We got a dog. I've mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again. We got our dog, Cody, for my husband, but our new pet turned out to be good for everyone's mental health, including our child's.

Notice how many times I used the word "try." Sometimes trying is the most I can do, but it's imperative that I at least do that. I'm Mom, which means the way I handle my mental illness and my child's ADHD affects everyone.

If you're curious how staying grounded in the present has helped me be a more supportive mother, watch my new video. In the meantime, be good to yourself, and enjoy your people.

Do you struggle with your mental health on top of your child's mental illness? How do you find balance? Let's chat.

APA Reference
Sharp, S. (2021, March 31). My Child Has a Mental Illness and So Do I, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 18 from

Author: Sarah Sharp

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