Tips for How to Parent with Bipolar Disorder
Katie Perttunen is a bipolar mom and writer and she writes today’s piece. Considering how people have been crucifying me over my decision to not get pregnant, in large part, because of bipolar disorder, I thought this would be a good time to share some tips on how to parent with bipolar disorder; because, while I don’t plan on doing it, others certainly do.
Parenting with bipolar disorder is not an easy thing. What do you do when you are a mom with bipolar type one with psychotic features? What do you tell your children, and how do you cope? These tips for how to parent with bipolar disorder might help.
My Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Type One
When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type one at age 28, my younger daughter was two and my older daughter was 11. I didn’t understand the diagnosis fully myself, let alone have the wherewithal to know what to tell them about it. All they knew was mommy was very sick, and their dads (yes, two dads), stepped in to assist with their daily lives.
Looking back, I have learned some bipolar parenting coping skills along the way, and have also learned the words to share with my daughters about my illness.
Bipolar Parenting Tip 1: Lean on Others
I am divorced. This means that my younger daughter, now nine, shares her time with her father. We split her time roughly 50-50, but one of the bipolar parenting coping tools that I have found to be really useful is to keep a strong friendship with him so I can lean on him when I need to.
While this might not be ideal for you, in your situation, for me, it really helps to have the other person who loves my daughter as much as I do in my corner when times get rough.
For example, if I am ill, and she has sports practice to attend, he pitches in. A natural athlete himself, he has coached her teams and stepped in for practices more times than I can count.
When I am feeling better, I am on the sidelines cheering right along with him. But my daughter understands that I am not always able to handle a crowd because of my bipolar disorder. She knows this doesn’t mean I love her any less.
Another bipolar parenting coping tool I have learned is to not sweat the small stuff. I get a lot done, when I can. If I am not up to keeping our apartment up to “magazine worthy” standards, I don’t. Visitors come to see us, not our apartment. If they are coming for the wrong reason, shame on them.
Bipolar Parenting Tip #3: Self-Care Matters
Another tip I have is to fill your own cup first when parenting with bipolar disorder. Mom needs to take care of herself, so she can take care of others. I get plenty of sleep, see my psychiatrist, and follow my medication schedule rigorously. Mostly healthy food and an active lifestyle add to my self-care regime.
Bipolar Parenting Tip #4: Reach Out for Support
Knowing who can support not only the kids, but you, is imperative. Keep reaching out to those who care about you, even if it’s just a quick text or phone call to keep the communication lines open. While many people who have mental illnesses can feel isolated and like a freak, or not normal, or [insert derogatory statement here], staying silent and isolated doesn’t help you, or your kids.
Getting out and active does help you, and your community. Not only are you de-stigmatizing mental illness, you are helping yourself and others.
Something as simple as volunteering for a few hours can help you to feel good about yourself, and by extension, your life, including your kids.
Bipolar Parenting Tip #5: Your Self-Worth Exists Outside the Family
It’s normal for parents to base a lot of their self-worth on their children; however, you have to develop outside interests so that you can feel like a well-rounded person, separate, but part, of the family as a whole.
If your entire self-worth is based on your children, every mistake they make or sass that comes out of their mouth can feel like a sword to the spine. Don’t put that kind of stress on your kids, for your sake as well as theirs.
Bipolar Disorder and Parenting
I am no Dr. Spock, and this list is by no means exhaustive. This list is a simply some bipolar parenting coping techniques I have learned to be the most successful at the most important role I have in life, that of a mother, with bipolar.
Katie Perttunen is a writer and mother with Bipolar 1 living in Hurley, Wisconsin. She serves as Poetry Editor at Literary Orphans Magazine. Her memoir, Bits will be released June 9th from Black Rose Publishing. It will also be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She is currently working on her first novel, about Lotta Morgan, a local madam whose murder has never been solved.
Banner image by Flickr Wilson X.