Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Self compassion when you're a bipolar parent

I've made some pretty poor choices as a mom over the years. And because of this mom guilt thing that is so permeated in our culture, it's been damn hard to forgive myself and move past it. In fact, I can't say that I have moved past a lot of the mistakes I've made. Add in a mental illness like bipolar disorder to the mix, and you've got a perfect storm of shame and remorse waiting to drown you in it's waters.

Late last year, my husband and daughter went out to the movies so I could stay in and have a relaxing night to myself. Unbeknownst to my husband, I'd been struggling quite seriously with suicidal thoughts and while he and my oldest were out at the movies, I made the very poor choice to take a few bottles of pills and attempt to end my life. Fortunately I'd been talking with a friend that day who was able to realize that I was in a very dark spot and she sent the sheriff's department out to check on me. This led to my husband getting a phone call as he was leaving the movie from a deputy letting him know that I'd attempted suicide and was at the local ER. Like I said, I've done some terrible things since I became a mom.This was one of those terrible things.

Having a serious mental illness like bipolar disorder and trying to be a 'good' parent can often feel like an effort in futility. Why should I even try because I'll never be good enough. I'll never be as good as my coworker who manages to get to work on time every day, I'll never be as good as my neighbor who gets a cooked dinner put on the table every night for her family. I'll never be as good as the PTA president who volunteers every week at my kids' school. When am I going to wake up and see that my good enough is enough? That all these 'never enough's' is destroying my self esteem? I have a job, that is enough. I feed my family, that is enough. My kids are doing fine in school, that is enough. I can't look at everyone's strengths, and feel less than just because it's not one of mine. I mean, there's the saying, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." That is so applicable here.

So where is the lighthouse in this storm of shame and remorse? I know for me, it's self-compassion. Treating myself kindly, and with respect, and with empathy when I mess up is the key to helping me get through a shameful moment of treating my children poorly. When you've practiced self compassion and have told yourself you're still okay no matter what, then you're making progress. Shame is when you are telling yourself 'I am bad." Guilt is when you're telling yourself 'I did a bad thing'. See the difference? Even though I missed the school play because I was in the hospital, or because they saw me laying on the couch for days on end because I was too depressed to take care of myself, or because they had to shoulder on too much responsibility around the house as children, I'm still not a bad person. 

Although I'm talking about self compassion here, shame thrives in secrecy, and can't abide being brought into the light of day. Once you've told yourself you're okay, if you can, find an empathetic person that you trust to be vulnerable with, and share with them how you're feeling. Share these experiences with them, with someone who will listen empathetically, someone who will hopefully simply say, 'me too'. This will help you overcome the shame you feel and make you realize you are okay and make you feel worthy of the love and belonging you deserve to have. 

1 comment:

  1. Dianne Lowe-BreakfieldOctober 27, 2016 at 10:47 PM

    Wow!!! You pulled every word you wrote straight out of my brain. When I'm up I am super mom. When I am down I am a worthless waste of human flesh. I sometimes cycle many times a day and think about the damage I do to those I love because they never know what may come next. I can spend a week on the couch sleeping and crying all day and night. Then comes the week of furious cleaning, no sleep, etc... You are right on about the guilt. Thanks for sharing.