Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mommy Guilt -- And Feeling Guilty About Having Bipolar Disorder

I have come to learn that all of my mom friends universally experience a fair amount of mom guilt. For moms who go back to work after having the baby there is the working mom guilt, which revolves around if the child gets enough attention, if working is the right thing *particularly if you were raised in a family with a stay-at-home parent or if you have a lot of stay-at-home mom friends). On the flip side even stay-at-home moms struggle with some guilt about if family finances and setting an example for their children.

Now some of you may have read the title of the post and thought "feeling guilty about having bipolar disorder. "What I am wondering is how many other moms struggle with going through a period where they feel guilty or bad because of their psychiatric condition. Here is what I mean. I struggle some days with feeling like my family got a raw deal. My husband has a wife who sometimes does not function well. I will admit that during a depression period I push myself to get up to make breakfast for my daughter and then I go back to bed while someone else either my husband, nanny or now preschool will take care of her. During this time obviously I'm neglecting my family, my work (I own my own business so at least I'm not going to get fired completely but I have lost a client because a depression cycle meant I didn't complete a project on time), my house, etc. And if I am neglecting all of these things my husband is the one picking up the slack.

I feel guilty that my 3 1/2 year old knows that sometimes mommy doesn't feel well because her head hurts. (Which for me really means I either have a migraine or I'm feeling unwell on either side of the bipolar spectrum). I worry that what if growing up with a "crazy" mom has a negative effect on her.

Guilt, guilt, guilt. I know that guilt serves no practical purpose. I know that all it does is serve to make me feel worse. And I also know that I do the best that I can on any given day. I didn't ask to have bipolar disorder. I didn't cause bipolar disorder through behaviors. I inherited it. And that also makes me feel guilty, because although I knew we had some mental illness in my family I did not know the extent and severity of the mental illness and other neurological disorders that can be found in my gene pool. And then I feel guilty and worry that I may have passed on the genes to my daughter and may pass on to future children.

So does anyone else feel like this?

So, now I will share what I tell myself. I remind myself that my husband always tells me that my good qualities have always outweighed the crap he deals with because of this illness. And he says although when we got married I had not yet been diagnosed with bipolar disorder I was seeing a psych doc and being treated for other disorders (ie misdiagnosed) so he always knew I was nuts and loved me anyway.

As to my daughter I know the chances of her inheriting bipolar disorder is only 15-30% so there is a 85-70% that she will NOT have bipolar disorder. If she was to have it I would be better able to help her than my parents were with me. Medications have improved. Back when I was diagnosed there were only 2 FDA approved medications everything else was off-label use. So there are great strides.

But the most important thing I remember is -- although I have had many struggles to overcome, and I have spent many years with suicidal ideation on a daily basis that was constant and maddening and resulted in several serious attempts (and miraculous saves by others), I am happy to be alive today with the life I have.

And when I really look at it as odd as it may be sometimes I think if given the choice today have this life of struggle or a normal life I would choose to have bipolar disorder. For me I learned to harness the upside in the creative potential and also I've spent years helping others because of the illness through my prior work as a DBSA support group facilitator, the one-on-one help I've given people who are newly diagnosed and through email exchanges and such with women through the blog. It has given my life purpose and meaning that my business work doesn't do.

Enough rambling. Now that I have gotten that off my chest the guilty feelings are all gone. I'd love to hear if anyone else feels the same way,
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