The Fear of Being a Mental Mum

I have two children, aged 8 & 7 (there is a 15 month age gap). One of the things that is a constant battle for me is the fear/guilt that I am not a good parent, and that I’m going to ruin my kids lives because of my mental illness.

I’ve mentioned before that there have been a number of occasions in my life when I was diagnosed with depression. When my youngest was born I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. A couple of years after that things started to go bad. This was a rock bottom – locking myself in cupboards, self harm and waking up in hospital stage.

But it wasn’t just a case of depression. In fact, if it was just depression it probably would have been easier for me to handle. At least with my depressed state I am still mentally aware, still able to understand that I am present in this world, I am not delusional. When I have depression I don’t interact with the world as much – however I don’t completely mentally disassociate from it. I wasn’t suicidal at those time – just apathetic about life, lethargic, and unwilling to get out of bed.

Worse were the times that I would enter a highly agitated state where thoughts would be racing a million miles a second and I couldn’t focus on a single thing. There were wild spending sprees, and other signs of impulsiveness and recklessness. During those times I would have extended sleeplessness and become overly talkative and irritable. On those occasions it was when I talked about ending it all, and was harming myself. At it’s worst I would blank out and end up catatonic – awake but just not there.

After those episodes I would “wake up” although I hadn’t actually been asleep. It was like I has lost control of my mind, and then I’d come back to reality – unable to account for things that had happened while I was in that state. It was the manic stages that really worried my partner at the time.

Once I got the correct diagnosis and began treatment and psychotherapy things gradually became more stabilized. It’s been about 4 years and I am a world away from where I was. I function – I can actually work, and mostly look after myself and the kids, and even when their dad left us around 2 years ago – I didn’t fall apart. It’s still not all roses. There are good days, there are bad days and there are really bad days. I haven’t had a full manic episode for around 3 years thankfully.

But I still wonder if I’m fit to be a parent. I think back to their infant and toddler years where I was incapable of looking after myself let alone them. My ex had the responsibility of being a “parent” to me as well as the kids. I wonder if I set them up for a troubled life because at those critical years I just couldn’t give them the love, attention and security they needed. I know they don’t remember it, but they saw me at my worst so early in their lives – and I still feel guilt and self-hatred that I somehow ruined them for the future.

My kids are very affectionate, and open with their love. I am somewhat envious of the fact that they are both so easy with their affection, because I find it very difficult to expression emotion and affection. I do love to get kisses and cuddles from them, spend time and have conversations with them them. But I am the type of person who also requires a lot personal space where I don’t want to be touched or talked to. It sometimes gets to the point where I feel like I am actually suffocating when they want to sit on my lap, cuddle me, or just be with me.

I feel a sharp pang of guilt every time I have to ask my kids to give me some space and not touch me for a bit. They are still too young to understand that human interaction is very taxing on me both mentally and physically. I get scared that they will think I am rejecting them, and that feeling of rejection will lead to major problems for them. It’s not that I don’t love them, because I do with all of my heart. It’s just that I wonder sometimes whether they deserve a better parent that I am. Someone who isn’t as messed up as I am in my head.

Being a single parent is hard enough. Doing it with mental illness is an endless battle. Being responsible for myself is a challenge –  sometimes I think it’s a terrible and sick cosmic joke that I am responsible for two other lives. But at the same time being responsible for people other than myself is grounding. I can’t let myself become reckless and impulsive because I know that I have to protect two vulnerable and innocent children.

If I don’t want to lose them, it’s all on me.

4 thoughts on “The Fear of Being a Mental Mum

  1. Sometimes going out to nature can help to ground and balance oneself.


    • ikarlee says:

      Hi and thanks for your comment! Getting back to nature can be rejuvenating for some people. Nature seems too messy and chaotic to soothe me. Don’t get me wrong I like nature – but in it I see the chaos of randomness. When I’m out of feeling out of control I need order and straight lines to calm me. Unfortunately not much in nature has that! 😉


  2. I understand how you feel. I worry that I am not always a model parent. Some days I can’t get out of bed for most of the day due to depression. But in some ways we are better than other parents because we are thinking about their feelings and we try to make up for things when we are able to.
    There are a lot of parents who have perfectly functional brains that do not ever think about how their interactions with their kids is going to affect them in the long run.
    I think we try harder than a lot of people. Some parents never spend any time with their kids.
    Overall I think our kids will turn out ok and it is ok for them to learn to have some compassion for their parents.
    Hang in there. I do have those days when I fear my kids will be taken away but it is when I have been triggered into a severe anxiety mode.
    We are still the best parents for our own children.


    • Karlee says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, and sorry I haven’t replied sooner. Life got a little busy as the kids and I have moved into our very own home!
      I think you are right. Aside from the times where I’ve been so lost in my own head (and no seeing, hearing, or feeling the outside world) my kids are always at the forefront of my life.
      And those times where I am not so good for them, well those times strengthen my resolve to remember to be better to them.
      And it still amazes me every time they tell me I’m the best mummy in the whole world. I like to think that they know they are loved beyond measure.


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