Illness and Depression

One of the things I struggle with when I’m physically sick is depression. Right now I’m fighting off a sinus & chest infection and I’m taking up a lot of my energy to not spiral down into the mental dumps. The thing that bothers me the most is that I’m forced to take time off work. I hate having to take time off work for illness, it’s just something that wracks me with guilt even though I legitimately shouldn’t be at work.

Here is how it’s going in my mind – “It’s only a little cold, man up and go to work”. But in reality it’s not just a “little cold” in reality I’ve been up half the night coughing and gasping for air. I can’t talk for any period of time without descending into a painful coughing fit. My lungs and stomach ache from all the coughing. The doctor has prescribed me antibiotics, and ordered me to have bed rest at least until Friday.

And yet, I still dragged myself into work today because I hate taking a “sick day”. I’m not a workaholic, I’m really really not. I just have an impossibly high personal work ethic that doesn’t include sick leave. But apparently it doesn’t matter what I think I can do – my boss has (and I’d say rightly so if it were anyone else but me) sent me home. And while my body is glad for it – my soul-eater aspect is starting to needle it’s way into my consciousness and attempt to convince me that the people at work think I’m just slacking off, and are talking about me behind my back. That all I’m going to be remembered for is the girl who faked being sick.

Yes I know it’s ridiculous, but I know myself well enough to know that the thoughts I have aren’t always logical and definitely not necessarily healthy. But I also know how powerful my mind is, and how it can make me believe practically anything it wants me to. It’s really quite annoying on one hand, knowing one thing but on the other still persisting in believing something totally different. This is where the fracturing of my mind into different aspects is really stressful.

Please excuse this abrupt ending, I need to lie down.

Finding The Right Kind Of Help

One of the things I’ve found the most helpful in my road to living with mental illness is the importance of finding the right mental health professional. Over the years on and off I’ve seen numerous counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and sought help in many other ways. It started with a counsellor in high school and went from there.

Until the last 5 or so years ago, my attempts at getting help were sporadic and short lived. Previously I’d go through a really bad time – see my GP, get prescribed anti depressants and get referred to a counsellor or psychologist. I’d see the therapist for a few weeks, and get fed up with the way it was going, make excuses and stop going.

It was always the same thing that did it. These people all wanted to delve into my past – find some childhood or adolescent trauma that made me the way I am. Was I abused? Did I have a loving childhood? They always wanted to try and find the point of origin. And they always has some kind of condescending advice to give to help me “snap out of it” and tell me that things “will get better” all the usual bullshit people think you want to hear.

It wasn’t until I was at the end of my rope that I finally found my current psychiatrist. And my word has she been the best for me. She has helped me to see that there is no beginning cause to my mental illness to speak of and it’s pointless to try to look for one. I don’t need a why or a when – none of those are helpful. I just need a how and a what. How can I manage my mental illness? What can I do to make my life easier?

She doesn’t give me shitty useless advice – she helps me to unlock the answers I hold in my own mind. She asks me questions that help me draw my own conclusions. I have the control to change my life. She puts me firmly in the drivers seat, and just offers me a road map every now and again.

What I want to say to anyone who needs help coping with their mental illness is this: don’t give up on looking for the right person to help you. It mights take 5, 10, 15 different practitioners over as many years until you find the mental health professional that helps you in the way you need help. But don’t give up looking. If one doesn’t suit, move on to the next one, and the next, and the next, until you find the one that you click with and that genuinely helps you to help yourself.

Don’t stick with someone who doesn’t take a proper interest in your health, or you don’t feel comfortable with, or who gives you condescending advice, or you just don’t gel with. Keep looking until you find the one. It’s like a relationship – don’t settle for second best. Likewise with your mental health don’t settle for a sub par therapist.

I know costs can make finding the perfect help prohibitive, but keep looking until you find the one that is right for you and doesn’t make you bankrupt. Don’t give up. You are important, your mental wellbeing is important. You deserve to have a balanced and happy life.

Don’t ever give up.

Friday Night Freak Out

Apparently Friday night I had a freak out. I don’t actually remember it, but I’m told that the kids dad (my ex) actually took a detour on his way to a job to come over and do a health check on me.

I remember sending him a message telling him that the kids were doing my head in and I couldn’t take it anymore. They weren’t listening to me when I told them to clean up their toys, and they made more mess, and it sent me over the edge. I don’t recall much after that. But my phone shows he called me seven times and I kept hanging up. And it prompted him to come over and make sure I was ok.

I also must have taken 3 days worth of my meds the same night, sometime after my freak out – because I woke up the next morning and noticed my pill box had 3 days missing when I only filled it up the night before. He says that it showed in my change of mood – I suddenly went from highly agitated and angry to calm and tranquil and very sleepy.

But sometime before before the calm set in I must have started writing a post, because I found it earlier today when I was doing some maintenance on my blog. It’s interesting what I think and feel when I’m off my rocker. I usually don’t remember so when I have something I wrote in that state I’m pretty fascinated.

Oh shit the cracks are starting to show. My carefully constructed veneer is chipping at the edges. I thought I had it together enough to get by. I thought I was in a place to be ok. Two and a half fucking years. It’s been two and a half fucking years and I should be able to cope now.

But I can’t. It’s getting worse. I’m getting less and less able to deal. Fuck I don’t love him. I don’t fucking love him. But without him I can’t fucking function. I can’t breathe without him. Fuck I hate him so fucking much. He fucking ruined me. Tore out my heart and crushed it. He didn’t fucking care that it broke me. He broke me.

And the fucking joke of it all. I’m still so fucking weak for him. The need for him is clawing me apart. I keep waiting for something to give. My heart most likely. I guess.

That is definitely the deluded rantings of a crazy girl. I am living and breathing without him. I’m doing just fine thank you very much. If some else had written this and I read it, I’d be like “wake up and smell the coffee you still love him”. But I don’t. I really really don’t. And I know that I am better off without him. I definitely can’t feel any chemistry between us. Absolutely not.

Alright so maybe I feel just a little. But I’m going to keep on ignoring it. It’s better that way.

The Ups and Downs of being UP

I’m not going to lie – there have been numerous times when I want to go off my medication because I want to bring on manic episodes. I know that’s a very dangerous thing to do – I learned some time ago just how critical it is for me to keep taking my medication regularly. So I wouldn’t intentionally stop taking them no matter how much I might think I want to.

But when I am feeling this way it is because I want the clarity, the feeling that I know the answer to everything, the certainty that I can save the world and bring peace. I long for the high of being connected to the universe, of feeling the energy of every living thing, the self assurance that I can change the world and make a difference. I know that these are delusions, that I don’t really have all the answers, that I can’t literally bring about world peace. But I crave the way the manic periods bring me a sense of purpose, of feeling good about myself, of feeling worthwhile.

Of course in reality it’s never as good as memory recalls. My high periods frequently included impulsive, reckless and downright dangerous behaviour, of an attitude of “fuck the consequences”, of a fools bravery that I was invincible. It also made me not a very nice person, as I lost the mind to mouth filter and said things without thinking or caring that they might hurt people. I would be irritable and annoying and pick fights – all for no reason other than to amuse myself at how easily I could push buttons and how angry I could make someone.

But of course time and distance always makes us gloss over the negative aspects of a memory. When I am longing for the manic periods it’s because my mind is choosing to only hold onto the more palatable aspects of those times. It remembers the allure of the self confidence but conveniently chooses to ignore the unpleasantness of the arrogance. It remembers the feeling of seeking thrills, but blatantly forgets the troubles recklessness brings.

If I knew I could control myself, if I could know how far to go and when to stop – I would embrace the mania. It makes me feel so good. But I know I don’t have control, and that’s the whole dangerous problem. So even though I wish I had the exhilaration of self assurance, I take comfort from the fact that lacking it means I don’t take stupid and unnecessary risks for the hell of it.

Still sometimes I miss that brave (and stupid) manic me – because I see my “normal” self as being too much Clark Kent and not enough Superman. Except in reality when without the meds I’m more like Jekyll and Hyde and I know that’s definitely not something to aspire to.

The Negative Spiral

Oh joy of joys. I’m headed towards a depression again. I fucking hate the fact that I can see my mood swings ahead of time – because even though I know they are coming, I am powerless to stop them. In many ways ignorance is bliss. But I can see the train wreck coming, and there isn’t a fucking thing I can do about it.

It starts. I’ve been grudgingly getting up in the mornings with just enough time to get ready for work. I do as little work as possible so that I avoid trouble. I come home and go straight to my bed where I lie around until I have to get up to get dinner for the monsters. And it’s straight back to lazing on the bed until I fall asleep. I’m letting the house get messy again, I just don’t have the motivation to tidy up. Worse yet I haven’t even started packing up my belonging even though there are only weeks left until I move house.

Instead of being productive – I have been retreating from the world and spending way too much time in the dark place of my mind. The unhealthy, unhappy section where I evaluate my life so far and realise I’ve wasted it. I haven’t done any of the things I would measure success by.

I thought I had all the time in the world, to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’m 35 and I’ve fucking wasted my life and have next to nothing to show for it. Now I’m sitting here wishing I could go back in time, return to the time I finished high school and choose a different life path. I feel like my life is over and I’ve zero to show for the effort (or lack thereof).

I’ve been told “you’re only 35, you’ve still got the rest of life ahead of you”. Right. My stupid brain says I’m 35 with personal neuroses that have totally fucked up my mind. I’m a single parent of an 8 year old and a 7 year old – it’s not like I can make life changing decisions without being concerned with what impact it will have on them. Even if I didn’t have them binding me here – I’m so far introverted that I don’t actually have any friends. I have work colleagues (all interactions stay at work) and family (who I try to avoid where possible). How could I go out into the world and do anything when I can’t even deal normally with people around me?

In my mind it becomes so dire that I even take to wishing, genuinely wishing that I could be anyone else. If I had one wish in this entire world – I wouldn’t wish for money, or fame, or love, or whatever makes people happy. I wouldn’t even wish to be free of my mental illness. No. I would wish to be someone else. To be a completely different person in a completely different life. I’m so unhappy in this one, and don’t see anyway to make it change, to make it better. I’d like to give up and begin again. I wish life was like a video game – where if you got stuck, or fucked up you could just start again. Totally erase the save game and begin fresh.

I don’t like being 35 and full of regret. It’s really sad and pathetic. But I’m too afraid to change. My fear holds me back from doing the things that I really want to do. I’m terrified of making the wrong choice and fucking things up – so I make no choices and fuck things up anyway. Yeah I know it’s not particularly logical. But that’s how it is in my overcrowded brain.

I guess the one saving grace of my current situation is that I’m not in a full blown depression yet. Just heading there. I’ve still got feelings – even though they are negative ones – but just having those means I’m still present. It’s the numbness I hate, not feeling anything. Because when I don’t feel anything, when I just don’t care about anything – that is when I do the most damage to myself, and to the people around me. When I don’t feel anything, when I retreat into oblivion, I stop eating, I stop showering, I stop going to work, I stop getting out of bed. I stop everything – except thinking. Thinking about ending the nothingness and the urge to cause myself physical pain just so that I feel something, anything. Because at that point, even emotional torture has lost it effect, and I’ll need to make myself feel pain in other ways.

In my warped mental state if I feel pain, I can convince myself that I’m still here, that I haven’t slipped away into a sort of purgatory where there is no escape. But even more frightening than the self harm, is the notion of wanting it all to end. To slip away into nothingness, cease to exist. I’m not suicidal as such – I don’t actively want to die. But when I am numb I just want to cease to exist, to close my eyes and float away effortlessly and painlessly. I want to fade away, be forgotten, just a faint memory carried away on a breeze.

Right now I remember how bad it was the las time I felt that way, the last time I fell into the darkness so far I almost didn’t make it out alive. And that scares me more than anything – the thought of slipping back down there unable to save myself. I don’t want to go back there – but I’m terrified that I can’t stop myself. Because even now – there is that part of me the soul-eater who whispers in my ear that the dark pit is where I belong. She attempts to convince me that self destruction is inevitable and I should give up and give in. She’s urging me to let the darkness come, that this is what I deserve for whatever wrongs I’ve done to the universe.

It’s not true. It can’t be true. I know this, logically I know this. But knowing one thing and feeling something else makes my existence almost impossible. The conflict, the war, sometimes I think that self destruction is the only way to make the shouting in my head stop. The only way to bring peace of mind. That’s what I most desire: peace of mind.

Confessions of a Drama Queen

As a child I was called a “drama queen” by my family. It was because my emotional range was never mild. When I was happy I was over the moon, when I was sad it was like my world was ending, I could fly into a rage and out of it again at the drop of the hat. I never felt anything by halves.

The depth and range of my emotions allowed me to excel at performing arts because I could put myself emotionally into a characters shoes and genuinely act the part. From the beginning I loved the theatre, and I always thought that it was my interest in acting that influenced my melodramatic style. Of course now I realise my dramatic flair was what led to my love of the theatre.

I abused my acting skills – particularly when I was getting into trouble or wanted someone to feel bad for me. With a single thought I’d put on the water works in an instant, turning the tables and becoming the victim. I learned that lying was infinitely easier for me because I could make myself believe the lie just through feeling it. I became a master at manipulating the emotions of others.

When it came to strangers and people I wanted to keep at a distance – I was a human chameleon, forever changing my persona to suit whatever “role” I decided to play. I created different personas for different situations, complete with names, backstories, and particular traits. When I went out to a pub or club, if a guy came up to me to talk – I was “Nicky from London”, or “Jade from New York” always “in town for a few weeks” just for business. I would make up some fancy career and even put on the relevant accent to enhance the lie.

Of course I look back now and realise I wasn’t a very nice person. I obscured myself in layers and layers of bullshit. It made it impossible for anyone to get to know me, to understand me. I thought it was to protect me from being hurt, but really it was to gain the upper hand so that I could make people bend to my will. I was an expert at emotional blackmail, at lying to get my own way, and just manipulating outcomes to benefit me.

Hindsight is a bitch – and I see now that none of this made me happy. It made me lonely and alone. I didn’t form true friendships because I couldn’t be myself, I couldn’t give people a chance to see me. I was selfish, and self centred, and spoiled because I was used to getting my own way. It was my way, or tears and tantrums until I got my way. I broke people. I’m sad to say it, but I did.

Sure I know some of my behaviour it wasn’t entirely within the realm of my control, but I still hold myself accountable and feel bad about the things I did. Since being diagnosed with, and treated for Bipolar, I have learned what self control is. I no longer manipulate people or use emotional blackmail to get my own way. I still hide my true feelings, but I don’t falsify them to upset others, or make them feel bad for me.

I can still be a drama queen, but I keep it mostly within the realm of my mind, or in story telling. I don’t play with people’s emotions anymore, I’ve grown up and abandoned using people as toys.

A Peek into a Private Journal Entry.

I was looking through my notebook for something to write about (it seems writer’s block was upon me tonight). And I was reading a journal entry I had written last week when it was still school holidays and my children hadn’t returned from holidaying with their dad at his parents place in the country.

Whilst a lot of this particular entry contains rather embarrassing stuff that I would never share with anyone (which is why I write it in my private journal) there is part of it that I want to share. Clearly at the time I wrote it I wasn’t in the right state of mind (however that tends to be the only time I write in my journal).

But in this entry, even though I was having irrational reactionary thoughts – a part of my mind was still self aware that I was being moderately delusional. And even though it’s not really funny, the way I wrote down my train of thought kind of makes me laugh due to the absurdity.

Fuck I am losing my grip. I had thoughts before of not being here when the kids come home. Those thoughts then moved on to running away somewhere. And what actually went through my mind next was “Too bad I don’t have a current passport – I could buy a ticket to London and disappear”. Of course then I think “Thankfully I DON’T have a passport”. Then next thing I know I’m seriously considering applying for a passport just so I could do it. When I am considering shit like this in all seriousness – it is not a good sign. It is a sign I am cracking up.

It hasn’t been the only entry of this kind recently. The rest of this entry, and the others like it, are really too messed up to go into detail on. But lets just say I was on the verge of checking out of reality for a while. This isn’t the first, or last, time that I have had an irrational thought process like this. But sadly, in the past, I didn’t have that self aware part. The part that knew my thinking was irrational, and could stop me from following those thoughts into action. In the past I just used to follow my impulses for better or worse (usually the latter) without thinking about how this would impact the future.

Thankfully I now seem to have part of me that remains present and tethered to this world – even when my impulsive responses kick in. And for the time being this self aware part of me has a hold strong enough bring me back from the brink. It keeps me grounded. It also keeps me alive.

It’s times like these when I am actually glad for that “fracturing” of my mind into different aspects – because it means that my tendency towards internal conflict leads to indecision, and procrastination, and ultimately not following through on a lot of impulsive behaviour. The mood stabilizers help me not to get too extreme, so I can retain a modicum of self restraint. Even if the restraint isn’t a conscious effort, but rather simply due to those aspects of my mind failing to agree on a course of action.

They sit and argue it out, and ultimately I’m rendered immobile, until it washes over and I can think straight again. I guess it can be useful being a thinker rather than a doer.

Please don’t try to “Fix me”

I know that people in my life are generally well meaning when it comes to advice. But for a person who lives with Bipolar disorder, sometimes even the most well intentioned advice comes across as hurtful and insensitive. I don’t open up very easily – it’s difficult for me to put into words my own thoughts and feelings (especially when they are running around my head at a million miles a minute). But when I choose to speak – I’m not looking for a “fix me”. I don’t want advice. I just want someone to listen to what I am saying, to really listen to me, understand me. I want them to be in the moment with me, so I can get stuff out of my head and hopefully make more sense of my world.

One of the classic things my dad says when I’m trying to explain what it’s like when I am depressed is “we all have our good days and bad days”. I know what he is trying to say. I know he is trying to show solidarity and let me know that I’m not alone. But he doesn’t have a mood disorder so all I’m hearing is “stop complaining and get over it.”

I can’t just get over it. I’ve said it before – I think too much. I obsess over every thought, every action, every detail. I deliberate and overthink the intent of such a simple statement. And of course I feel my skin crawl, my mind preemptively jumping into defence mode, arms at the ready to scream “I can’t get over it”. I know logically that’s not what he means – but knowing it doesn’t invalidate my feelings.

The other piece of advice I get is to “just breathe”. I get that from a colleague at work when my anxiety levels start to rise. I feel like shouting “I am fucking breathing – I haven’t collapsed from a lack of oxygen!” Again I know she means well, that regulating breathing can help calm a person. It’s not like I don’t already know what I need to do. But my mind first of all needs to process what precisely is happening before I can figure out what I need to do about it. Jumping into a “solution” before I’ve identified the symptoms will not speed up recovery time. And the day I fucking stop breathing is the day I am dead.

It also bothers me when someone who hasn’t experienced Bipolar disorder tells me they “know how I feel” and rattle off some story about the time they decided on a whim to do something ‘outrageous” and then cried about it for a week. Yeah. You don’t know how I feel. I can only wish my condition was that simple.

There are a few people in my life that I could kiss though. One of them is my former supervisor . Whenever she could see I was struggling because of my mood disorder, she would pull me aside and ask me “how are you feeling?”. And she would listen, just listen. And when I was done talking she would say to me “tell me what I can do to help make things easier for you.” This is the kind of help that I need from people. This is what makes me want to actually be involved in human interaction, not just watching from the sidelines.

I know I have other things to mention on this topic, but my thoughts are not slowing down long enough for me to grab onto them.

1 + 1 + 1 (+1) = Me

I’m not entirely proud of my behaviour last night. The idea of drinking myself numb makes me feel rather ashamed of myself.

But I mustn’t dwell. Not when I’m really not sure how I’m going to write this post without coming across as insane. In my writing yesterday I mentioned my “alter ego” the devious and childish little “shit stirring” bitch. “She” is not a different personality, just an aspect of my mind that I have assigned a sort of character to. I have several aspects of my self that I have given a persona to – so I can better explain to my Psych the struggles that I have in my mind.

Sometimes it feels like there is a war raging inside my head and that I have these different aspects fighting for ultimate dominion over my mind. These aspects all have distinct “voices”. No I’m not talking about actual hallucinations. It’s really difficult to explain. I suppose the closest I can come is this: my mind is like a room filled with people, and all of those people are speaking to me at once. As a result I don’t know what anyone is trying to say, and I get all confused. The “people” in my head are just the thoughts that whirl round, constantly screaming at me in an effort to be “heard”.  The inside of my head is a very noisy place with lots of activity and it can be difficult to control.

At any one time there are three aspects of myself all fighting to be the one in control, to be the one voice heard above all the noise. They each have distinct personality types, and I feel like they “reside” in different areas of my brain. Of course these descriptions are all figurative and not literal. I created them to understand how my mind works and make sense of my inner world.

The first aspect is the one I call “The scientist”. This part of my mind is the logical, analytical part and if I had to give it a physical place in my brain “The scientist” would be sitting up front towards my forehead. “The scientist” doesn’t have any emotional attachment whatsoever. It deals purely in logic, it is practical and it is fair and just. It is my voice of reason, and objectively tells me how things are and how I should see them in a clear and rational manner. It is the side of myself that may be detached, and unfeeling, but it is the part that knows how things “should be” for me to function. Functionality doesn’t necessarily mean thriving, and happy, and enjoying life – functioning means getting along with the least amount of disruption. And emotions cause way too much disruption.

My second aspect is “The dreamer”. It is the part of my mind that runs on the notion of ideals, and dreams. It’s the part that thrives on fantasy, and escaping from the troubles of the real world. This aspect sits at the back of my head – it’s the one that always hopes and dreams of a better day, a better life. This part of me is connected straight to the heart, logic goes out the door. It’s the part of me that wants to nurture myself, the hopeful and optimistic part that longs for something better. The part that seeks connection to this world, that longs for someone to connect to. It doesn’t want to just “function”, it wants to be truly happy and truly free to fly.

My third aspect is usually the one that causes me the most damage in life. She is a primal aspect, childish, a shit stirrer and I call her the “The soul-eater”. She is the voice constantly in my ear, the one that puts all the doubts about myself and others into words. She is the one that screams out that I am destined to be alone, that people will never understand me, and that I need to shut everyone and everything out. She is connected to instinct, and that innate need to protect myself. But she goes to extremes, the walls she puts up, and the way she makes me fear life go well and truly beyond self-preservation and into self-harm. She is the aspect that acts on impulse, and encourages me to drown out the noise (like through a drinking binge). She is the juvenile delinquent who has the melt downs and temper tantrums to make herself heard.

There is actually a fourth “aspect” but it doesn’t seem to have any influence in the battle. This last aspect is “The true self” the one who understands and sees all. She is the amalgam of rationale, emotion and self-preservation. This aspect is the piece of myself lost in the middle of this war, the “neutral ground” that the other aspects are fighting to gain control over. It’s the piece of me that knows that if only all the aspects could work together instead of against one another that I’d have a real shot at living a full and happy life. But like a small child, “The true self” is sat on the sidelines, and not taken seriously by the other aspects, not allowed to have a voice. It is always whispering “there is a better way…” but those whispers are barely heard against the din of the other aspects.

And the war rages on.

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.