Being a mentally ill mother

I have a half a dozen posts in various stages of drafting, but they’ve all been kind of languishing because I’m sick.

Not sick as in, “I feel like I’ve been run over by a 16 wheeler.”

Nor like “totally battling cancer and chemo wiped me out.”

It’s “my god I feel terrible and I don’t know why I feel terrible but I’m like an anxious wreck and now depression is moving in and the anxiety meds aren’t working that well and I’m like anxious as hell and depressed and the meds are only making me agitated-anxious instead of depressed-anxious and why can’t I find the right treatment yet?”

It’s not easy for people to sympathize with that.

I’ve famously or notoriously or basically-had-to-to-survive gone to work and school and had to pretend to be biochemically normal even when it feels like I’m slogging through mud with concrete overshoes and an overweight donkey on my back with my heart beating as if I’ve just seen Death around the corner.

And here I am. I’m home sick today with a mental illness. I have never done that before. I even showed up to work the next day after spending much of the night in the ER for a terrible panic (that was ironically caused by work.)

But here’s the thing. I didn’t have a kid then.

It’s easier to slog through these things when you don’t have kids–you can go to work and survive and go home and cut yourself or drink or just go to bed super early or spend the whole night looking at cat photos in hopes of getting just enough positive energy together to make a small spark so I can function the next day on the fumes of that small spark.

But with kids, you can’t do that. You go to work and sacrifice yourself then you go home and sacrifice yourself some more. So something has to give somewhere. And because I have good sick time and vacation time benefits, I can make that decision to not go to work just so I can save all my spoons and cat photos on being at least a good-enough mother so I don’t fuck it up as a parent.

Even then it takes a lot of bribery and tears and fuck-it to get through the day.

Bribery in the form of the iPad to listen to endless renditions of Wheels on the Bus or watch videos of other people play with playdoh instead of actually playing with playdoh herself, just to have a few moments of peace.

Bribery in the form of M&Ms, maybe a little more than usual.

Tears in the form of “No,” when you really can’t actually get up and play with her when she wants to.

“No,” when you don’t have the energy to be patient with her ever changing whims of wanting milk and not wanting milk and wanting a blankie and not wanting a blankie–just say no and walk away instead of trying to reason with a toddler.

I reason 95% of the time with reasonable success, the 5% when I just can’t probably won’t hurt her, I hope (as she throws a rather impressive tantrum on the ground just because the milk cup has a straw.)

And “fuck it” when you try to rest in bed and she is not tired at all for a nap herself so you let her play and keep your ears open–as long as she’s babbling, she’s okay (screaming, not so much. Silence, not so much either. Both those mean trouble.) So even if she pulls down several books or tries to put Daddy’s shoes on the cat, that’s a “fuck it,” and you can deal with it when you feel better in a few days, or Daddy can deal with it when he gets home and put his shoes away.


It’s hard–the endless waves of guilt over every thing that might be perceived as a bad and neglectful mother.

She has a poopy diaper, but I’m gathering up the energy to pin down a wiggly toddler and change it. I figure I have about 10-15 minutes before it becomes neglect, right?

She’s eaten mostly chips and hummus and M&Ms today, because I don’t have the energy to cook up broccoli or force her to eat an apple. Hopefully that won’t lead to vitamin deficiencies or scurvy, right?

I don’t have the patience to deal with helpers in the kitchen today either.

Or to let her walk with supervision on the sidewalk for exercise.

She wants to walk, but my god, it takes so much patience and quick reactions to let her do that in downtown  Chicago that I just couldn’t do it much today, especially around stairs because I kept seeing her fall down and hurt her head and us going to Children’s to get treated and what would i do with the dog or the stroller as we get into the ambulance, and would she have a concussion or severe brain damage or something like that?

My heart just couldn’t take it. So I strapped her into the stroller.

The anxiety. The stupid anxiety. The meds aren’t quite right yet, and it’s taken so long to try to figure out something that might work which involves doing something, waiting a while, changing it and waiting a while, until something works, and we just haven’t gotten there yet.

Meanwhile, I just limp along, handing out M&Ms and screen time to give myself time to decompress to avoid utterly snapping and letting my pent up energy and temper and anxieties loose on innocent people.

It isn’t worth the damage it causes–so I took time off of work to try to keep myself together so my daughter won’t have to recover from her childhood.




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