Mood Disorders and Parenting: It’s Terrible. It’s Awesome!!

This week’s guest post is by Jeni Jorgens. We hope that you find it useful and look forward to future posts by Jeni.

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For as long as I can remember, I have gone back and forth between extreme elation and extreme misery. Most of the time I felt flat, worthless, and confused as to why I had to feel that way. I felt selfish that I couldn’t get out of my head and appreciate all of the great things in my life. When I was happy, I was ecstatic. I would always think my depression was finally gone for good. I felt like I could do anything and be friends with everyone. I was excited for everything, and sometimes felt so overwhelmed with joy that I would cry. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I discovered I had been misdiagnosed with depression for all of my teenage and adult life. I have a mood disorder and was being given the wrong treatment.

Also, for as long as I can remember, I have loved being around and taking care of children. Their creative minds, curiosity and the somehow sweet contradiction of needing to be nurtured yet needing to be independent.

Having an untreated mood disorder has always been a struggle for me in my experiences as a nanny, preschool teacher, and a much older big sister. Sometimes I would feel so deflated it felt like I couldn’t do anything. I mustered the energy to be there with the children and make sure routines were taken care of, but I knew that my lack of emotional presence had an effect. When I was on, boy, was I on! I would take the children on amazing adventures, do elaborate art projects, and use every moment to teach them something. I always wondered if the ‘on’ times made up for the ‘off’ times, or if the vacillation between the two confused them and created some kind of emotional chaos inside of them.

The day I was correctly diagnosed and treated, something in me changed. I felt hope for the first time. That I wasn’t just a broken anomaly that would never make it. That, maybe, this experience had some benefit. Maybe I hadn’t ruined every child I had ever been around. Maybe it taught them acceptance and flexibility. Maybe there was some good in children seeing that adults are not perfect and struggle, too. Maybe it was possible that there was a sense of comradery in a child and adult both have to wade through thoughts and feelings that are constantly evolving and fluctuating.

A lot of us have to deal with mental illness and child-rearing. Sometimes this makes us feel like failures, like you want to give up because you worry that you’re doing more damage than good. But, just the fact that you worry about this shows a tremendous love that should not be discredited. You are trying. There are times that even getting out of bed is a success. Celebrate all the little things, even if it’s just the fact that you ate that day, or that you talked to your child. Be kind to yourself. Reach out for help, even though I know that can seem impossible. Keep pushing through, you got this.

If you need to talk to someone, please call the Mental Health Crisis Line (it’s not scary, I promise): 1.800.927.0197

Jeni Jorgens is the Infant Specialist at Family Tree Relief Nursery.

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