A Parents Mental Illness & Your Mental Health

Acknowledging your mental health needs and learning how to forgive will lead you to ultimate healing. 

The stigmas that surround mental health is astounding. It’s taken years for society to recognize that mental illnesses are real and that they affect real people and children in ways that are sometimes damaging. 

If you’re reading this article, you probably have a parent that has a mental illness.You’re not alone and it’s okay to talk about it. It took me years to realize that my mother wasn’t just some wicked person. It was her mental illness that brought out a side of her that I’ll never forget.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are 46.6 million people living with a moderate to severe mental illness in the United States. Researcher Leyla F. Kambaugh found that of those 46.6 million people, 3.8% of them are parents. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that out of 46.6 million people, 3.5 million of them are living with an untreated mental illness. And sadly, my mom was one of those people. 

Growing up, my childhood was mostly normal. I lived with my parents and my siblings in a nice home and community. My parents always went above and beyond for us and for that I will always be grateful. 

My earliest memory of my mom having a manic episode was when I came home from school in the first grade. I knew I didn’t do well on a math assignment and I recalled feeling a sense of dread having to show my mom I failed. I walked up the stairs and entered her bedroom where my mom sat, waiting. When she saw my grade, she yelled at me. She said things that made me question if I was ever going to be good at math and if I was ever going to get a good grade that would make her happy. Looking back, I now know I can’t blame my mom for projecting her mental illness onto me because neither of us knew just how sick she was. 

When you’re living with a parent that has a mental illness, you’re going to experience the highs and the lows. Just remember that your parent still loves you and doesn’t like making their pain, your pain. 

The best thing you can do is talk with your mom or dad and learn their triggers together. It took over 20 years for my mom to be diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder. She was diagnosed because her sickness was escalating in ways that worried me from 1,000 miles away. 

We had to confront her. We had to express to her how much we loved her and wanted her to get help. My mom is one of the most strong, hard-working, fierce women I know and that’s why she deserves to live a healthy life. A life where she doesn’t have to worry about hurting her loved ones with her actions or worry about making emotionally rash decisions. This is how we got to start our healing as individuals and as a family. 

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Living with a parent that had an undiagnosed mental illness for years did have an effect on me and my siblings. For me, I can say I developed anxiety. 

Sometimes my anxiety can consume me and it takes me a little while to calm back down. The manic episodes I experienced were a mix of constant yelling and crying. This caused me to develop a feeling of panic later on as a young adult. 

To cope with anxiety, there are several things you can do. I prefer natural approaches, like yoga and writing. Yoga because it helps me clear my mind and writing because it helps me decompress. This is important for me because my anxiety often leads me to overthink. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it.

A worry many young adults have is that they’re going to develop a mental illness like their mom or dad. Sometimes that’s true, but not always.

There are many options available that can help you take charge of your mental health. There are group therapy options, counseling in-person or online, and even holistic approaches. It’s always a good idea to discuss any concerns regarding your mental health with your primary care physician. Your doctor will be able to properly diagnose you and can refer you to a therapist or psychiatrist for further evaluation. 

Photo by Muhammad Haikal Sjukri on Unsplash

Something you must do is accept your parent for who they are and forgive them for their past actions. There are going to be bad days and good days. What matters is that you and your parent both make an honest effort to support, listen, and uplift each other. 

The trauma can't be erased but the future is unwritten and is still in your hands. Addressing your mental health needs is important and should never make you feel ashamed or embarrassed. Being open and receptive to your own needs will make it a lot easier to move forward with your mom or dad. 

Your mental health matters and you deserve to heal alongside your family too.