This is what matters

I often feel as if I’m failing my children. Yesterday my three-year-old saw me crying in bed and told Jim that my brain is sick and I need to go to the hospital.

This morning I struggled to get my six-year-old to do her homework and ended up back in bed sobbing because I was so disappointed with myself.

I wrote this in April, and I came across it tonight.

While I am worried about what my children are missing out on during my mental illness episodes, I need to reframe it by thinking about what they’re gaining:

Perseverance. I fight my invisible disease daily. To function. To stay alive. My kids see me crying and anxious but they also see me persevere. I advocate for myself unapologetically. My children will see me fighting against the mental illness stigma and grow up knowing their mommy fought for herself and others just as I do for them.

Compassion. My children will be compassionate to others because they witness how difficult it is when my brain is sick. They might be the one who who befriends classmates that other kids bully, who sees the good in others, who rescues animals, who opens doors for others out of kindness.

Inclusivity. I am hopeful that my kids will accept differences because we, as a family, are different. They are being raised knowing that all people are different, no one is perfect and healthy, and one isn’t better than the other.

Patience. When my mental illness is bad, I need to take a lot of breaks and naps. I often need help bathing and eating. This means patience from my kids. Wren at 5 years old doesn’t even know she’s doing it, but she is so sweet and helpful on my darkest days.

Respect. They know I do things at my own pace and ask for help when I need it. They see me push through the darkness and join them for a hike, or play a game with them even when it takes all of my energy and I crash afterwards. They see my partners when they have to pick up the slack. That kind of respect we show each other will rub off on them and they’ll know later in life how hard it must have been when they feel sick and can’t do it all.

Love. When they are adults they will remember that even when I was sick, I still loved them fiercely. When I was hospitalized or spent hours in therapy every week, I showed them love by making sure they were cared for by other family members. This kind of love is only shown through actions. I might be showing up to the bus stop in pajamas and unbrushed hair, but I still show up. They will look back and realize what mattered and what didn’t. The toys they didn’t have, or food we didn’t let them eat, or forgetting to submit their school projects on time, but the showing up— telling them we are proud of their character and are loved unconditionally, every day.

This is what they gain, this is what matters.

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