Will my mental illness affect my parenting?

For most of my life, I have wanted to have children. I could never imagine not having children. The desire was so strong. I have been with my husband for coming up to 11 years and married for nearly 18 months. We met when we were relatively young; I was 19 nearly 20 and my husband had just turned 18. It was no secret from the beginning of our relationship that I wanted children.

Looking back, it is now very evident that I was struggling with anxiety and depression long before I was formally diagnosed. A big indicator of this was I made it clear that I didn’t want to have children. This came as a complete shock to my family. It’s important to note that my entire working life, I have worked with children. I think my family thought it was an inevitable that I would eventually have children.

During 2014 and 2015, my experiences of anxiety and depression resulted in a complete loss of self belief and confidence. A number of events happened including having to hand in my notice at work, cutting ties with toxic friends and having no enjoyment in my life. These events fuelled my beliefs that I was a worthless, useless person who didn’t deserve children. Add to this that I couldn’t function on a basic day-to-day level. Was it any wonder that I now felt that I didn’t want children?

Thankfully, I can say that at the moment my anxiety and depression are manageable. Things have fallen into place and I feel stronger. My desire to have children is back. But, in the back of my mind I have a number of concerns about being a mother:

– What if my child inherits anxiety and/or depression?
– What would I do in terms of taking medication when pregnant?
– What if I have a relapse when pregnant, after having the baby etc?
– Will I develop from post natal depression?
– If I seek help when I am pregnant or have a child, will I be seen as less capable?
– How will I function on little sleep?

A therapist once said to me that anxiety is worrying about what may happen in the future whereas depression is struggling to move on from past events. I could go through every worst possible outcome about being a parent who has anxiety and depression. But where will it get me? When I am eventually pregnant and then have a child I would like to think that I would strive to be the best mother that I can be.

In May 2015, my husband and I decided to get a dachshund puppy to help me. We named him Walter and he has been such a help in my recovery. I am not comparing having a puppy to having a baby, but having Walter gave me a purpose. I had to get out of bed regardless of how low my mood was. Walter needed feeding, walking, training and playing with. I had to put how I felt aside for Walter. I can only hope that the resilience and strength that helped me care for Walter will help me when my husband and I have children.

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It is easy to focus on the negatives when living with mental illness. Some people would even go as far as to say that it is selfish and unfair for me to have children. But no one is the perfect parent. I would like to think having children will motivate me to look after my mental health in order that I can stay well and be able to cope to the best of my abilities with being a parent.

image-05-01-16-02-31Gemma is a carer/support worker for disabled children and is passionate about autism awareness. She lives with her husband and dachshund in Wigan, England. Gemma describes herself as a keen gym goer, bookworm and a fan of rock and metal music. On her blog, Lost to the Dark, Gemma blogs about her personal experiences of living with anxiety and depression. She hopes her blog spreads awareness and understanding of anxiety and depression.

You can follow Gemma on Instagram and her personal blog.

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