Momming is Hard… Especially with Mental Illness

Momming is hard

Momming… you know, like adulting, but with more responsibility, higher stakes, and less opportunity to whine about having to do it… is hard.

Being given responsibility for a young human is a blessing and task like none other, and that’s just the beginning of providing for, protecting, and guiding that life to adulthood.

Before I became a mom, I had no idea how difficult I was to raise. And I still have a way to go in this raising thing. My oldest will be old enough to learn to drive by the end of the year. My youngest, my only girl, is eight. Where does that attitude come from?!? And my other son, stuck in the middle.

I always wanted to be a mom. And now I really, really hope my kids have kids someday. Otherwise, they’ll never understand! They’ll always misjudge my parenting, as I did my mom’s. All those things that I angrily saw as too strict make so much more sense as I try to raise my kids into adults I’ll respect. Unselfish, kind, responsible adults who understand the inherent worth of every person, and embrace their own.

I want them to understand the heart behind my rules in a way I couldn’t understand my mom’s until I had to make rules for my children.

But it wasn’t just my mom’s rules I struggled to understand; it was also her brokenness, her retreats into herself and her room, the cruel things she would sometimes say, her fear, her hatred of her life and desire to end it, her cutting.

Mental illness is hard

Mom struggled with undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. It was hard for her. It was hard for me. Being her daughter could be confusing. And painful. I felt utterly powerless when she fell apart.

Understanding, in the sense that I know she was mentally ill and didn’t have all the tools she needed to be as healthy as possible, is not the same as emerging unscathed.

I understood enough to wish Mom could have been properly medicated, but never could have guessed how far beyond that my understanding would go. And this, this personal understanding, is an understanding I hope my kids never gain.

One thing my kids and I have in common is being raised by a mom who struggles with mental illness.

I’ve walked the dark valley of self-hatred. I take medication to keep me from falling into the black pit of suicidal depression. Depression has pulled me so far into myself I thought I’d never reach anyone outside myself again. I believed those dearest to me would be better off without me.

What memories will my children retain of my retreats inside myself? Will they remember the day Dad called 911 and the policeman came? How was it explained when they went home with mom’s friend, and Dad took Mom to the hospital?

It’s not about me

If you’re a mom who struggles with depression, you know how hard it can be to get out of bed some mornings. The weight of responsibility for your child can make it all the harder. Caring for someone else’s needs seems impossible when you don’t have the energy to brush your teeth. Other times, those kids are all that’s worth taking the next breath for.

Depression has pulled me away from my children. My children have also been the strongest strand of the unravelling rope that has held me to life.

They are motivation to make healthy choices when I don’t want to.

There may always be times we can’t believe we’re worth saving, but our kids are worth saving ourselves.

There’s no room for selfishness in the best parenting. But it can feel impossible to recognize what is necessary self-care, and what is self-indulgence. Or what we can dig in and do, and what we need to let go to.

There’s no magic formula. Momming with mental illness is a moment-by-moment choice to do what’s best.

Don’t give up, broken Mama!

On Mother’s Day and always

You may have figured out that I planned to post this on Mother’s Day, but, depression has been kicking my butt again lately. Not the abyss of despair, but the grinding swirl of doubt, sadness, apathy, numbness, stumbling on the edge of hopelessness, too often thinking nothing will ever get better.

But here I am. And here you are. And this moment is the only one we can live in.

God didn’t make a mistake when He made you a mom.



Melinda-VanRy Melinda VanRy writes about mental illness and faith on her Fruit of Brokenness blog. She wants everyone to know they have inestimable worth, though she often fails to believe it for herself. Bouts of severe depression have nearly destroyed her but instead make her stronger and give her a desire to help others who struggle with mental illness and faith as she does. Melinda lives in New York with her husband, their three kids, and more cats than she ever wanted. If you’re thinking big city, don’t. The VanRy family makes their home in rural Central New York. Way closer to Canada than New York City. And not far from Lake Ontario, which she loves.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

2 thoughts on “Momming is Hard… Especially with Mental Illness

  1. Thank you for sharing this message. Our son was in his early teens when my depression and anxiety started affecting day to day life. At the time, our family didn’t know what was happening to me. I pray that our son, who is now 33 years old, will remember that I got help when I needed help. I pray he doesn’t remember or dwell on the scary times. I am thankful to God for doctors and specialists who were able to diagnose correctly and provide the care I needed.

    1. Getting help is so important! I am also thankful for the appropriate care I have received to be as healthy as possible. Thank you for taking the time to comment, and sharing from your story.

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