Bipolar, Depression, Parenting

4 Ways Bipolar Disorder Hinders Motherhood

(Update at bottom of article)

Being a mom is what I always desired. To love and raise a child, mold him and impress upon him the love of life.  I was eager to provide basic needs to the more complex needs (such as discipline and instilling values).  Unfortunately, my son got the short end of the stick with me.

I suffer from bipolar 2.

Bipolar transformed motherhood into a monumental challenge.  Not only do I suffer, but my son has suffered as a result.  This causes me immense guilt.

As psychotherapist Diana Barnes says, “Depression is just wicked. It takes away the enthusiasm and energy you need to be a good parent. And on top of that, it distorts your thinking.” 

The Fatigue

Unable to keep my eyes open, I yearn only for my bed. Sleeping to ignore the world is my intent.  Instead of spending time with my family, I avoid it. Smiling, interacting, being part of the family unit…all are massive tasks.  When my son was in 5th grade, I realized that he recognized my relationship with sleep. We spent a day in the city with my mother, and as we wrapped up our time together, my mom made a comment that it was time to return home and take a nap (looking at my son). He replied with, “I know,” as he glanced my way. It registered with me that he knew I would be the one napping, not him.  He’s witnessed a multitude of times when I withdrew to the comfort of my bed, escaping life.

The Lack of Motivation/Desire

The want of any activity has often been void. When I have fought to remain awake, I’ll sit…sometimes “disappearing” into a TV show or playing a game app on my phone…ignoring all else. A list of necessary tasks runs through my head, yet I cannot push through the barricade of depression to attempt them.  Chores, caring for the dogs, family meal preparations, and interacting with my family in any way… are simply colossal undertakings.

“Mom, I’m hungry.”
“Find something to eat.”

Some days my son ate nothing but cereal or chips or deli meat and cheese right from the package or Rice Krispie Treats or ice cream.  During these days, if my husband was unable to pick up the slack, we’d eat whatever we could find.

The Good Intentions Gone Awry

A mom should be able to keep in-the-know of her child’s academic progression. How is he performing in school? Is he keeping up with his homework?  I have good intentions, but they last no more than a day or two before I simply cross my fingers and hope for the best.

I look forward to going to a movie, eating dinner together, playing board games, and talking about life! Then, the depression emerges and I revert back to wanting to escape life.  I’ve allowed my son to self-entertain more than a parent should. I lacked the needed energy to debate with him why he should read a book or go ride his bike or find constructive activities in lieu of playing video games. As a result, he’s a gamer with few other interests.  I’ve witnessed his curiosity and diverse activities diminish over the years.

The Irritability

My husband and son have been the targets of the irrational irritability I sometimes suffer. My fuse was regularly too short and I would lash out. The smallest inconvenience could set me off. The irritability would oftentimes be combined with anxiety.  Recovering from these emotions was slow. I’d render myself a timeout by leaving the room or crawling into bed, ignoring everything through sleep. My son wasn’t receiving the best of me.


I worry about my son. “…Research has shown that a mother’s depression…can interfere with her child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development.”  My son does have some challenges, and I often wonder how much my mental illness has contributed to it.  He has lost out on the mom he deserved. I was emotionally unavailable and fell short in his upbringing. Presently, I attempt to be the mom he needs. My bipolar 2 is being managed through medication and therapy, but there is no cure. I’m left with only four years before my son graduates high school.  I fear he will look back upon his childhood with disappointment and wonder what life could have been like with a mentally healthy mom.  Now, I salvage the parenting years that remain.

(Update: With continued CBT, meds, & lifestyle changes,
I've come a long way. There is hope.)

Copyright © 2017 Alicia T-Rust. All rights reserved.

7 thoughts on “4 Ways Bipolar Disorder Hinders Motherhood

  1. I have a mother with mental illness and although sometimes I fear of becoming like her I don’t consider her as any less of a mother. she is wonderful to my brother and I. we love her and both understand that her illness has limits. your son probably feels the same way. Trying your best is all anyone can do and kids understand that we don’t expect more from our parents typically. when I real the line saying your son drew the “short end of the stick” I immediately started shaking my head because thats a phrase my mother has said to me about herself. I dint see it that was my mother is amazing and I promise your son docent feel that way either. (even though maybe when I was younger and didn’t understand I used to get upset with her. I especially understand now) I hope I didn’t overstep.

  2. Such a validating post. We are all doing our best with what we have now. It’s TRUE that children are resilliant. My father had a head injury during my childhood and underlying mood disorder before his accident, and though those experiences helped shape me, I am not lacking or less because of them. I am more compassionate and have a deeper connection and understanding for those who struggle with mental illness. And yes, because of genetics, it turns out that I also struggle. But I have more tools than my father did and I am grateful for him.

  3. As I read this, it was like you’d reached into my life and my brain and plucked out the very thing I feel as a mother with Bipolar II, trying my damnedest not to emotionally screw up my two precious souls. It is so nice to hear it from another mother, while wishing that no other mother should have to go through this.

    1. Thank you so very much for reading and replying. I have so much guilt as a mother, but I keep trying. That’s all we can do…keep trying and don’t give up. Thank goodness for my psychiatrist…I’m so relieved to have found him. I don’t really know all how he does it, but he helps with my mindset. I’m learning, sometimes too slowly, to be aware of my thoughts and where they’re coming from…and how I react. No, I’m definitely far from perfect. But I refuse to let Bipolar win.

  4. I have been through so much in my life, I’m surprised I’m still alive. I was sexually molested as a child by a sibling and a neighborhood child. My mother did not give us baths and our house was a mess. In a wreck my head smashed the front windshield and my parents did not take me to the hospital. I ended up with major headaches (i was later diagnosed with a seizure disorder). I was picked on pretty bad in school. I wore the same pants in 7th grade for a year. I was raped when I was 12 and 15. I n my mind, i was not going to let the one who raped me at 15 to get aeay with it. Twisted thinking, i made him fall in love with me. I became pregnant at 16. Cheated my way out of high school because I could not memorize my work to pass a test. Married my abusive boyfriend. He went in to the navy. He acted like he was not married and also got into bad drugs while he was in the navy. Met the man of my dreams while my husband was in the navy messing around on me. The man of my dreams I let go because I thought I should try with my husband for my sons sake and i thought that’s what God would want. I have cried many years over losing the man of my dreams. I met my second husband who was abusive from the beginning. Story very short, he was abusive to me and my son. Now that my son grew up he hates me and says I did not protect him. In my mind I was. I tried to plan my escape and kept putting it off. There is more on that story. I ended up having 3 more kids. 3 of my kids dont talk to me only o e does and he don’t understand why the other ones treat me this way. I tried my best to be a good mom. I did not know I was suffering from Bipolar UK at the time. I would fly off the handle real easy and slept a lot
    I have the typical bipolar symptoms. Now my 3rd husband is good to me but also have issues. I cry everyday mourning my grown kids. The guilt is unbearable. I cant keep living this way. I take bipolar meds but they just help enough to keep me from completely going off the deep end. I hate my life.

    1. I’ve been trying to figure out how to reply. You have gone through so much trauma as a child and as an adult. I hope you will be able to mend the relationships with your children; I know it won’t be easy. If you are not having much luck with current meds and therapy, seeking another doctor is okay! Just don’t stop the meds without talking to a doctor. It’s possible a different dosage or combination can be more helpful. And, as much as I’ve always hated therapy…it has helped. Please, don’t give up.

  5. Im newly diagnosed after fighting a year with my doctor (close fam. Friend) waiting for the effects of the meds to kick in.
    Im barely a mother at all. I have 5 beautiful children. One 10 year old over acheiving perfectionist. The best way to kill her spirit is to tell her she has failed.
    My 9 year old is emotionally attatched to me and fears separation.
    I have a set of identical twins (5) (one with a tramatic head injury and an emotional disconnect) who needs a strong mommy with loving arms.
    And a son who is going through some (boy version) terrible twos. Has the sweetest laugh.
    For years i have tried to compinsate for my own broken life by trying guard the jarm from theirs.
    I homeschool them as we are missionaries.
    I fail them so much, and all i hear abd read about is children who grow up with parents like me, and the damage done to them. All my goals down the drain.
    I have my parents voices in my head telling me im neglectful or a failure of a parent because i cant get out of bed, miss the many days of homeschool. I try so hard, so hard whith the society telling me what “up to standard parents should be abke to accomplish. All the while my husband, with his own struggles have to play the role of mom and dad. The worst of it all is he loves me anyway. He tells me he would have it no other way. And some how i beleive him.
    How it would feel better if he just didnt put up with me. The guilt would be less severe if he fought back when i get irritable.
    All the while i spend my days praying, ” o God, please keep my kids mind off of their failures and successes, and close their ears to my stupididy. Dont let me break them.” I would give anything if the curse of family brokenness is broken in this generation as i so longingly have desired.
    I fought everyone. I isolated. Im alone. Im ashamed. Im harmful to the emotional health of everyone i encounter. I feel like the enemy. Having a hard time adjusting to being a “missionary/mom” while also heing a life ruiner.
    Thanks for this story.

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