My Children Will Know Mental Illness is Complex

It’s heartbreaking for me to think about it, but my children may have to walk in my shoes one day.

They are still very much babies at the moment, but as they grow I will be watching them closely. Mental illness runs in my family and the possibility they will have their own struggles at some point in their lives is the biggest reason why I participated in the #5in5 series on #MindVine for National Mental Health Week.

I get emotional just thinking about that possibility.

However, if they do have to deal live with mental illness I hope I have laid the groundwork by then so they know I will be there to support and love them without judgement.

The thought of them being ashamed or secretive about a critical illness motivates me to change the conversation and normalize my mental health concerns as much as possible.

While I still have my struggles at times, I manage my mental illness each and every day. It’s hard work and requires a great deal of commitment. It has taken time to get here, but my recovery journey is a success story. And like most success stories, it has included some setbacks.

My goal as a mother living with mental illness is to present my health challenges to my children in a way that is real. Complex mental illness is messy at times and there is no question about that. However, it is manageable with the right treatment, tools and resources.

I don’t want my children to look at my mental illness as something that has been cured or something that I have dealt with in the past. I want them to see that is something I live with and manage on a daily basis. I want them to see that I am no different than someone with diabetes who requires insulin. And like someone with a glucometer, I must always be monitoring my health.

I don’t want my children to ever feel like mental illness is something we can’t talk about. I want our conversations around the dinner table to include details of my health just like if we were talking about an upcoming dentist appointment or booster shot.

When looking at children we often look for physical or personality traits to attribute to one of the parents. While I would prefer my children would have inherited my hair colour, I will be vigilant in preparing for a more difficult road should they face that challenge.

Katie Enright has worked at Ontario Shores as an RPN for more than 10 years. She is sharing her experience as a mother and mental health nurse living with mental illness as part of our #5in5 series on #MindVine. Each weekday during National Mental Health Week Katie will post a new blog about her experiences in an effort to create conversations and eliminate stigma.