Saturday, 8 October 2011

Kids + Mental Illness

I'm feeling inspired to write this blog due to the recent birth of my first niece, Annabelle Grace. My brother's partner, Jodi, made me so proud throughout the whole pregnancy; she never drank, smoked, didn't take ANY medication except for the supplements she was told to take to help her body, she was such a trooper. The whole birth went a little less smoothly than hoped but Jodi and Curtis were so brave and made me cry on more than one occasion. I can't be more proud of them. And now, we have a beautiful little baby in the Freshney house who couldn't be more beautiful if she tried. . .

The whole experience has made me really clucky to say the least ! But, to begin with, I'm a planner. Have to finish uni, have to get my own little place with Morgan, have to have lots of money, etc. But in addition to those little things I would LIKE to have planned out first (I realise life doesn't always work according to plans) I also have to contend with the fact that I do have a mental illness and I am prescribed some pretty yucky medication to make me able to function on any kind of normal level.

The medication I'm on is category D I believe, which basically says it is known to cause birth defects, but the benefits may outweigh the risks. I have to decide, with the help of some medical professionals, whether the risk of severe depression + mania is great enough to risk the health of my unborn baby. Re-reading that sentence makes me feel so selfish, but if I can't look after myself how am I going to look after another little human who is totally dependent on me ? The risks to the baby include increased risk of spina bifida, lower IQ, and some craniofacial abnormalities. . It is still only a RISK and lots of healthy babies are born to women on valproate all the time, but is it a risk I want to take ? Then there's also the risk of taking medication while breast feeding and possibly harming the baby, but the chance of me having post natal episodes of depression/mania are ridiculously high, and are usually more serious than those that occur without the new stressor of child birth + raising a baby. I also have to consider what I'd do if I accidentally got pregnant. Yes, I use birth control now, but what if it fails ?

There isn't just the physical risk to the child that concerns me. I have to worry about the likelyhood of passing bipolar onto my kids because it does have a genetic component. I also worry about the long term effects of my mood on my kids - I'm I guess what you'd call 'in remission' now. . I'm neither up nor down, and I really do love it (well I do miss the 'ups' but they weren't worth the 'downs'). But I know episodes could still occur in the future, and while they may be less severe than usual, I'm terrified of mentally screwing up a kid. I think having a little sister who is 16 years younger than me has really upset me in some ways because when I'm sad and I have her around me I feel so guilty and worry about her seeing me like that will do to her in the future. She's so young and these times are crucial to her mental development, I don't want her to remember growing up and remembering me being a mess.. I hope she's too young to remember.

Having a grandmother who has bipolar episodes has had a big impact on me and my siblings. We have learned to tiptoe around her and often worry about telling her things / asking her things because of her mood. I'm scared I'll be like that to my kids. I don't want them to ever see me as unpredictable in a scary way or have to worry about talking to me.

I guess there's no reason to worry now and I'll just have to deal with it as it happens and make the choices as the options arise. Maybe if you are mentally ill and there are kids in your life though, especially children who count on you/trust you, THINK about what you're doing to them. And if you don't want to get better for yourself, for christ's sake, do it for them. You don't know what damage you could be doing.

Also, in relation to my first post, don't give teen parents shit until you really understand what kind of parent they are. My brother and Jodi are young parents and they are so much more responsible than a bunch of adult parents I know. Age means NOTHING in terms of responsibility.

Guess that's it.


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