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Children of Mental Illness Raising Children of Mental Illness

by Cassie about a year ago in humanity
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I'll say it from the beginning- I am not a parent; I have sisters who like myself struggle with mental illness, while we have parents who also struggle with mental illness. Not only have I seen the effects it can have on the kids, ive also experienced caretaking while struggling with mental illness for not only my sisters but others as well. It's not a bad thing when someone who has mental illness has a child, in fact I think it's amazing and strong, but I do believe that those who don't properly do self care or overwhelm themselves while having a kid can have effects.

From the day I was born, I was destined to have mental illness. For some reason, not only was I diagnosed with autism, but later found out I was more susceptible to illnesses like anxiety, ptsd, depression, and bipolar disorder due to my genetics; I got all of them including ADHD. It caused behavioral issues, I went through a phase of hating my mother but I don’-t remember why. She wasn't a bad mother at all, one of the better ones, I was a horrid child, however I have been looking back recently on the past due to my little sister and I am wondering if I had more reason than I always thought to why I was rude and arrogant.

My little sister, Laura, came around when I was around four, we were diagnosed with autism when she turned four and I was eight. She was much lower functioning than I was, but because my parents worked I ended up being her Caretaker. Right before the diagnosis my other sister Amy was born. She seemed to be the most normal out of all of us. After her birth, our parents got divorced for many reasons, At my dads house, I was always caretaking for my sisters without the proper groceries to do it, as I grow older I realize the reason he wasn’t around was due to mental health issues he doesn’t realize or wants to admit he deals with along with an inability to understand mental illness as a whole concept, therefor making the relationship with my mother next to impossible, but it wasn’t just him and he wasn’t necessarily a bad parent, just an ignorant one who has done better over the last few years.

One thing that sucked about my childhood was my older sister Sora. She was fourteen years older than me, she died by suicide when I was twelve. I knew she had an extremely hard life as my mum was coerced by a man four years older than her when she was fifteen and got pregnant. My mum struggled, but I don’t know a lot of the details. Sora got her own place when she turned eighteen and she deserved it. She was the most amazing person, I know her father was not the greatest guy, he didn’t even come to the funeral, but him and her bastard finance could not have been the only reasons she felt compelled to end her life. She started struggling at the same age Amy did.

Amy was around six when she began having issues like chasing after people who treated her wrongly, OCD, and depression leading to suicidal thoughts; though a sweet girl, she was troubled after meeting the wrong kid who mentally tortured her. That girl was my best friends little sister. My dad even dated their mom for a while which made the whole situation worse. After losing our sister though, neither of us were the same but it was not the start or root cause of our issues.

As I said before, my mother was not a bad mother. She was caring and smart, but her issue was similar to my fathers, ignorance. Though contradictory, being smart yet ignorant was her greatest flaw. She always believes she has a good reason for things whether its putting me on medication from a young age to help me do better in school despite them being harmful for my hormone chemistry or it is kicking me out because I wasn’t the best at keeping my room clean and emotions in check after being in the hospital. I never understood her reasons for controlling my whereabouts and hobbies, I knew it was because she cared but I never understood why she took it to such an extreme.

I know there are strict parents, but this was different from strict. Strict was how my dad ran his house, you did what you were told and earned the respect and once you have earned enough you can enjoy things more. It is to help their kids grow while keeping everything in order. Controlling was how my mother would spam call me if I was thirty minutes late, making me believe I was incapable of things to the point I couldn’t learn (such as self control, making friends or having a social life), and convincing to think the same way because it was easier for her.

Although I have a disability that affects my social ability, I was so convinced I was different from everyone else that it was not just my disability that made me struggle with social interactions. I spent all my life chasing after people who didn’t want me around as much as I wanted them; then when someone does want me in return I self destruct. It was an unexplainable flaw I have had since I was a kid. That wasn’t the only effect though, as I said my mother was controlling. Lately I have been looking back and realizing that I never learned self control because even in friendships and relationships, I was always under someone else's control which didn’t give me the opportunity to grow, make mistakes, or learn how to control myself.

I always thought I was the issue, but what if it was nature vs nurture? You’re probably wondering why I presume this. Going back to the beginning, she was not a bad mother and my father wasn’t either, they were just ignorant. They made mistakes that, though they thought were justified, were just that- mistakes. However, though my dad learned to do better, my mother on the other hand struggles and ends up making the same mistakes with all her children despite the pleas to do better.

She suffers from mental illness while trying to care for other dependents. As much as she thinks she is doing what is best for her, she is spending more energy on trying to keep up with my grandma, two sisters, and multiple pets. She doesn’t have her own life because she is taking care of everyone else's, which means she gets no break, no time to do self care, and unintentionally takes it out on us kids. It comes out in controlling behaviour, mental manipulation, and harsh tone and language. She however doesn’t always know what she's doing or how badly it affected her kids.

The ignorance to her actions and their repercussions are also due to her childhood, from what I have heard, her childhood affected her the same way my sisters and I were affected. She was smart enough to know her childhood was not the way she wanted a child to feel, only to be ignorant when it is happening due to her nature. Her nurturing then affected me and my sisters on a level I didn't realize existed. She was also ignorant to how selfish her actions were, for example if she wanted us to be open with her and we tried, it was impossible to have her actively listening or she in some way made me feel small or like I would never have any control. If she had been brought up differently or developed a better sense of what she was saying or doing, there could have been a better chance for not only me and my sisters, but also herself.

She is so smart, she would be an amazing social worker or disability support worker (for example) but I worry for the personal repercussions of choosing a career as a funeral officiatiant. Her issues were enhanced already after she began doing school for social work, my sister Amy has had to pay the price since I am not there to take it anymore. I worry for the day she begins working in funerals because of her PTSD, though she would be awesome, her home life will take the hits as she unknowingly causes harm to her kids.

So the big question is: Why does having mental illness and parenting a child with mental illness have effects? Although a lot of people learn from their parents what not to do, a lot of people also learn what to do from their parents. To summarize, having mental illness makes it easier to be blind or ignorant to your actions or the repercussions of your actions. This trait is not unfixable though, it takes time and practice, but you will eventually get it right. My dad was the last person I expected to change but after a long time of fighting he finally really listened to me and our relationship is as amazing as watching Fantasy Island on the couch after bedtime without mom knowing.

Parenting as it is is not easy, I have so much respect for the parents out there that struggle and still manage to take care of their kids in the right way. I have more respect for the parents who struggle and they have some issues but they listen and work on their issues. My parents were great, they just made some mistakes and didn’t always learn, I am grateful they weren’t the worst and I learned from the years of struggle and I hope to help my sister so she can end on a better path than I did.


About the author


20y/o from Cambridge, ON

Educating on controversial topics and living on adrenalin to get there

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