Parenting While Diagnosed

Becoming a parent is such a gift. The joy that your children bring can’t truly be explained. Parenting also comes with its set of challenges. Sure, there are tons of books that teach you about parenting and how to navigate those milestones and precious years. But really and truly, there is no manual that can describe parenting to a ‘t’. Especially not when it comes to your own mental wellness. Have you been diagnosed with a mental disorder? Are you parenting while having this diagnosis? If so, keep reading.

Recently I was diagnosed with ADHD. I had already been diagnosed with Depression and I self-diagnosed myself with Anxiety (not recommended…please always see a professional to gain information on what you are dealing with). I was wondering why the depression and anxiety were not going away. I had been in therapy for over a year, and I felt like no progress was being made. In fact, I was beginning to see that I just couldn’t accomplish any of my goals. I was struggling at home with keeping up with things, finishing tasks, and being forgetful. I asked my therapist was there a possibility that I had ADHD. I was tested and it was confirmed.

Thinking about my inability to get things accomplished, I thought about myself as a parent. I was not (still working on it) as effective as I wished I was. Often, I struggled so much to keep up with my own things that I was having difficulty keeping up with what was happening with my children. Yes, I would do the basics, making sure they ate, went to bed on time, and asked about school. But the attention to detail was not there. And that was hard. I was missing a lot of important things that I needed to focus on with the children. Teachers were calling in regard to my children’s behaviors and missing schoolwork. And I was oblivious to it all because I was still trying to find my keys…no but for real, whew I have lost so many things. Seriously, I was taken aback by this because I thought that they were doing all of the things and I thought that I was keeping up.

It made me feel horrible as a parent. Often wondering if I was on top of my game earlier, would things be the way that they were with them? Could I have found solutions to problems earlier? I felt in some ways that I was failing my kids. It wasn’t until major problems surfaced that I was like wow, when did this happen and how did I miss this? I had to figure out what to do in regard to this because I couldn’t function and most importantly I wasn’t meeting my potential of being a parent. Notice I said, my potential. Everybody has their own definition of parenting potential, and that is ok.

I realize that not everything is due to poor parenting and having a diagnosis (or a couple). Clearly, my children at least (a teen and tween) are aware of rules and expectations. They are also able to understand right from wrong. So, I had to make sure I was dividing the responsibility pie in the right proportions. Yes, clearly, I was not as attentive to the needs of the kids as I think I would have been knowing what I know now. Had I been diagnosed earlier, perhaps, I would have been able to use tools or medicine to ensure that I was able to focus more. Every time I tried to remind myself to check in with the kids, and check with the grades, I would simply forget and focus on something else. But knowing what I know now, I am working on doing things differently. Oh, and I didn’t mention that I am parenting while diagnosed with children who also have diagnoses. Whew, stay tuned, there will be a part two to this post!

Anyway, I want to be able to at least tell you what I have done in hopes that it can help you on your parenting journey.

1. Make sure you have been properly diagnosed: Sometimes as mothers/fathers, we get extremely busy. Well, make that all the time. If you’re a parent who has a job outside of parenting or is a single parent, there is constantly something to do. You may chalk everything up to the “busyness” of things. Maybe you feel extremely tired or anxious, but you figure it’s just because you have too much on your plate. Maybe that is true; but if you are feeling like something is going on and it doesn’t feel like your norm, figure out what is going on. You can start out with your primary care physician. Tell them about how you’re feeling, they may suggest that you seek counseling if it’s non-medical related. If it’s beyond your physician or you feel more comfortable talking to someone else, please don’t hesitate to do so. This strong woman syndrome is nonsense (whew, yet another post for later). Get the help that you need and deserve.

2. Use those tools: Once you’ve been diagnosed, hopefully, you’re seeking counsel and getting a wealth of effective tools you can utilize. USE THEM. They are game-changers. I can be honest and say that I’m also medicated. That has been very effective. When my body and tools just couldn’t do it alone, I had to get some additional support. The medication has been the booster to help me ensure that I am at my full potential as a person but also as a parent. Learn everything that you can about what is happening with you.

3. Don’t be ashamed: If I can acknowledge and share my story, so can you. What I mean by this is that, use your support system. I’m fortunate enough to have a husband that I can lean on and he can help me with this parenting journey. When I’m struggling, he has my back and we are able to do this together. If you don’t have a partner, identify other folks that can be helpful. Parenting should be a community effort (I’m identifying all the additional blogs that I’ll write, lol). When you’re not at your best, ask for help.

4. Expectations: You may need to shift the expectations that you have for yourself. No one is a perfect anything. Perhaps with your diagnosis, you may need to shift your expectations as a parent until you feel that you’ve mastered living with the diagnosis or in some cases, overcome it.

5. Stay consistent with your parenting: Ummm, Cicely, did you read the beginning of your post? Yes, yes I did. Just because I have had some challenges as a parent while diagnosed; it doesn’t mean that I can forget about being consistent or at least make the attempts. Kids need consistency. In fact, they thrive off of it. As much as you can, create a routine, create rules and consequences and stick to them. You will be thankful and so will they. Remember that responsibility pie, I mentioned earlier in the post? You want to make sure that you’re giving your children age-appropriate responsibility and whoever else that assists with parenting.

6. Don’t beat yourself up: I did this, I said I failed as a parent and that my kids would be ruined. They are not and I have not failed. If anything, you are constantly learning as a parent. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll be clueless as to how to handle the situation. It's ok. Hopefully knowing what is happening to you and doing something about it, makes the journey just a tad bit easier.

Listen, you are not alone. Please check out the resources tab of this website to identify additional support if you’d like to consult with someone about what’s happening with you and how to navigate parenting while diagnosed.

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