It’s not always easy to quantify, but an estimated 1 in 4 adults struggle with some kind of mental health condition. Thereby, it only follows that a fair number of mothers juggle their illness with their parental responsibilities. Many are brave and resilient souls who are doing their best. But those who have been raised by a mentally ill mother, have had to make some serious adjustments to cope with the challenge of having a mother who is not mentally well.
Being raised by a mom who was mentally ill can result in long-term fallout. The mental and emotional effects may be hard to spot. And it’s usually tricky to navigate the downstream effects on your relationships.
Remember, it’s never too late for your story to have a happy ending.
How to Cope with the Fallout When You Had a Mentally Ill Mother
Perhaps the first major step is to do the crucial work to identify the fallout. This isn’t always so easy. I’ve worked with a number of patients who had mentally ill mothers. Many have confided in me that it took them years to realize just how different their upbringing was. Often, they just didn’t know any different.
Others were painfully aware from an early age that “something was really wrong”. The intensity of fear, anger, shame and chaos in their homes was impossible to minimize or ignore.
For example, if your mom was mentally ill, there’s a pretty good chance that you are trying to resolve a fair amount of trauma. Trauma resolution is a complicated process. It requires the help of therapist who has advanced and specialized training.
Having a mother that is unstable or reactive can leave you with a fear you are also mentally ill. For example, you may be hyper-vigilant, anxious, or socially withdrawn. Talk to a trauma informed professional to better understand and manage what you are feeling.
Another common manifestation of the fallout is feeling like you were never properly parented. You did your best as a child. This often meant avoiding problems, acting like a little grown up, and people-pleasing. Take the time to assess such perceptions. Develop methods to parent yourself as an adult. Again, reach out for help.
Some Important Reminders:
You Are Not Alone
As touched on above, this scenario is far more common than you may realize. There is no shame in it. There is also no shortage of resources available to the adult children of mentally ill mothers, e.g.
- Social service agencies
- Offline and online support groups
You Are Not to Blame
It’s not your fault. You didn’t make your mother ill. You also didn’t make the situation what it was. A major step toward healing is letting go of self-blame and self-judgment. Replace them with self-soothing and self-compassion.
You Deserve to Feel Better and Feel Safe
You probably didn’t get the kind of nurturing, protection and support you craved as a child. This does not mean you don’t deserve it and/or can’t have it. You can be kind to yourself. You can create and stick to a study routine of self-care. In addition, you can be diligent in surrounding yourself with people who are supportive and available.
You Are Not the Same as Your Mentally Ill Mother
The experiences you endured as a child do not foretell how you will be as a parent, partner, or friend. Read that line again and believe it. The past does not have to be relived and you are more than capable of making the decisions necessary to make that true. Your future is unwritten.
You Can Have a Happy Ending
It’s not about living in denial. You do not have to pretend you had a “normal” childhood. But it is within your power and in your control to recover. Not every day is about your past. The present is where you live and it’s where you can create new, self-loving patterns.
Reach Out to Recover
Healing your childhood wounds is not a solo act. Processing and moving forward are made possible with professional help. You can heal the effects of having a mentally ill mother. Get an experienced guide to help you in this important work.
Therefore, I invite you to contact me regarding trauma therapy. Over the course of more than two and a half decades, I’ve helped many people recover from the impact of having a mentally ill mother.
Reach out today to set up a safe and confidential consultation. What you’ve endured was difficult but you still have the ability to cope… and to thrive.