Parenting Through Mental Illness: Briana from Sollie Studios
Today, Briana from Sollie Studios shares her experience with depression and anxiety, and she has some great coping skills. People who live with mental illness have the same struggles as other parents, plus the added worries about how those difficulties will exacerbate their mental illness. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians experience mental health and addiction. Many of those people are parents. They have silently developed great tools and have masterful skills at maintaining balance, and yet many people don’t share these because they fear the stigma around mental illness. My hope is that, by shedding some light on their stories here, we can create a space where stigma is erased, and others with mental illness who have or are contemplating families won’t feel so alone.Briana is a photographer and writer. She has 3 little boys, a husband, and 2 cats. She lives in TN and loves to attempt crafts, consume media in all its aspects (books, musicals, television shows, movies, etc).Describe your struggles with mental illness. Do you have a long term diagnosis or shorter episodes of illness?I have had depression for as long as I can remember (it must have been at least 20 years now), though it wasn't as severe until 2006. I developed anxiety in 2013. The depression usually manifests as exhaustion, insomnia, and troubling thoughts. The anxiety is worse in social situations where I am out of my element.How long have you lived with mental illness? Depression I have lived with in various degrees of severity my entire life, so I will say 20 years. Anxiety slowly crept up on me in about 3 years ago.What steps do you take to maintain mental wellness?I try my hardest to eat healthy and stay hydrated, but I allow myself a good bit of leeway, in order to curb the "failure" mentality. I meditate. I use breathing exercises. I have replaced all the lights in my house with lights that are supposed to mimic the sun. I switch up the food so it doesn't have a chance to get into a cycle. I try to stay active and at least leave (even if only driving) the house for a bit everyday. I buy fleece blankets to curl up in during bad episodes, the softness helps.How old are your kid(s)?8 year old, 7 year old, 1 year old.How does your mental illness affect your life as a parent?Sometimes I detach from them emotionally. I always make sure they are at least taken care of, even if it's just the bare minimum such as getting them food and drinks or getting them to school on time. However, sometimes I will let them have slightly unhealthy food (crackers and chips and carrots for lunch as opposed to an actual meal) and watch TV so I can just sleep some more, or because my mind won't let me focus so I just sit on the couch. Sometimes my temper is a bit quick, so I have to be rigid in my self control. I can't take them to all the activities they want to do, most days I can't even be outside with them by myself because the thought that someone is watching and judging me is too prevalent and I can't shake the anxiety. However, I think I'm more compassionate of their struggles than the people I know who have never suffered mental health issues.How do you talk to your kids about your illness?I keep it simple. Usually I'll say"I'm tired" or "I'm having a bad day, so please behave and we'll get you something special". Sometimes I'll explain that my mind won't let me focus on anything, and is sad.What part of parenthood do you struggle most with?Getting everything done. How do these parents have time to do not just the basic household stuff such as dinner, chores, and bathing the kids, plus homework, and then have time to do all sorts of fun stuff with them at the same time? I feel exhausted even on easy daysWhat part of parenthood do you enjoy most?Watching them figure stuff out, and learn. I love seeing their thought processes, and how they progress, and figure out their personalities and interests. Also, the snuggles and smiles are pretty awesome.Is there anything positive you take from parenting through mental illness? Or part of your parenting you are particularly proud of?I'm more understanding when a child is having a hard time. Not just that I'm more compassionate, but I can usually pinpoint where the child is struggling and then help them overcome it, because I have had to learn so manycoping techniques and have had so many issues myself.How is your illness viewed amongst your family/peer group? Do you face stigma and barriers, or do you feel supported?Among my friends, I am supported. A lot of them either have experienced issues themselves or are very understanding. My husband is amazing and supportive. My immediate family is less supportive, and I don't talk about it much with them. If they ask, I will answer questions and explain, but overall they are often judgemental and quick to jump to a "fix it" attitude, and give me methods I've already tried, or that are easier said than done. I definitely face some stigma from them that I didn't use to once some of them became parents.What resources help you?calm.com is where I can sit and listen to music. I use various religious and philosophical texts for both mantra and insight exercises. I also like coloring books to assist with calming down.If you are a parent with mental illness and are interested in sharing your story, please email me at email@example.com.