“I think your depression may be cycling back around.” my doctor said.
“Is this what I can expect the rest of my life to be be like? Swinging from depressed to normal?” I asked.
“There are lots of different treatment options. We just have to find the right one for you.” my doctor replied.
My doctor seemed full of optimism, but I felt the crushing weight of what having a mental illness means for myself and my family. After my telehealth meeting, I shut down my computer, laid my head on my folded arms, and cried.
Homeschooling with Mental Illness
I cry a lot when my depression is sending me downward. I cry for the plights of others. I cry for the future of my children. I cry because I feel unworthy. Sometimes I cry because the peanut butter jar is too hard to open or the dishes are piled high.
I had been crying more than usual and was losing interest in things that generally made me happy. If I had been paying attention, I would have known the tell-tale signs that my depression was reemerging.
Anxiety and depression have been constant companions all my life. But over the past couple of years, the depression seemed to shift. There were highs and lows. Like a rollercoaster that was intent on leaving me dizzy and my brain rattled. But my highs were short-lived while my lows were extended and drawn out.
My new diagnosis is Bipolar 2.
Mental Illness is Isolating
My mental illness can be isolating because I tend to withdraw from my normal activities. Hobbies that once filled me with joy now leave me feeling empty. I look around and think, “Why bother?”
Friends start to notice my absence. I withdraw from social media. How can I share my beautiful life when I can’t see the loveliness for all the grey heaviness around me?
Thoughts and feelings of despondency weigh me down. Like a great ocean of cold, it feels like it sucks me down deeper and deeper until I am surrounded by nothingness, and all thoughts and feelings are muffled by the heaviness above. I am no stranger to those feelings.
Those are the lies I deal with because of my mental illness. Because it is a lie. I have nothing to feel shame or guilt over. But the stigma and assumptions surrounding depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are all around me. So many people assume:
- “Have you tried this diet?”
- “All you have to do is think positive.”
- “Exercise is the key.”
- “These supplements are the cure.”
- “Have you gone to this type of doctor?”
These suggestions have their place, and all of them help, but they are not a cure. I have an imbalance of chemicals in my brain that regulates my emotions. Would you tell a person with diabetes to think positively instead of taking their insulin?
Diet, positive thoughts, exercise, and supplements are all beneficial. They are part of my wellness plan and self-care routine, but so are my medications, regular visits with my psychiatric doctor, and my therapist. I am not weak or crazy. I am struggling with a health issue.
How to Homeschool when Your Mental Health is Low
But, how do you parent/homeschool when your mental health is at a low point?
Homeschooling with mental illness is possible. However, some moms choose to send their kiddos back to public school. That’s OK too. The key is to do what works best for yourself AND your family.
Homeschooling is still the best option for my children, as is being open and honest with them.
“Mama cries sometimes and she can’t help it. She takes medicine to help her brain with the chemicals she needs. You have done nothing wrong.”
When homeschooling with mental illness, you do the best you can and make sure you have a serious support system.
Allow the space for plenty of grace, and try not to judge yourself so harshly.
Easier said than done, I know!
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if that means frozen dinners and takeout for the next month while my medication gets adjusted, then by golly, that’s what will happen.
Frozen pot-pies have been a life-saver, folks!
I pretty much took all housework off my plate while I adjusted that month. The house was messy, but it was necessary. My husband would come home and wash dishes or start a load of laundry. Scaling back helped me to focus on what was important, my mental health and my kid’s education.
Homeschooling with Mental Illness
- Read alouds
- Independent reading
- Documentaries and Educational Shows
- Audio Books
- Educational Apps
These have all helped me educate my children during my lowest lows until I could resume more normal activities. I am always available to answer questions and to help my kids in whatever way they need. Their education is of the utmost importance to me.
I am managing my bipolar disorder and successfully homeschooling my children. Some days are HARD. There have been times that my husband stayed home from work to be there for me. My lows I keep hidden from most people except close friends and family.
But, most days, I’m fine.
One of the many blessings of homeschooling is showing my kids HOW to honor what WE need. Managing my mental illness means being conscious of my health. I am using my experience and understandings of bipolar, depression, and anxiety to teach my children how important it is to communicate their own needs and feelings.
I want my children to have the social-emotional intelligence to understand their feelings and express them as part of their mental health journeys.
I am learning to recognize the signs of my highs and lows and learning to adjust accordingly.
So, why am I sharing my struggles so publicly? Because somewhere out in the world is a mom who loves her family dearly. She is breaking generational cycles while trying to be the best version of herself possible—a mom who, like me, has a mental illness and homeschools. Don’t let your diagnosis hold you back. Homeschooling with mental illness is possible, and you are still a good mom—frozen dinners or not.