Today’s story is written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular stories on my site since February 2015. The purpose of her writing is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness, and serves as a gentle reminder for all of us to continually press forward towards mental health and wholeness. If you’d like to read the stories I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the stories she’s shared on this site, check out Tiffany’s Story. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.
A lot of changes have occurred over the past few months. At first, I was hesitant about some of the changes, but they are necessary for our family to move forward. I have realized that my everyday routines and habits, and changes I need and want to make, all start with me. I need to implement the changes and follow through with them.
Sometimes I feel like I’m looked down upon by people for spending so much time with my mom and dad. Sometimes I hear that they wish they had more time with their parents. Life is short! I spend time with my parents because the kids and I love them. My parents have been there for me and my kids through darkness and into the light. I like to think that we’re taking care of each other since they are getting older.
I never imagined life being this way. A single mom with many mental health diagnoses. My parents trying to help out any way they can. I live just houses away from them, so we are neighbors. My dad wanting to live his definition of the retired lifestyle. My parents holding my hand when I am down, especially my mom. They help with my children when I need time away. If I need help watching the kids when I have appointments, they help make that happen. When we have nothing to make for meals at our house, they help with food. When my house is a completely-disorganized mess, my mom comes over to help organize and clean. Overall, they support me, even when they’d probably rather be doing something else.
For years, I lived in a very dark place. I was scared that because of my decisions in life, people were going to hurt my family. I spent days alone in my mind, thinking the darkest thoughts possible, not wanting to feel completely alone. My parents brought me out of that dark place, even when I hated them for doing so. For many years, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be alive. Having kids saved my life, along with the help of my parents. My parents have accepted me for me, most of the time.
Initially my parents did not want to help discipline the kids, but that has changed over time. I am also learning discipline techniques from professionals. I utilize my parents techniques combined with the professionals’ ideas. I’d have to say that I am finally catching on to the whole discipline idea, without having to scream. That took work. When we are lonely at home, we often visit grandpa and grandma. They are our neighbors after all. I have made the decision to never get married and to stay single. My kids’ dad has no desire to be with me, so I do what I can do as a single mom. My point is that I don’t have a partner to share life with, so my parents help out with the loneliness factor. My mom usually buys my kids a couple outfits to wear every season. The clothing she selects matches. My clothing selections for the kids, not so much. When I feel defeated, they are there to help me crawl out of my hole. My parents are wonderful, and I would not exchange them, even if I had the choice!
I was told that because of my suicide attempts and overdoses, part of my brain was injured. I don’t think I’ve caught on to math concepts?! My daughter’s second grade homework can be very difficult for me to understand at times. My mom, being the teacher she is, usually helps out every weekday with my daughter’s math. I help with spelling and reading. Xander, my preschooler, enjoys doing “homework” with grandma too. They are two very smart kids who are blessed to have grandparents like they do.
My daughter, son and I spend a lot of time with my mom and dad, but they need their time alone too! My dad would like more time with my mom, which I feel he is starting to get now. That’s why we’ve been limiting our time with my mom and dad a lot over the past couple months. Ideally, I’d like for my parents to trust the decisions I make and live in some kind of peace. I do not want to be a burden to them at all. I’d like to make a number of changes moving forward with our family of three in order to become more independent from my mom and dad.
The various appointments I have to take care of my mental health concerns are separate from my relationship with my mom and dad. I see a psychiatrist, psychologist, a mental health practitioner, and I’m currently doing PTSD therapy. Those along with mental health appointments for my kids keep me busy! The people that the kids and I work with make me very happy.
As I stated earlier, I am getting better at disciplining the kids. I use techniques from both the professionals we work with and my parents. I used to scream a lot, but not anymore. Calmness at all times seems to work, along with the kids realizing that I am the parent and I have authority over them.
I had very little to no routine before I had children. I now realize that both children thrive off of routines, but I have to work on that. My discipline before was very lax because I was treating my children, especially Raegan, as a friend. With the help of professionals, I can confidentially say that my discipline with the kids is a lot better now. Sometimes my son, Xander, tells me that I’m mean and that he hates me. I have learned to just ignore that behavior. I must be doing something right? For the past year, Xander has been attending a group with children who could possibly have mental health and behavioral issues. He graduated from that group because he is doing so well. He also has an IEP in preschool, which helps get him services for being, what they say, developmentally delayed in some areas. I just had a conference with his teachers, and he is doing extremely well in most areas that he lacked in before. My daughter, Raegan, was just put on medication for ADD/ADHD. The process of getting her on a medication was thorough, but so worth it. I was hesitant about putting her on meds, but we tried everything else. The results from the medication have been wonderful so far!
I would like to make easier meals at our place so we are not interfering so much with my mom and dad’s schedule. I’d also like to have my kids make healthier choices when it comes to food and drink. Healthier choices come from me offering those options. Sometimes a cereal and toast dinner is alright with us, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. More physical time outdoors and in the fresh air is always a healthy decision. Raegan, Xander and I love being outdoors, so I can guarantee that summer is going to allow that to happen.
Overall, our family is moving forward with positive energy. My parents have done a lot for our family of three and we still have a lot of work to do, but I’m confident about us. I’m confident that the kids enjoy my easy meals just as much as grandma’s?! I feel good when we don’t have to rely on food from my mom and dad. I just have to prioritize food when I get paid each month. I could probably completely take care of my needs and the kids’ needs alone, but I have realized over the years that I am never alone. I always have someone to help. Nobody is really ever alone. I used to worry about everything, but I am beginning to feel and experience the reality of real love. Why worry when we are doing the best job we can? All I like to do is take one day at a time. We’re all really just trying to survive in the happiest way possible!