Having Children When You Have A Mental Illness Label

After reading a terrific article by Therese J. Borchard on PsychCentral entitled Should You Have Kids If You’re Depressed?, I was inspired to write a comment. The comment grew so long that I made it into a post:


I have three adult children. My first child was born when I was eighteen. My problem wasn’t just depression, it was psychosis.

Back in 1967 when I was fourteen years old, I had a mental breakdown after living through a series of extreme childhood traumas. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder did not become an official psychiatric diagnosis until 1980, so I was diagnosed with acute schizophrenia instead. My abusive mother then jumped at the chance to get rid of me by putting me in a state mental institution — against my doctor’s advice, and despite the fact that my behavior was never out of control or threatening in any way.

The asylum where I spent the longest two years of my life was one of those massive, Gothic-style human warehouses built in the 1800s. Throughout my incarceration there, I was kept heavily medicated on a cocktail of powerful psychotropic drugs.

I was also used as a guinea pig during part of that time, in an experimental drug trial that did not go well. I would never have known that I was taking LSD as part of a misguided experiment in the treatment of schizophrenia, if not for a nurse who took pity on me and told me why my symptoms were suddenly so much worse. While I was on the LSD “treatment,” the walls looked to me like they were breathing in and out and the floors were undulating like a gigantic snake beneath my feet. I could see what looked like molecules of light swirling and dancing in the air all around me. People’s faces appeared distorted, like bizarre Picasso paintings. It was beyond terrifying!

As soon as the LSD was stopped, these visual horrors also stopped, for the most part. But I continued to have flashbacks for years afterward.

When I was sixteen, a new psychiatrist (hired to replace the rapist) decided that I did not have schizophrenia and he sent me home. I went off all of my medications cold turkey at that time. I had no choice.

Just ten weeks later, I married my first husband, an 18-year-old high school dropout who said he had fallen in love with me at first sight. I was so very grateful to be loved and wanted! (No one else in my family wanted me. Even my maternal grandfather, who had previously doted on me, made it clear that I was nothing but a huge disappointment to him. My grandfather was the associate warden of Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary at that time, and having a grandchild who had been locked up in a prison-like facility was unacceptable.)

My teenage husband wanted me to get pregnant right away. He said he loved me so much that he could not wait for me to have his baby. I miscarried the first pregnancy, then became pregnant again a few months later.

Shortly before our child was born, my husband told me the truth: he had never loved me. In fact, he believed he was gay, something which was kept secret in those days. The only reason he had wanted to marry me and have a child right away was because he was about to be drafted to Vietnam. As a high school dropout, he was ineligible for a college deferment, which left only four ways he could avoid the draft at that time: 1) shoot himself in the foot, 2) burn his draft card and go to jail, 3) run away to Canada, or 4) get married and have a baby.

A few months before our son was born, my husband kicked me in the stomach with his steel-toed work boot, yelling that he did not want me to have his child after all, because I was “too crazy.” (Being so mentally stable himself, he was a good one to judge my sanity, right?) I went into premature labor the next day, which my doctor stopped with a hormone injection.

If ever there was a young woman who should NOT have had children, I was such a woman. I did my best as a mother, but my best was often pathetic. I was an emotional train wreck by the time my children were born. Being married to a cheating, lying, abusive draft dodger certainly did not help my mental health, either.

The only thing my three kids had going for them was that I loved and wanted them very much. But there came a time when my undiagnosed PTSD, suicidal depressions, and overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks grew so severe that I could not even deeply love my own children.

But today, I have a forty-four year old son who is managing two motels. I have a forty-one year old daughter with a BA who is now working toward an MA in family and marriage counseling. I have a thirty-five year old son who works in retail and has remained gainfully employed throughout his adult life, despite his own battles with depression.

I also have an eighteen year old granddaughter who is studying to be a nurse, and a twenty-four year old granddaughter with a degree from Temple University who is now a student at Harvard University’s Extension School.

That’s right, I said Harvard.

During my two years in the state insane asylum, I was lucky to escape forced sterilization. This was routinely done in those days to many psychiatric patients, because it was believed that people with a mental illness should not reproduce.

I made many mistakes as a psychologically injured mom. Ideally, I probably would have been better off not having any children. I struggled very hard, trying to raise my three kids to the best of my limited ability through multiple abusive, failed relationships. It seems that in many cases, only users and abusers are interested in dating or marrying a woman with zero self-esteem and a history of mental illness. I did not meet my current loving husband until I was fifty, long after my children were grown. But even then, we had many serious problems during our first year of marriage, until he went into an in-house treatment program for his terrible rages, a byproduct of his combat-induced PTSD.

Despite all the hardships, today I am super glad that my three children were born. And having a granddaughter in Harvard is pretty awesome. How many “normal” grandparents get to say that? 🙂

Pregnant woman photo available from Shutterstock.

— — —

UPDATE: I don’t mean to imply that my adult children and grandchildren turned out so awesome because of me — they did it mostly in spite of me, due to their own strength and resilience. But I do want to make the point that having genuine LOVE and appreciation for your children goes a long way, even when nearly everything else is going wrong.

Without the intervention of a few good, caring people, I am sure I would not have survived to this point, let alone have ever been able to take care of anyone else. To these few angels in disguise who have helped me so much along the way, I owe a huge debt of gratitude.

Finally, I am not saying that I believe everyone should have children. With the world population now said to be more than 7 billion, if you could say the name of each person who is currently alive at the rate of one name per second, non-stop, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year — it would take you more than 220 YEARS, at that rate, to say the name of every person now living!

In my opinion, more people need to make the decision NOT to have children!

God bless, and thank you for stopping by.

❤ ❤ ❤


14 thoughts on “Having Children When You Have A Mental Illness Label

  1. mychildwithin May 12, 2016 / 9:57 am

    I applaud you for all that you have achieved! The fact that your children have turned out beautifully and that you were able to love them as best as you could is incredible! Your resilience is incredible after everything you’ve been through! Whenever I think about having children I am utterly terrified as I am only recently starting to enjoy a healthier life away from my narcissistic parents and their abuse. I already feel like Ive brought up 3 young children since I was only a child myself.(This includes my special needs brother, which my mother assigned me the role of 2nd parent because it was easier for her)..I am only recently learning to be ‘selfish’ in a self-caring way and only have the energy to love my husband and a pet. You are truly an inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee May 12, 2016 / 4:05 pm

      Self care is super important. How wonderful that you are able to care for yourself, your husband, and a pet. There was a time when I could not even do that. Without the intervention of a few good, caring people, I am sure I would not have survived to this point, let alone be able to take care of anyone else.

      Also, as I have added to the bottom of my post, I am not taking the credit for how terrific my children and grandchildren have turned out. I give THEM most of the credit.

      I was an only child until the year I turned seven, then my mother had twin girls. Fifteen months later she had a severely disabled baby boy, and a couple of years after that, she had another boy. She had a total of seven children by the time she was done. So I know exactly what you mean about having a younger sibling turned over to you when you were still a child yourself, and now feeling like you have already been a mother. The same thing happened in my life, until I was put in the mental institution.

      I think there is nothing wrong with not ever having any children, especially today. Do you know how crowded the world is? With the world population now said to be more than 7 billion, if you could say the name of each individual person who is currently alive at the rate of one name per second, non-stop, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365.25 days per year (the .25 is to account for Leap Year) — it would take you more than 220 YEARS, at that rate, to say the name of every person now living!

      In my opinion, more people need to make the decision NOT to have children.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mychildwithin May 13, 2016 / 12:50 am

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! I do agree with the over population of the world and especially when there are so many children suffering needlessly. That is the thing that upsets me the most! Watching narcissistic/psychopathic people having children and seeing the abuse the endure! It breaks my heart cos I have been there..It also upsets me how irresponsible people can be when having children..I watched my father get married to yet another psychopath and have a baby and now my half brother has suffered hugely! I tried to be there for him when he was 5, 6 years old and a little later when he was 11 but now I am estranged with my father so don’t know if I will ever see him again..I am so sorry for all you have endured within your family and I really hope that you are enjoying life as much as possible now with your husband, children and grandchildren! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. survivednarc May 12, 2016 / 10:04 am

    I am happy it went so well for you and your children. 🙂 Of course there are always cases where it doesn’t end up well at all, but that is the case for many so called “normal” parents aswell. I think it is important that society offers good support to any parent that is challenged in any way. Not the nightmarish so called support that you had, but real good care and support. I work with troubled children and parents with different forms of challenges and I often see that it can make a huge difference in the family when they can get good support from the health care and social care systems.
    You must be so strong to have managed it all the way you did! I am so glad. 😊💜

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee May 12, 2016 / 3:51 pm

      Thank you! Like I have added to the bottom of my post, my adult children have done so well mostly in spite of me, not because of me. They all seem to have inherited the survivor gene. 🙂

      I did have a few good, caring people who helped support me emotionally along the way. Not all of the time, but enough. Otherwise I am sure that I would not have survived.

      Liked by 1 person

      • survivednarc May 12, 2016 / 6:41 pm

        I understand completely. Sometimes I feel that it is too bad for those who were born at different times, a bit earlier than me.. cause there are such great easily accessible resources today, in society, which is such a good help, both social servicrs which can help with parental support, aswell as psycholigical health care which is very good (and “almost for free’). Well at least where I live..in Europe. Might be different in the US. But anyhow I am glad you and the kids got through everything in a great way. 😊💜 You are amazing.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Carrie Rubin May 12, 2016 / 10:18 am

    Yours is such an amazing story–heartbreaking but also inspiring. What a traumatic and difficult road you’ve traveled, and what incredible things you’ve accomplished along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee May 12, 2016 / 3:48 pm

      Thank you so much, Carrie. But as far as my accomplishments go, like I have added to the bottom of my post, my adult children have done so well despite me, not because of me. They are all truly awesome.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. katiesdream2004 May 13, 2016 / 8:41 am

    What a pig that draft dodger anti-husband was!. I’d like to kick in him the stomach, I’m sorry you had to experience the monster. Children in my case are both the best thing and worst thing that ever happened to me. The best in that they gave me a reason to live when I didn’t have one and the worst because some of the pain has they can inflict has been excruciating, and yet even in that, there was a dying to myself involved that kept me from becoming the narc my mother was.

    I believe that children really understand if they are loved or not and that is the profound difference in their future life not whether their mother had a label. I also believe the impact of extreme narcissistic parents and on going abuse with intimate partners is vastly overlooked as the etiology of disordered behavior in their victims. They are too crafty to ever get diagnosed Those that have not experienced abuse of the sort narcs dish out might not comprehend how you can hallucinate and have all sorts of “psychosis” under the mental torture inflicted, but having experienced it, I know it is possible.

    For this reason I don’t think it is out of the realm of possibility to be a really good parent no matter what label the mental health profession has slapped an abuse survivor with. My last husband that had the authority to label and commit people to mental hospitals was one of the most sociopathic human’s I’ve ever known. He was a tremendous misogynist so women were going to get some horrible notes in their charts and punitive labels if they pissed him off which was easy to do if you weren’t worshiping him.

    My children were exposed to a horrible upbringing of deprivation and instability and yet they tell me they always knew they were loved. They are all very accomplished now, we worked out the estrangement more and more as they mature. I was a creative, sometimes zany, out of the box parent which created some deep and critical thinkers that tend to be compassionate toward their fellow man. All of them have jobs that serve the human race, one with a PhD (she interned at MIT) in genetics currently doing cancer research for the Federal government. I don t credit myself with her success she’s been to hell and back to get it on her own, with her own resilience

    Love is the thing that matters in childhood, children of those that can’t love are orphans emotionally no matter how polished the life looks on the outside. Some of those that have been the most deprived of it, instinctively give what they never received.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. lbeth1950 May 23, 2016 / 8:41 am

    Your kids sound like a gift to the world. They needed to be born.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee May 23, 2016 / 9:29 am

      I sent my daughter an email with a link to this post. She replied “you are much too hard on yourself.” No, the truth is that she is too gracious.


  6. ananonymousoutsider May 28, 2016 / 5:11 am

    Reblogged this on ananonymousoutsider and commented:
    This is a topic I have battled over and over, as my husband and I always wanted a second child and I now do not feel that I am fit to have more. This really helped me feel less alone in that mental battle. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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