Today in: TROPES THAT ARE BAD
Mentally ill parents portrayed as abusive/abusive parents portrayed as abusive BECAUSE of their mental illnesses.
Hi! I’m a mentally ill parent!
I have generalized anxiety disorder, severe depression, OCD, and probably other things that have not been diagnosed. I also have an eight-year-old daughter. Despite what fiction might have suggested to you, I’m not a horrible abusive monster. I’m–all things considered–a pretty decent mother. My daughter is happy and secure and she knows she’s loved. She is provided for and safe.
But if you go by fiction, you’d think I was for sure the antagonist in my daughter’s story. Mentally ill parents are rarely ever portrayed positively–instead, their mental illnesses are used as a reason behind their abusive behaviors, providing a sort of gross shorthand for the author. A character’s mother is depressed so she is obviously neglectful; a character’s mother has OCD so she is cruel and demanding; a character’s mother is bipolar so she is nightmare; and on and on and on.
Look I’m not saying every single parent with mental illness isn’t abusive. Some are! But so are parents without mental illnesses. Mental illness doesn’t inherently explain abuse.
It’s important to send this trope to hell because so many mentally ill people are parents, or dream of becoming parents someday. It would be nice to see myself represented, not as a cruel abusive monster but as a parent–one who tries their best, makes mistakes, and does what they can to love their children and keep them safe.
There are days I feel like I don’t deserve my daughter because I’m mentally ill. There are days I feel like I don’t deserve her love, or her trust. Seeing parents with mental illnesses ALWAYS portrayed as monsters just increases these feelings. I want parents like me–and future parents too–to be able to see positive representations of themselves. I want people with mental illnesses to know becoming a parent IS a possibility, and that their mental illness isn’t any sort of indication that they are abusers.