Insecurity and self-esteem issues often go hand-in-hand with chronic illness. Whether it’s the migraine disease itself or a comorbid condition such as depression or anxiety, the daily struggles of living with chronic illness can take a toll on our sense of worth. This is particularly the case when it comes to our identities as parents.
We want to be able to do everything we can for our children, to give them everything they want and need, to be everything they want and need. When we’re ill and we have to let some things go, we feel we’re falling short. We feel we’re failing.
In the case of divorce and separation, this sense of failure can be amplified by our exes, especially in non-amicable situations. During a separation, an ex-partner might:
- Tell your child(ren) you didn’t attend an event because you didn’t care, instead of because you were sick;
- Tell your children you aren’t able to be there for them at all, because you’re “too sick;”
- Attempt to use your migraine disease as an example of bad parenting or neglect in front of caseworkers, lawyers, or judges; and/or
- Blame all of the problems in your relationship on you and your illness.
If you find yourself in such a situation, remember this: You are more than your illness.
Migraine disease does not define you. Illness doesn’t make you a bad parent. It doesn’t mean you’re a neglectful one either.
Yes, there may be times you can’t attend a school event, because you’re in the midst of an attack. Yes, you may have to decline positions such as room parent, because you aren’t sure you can commit to that many obligations in advance. Yes, you may not be able to make a homemade costume, because you need to reserve your energy resources for other things. Yes, you may have nights when your children eat microwave dinners, because you’re too ill to cook.
This does not mean your ex’s statements are true.
Homemade costumes and PTA positions are not what make you a good parent. Good parents love their children, support them, and listen to them. They teach values, encourage dreams, and help with homework. They show up, in a million different ways, on a consistent basis.
Don’t let your ex’s version of events affect your belief in yourself or your parenting abilities. Don’t let your ex use your illness as an excuse for his or her bad behavior or the problems in your relationship. Migraine disease is a part of your reality, but it is not the whole reality. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Don’t let anyone convince your children otherwise either.
Parental alienation is a real problem during separations. If you feel your ex is intentionally sabotaging your relationship with your children, get help. Talk to a lawyer to figure out your options for custody and possession. And, if you don’t feel confident enough in yourself and your abilities, or if your ex’s statements are making you feel guilty, worthless, or insecure, get help for that too.
Talk to a friend, or find a therapist. (There are many who have experience working with the chronically ill. Check the APA’s website to find one.) Journal about your feelings, if it helps. Make lists of all the ways in which you show your children you love and support them. Pull the lists out and review them when you start feeling like you’re not good enough.
Migraine disease takes enough away from us. Don’t let anyone use it as an excuse to take your children.