Being an Aunt with a Mental Illness

Being an aunt is the best thing in the world. It is the most important job I have. I take being one VERY seriously. And being the favorite aunt… even more seriously. Kidding. Maybe.

I adore my nieces and nephews. I’ve even had to do an art therapy assignment on “Being an Aunt” for my therapist. For it, I separated it into two parts:
The first part- I asked each of my nieces and nephews (except for the littlest one as he doesn’t talk yet) what there favorite thing to do with me is. The answers I got were great! Tyler, 12, said going to Loganberry (our favorite bookstore) and volunteering. Liam, 7, said Loganberry and going to Tower City so we can get butterfly cookies from Starbucks. Kelsey, 6, told me going on the bus and to the children’s garden. Bella, 4, explained to me she loves me playing with her with her toys. Stephen, 1, loves food, lol. On their individual pages I had each draw a picture.

The second part- I tried to come up with my favorite moments. That took some work. For Tyler I came up with his volunteering with me. He’s been coming in with me since he was around two and takes it VERY seriously. My moment with Liam was when I was in the middle of a depression and my sister had to come over for something. She told the boys I wasn’t feeling well. Liam came over, sat down next to me on the couch, and said “Don’t worry, Nynn. I’ll stay with you.” Kelsey was her excitement just to go on the bus with me. Bella calls me at lunch and insists on calling me “Apple.” That was my moment with her. And Stephen- I love when he would fall asleep in my arms- he’s not into cuddling anymore, haha.

Today, my sister had my fourth nephew (and sixth niece/nephew over all of you weren’t counting). Wyatt was born today, July 14th, at 2:50am. I met him early this afternoon when my sister, Heather, and I took Tyler and Liam to meet their new brother. I’m already in love with him!
I’ve been staying with Tyler and Liam since Wednesday. Christine (my sister) knew Wyatt was coming, but just not sure when. We’ve gone on walks, played Monopoly, went to a Goldfish Catch where we played at the playground while waiting, and just sat around and watched cartoons.

There are times being an aunt and having a mental illness don’t mix well…

I feel  horrible when I’m going through a manic episode. I don’t get to see them. I don’t get to be the Aunt Lynn that they can come over spur of the moment and play with me. They don’t know that I have Bipolar; or if they do, they don’t know what it is. They’ve grown up knowing there are times that they just can’t come over and play. I absolutely hate it. It makes me feel even worse when I’m already not feeling well because my nieces and nephews are my world.
Sometimes, having the need for unchanging structure/routine and OCD makes me feel guilty when it comes to being an aunt and hanging with my favorite kiddos. There are times I would love to take them somewhere new. I almost never do new things. Not if I can help it. They’ll see a festival or something on television and want to go. Not being able to do large amounts of people, I don’t get to take them. I would love to go with them, but it just… Yeah.

I’m still working on dealing with the first. Not being able to see the kids for weeks at a time I don’t know that I’ll ever adjust to.
The LATTER, however… the going to the same places… My nieces and nephews have learned to love the same places as I do, but for reasons of their own. For example- Tyler is a book lover and LOVES Loganberry for their book selection (he’s all about classic literature). Liam likes Loganberry for the books, yes, but loves their cat, Otis, even more. Kelsey thinks the children’s garden at Cleveland Botanical Garden is the absolute best thing in the world. Bella and I even share a favorite color- purple. All of them think going to the various museums my city has is great, they’ve grown up volunteering as well as riding the bus with me, and have picked up some of my favorite hobbies as their own. They boys (Tyler and Liam) have even started their own art journals because I keep one!
Being an aunt is absolutely amazing! I can’t imagine anything remotely better. Being an aunt with a mental illness I don’t always get to be the aunt I want to be. I know, somewhere in my head, I have nothing to apologize for. It isn’t something I have control over in the end. I will, however, continue to be the best aunt that I can be while at my best. I am beyond proud of all of the kiddos at I get to call niece and nephew; and I like to think that I had a part in how they’ve turned out. I’m not their mother, but I love them as they were my own.

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