Being a Mother with mental illness (Part 3 – Final)

So far in these posts I have talked about how I hated the thought of being a mother with mental illness, how it made me feel, how I thought I was hurting my family by having a mental illness.

But now it is time to talk about how it has changed my life, how it has strengthened our family, and how I am surviving.

I did not get to this point quickly, nor easily. It has been a long, hard and bumpy road.   But I have arrived at a better place. I am not saying I am always stable, always balanced, because that is untrue. There are times when I need to get medication adjustments, times when I have to make the trip to see my doctor because I need help.

But there are some things I have learned over the past few years.

The first and foremost is that it is okay to ask for help.

For a long time, a lot of years I choose and actually preferred to “go it alone”. There are even times now that I find myself keeping things bottled inside and trying to hide from everyone. But I know that when I become unstable I need to be able to talk to my doctor, and we need to be able to figure out what is happening and work on making me balanced again.

Another thing that I learned was to try to take other peoples advice when they say I am manic/hypomanic. I have been in situations where I was very very manic before any of my immediate family had the, I want to say “balls”….but I will be nice and say “nerve” to tell me just how sick I was.

Because as you know in the beginning, the hypomanic stages feel good, the increased activity, the projects, it then begins a slow decent into something more sinister, and then the snowballing effect begins and it happens a lot faster, and I very quickly lose control.

So, learn to ask for help, and learn to take advice (maybe with a grain of salt, but take it none the less).

These are two very important things in my life right now, two things that are part of my “stay healthy” tool box.

So Bipolar disorder changed my life, but not when I got diagnosed. It changed my life 20 years ago when it started showing up. Little things, that at 13 I did not understand, I was scared, and I was afraid that I was “crazy”.

It caused a lot of hurt, heartache, frustrations, and hate, within myself. Mostly because I did not understand what was going on, I had no one to educate me, to explain things to me, or to tell me that everything was going to be alright.

Instead I suffered within myself, and continued to suffer and get worst for years. I let my insecurities get the better of me.

But over the past few years, Bipolar disorder has strengthened our family. I know most of you are probably sitting here and wondering how it is possible that my diagnosis actually strengthened us. How is that even possible?

But it did, the diagnosis came after a lot of very difficult years, and some extremely difficult months. And although it took a long time for me to forgive myself enough to see that we were becoming stronger, we indeed were.

I had a better relationship with my children, because I was taking my medications, I was doing what I needed to do to be a balanced bipolar person. I was trying very hard with therapy and walking that line, trying very hard to stay very balanced.

Having a diagnosis made it easier to explain what was happening some of the time, it made it easier for my children to understand that mom was not well, it made it easier for my husband to understand that I was not trying to be difficult, or understand the extreme moods that had often inhabited our lives.

Because I have come to accept my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, I have started making changes within myself, healthy changes.

I have finally given in and realized that writing while I am manic, for me, is amazing. I have done this a lot over the years, but mostly in a journal. Books on top of books I have written thoughts and sentiments in, only to read them months or years later and destroy them. But now I am writing and keeping my writings, because for the first time in my life I have realized that my writing is part of me, a good part, a part that I do want to remember, ill regardless of what topics I write on, I finally like my writing and have finally given myself the leeway to write whatever it is that I feel like writing and letting my mind and hands just take control as I type.

Having this diagnosis of bipolar disorder has made me more of a survivor, because now I know what I am dealing with, I know more how to help myself, my family knows what signs to look for, and it is just finally easier to ask my doctor for help, I am finally on a path that makes sense. For the first time since I started getting sick at age 13, I have embraced this as part of who I am. After getting my diagnosis it was easier to look back and shake my head and say, yes, now I understand.   This has made some of the situations from my past make sense, finally. After years of being confused, years of not understanding, years of being misunderstood, my illness had a name, and once it had a name it was easier for me to deal with it.

It was easier for me to fight, easier for me to get help, easier for me to understand, once the name, Bipolar disorder was given to my illness.

So I am a mother with mental illness, in fact, more than one. But this does not make me a bad mother, maybe this makes me a different mother but not a bad one. I know it makes me a strong mother, a fighter. It makes me more open to things my children are dealing with, it makes me more understanding. It makes me fight harder for what is right in my children’s lives, it makes me more vigilant.

I know one thing for sure it is making me a bigger and bolder advocate when it comes to my daughter’s mental health issues, because I am not walking in blind. I am able to see what is going on, I am able to help, and knowing that I have dealt with these things, that makes it easier for her to talk to me.

So yes, bipolar disorder might have made some devastating changes to my life, perhaps it even ruined some things that were meant to be. But in saying that, it has done so much for me that no one would expect of a disorder, and for that I am thankful.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to sensationalize or romanticize Bipolar disorder, because there is nothing romantic or sensational about it.  It is a hard diagnosis to live with.  I am just trying to find the good in what once was hard for me to understand, find good in what I am dealing with, find good in me as a person.

For in finding some good, some light, I know that I am not my entire disorder, I am in fact a survivor, a fighter, and advocate and very vigilant.

And I…..I am okay with that.

Days like these

I am irritated today, it came on quickly and I don’t know why. It has been a week of not the best sleep, some moderate anxiety off and on, and our youngest son has been sick almost the entire week. I guess I can attribute these stressors to what I am feeling. I honestly just want to crawl into a dark hole and sleep.

I don’t know what is wrong, it’s the time of year where I should be relishing in the sun, it’s an absolutely beautiful day outside, sun is shining and it is very warm…but here I sit, wallowing in some discomfort within my mental and emotional self.

Something that I can hardly pin point.

But it is there in a big way, like my elephant in the room, demanding to be heard and seen.

I hate days like today. When I have no rational reason for what is going on inside me. Those are the worst for me, the days that I cannot explain.

Days I do not want to be touched, I don’t want to be talked to, and I do not have the energy or nerve to deal with anything or anyone.

I am struggling to just deal with myself today….

Being a Mom with Mental Illness (part 2)

Because I had mental illness I thought I would not be good enough. I would not be a good enough person, I would not be a good enough wife and I would not be a good enough mother.

I thought that I was worthless. Nothing.

I imagined that my family would be better off if I were not in their lives. That they deserved better. A better wife, a better mother.

My hospitalization and therapy helped me to realize things differently.

Talking to the doctor and nurses in mandatory therapy helped to mold my thought process into something that made a little more sense.

They explained to me that if I had a physical illness like diabetes or cancer it would not make me less of a person so why should a mental illness make me feel that way.  At first I just could not grasp it. It made no sense to me.

But, If the role was reversed and you had mental illness I would be the first person to tell you that it did not make you less of a person, that you were strong, that you deserved to live. But within myself all I could do was see the negative, feel the depression and continue to hate myself.

I hated everything that I had become. Everything that mental illness did to me. I hated my decision process, I despised.

One thing that a nurse told me was that statistically if I committed suicide my children would have a higher possibility of doing the same. This struck me fiercely.

The last thing I wanted was for my children to end up attempting suicide because of decisions I made, or because they felt inadequate because of something I did.

This was the beginning of fighting the suicidal thoughts. Really fighting them. It was not easy, but I had to start somewhere.

My kids and my husband were the reason that I wanted to live.

I did not know what I was going to do with that life, with that willingness to fight, but I knew it was a start.

And I made these decisions for my family.

Happy Father’s Day

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Father’s day is a bittersweet day for me.  I lost my Dad when I was just 13 years old, so for years it was a sad day, but one filled with lots of memories.  On Father’s day, I would often find myself snuggled in a quilt that my Mom made out of my Dad’s button up shirts and just remembering him.  He was a good Dad, and I was Daddy’s little girl.  I would give anything to have him back, even if just for a day so my children could meet him.

But for the past 13 years, Father’s day has had a more positive note.  After our first child was born Father’s day also became a day to celebrate my husband.  He is an amazing father to our children and an amazing husband to me.  We love and appreciate him more than words could possibly say.  So to you my dear husband, the Father of our 3 amazing children, Happy Father’s Day!! xoxox

And I just wanted to say a Happy Father’s Day to all my readers who are Fathers, Step Fathers,  Grandfathers, or Mothers who are pulling double duty!!

Being a Mom with mental illness (Part 1)

Being a mom with mental illness was a difficult sentiment for me. I found out I was pregnant and immediately stopped going to therapy. My Psychiatrist and Psychologist were concerned, while I was adamant that I was okay and I would continue to be okay.

In my mind at that time I just did not want to let him win. I wanted to prove something, to myself and to everyone else. I needed to prove that I was stronger than any of the circumstances that lead me on the path that I was currently walking.

I was tired of letting him control my life, I was tired of mental illness creeping in and taking control of me. I was tired of not sleeping, I was tired of self-injury, I was tired of having trust issues, I was tired of…..well to be completely honest, I was tired of being me.

So I decided to try to be someone else. Someone without mental illness.

At first I tried to pretend that I was okay, but inside I was struggling and my mind was in chaos.   I hid things for a long time, or at least tried to. But sometimes it was impossible to hide, things were obvious.

I would have melt downs. Like some child having a tantrum. After it was over and I had time to think, I would be embarrassed. I hated how I felt, I hated the words that I spoke.

More than once in my life I wondered what was wrong with me. I thought I could just move on, forget the past and be a good mom. But by suppressing everything I was getting sicker and I was not being the mom or wife that I wanted to be.

Inside I knew I was messed up. But I was trying not to show it. I became the master of deception. But who was I really deceiving?

I pretended that I was “normal”. I avoided the nagging voice in my head that was telling me something was wrong, that nothing had changed, that I was still dealing with mental illness.

My conscious mind was beginning to not be so quiet. I tried to suppress it, I kept pushing it deeper and deeper inside me, telling myself that I was fine.

But I wasn’t.

And I was scared because it no longer was just me that was affected by my mental illness. I was married and I had children, and everything I did not only affected me, but my entire family was affected.

Eventually, I was unable to fight it any longer. I needed help, and I needed it now. I was hospitalized for 5 ½ weeks. Therapy was mandatory. Medication became a life line.

And I fought, fiercely fought to become a better person. I spent over a year walking on egg shells, still trying to pretend that I was not sick. But fighting a fight within myself that I never thought I could win.

But even though I thought I couldn’t win, I had to continue to fight, because I was fighting for them…for my family.

The Mirror

A few years ago for quite a few months, close on a year actually….. I was unable to look in the mirror. I hated what I saw there. Actually, hate is not a strong enough word, I despised the reflection that looked back at me.

She was everything that I did not want to be.

She was weak. She had let mental illness take over her life and I hated her for it. I hated her for the things she had done while I was ‘sick’. I hated her for the hurt she caused my family, I hated her for the hurt she caused herself.

I hated. I despised.

I wanted to die. I willed the earth to open up and just swallow me whole. But of course that did not happen. But that did not stop me from wishing it every minute of every day.

I no longer believed in myself, I no longer trusted myself or my judgement. I had made some very bad decisions and I hurt people whom I love.

I felt very vulnerable.

I had lost control of my life and I was extremely scared that I was going to lose control again.

I had spent a lot of my life out of control. Just spinning in every direction. And to be there again after so much time, frankly, scared the shit out of me.

I was scared. I was tired. I was mad.

Scared of how bad the illness had gotten. Tired of the illness, tired of being me. Mad at myself, in ways I did not even know were possible.

My mind was in chaos, my life was in chaos and I was in so much emotional pain that I was positive that I would not get through it.

I could not see past my mistakes. I could not see past the hurt I had caused.

If I happened to look at my reflection, I would call her names. Hateful names. I would tell her “I wish you would just die”.

It was a bad time.

I took to writing on the mirror. Words of encouragement.

“This is not how your story ends.” “Believe” “Love”.

So instead of seeing myself if I accidentally looked in the mirror I would see messages. They were written there to help me get through. But to be honest it took me a long time to even believe any of the words I had written.

I got through this time. I am not even sure how. It took a LOT of work.

And although I do not really like the mirror, even now, I can manage to look at myself with less hatred. I no longer completely despise what I see there.

Sometimes I catch glimpses of the pain I went through during that time. But other times I see a glimmer of the strength that I pulled from somewhere deep inside to pull myself through one of the most difficult times in my life.

The mirror reflects not only an image of my physical self but it reflects images of my soul, my emotional self.

Sometimes I still have inklings of negative feelings for the reflection. A little hatred, some sadness, maybe a little mad at what I see. But more often than not, I see strength. A strength that pulled me through, a strength that helped me fight and a strength that will always be there.

Little update, and how are you all

It’s been days since I have actually been able to sit and write. I guess you could all tell that by my lack of postings on here.

My head keeps hitting the metaphorical wall of writers block. I have started several postings and haven’t been able to wrap my mind around what it is that I am writing, so I just stop.

After all for me, forced writing is not good writing. It needs to come naturally and flow.

First a quick update on me. As you all know I didn’t sleep well for a bit and was taking another med (Clonazepam) for 7 days, that is over with now, and I continued to sleep half decent for a bit. Back to 3 hours sleep a night again now for the past 2 nights hopefully that does not last long.

I saw my psychiatrist yesterday morning. I am doing well, balanced. But I knew this already. So we decided I would also stop the med (Chlorpromazine) which I had started in March when I was manic. So I never took that last night before bed like I normally would.

Fingers crossed that I do well off of it.

I tend to go through these ‘swings’ every so often. For the most part I was balanced for just over a year. Some slight depression, and maybe some slight ‘get go’ I wouldn’t call it mania because it was nowhere near that. Then I get into a phase where it is harder to get back to the balance. But this has become my cycle, and I am used to it.

It’s funny how I have just ‘gotten used’ to something that causes so much chaos in my life. But it has been with me so long that it is just a part of who I am.

I have been more open about my mental illness since starting this blog. Before I used to hide it from most people. Family knew, and close friends of course but from everyone else I hid.

I have chosen to no longer hide. I am who I am mental illness and all. Accept that, or don’t, it really makes no difference to me anymore.

Anyway

What I would like now is for all my mental health ‘family’ to comment with how you are doing, I want to know how you all are.

Thanks,