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.