I have been blogging here for a year. A whole year.
I started Bipolar Whispers in a manic phase. A time when I was full of possibility. Another grand idea was formed because of mania.
A time when my ability to write came back. Back after years of dealing with horrific writers block.
There were days when I wrote several articles, days when I published more than once. Days when I did not publish at all.
Days when what I was writing made total sense, and days when I wrote in gibberish.
There were days when I was stuck inside my head, days when the words were screaming to be written but I couldn’t form more than a few coherent sentences.
I wrote with passion. I wrote deep truths. I wrote about pasts. I wrote about futures. And I wrote about right now as the words were forming.
I wrote with questions, and I wrote looking for answers.
Sometimes I found the answers, and oftentimes I found many many more questions.
I wrote when I was manic. I wrote when I was hypomanic. I wrote when I was depressed. I wrote when I was flat and I wrote when my mood was ‘normal’.
Sometimes I didn’t write at all. Because whatever I may have been dealing with at that time was bigger. Bigger that I was able to deal with, bigger than I was able to write about, bigger than I was okay with.
But Bipolar Whispers became so much to me. It became a haven. A place to go and not worry about anything to bare it all and let it all out.
I met great friends through blogging. I have read other peoples stories, their life stories and understood. I related to them. I understood them and they understood me.
Even when I disappeared for a bit because the medical issues in our family was more than I was able to deal with, you were all here when I got back. You continued to embrace me and hold me up. You held my hand, and you gripped my heart.
Some of the most understanding people, some of the easiest people to write to, some of the easiest people to relate to have been the blogging friends I have made because of Bipolar Whispers.
And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here, for reading, for listening, and for hanging on.
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.
Tonight I am empowered. It did not start off that way, but it has gotten that way pretty quickly. It actually started with some hurt, some deep hurt within myself, one that I felt should not have been there. But it soon changed to disappointment. First at myself and then at someone else.
But now, now it is empowerment.
I learned something hard lately. That every person who smiles are you is not your friend. I won’t go into detail. But lets just say…..lesson learned, and learned well.
I have let it go. Letting it roll off my back like water off an umbrella. There was a time in my life where I would not have been able to let it go. Worrying about it, trying hard.
I know I am no longer that person and although I was pretty naive at the time, I no longer am. And it was a valuable lesson to learn. So I guess I should be thankful that I learned it now.
There has come this point in my life where I no longer care what any one thinks of me. I mean, I do, deep down to some extent. BUT the bitchy empowering person that I feel inside me right now….well she says “Fuck It”.
I have actually, FINALLY, let go of a lot of things over the past little bit, and I am going to be absolutely honest, It is the most freeing sensation I have ever felt.
I am happy, I am IN LOVE, I have a wonderful family and I love them, quirks and all.
I refuse to go back to the broken crumbled person that I once was. And I will definitely not let one person, and one person alone bring me there.
Right now I say, take me as I am, Bipolar and all. Manic, depressed, mixed, flat. I am who I am, and take me that way without talking shit behind my back, or don’t take me at all.
I have spent a huge amount of my life pretending everything was fine. But the truth was: I was barely holding it all together. Using glue to hold the pieces in place. Plastering on a fake smile and going about my day. All the while the rapidly drying glue was cracking in places and the plaster was crumbling. No one else knew, no one else saw what was happening. I knew exactly when to smile and where to hide so I could keep my secrets to myself.
I perfected the art of camouflage.
But inside, I saw what was happening. I felt the storm raging on in the dark corners of my mind. Pulling me further and further into the darkness. I felt the tug from both directions at once threatening to tear me in half, to break me.
I was using all my energy trying to make sure not to show any signs of weakness on the outside. But inside of me I was exhausted. All I saw was where I went wrong, what I did wrong, and how very weak I really was.
For me the signs of mental illness were there as a child. I had some very traumatic experiences at a very young age and the problems began not long after. Anxiety, rapid speech, pressured speech, followed by severe depression then back full circle again.
I was struggling with who I was behind my dim soulless eyes. I was changing, and I was not sure I liked who I was becoming.
My days began running together. Wake, Eat, School, Sleep, Rinse-Repeat.
I was like a ghost at school drifting through the walls from class to class, teachers did not know how to speak to me, guidance counselors did not know what to do with me. And I had all but given up on myself.
My grades went down hill and I began loosing interest in school. I lost friends and I most certainly lost myself.
I remember situations where my mouth kept talking where I should have kept it shut. I talked and talked and talked. At times people couldn’t understand me, I was constantly told to slow down. Breathe.
I spent more time with anxiety and in depression. I cried myself to sleep. I was ashamed, I was afraid, and I prayed. Boy did I pray. I prayed for help, I prayed for guidance, I prayed for a savior. But none came.
There is this elephant in the room, she has been there for years. She is an invisible elephant – no one can see her, but we all know she is there. She lives inside the walls of our home. She is in the air we breathe, she is in the foods we eat, she is in the sleep we don’t get, and she is in the decisions we make.
Sometimes she demands to be seen, other times she demands to be heard, sometimes she talks fast, sometimes she is loud, other times she whispers quietly in my ear so that no one knows she is there but me. I……I will always know she is there.
She has a name, but we don’t always use it because of the stigma surrounding it. Not everyone knows that this elephant lives inside our family and we try hard to camouflage her into the background of our every day lives. And sometimes, just for a moment, we are able to forget that she is there.
Until the next time she becomes demanding. Taking sleep, talking fast, so many ideas, so many thoughts. Projects to be completed, research to be done. Sometimes she uses other methods to be heard, sleeping too much, thoughts of despair, unable to function.
In case you have not figured it out yet our elephant is Bipolar Disorder. That is the elephant in our lives.
She will always have a say in the decisions we make because she has become a not-so-silent part of our family. She is always there trying hard to balance on a ball. We try not to let her tip one way or another because we are afraid of how big of a crash she will make and how much damage she will make on the way down.