Being a mom has its share of challenges. All of us have our own unique set of struggles depending on our circumstances. Well, this bipolar mama has a set of struggles for sure as well as a lengthy list of insecurities and worries that could probably wind around the block.
Experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety was probably the first nasty battle fought in this war of mine. I was fortunate I didn’t become psychotic and didn’t have to be hospitalized. Debilitating fear, pacing the house with dread, struggling to get out of bed and suicidal thoughts — these things make being a new mother even more of a tumultuous ride than the sleepless nights, milk stains, and leaky diapers.
Fast forward to hypomanic times. Dancing around the house chasing the kids, having a blast doing anything and everything they want because I didn’t have a care in the world. Follow it up with the crash when they can’t get me out of bed to read a book to them and want to know what I was crying about.
I struggled to explain in “kid-friendly” terms.
I disappeared to a hospital for a week with no obvious signs of illness. It was far away so the kids couldn’t visit, but they could call. I sounded fine, so why couldn’t I just come home? I told my oldest my brain doesn’t work right so I needed some medicine to fix it. Once it was fixed, I would be home. He seemed to understand.
Then the unthinkable happened. My husband and children found me unconscious, and the ambulance came and hauled me away. I spent another week in the hospital, but the kids only knew that I was sick and had to stay in there until I was better. They did not know it was a psychiatric hospital. While I was there, they got to visit me in my bare room a few times. I got out on my youngest child’s birthday.
Good old-fashioned “mommy guilt” ain’t got nothing on what I’ve got.
Being in recovery helps me work on the guilt and shame. Compassion toward oneself is important for mommies in general, but this bipolar mommy needs it in spades. Mistakes and missteps in parenting are exacerbated by my illness, but I will learn to manage them, and yes, my kids will be okay. I just need to tell myself to breathe and learn from it all.
Even on my darkest days, I know my kids are always watching. And if they have to have a mom who has bipolar disorder, at least they can have a mom who teaches them the meaning of strength and resiliency. They really do have one tough mama.