Being a mother is hard. Being a mother when Bipolar Disorder is thrown into the mix is like a double whammy of hard.
Motherhood and parenting demands energy, attention, enthusiasm and a drive to make the right decisions, it requires playing the same games a hundred times with your one year old, shouting “where’s Alfie hiding?” And then running around to play catch with him and his little giggles filling the house with sound and happiness, it is all about routines and trying to keep your children in a schedule that works for everyone. Having Bipolar, sticking to strict routines can either be a real help in recovery, or it can put more pressure on you when you feel you can’t stick to them. Parenting is hard for anyone, and on the best of days we get through it, and if you’re anything like me it includes the help of shit loads of caffeine and carbs to fuel me on, sometimes the odd medication- but on the not so good days, how do we tell our brains to take a back seat because we have mummying to do? There are a lot of things in life under our control- our brain is not always one of them. I love hearing the sound of Alfie laughing, but sometimes I don’t have the energy to always laugh back at him and mean it. It makes me feel like a shit human being at the best of times but I know that this is the way life is going to be from time to time, and I am learning to accept it and adapt my approach to certain things so that I can be the best mother I can for Alfie and baby number 2.
Contrary to popular belief, Bipolar doesn’t always mean you change how you feel every 5 minutes, for a small percentage who have a rapid form of the illness it might, but for the majority of people and for me personally, once my mood changes and i’m either high or low, it generally lasts for weeks at a time. A lot of people think you’ll snap out of it and that is so far from the truth. I hate it when people describe someone as “ being so Bipolar” because they have a couple of mood swings in a day- I find it ignorant, and it stops people being taken seriously when they need some support. If these said people took the time to research this illness a little, they would realise it is nothing like they think.
The depressive side of bipolar is the hardest when parenting I think- those dark, exhausting days when you can’t shift the black cloud that hangs over your head, it feels like you have lead weights dragging you down and sometimes you can’t move from bed or take a bath. How do you explain to a baby who just wants Mummy, that you can’t do your best today? I’m very lucky to have Mark who encourages me and motivates me to keep going and helps me rationalise how I feel, but sometimes I can’t. Sometimes, the furthest I get is downstairs on the sofa all day, it gets to bed time and I realise I haven’t really played with Alfie much, haven’t really been the mum I know I am behind the illness and that makes you feel so inadequate, it just fuels the negative thoughts that you already have inside of your head. However that being said, those days are not too often and for that I am grateful! I have certain times in the year where those around me know a mood change is coming- summer, christmas etc. The chemicals in my brain go off and I am bouncing hyper or flat as a pancake. Sometimes it is completely random and it’s just there, happening out of nowhere like some big surprise you didn’t want.
People sometimes give the impression that you should be doing more, pushing forward and dealing with it quicker… the whole “snap out of it” bullshit- those people have obviously never experienced depression at its darkest, when it takes away all that you know and makes you feel like you are so worthless, that you just can’t even get life right. I also want to add, that depression isn’t all tears, dishevelled looking people shuffling around with head in hands- it includes high functioning as well. I can often have makeup on my face, clean clothes on my back and still feel horrendous. I can have normal conversations and fool the world into thinking I have my shit under control, when really inside I am falling apart. You are just not taken seriously unless you fall into the media stereotype of a depressed, despondent individual. It is all bullshit. Everyone experiences depression in their own way, and for me, not every episode includes tears and hysterics, a messy house, dirty clothes, greasy hair and negativity. Life forces you to do things that you need to, in order for things to move forward and for things to get done- parenting is a classic example of this. Being a mother, I am forced to get out of bed, I am forced to feed Alfie, I am forced to be on duty as mummy 24/7. Does that mean because I got out of bed I don’t feel like shit? No…
Bipolar, however, is not all doom and gloom and that is where I feel like the illness makes up for the shit times, it gives us back a feeling that is so unbelievable, it is the part that we know will eventually come back and that is the thing that gives me some hope and encourages me to keep fighting…
Those episodes of mood where i’m what is deemed “Manic” or “Hypomanic”, I am like supermum, all of the washing is done, the house is sparkling, Alfie is entertained, provided with healthy food, we do more creative and fun things and I really am mummy on a mission. I sing in a raised voice, music is always playing loudly and I work a million miles ahead and I think in my warped mentality that I have everything under control, when really i’m probably most out of control! I start a million tasks and never finish one of them, I am super creative and full of bright ideas and I love this feeling. I believe that I can take on anything that is thrown at me, the more the merrier! I think when Alfie is older he will probably realise that when i’m like that it is a bit weird to be around and he will see the downside of it because this part of the illness is the part which causes the most chaos and trouble. From what people have told me, it is not easy to keep up with me at times and when I am stable like now for example, I understand that totally. The drive to spend money you don’t have, impulsive behaviour and risk taking and the general FUCK IT attitude is so destructive… but for now, Alfie will probably just sees me as happy, chatty mummy! I’ll explain it only when I need to and certainly not before. I never, ever want my brain affecting him in any other way but positively.
With regards to medication, my opinions vary depending on how I feel- for some of you reading this you might think for goodness sake take a pill and get over it- but it really is not that simple… If i’m high and up, I don’t want a damn medication or prescription anywhere near me because I get off on feeling so good- it really is your brain working on overdrive and giving you a high that would only be possible with a shit load of recreational drugs for non bipolar disordered people! I absolutely crave it and adore it… until the crash into low mood and then I start to hate the illness, I resent it, I panic and become overwhelmed with anxiety because I know that this is for life and won’t just go away. This is when the medication is more likely to be accepted by myself and I take on board other people’s opinions on the subject. But until you have lived with this illness, please don’t preach about how we should take our medications- it just won’t work!
I’m well aware that this is turning into a long post so if you are still with me at this point then high five to you! I will probably leave this there for now and expand on certain things in another post! If you have any suggestions of post topics, feel free to suggest them in the comments and I will try my best to cover them!
For now, stay well if you can, if not- be kind to yourself!