Category Archives: Bipolar Disorder

The Decade

My youngest, Patrice, is 10.  A whole decade.  One I never dreamed I would survive in the early days, months, years…

Her birth completed our family and just about killed me.  Baby blues came.  My midwife talked me through those days.  And then I got a week of peace.  I thought I was in the clear…then I couldn’t sleep.  My brain refused to shut off no matter what I did.  I couldn’t stop moving.  I had to be busy or I was just sure I would fall apart.  I had three girls 4 and under–and we never stopped going to the park, the library, anything I could find to do while wearing a tiny baby.  I even cleaned my house!!

The darkness was overwhelming me.  I was sure my family would be better off without me.  I would e-mail my midwife who would convince me I should go back home.  I didn’t want to leave my family–I just didn’t see how I would ever survive.

Over the years I have done hospital stays; I take medicine that makes me sick every single day.  I run for exercise and to keep my sanity.  I have people around me that love me, encourage me, challenge me, help me focus on why I continue to fight and live.

My postpartum depression and anxiety were not nice enough to resolve and leave…it made itself at home as bipolar 2 and anxiety.  I am pretty sure there is another diagnosis but eh, who has the time to remember them all?

But here we are, 10 years later.  Patrice seems pretty happy and growing in Jesus, living life in this pandemic.  Ten years later, we are all here to celebrate the decade of Patrice and how far we have come!

Walking your own journey with postpartum mood disorders and need someone to talk to or get resources?  Contact the PSI warm line (leave a message) call 1-800-944-4773 or text 503-894-9453.  Leave in your message if you would like to talk with someone with particular expertise, such as Armed Forces, Arabic speaking, Spanish speaking, dads, adoptive parents, birth mothers, postpartum psychosis.

The Thing You Forget

Bipolar is a jerk.  Even in the times you are well and stable, you’re not normal.  But you get used to that normal.  You adjust your expectations, you learn your oddities and live.

I had a blip during our shelter in place because of medications getting messed up, but I knew what it was and why it was.  That made it easier to live with.  I cried a lot and got emotional, but that was part of a collective angst.  I was not alone.  That was not necessarily even the Bipolar.

But then I got tired.  If you ask my friends how I was doing, for weeks they would tell you I was tired.  No matter how much sleep I got, I was tired.  And that hasn’t changed, but the reality of Bipolar has made itself known.

Last week it messed me up good…making it so, so, so hard to leave the house.  Even when I knew I would enjoy where I was going the dread was devastating.  And Friday knocked me for a loop.  I had to go somewhere.  I had to talk to people.  And I talked to too much.

And I remembered what I forgot…

How much I hate myself.

In Came Her

A few years back we decided to get involved with a particular group of people in a particular life circumstance and see if we could help.

And I think we have.

But not nearly as much as they have helped my family, and me, especially.

A little over 3 years ago I went to a family’s house.  I didn’t know the family.  I didn’t know what to expect.  We met that day.  I helped with something and she sent food home with me.  For the first of what has literally become thousands of times.

God has used her to carry me many times.

Three, in particular, come to mind.

The first was a year ago.  Earlier in the spring, the doctors found a lump.  It wasn’t cancer but had to come out because it has such a high likelihood of becoming cancer.  A year ago, right now, they removed the lump.  The surgery went great. I had no pain.  That was a Monday.  I expected to go right back to my life on Tuesday.  But I didn’t.  I dropped my girls off at an activity and I went to her house.  And sat there.  I just sat.  I didn’t even hold her newborn daughter.  That’s what I did for the rest of the week.  She had a newborn baby but she was the one taking care of me.  She just sat with me and sent dinner home to my family every night.

Another time was a month or so ago.  The bipolar had been playing mean.  But I was okay, just a rough evening.  And she saw it.  She messaged me on my home and used our particular code to ask if I was really okay.  She saw it.  My hubby can see it sometimes.  And I have people who I can reach out to but they are not nearby so I have to tell them when I am struggling.  But. she. saw. it.

That brings us to today.  The last two weeks have been hard. I still do the things that need to be done but I really just want to hide.  I am always exhausted no matter how much I sleep.  I have seen her a few times this week but just for accomplishing a few things, not to visit.  I love being with her when I am there but it is just hard to be anywhere.  It took me until Friday to ask if it is the Bipolar.  And today I have just not done anything and have done little to connect.  But she did the work to connect with me.  A couple of hours ago my daughter yelled, “she’s here.”  And she was.  And again she knew just the right time to be here.

Funny, a few years ago I thought I would help her when I was the one that needed her help.

 

Pandemic, Bipolar and a Mask

Patrice can make anything look cute!!  And monkies are her jam!  Gotta say my girls made being under stay at home orders for a couple of months life much easier.  They are fun, smart, and for the most part, obedient.  Being traditional homeschoolers we had no trouble continuing on with school–I actually added more.  We got more schoolwork done this year than any other year–why not?  We were at home!

Caitlyn got some practice sewing making masks for the family.  It is not her favorite thing to do but she also does not like listening to me nag so she did it–though she did tell me not to volunteer her to make a bunch of masks.

I was a little bit of a disaster during the tightest of controls as we stayed home to lessen demands on the hospitals here.

Easter was probably the worst of it for me. I missed my best friend so badly–so badly.  And that morning she and her husband dropped off several of my favorite dishes of food she had made for us.  I couldn’t hug her.  I couldn’t invite her in.  We could barely chat.

I was so glad to see her but it broke me.  I came in and cried and cried and cried…until the next day.  I thought I would never stop crying.  Honestly.  And of course, you can’t hide anything from your best friend so when she found out, she did another porch drop the next day to make sure I was okay.

And that time, I was okay.  For some odd reason, that time made me happy.  Yes, I still wished I could invite her in and give her a hug but I was at least also happy I got to see her.

 

I cried a lot during the 2-ish months of shelter in place.  There were days I was afraid I wouldn’t stop and I would scar my children forever but honestly, I don’t think it can be blamed on the bipolar.  I really think it was a pretty normal reaction.  Such a time of upheaval and fear.  Somehow my children seem to be handling it okay.  Even as homeschoolers, we lost a lot during this–co-op, theatre, youth group, time with friends, but my girls were amazing.  I seriously don’t know how I can have ended up with such stable kids when I am anything but, but I thank God every single day for that.

*Not my baby–I like to borrow them and give them back!

As we transition to doing more, it is hard to know what is okay and what to do or not to do.  For the most part, when we are with people the rule is masks on indoors and off outdoors IF we can be spaced apart. It is hard.  A lot of people try to tell me we don’t need to worry about it but I want to love my neighbor as myself so we wear them.

I survived all of this with my emotions somewhat intact but one of my biggest struggles now is people not wearing masks or face shields when out.  Science has shown they reduce transmission of covid-19.  I want to be safe and I want to do my part to keep others safe.  It is my duty and my privilege to love others in this small way.

Pretending It Doesn’t Exist

Note:  This comes out of recent events we are aware of but not personally involved in and a conversation I had with someone.  The person I talked to is one of the sweetest people I have ever known and was receptive to my perspective as we talked.  She did not know about my mental health journey.  I am by no means upset with her; I just wanted to share my thoughts after this conversation.

A young man known by many in our circle of friends died by suicide earlier this week.  This lead many parents to have to consider how and what to discuss with their children.  In a conversation this week, a lady said to me, “I don’t talk to my kids about it.  I don’t want them to even know it [suicide] exists.”

I was floored.  Her kids are all in their teens and 2os.  Without meaning to, I jumped on her.

“But it does exist.  Kids need to know that.  I live with bipolar disorder and while it is not right now, there are times suicidal ideations (thoughts) are part of the illness.  They are a symptom of bipolar and other mental health issues.  Kids need to know that.  They need to know what it is and to seek  help whether it is a one-time thing or part of ongoing their mental health concerns.”

She knew nothing of my history, my journey or my battles.  To be honest, I share less and less of it openly.  But today, I was reminded why I sometimes have to speak up.

Mental illness almost killed me.  It almost tore apart my family, as it did this family earlier this week.  I do not know this young man’s story, but I do know suicidal ideations.  I know what it is to fight that battle with every breath in my body.  I know what it is to fight alone and with others.  I know what it is to have beat back the thoughts for now.  I know what it is to dread their return.

There are many causes of suicidal thoughts and none of them are because someone knew suicide existed.  We can not protect our children by never mentioning suicide or mental illness.  We can not wish or deny it away.  We can not cause our children to deal with suicidal thoughts by saying the word any more than we can make it disappear by never talking about it.

I am not telling you to spill out everything you know about suicide and every scary detail to every child–different ages call for different types and amounts of information.  Choose wisely, but please don’t choose nothing.

 

 

Falling Into…

If you want something done, ask the busiest person?  No, just ask the person who can’t say no.

Last year, I was asked to run for a position on our co-op board.  I won.  I ran unopposed.  Now, don’t even think I am doing this on my own…the other board members do so dang much.  And my committee members.  They do so much.  And I am so thankful.

People think I do everything last minute because I am so busy—nope, it is because a lot of times my anxiety keeps me from doing any of the things, so I have to wait until my brain gives me a bit of slack.

I’ve been fighting a hypomania phase with the bipolar for what feels like months and I finally found out why–I have been.  I was doubting that fact because then it would feel different…turns out, according to the doctor, I am in a mixed episode.

Yeah, that right there would explain it.

The yo-yo.  The back and forth.

Right now I feel like I am collapsing into it.

A family emergency last week pulled me out of my routine that helps protect me.

Some other struggles have me thinking too much.

My pride has me smarting over an e-mail where I want to scream, hey, I did the work, I laid the groundwork…why are they getting credit?

That one hurts and exacerbates the other issues.

I have spent a lot of time thinking the bipolar was no longer an issue.

I was wrong.

A Bump in the Road

Back in May, I was a good girl.  I got my annual mammogram.  Dang, those things hurt.  I figured I would check that off my list and move on with life.

Nope.

They needed more views and an ultrasound…and there was a lump.

Next came a needle biopsy and another mammogram (those jerks hurt).

And finally a lumpectomy last week.  Thankfully the lump was not cancer, but it was high risk so the journey is not quite over.  Next month we discuss the risks and consider next steps.

None of this was supposed to happen and I am not handling it well.

I am not afraid of dying from cancer.  At all.

I am afraid of the disruption in my life.

I am afraid of not being a good witness for Jesus.

But I was not afraid of the bipolar getting its two cents in.

And yet, here I am.

I came through the surgery last week with flying colors.  No pain, light bruising.  I expected to rejoin my life no problem–instead I find myself wanting to hide out.  I literally wanted to do nothing last week.  I just went to my friend’s house and hid.

Saturday I decided it was time to rejoin my life no matter how I felt.  And I have.

But oh how I would rather still be on my friend’s couch.  Where I feel protected with no expectations.

I’m here, but I am missing from my life.

The Depths

Eight years ago I was in a fight for my life.  Postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis had taken hold of me after Patrice was born.

It is much too easy to remember the desperation of those days…being busy with the girls non-stop because I knew if I stopped or slowed down I would fall apart and I was just as certain that if that happened I would not be able to pick up the pieces.

I remember looking at my newborn sleeping–so jealous that she could sleep and I could not–knowing that in a few short hours my other girls would be awake and there would be no time to rest–and yet, I couldn’t sleep.

There was the day I took a very new baby and her two older sisters across town to a play place.  Our A/C was out, it was hot and I could not stay home.  I could not sit.  Hubby was home that day, what if he saw what a mess I had become, I could not bear to have that happen, so away we went.

Daily, I reached out to my midwife for one reason or another.  She was a friend and I instinctively knew she was safe.  She was so patient.  She talked me through my desire to disappear, she passed on recipes for butternut squash.  She helped me find help when the inevitable came and I did fall apart and I couldn’t pick up all the pieces.

Eight years ago, many doctors, medications, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and a few hospitalizations later, and here I am.  Is it easy–nope, each day is a balance.  Is it possible, yes.  Am I thankful–more than you will ever know.

The Lord has brought me through so much.  He has brought a calling into my life–a couple of them really, and He has brought me my tribe–those women who love me, reach out, and help me take care of myself.  I am so thankful to Him and all of them.

Eight years ago.  Eight years ago.

I Feel Like Crap

I feel like crap…and that’s pretty much a good thing.

You see, when I am in the depths of depression or heights of mania, I don’t really notice the side effects from my meds and am resigned to whatever health issues I have; I just don’t have the energy to care about them.  But right now, things have been stable for a while (hallelujah) and those side effects and health things are making me crazy.  I want answers or I want them to go away.

My stomach issues feel like they are out of control.  Eating low FODMAP helps some, but is not sustainable.  It is too restrictive and not intended for for long-term nutrition.  And yet, here I am, unable to comfortably add foods back in for more than a handful of days.  And now, the issues seem to be spreading–sweets are a no-no, eating a normal size meal is a no-no, fats in the food seem to be a no-no.  I swear, instead of getting better, things are getting worse.

In spite of all this, and  exercising, I am gaining weight.  Big fat boo.  And way dizzier than I should be.

Sigh.

I never used to understand why people would go off their meds.  Honestly, I was so happy with the relief from the depression and mania, I was willing to suffer anything.  Now that I have that relief, I get it.  I really get it.

I want both.  To feel good mentally and physically.

Toward this end, I am keeping a food journal to take to my family doctor to see where we head next and I am going to talk to my psych in a couple weeks.

I am going to fight for both.

In the meantime, I am very, very thankful the Bipolar is stable right not.  Very thankful.  It is such a gift after years and years of not being stable.  I couldn’t be happier about that.  It is just now time to work on the physical and see how great things can really be!!

Not a Runner’s Blog

I have a race tomorrow.  My first race since the half marathon in September.  Tomorrow’s race is a 5k–3.1 miles.  The distance is not a worry at all, and yet, I still have nerves.

Will I get up in time?  Will I find where they want me to park?  Will I remember my shoes?  Weird angst.

I’ve had some frustration all day.  I don’t know which came first, the all day nerves, or the running a race tomorrow nerves.

Sigh.

Here I am again, going on about running.  While asserting this is not a runner’s blog.  It’s not…I just so happens that running is the way I deal with most of life.

I have this thing I do in life where I see something, perceive that it is a good idea, take the leap, and then freak out about it.

Over and over and over and over again.

And here I am in freak out zone again.

Not really about the zoo race.  I don’t think.  Though my nerves are pretty wound up about that.  It is more about various projects I have going on.

I am actually done Christmas shopping for my girls.  Earliest ever!!  But I have taken on helping another family put together a Christmas for their family.  I sort of have things organized but I don’t trust the organization I have done, so I fret.  A lot.  Like feel like I can’t breathe fret.  Sit in my car trembling fret.  I don’t want to let my friend down and disappoint her kids.  It just has to work out.

Yeah, more than a little stressed.

In all of this I am trying to ignore the fact that my second born is turning 10 Tuesday.  She is such a little peanut.  She’s my little girl that yearns to be so big, so independent, and yet just wants time to be hugged and loved by mommy.

I had decided yesterday there was nothing worth getting up for on Black Friday.  And then a little voice asked from the back of the car, “Mommy, where are you going for Black Friday?  I think it would be so fun.”  She was so eager, I found myself checking ads again and setting my alarm for 5:15 this morning.  I half expected her to ignore me when I came down to wake her up, but no, she pretty much bounced up, wide awake.

So out we headed.  We purchased a few items at our first stop, a few more at our second stop, then a yummy treat, a few more items at our third store, and one more yummy treat.  During that second treat stop I was making an on-line purchase and was pretty intent on what I was doing, next thing I know, she is on my side of the table cuddled up next to me.  And I was reminded how important this one-on-one time is to my middle child…as I listened to her plan our Black Friday trip for next year!

No stores kept in the black from our little purchases, but we made a memory and that’s, as they say, priceless.  Oh my gosh you guys, that line I just wrote sounds so cheesy, but there are tears in my eyes when I think about how much this morning meant to my little peanut and I.  And how I almost missed it.

You guys, I don’t know how to sort it all out.  So I guess I am here writing it out trying to understand  my emotions and why I get so dang wrapped up in certain thoughts, why I can’t just shrug them off.

Sigh.

So there you go, a glimpse into how my brain is working, or not working, as of late.  I’d talk about the really cool fact that I signed up for my 2nd half marathon, but I better not, since this isn’t a runner’s blog.  I’ll just sit here amazed that I will run my SECOND half marathon a week after I turn 43. Nope, I won’t mention that.