Category Archives: Bipolar, Anxiety & Mental Health

Sunday


Sunday’s are normally the day I get refilled, a day of renewal. After a week’s worth of nurturing a baby, running a home, cooking meals, nodding and smiling and decision making and go go going, Sunday’s are the day in which I get a little return. No, I don’t go to church, it’s our family day. It’s me and the husband and the baby all together. We run errands or we don’t. We pay social calls or we don’t. We accomplish things, or we don’t.

On Sunday’s it’s more than just feeling like, for a day at least, it’s not at all on me to keep it together. It’s getting to spend the day with my husband, who is laid back and calm and decisive and gentle and affectionate and kind. I draw from his strength on Sunday’s. I replenish my stores.

This system usually works very well. Except right now. Right now it’s not working.

My husband is going through a hard time all of his own. Overwhelmed with parenthood, sleep deprived, more to do lists than time? Who knows really. He’s not great with communication and his issues aren’t my business to write about.

Thing is, his hard time is getting harder it seems. And, while I want to support him through whatever he’s going through, and be patient and kind and replenishing to him, I just have nothing. Whatever it is that eats away at my mind is taking big, ravenous bites, and I’m disoriented from it all. My moods shift faster than ever, my highs aren’t happy, they’re frantic. My lows aren’t sad, they’re furious. The world is a merry go round spinning faster and faster and I’m nauseous from the ride. No, I’m literally nauseous.

I’ve absorbed whatever my husband is going through into myself. Assuring myself that, whatever his problem, it’s me. It’s me. It’s me. It’s always me.

And I’m left without a support. The only person I trust to talk about these things with is distracted at best, disinterested at worst. There is no checking in, there is no pulling close. There is me and my thoughts and my trying ever harder to keep a tight grip on a falling world.

Yesterday was Sunday. It was stilted and silent. It was irritable and short. It was his way and mine. It was not a refilling. There was no replenishing. I tell myself that it’s okay. That he’s allowed to go through his seasons as I am allowed mine. I tell myself, and believe, that everything will eventually get back on track.

Eventually.

But in the meantime I can’t breathe.

And so I keep on keeping on, breath be damned, because somehow it’s all got to keep moving forward. And Mabel eats and sleeps and plays. And I’m right there for every bit of it.

Nauseous and not breathing.

I hope we don’t miss too many Sundays.

Methodical Wellness


Parenting makes me purposeful. I sit on the floor to read or play and I place myself with purpose. I align my back and cushion where needed, prepared to stay as long (or as short) as necessary. I am more aware now. I pay attention to where I lay us in bed, careful to leave enough space for her to roll away and still be safe. I am purposeful with my words, aware in my actions, knowing little eyes are watching and learning in every moment. I do not try to escape this monumental undertaking; I do not shy away from this methodical living. It is necessary and important for safety and wellness and health of all forms.

I am very often sad or anxious lately. The anxiety comes and goes, sharp and ferocious and then gone, but the sadness lingers. It becomes an undercurrent of which I am only sometimes aware, but which dictates the direction in which I flow. While I am a purposeful swimmer when it comes to parenting Mabel, in the rest of my life I have begun to simply float where the current takes me. My epiphany this morning (during laundry, how cliche) is that this current is not my friend.

While I am forever asking and answering questions as a parent – Is the sun too hot? Is she safe with that toy? Will she be alright on the ground? Why is she crying? – I realize that I have stopped doing so as a person. This is not an acceptable state of being, especially for a being in distress.

I wake up. I notice I am sad. I lay still and think, “I am still sad. It feels so heavy. Something is very wrong. I wish xyz would happen so this sadness could be fixed. The baby is stirring. She’s awake. Go away sadness, I have to be a Mom now.”

Two things. First, I am not a compartmentalized person. I cannot be a sad person between the hours of 6 pm and 5 am, when I am not solely responsible for Mabel’s care and well being, and a stable and healthy parent the rest of the time.

Second, there is no purpose in those thoughts. There is no awareness, no method. There is only blind acceptance, of what is not an acceptable long term reality, and blame.

If she hadn’t….I wouldn’t be feeling such anxiety.
If he would only…I wouldn’t feel so sad.

It doesn’t matter what I fill in those blanks with, those statements are not true. The answers to what is wrong within me do not lay without.

Why am I sad? What is this emotion surrounding? What does it feel like when I allow it to be felt? Is there an action I can take that will help alleviate this feeling? If so, what is it? Why aren’t I taking it? Do I want to feel better? Do I need to feel sad? What am I feeling anxious about? What lies am I believing? What is the truth? What am I hiding from?

I know the questions. I know the method to wellness. I have steadfastly and adamantly refused both, whether consciously or not. Perhaps I have needed this time. I can allow for that possibility, but it is needed no longer.

My husband needs me, my friends need me, my house needs me…I need me.

And so it is time to sit with the scary questions and find out their quiet answers. It is time to be well again.

Because, really, why not?

Emotional Onslaught


My mood is all consuming these days. Every distraction from it is fleeting at best. I agonize over the cause and effect. Exhausting. It’s exhausting. An excerpt, for your amusement:

Am I having a bipolar induced depression? Am I even bipolar? If I was bipolar wouldn’t the Zoloft I’m taking for PPD trigger mania? Mania doesn’t feel like depression. So I’m probably not bipolar. Why do I feel so sluggish and sad; why so irritable and short tempered? Should I take more Zoloft? I need to have an actual doctor. A doctor will just put me on more meds. Still, I need a doctor. No doctor has Saturday hours. I need to do something. I’ll take more Zoloft. Why aren’t I sleeping? Why am I so anxious? Is it going to go away? Is it because of the raised dose? How long will it last? Is this a manic episode? Does this mean I am bipolar?

I feel very much overwhelmed by the requirements of the day to day. My attention stays on Mabel and getting her successfully through. I am rewarded by a cascade of giggles and gooey baby kisses, but the rest of life remains untouched. I wonder if this is just the effect from the sleep deprivation that has been the last few weeks of development and growth for her. I wonder when I come out on the other side. I’ve forgotten what the other side looks like. I always do when I’m in the mire.

I’m either a good mother or a good wife, I can’t seem to manage both. Either I look good or the house does. Either laundry is done or dinner is. I want to be sweet and understanding but I’m not. I tell myself I will be but I can’t. I’m snappy and frustrated and demanding and I can’t figure out why. There’s nothing wrong at a glance, but the feeling is that everything is. I need things. Not material things or more purchases. I need love and spontaneous affection and declarations of delight. I ask for them. They do not come. Suddenly I need to buy more things. I assume I’m asking for too much. I tell myself my marriage is failing. I tell myself that I am failing my marriage. I tell myself the problem is that I’m now fat and we don’t have enough sex. I believe myself. I want the things I cannot buy. I do not want to ask for them again. I am lonely, hurt, and sad. I feel like I brought it on myself. He’s adjusting to being a parent, too. I excuse him. I belittle me.

I have no answers to the constant onslaught that is my mind. I have no easy solutions to the anxiety that bubbles beneath the surface. Day follows night. Night follows day. I get up and I do what that day expects. I giggle with the baby. I cook dinner. I sweep the floor, eventually. I wait. I wait and know that this can not be forever. I remember that I have felt lost in the tidal wave of rampant emotion before and that I have somehow come out on the other side. I remember that things look their worst when I feel mine and that my vision is clouded in times like these. I stare at my baby. I breathe.

Should I have raised the dose? Maybe it was going to end all by itself? It had been a few weeks and it wasn’t getting better, I’m sure more Zoloft was the right choice. But now this anxiety… will it go away? It’s just a side effect, right? Just a temporary problem to what was a good solution. Should I go back down? I need to find a doctor. I can’t find a doctor…

And so it continues. Until it eventually ends.

What Not To Say


You know what I hate being asked?

“Why is your anxiety so bad today?”, or “What’s causing your anxiety?”, or “Why is today so hard?”

If I knew the answers to any of those questions I’d probably be a lot better off than having to tell someone, “I’m sorry, my anxiety is really bad today.” or “I’m not doing very well today.” It’s the downside of being so self-aware. I understand that when my anxiety is particularly bad or my mood is swinging particularly low, it means I’m probably being difficult in my relationships. Because my mental health is not anyone’s fault, I don’t like to punish people when I’m having a bad day. So I say “I’m sorry” when I realize that’s happening, and then I get the questions. Suddenly I feel like, not only am I being disruptive in my relationships, but I need to know and be able to put into words the reasons why I feel the way I do, why I act the way I do. I suppose I’m fortunate for the times people ask the questions. At least that tends to mean they believe me. It’s even harder to apologize to someone for something I can’t control and have them think I shouldn’t be using my mental health issues as an “excuse”.

You know what I hate to hear?

“You should take fish oil.” or, “You should make sure you’re getting some exercise everyday.” or, “You should cut back on your (insert person’s pet toxin of choice).”

I might smile and nod while you tell me these things. I might offer that I exercise as often as I’m able, that I take the recommended supplements. I might outline the many ways in which my eating habits are above and beyond the average. I might even understand that you’re trying to help me because you care. I might remember to appreciate that.

But what I feel is responsible. I feel as though if I could just exercise more, find the winning supplement combination, be just a little more exacting with my diet… if I could just do the One Right Thing than all of this would go away. I’d be cured; no more anxiety, no more mania or depression. Just me and the perfect blend of fish oil, exercise, and whole grains.

I feel the blame you are assigning with your words. I feel the fault of my mental illness being laid at my feet; I am helpless to prevent myself from shouldering the load. If I only I could do more, try more, research more. If only I worked harder, I could be well.

I know that these are not the things you mean for me to feel. I know that you mean well. When I am at my best I am able to trust your intentions. And so…

You know what I like to hear instead?

“I’m sorry, is there anything I can do?”

Nine times out of ten the answer will be no. No, there is nothing you can do that will take away this anxiety. There is nothing you can do that is going to convince me in this moment that all is right with the world. There is nothing you can do to restore peace to a very troubled soul.

Except…

Except for the one thing that you just did, which is to tell me, through your question, that you acknowledge that I am being truthful about my state of mind and heart, and that you are willing to support me in the moment of my distress; that you do not assign blame but you are willing to share the burden. I won’t need anything from you, except to know that you are there when it is hard as readily as you are there when it is easy.

Midnight Intuition


Ever have one of those moments where you think “Yeah, this kid is awesome but I don’t know what God was thinking… she’s got zero chance of coming out of this childhood unscathed.”

This evening I escaped from my bedroom and went to stand in the silent downstairs and be alone with the idea that maybe I should never have had a kid; that this was a very, very bad idea. Not because I don’t adore her, or because I don’t think she’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, but because there’s no way I’m going to get it right. She is this amazing treasure, this tiny gift, and I am known for fucking things like that up.

Tonight she was a little fussier than usual. I’ve been dealing with a lot more anxiety than normal. “She’s very intuitive, you know, she’s affected by your emotions,” my mother tell me, every well meaning woman seems to tell me, “if you’re stressed she’s going to pick up on that.” She wouldn’t stay asleep tonight, kept waking up. She was too full to feed again and nothing else seemed to work. I was frutrated. Jason took her downstairs. My anxiety grew. She was down there crying some time later so I called them back. Jason handed her to me as I uttered a frutrated “for fucks sake!”. Mabel was crying and not easily comforted. A quick offer to nurse was refused, a more insistent offer rejected. Anxious, stressed, irritated… “Mabel, I just can’t handle this okay, I just can’t!” She began to scream like I have never heard her scream before. Inconsolabe, wounded, broken screaming. She’s intuitive, she can pick up on what I’m feeling. There’s no way I’m going to do right by her. She’s this perfect gift, this tiny little treasure and I have no idea how to not fuck that up. She’s sleeping now, finally, but I’m shaken.

I asked my doctor for zoloft but I’m scared to take it. I bought every supplement ever suggested for the baby blues today, or at least the amount on the receipt would seem to indicate such, but it’s too soon for it to work. I keep a tiny bit of marijuana in the house for just this sort of endless anxiety emergency but can’t bring myself to smoke it; I’m dealing with a diminishing milk supply and I read smoking pot can make it worse.

I’m afraid to hold her, I feel guilty when she cries. I’m certain she’s reading every mood and responding, insulted. I think I should just switch to formula to ease my stress and anxiety and allow for a bit of a buffer between us. I wish I’d never heard, never known, how easily she can pick up on what I’m feeling.

This little perfect gift, my tiny little treasure…I’m terrified I’m going to fuck us all up.

Mama’s Crazy


I want to be the mom that encourages her kids to flavor cereal with honey, that has kids who’ve been raised to prefer books over television, that has a cupboard full of herbs and tinctures and the know-how to use them. I don’t want to be a crazy mom.

I sometimes feel very confident that I’m going to be just the kind of mom I want to be. I thought of this as I ate a bowl of cereal flavored with honey this morning and, again, as I prepared a homeopathic remedy for my infant daughter’s gas. Our house is filled with wholesome foods and we believe in sitting down together for a home cooked dinner at night. We started reading to Mabel weeks ago and she loves storytime. My cupboard is full of tinctures and herbs and I’m coming along in the know-how department.

Sometimes, though, maybe even more of the time, I am convinced I’m not going to escape bringing my own brand of crazy into motherhood.

I feel guilty for every moment that she’s awake and not being somehow entertained or interacted with. I worry that we don’t go outside enough and feel guilty for the lack of motivation to do so. I feel personal responsibility when she fusses too much to allow someone other than me to hold or comfort her. I feel horrible and question my decision to stay at home with her when I realize just how hard of a time I’m having being one-on-one with her so much of the time. I feel terrible when my husband has to work half days during the week so that he can provide me with some relief, and worse still when I find myself resenting his ability to come and go as he pleases. I second guess my decision to go back to work one day a week, convinced I’m going to do some sort of irreparable damage. I’m already worrying about what will happen when my daughter finds this blog and finds out all about me. I tell myself all the time that I should be much better at all of this.

Although I have yet to fully accept the diagnosis as accurate, I worry that I’m going to bring the highs and lows of bipolar living into motherhood. There are some days where all I can manage to do is the bare minimum; rock the baby, feed the baby, change the baby. Yesterday I watched five episodes of my favorite guilty pleasure TV show and kept the baby alive, but didn’t bother trying to tackle the mess in my house, to answer the phone, or to seek out an adventure for Mabel and I. Today’s a little better but some days are a little worse. No one can tell for sure what tomorrow will bring. I worry that my old method of coping with whatever is broken in my brain – alternating hibernating cycles, where I hide on the couch and do the bare minimum, with productive cycles, where I get everything done – isn’t going to work now that I’m a mom. Sure, Mabel is mostly content to snuggle on the couch all day now but that won’t last much longer. I worry that, without the coping mechanism that I perfected over the years, I might lose control of my moods. I worry that Mabel will have memories of a mom who is depressed and lethargic for a few days every now and again and that those memories will tarnish any of the good stuff. I worry there won’t be enough good stuff.

There’s so much to worry about, so much of the time. I understand that much of this is normal new mom stuff. I accept that some of it is the hormonal veil of postpartum blues. Yet I also acknowledge that some of it could very well be real and deserves my attention sooner rather than later.

Still, even after a day of low emotion where I can barely muster enough voice to greet my husband when he gets home, Mabel’s toothless, soundless giggle can pierce the fog and I find myself grinning in response. There’s just no joy like kissing her sweet smelling, milky mouth when she finishes nursing; there’s no contentment like the weight of her head pressed to my shoulder and against my neck as she snuggles to sleep.

I’m afraid of our future, but I keep trying to remain in our present. The truth is, I can’t guarantee what kind of mom I’m going to always be and what kind of memories Mabel is going to have. I remind myself of simple truths: to take each day one at a time; that taking time to take care of me will help me to be a better mom; that if I do what I can to make the best of the good times, maybe Mabel will forgive me a few bad times.