Sunday, September 21, 2014

Confessions of a Guilty Mommy

I thought I knew everything I needed to know about my illness.

I take my medicines.
I see my therapist.
Some days I'm more happy.
Other days I'm a bit sadder.
Sometimes I'm really hyper but that's usually when I've forgotten to take my medicines for 2 days in a row.
I tell myself to calm the fuck down, take my meds, and then clean the house like the Queen is coming for a visit.

I understood being bipolar.

But then my son went out of town for a month and I told my therapist that I wanted to work hard on some of the things I've kept buried for 30 years. And not knowing that you can't undo 30 years of pain in 30 days I plunged into the murky sea.

I soon began experiencing rapid, wild mood swings. Bouts of anger, coupled with a deep desire to physically harm myself worse than I have before; these new emotions frightened and overwhelmed me.

21 days passed, my son begged to stay down in Fl longer. He was enjoying playing with his cousins, aunts, and uncles. That was fine. He had flown on a one-way ticket, so I didn't need worry about plane change fees.

A month and a half went by. "Mom, I'm having so much fun. I'm sorry, I know you miss me but can I stay longer?"

"As long as you are having fun. You can come home whenever you want."

We talk at least once, sometimes 3 times a day. I email him every night links to funny cat videos, pictures, jokes, random articles about subjects he likes.

The mood swings have continued to be unpredictable. I'll have 48 hours of stability followed by 36 hours of pain, fear, hatred, and crushing loneliness. Then a week ago, thoughts of engaging in risky behaviors filled my head. Things I haven't done since before I had my son.

These thoughts filled me with so much sorrow and confusion. Why was I wanting to backslide? Intellectually I knew those would be bad decisions, but why was I filled with these desires.

All Tuesday I was curled on the couch crying. All fucking day. I felt so lost, so confused, wondering if I was going through a nervous breakdown and everyone was just too nice to tell me that I've lost my shit entirely. I couldn't open my eyes completely when I happened to answer a phone call.

I spilled my guts to my friend. She's understanding of mental illness and I figured if anyone could possibly identify with the feelings I was having it would be her. She pointed out that it's been six years since my meds have been adjusted and my body probably doesn't find the drugs or dosages useful. She said that my desire to devolve into risky behaviors were a side effect of hypermania.

I hadn't thought about that. My shrink asks each visit if I had been taking my meds which I have. But I didn't think they would stop working on me. I quickly emailed my shrink, "PLEASE, HELP ME. I NEED HELP NOW. I NEED A DOCTOR."

I have an appointment for October 8. Waiting these next 18 days will feel like an eternity, but coupled with hope. Hope that I can get closer to getting stable again.

It's not something I want to recognize, but some family and friends have pointed out that I'm not entirely well enough to take care of my son yet. I'm not a harm to him, others, or myself, but point out that switching up medications can be difficult. As the body adjusts, no one can firmly predict the outcome. All the labels say in some cases usual thoughts or thoughts of suicide may occur.

I'm torn. Do I try to pull back on the progress that I'm making, put on a brave face, and undertake the reins of single motherhood again? Or do I accept the suggestion that my son stays in Fl for a bit longer while my meds kick into place and my moods get under control?

A mother cares for her child, providing the best she can: food, water, shelter, love, affirmation. I know my son is having these needs met. He's continuing his unschooling while he's down in Fl. He's so excited that next week he'll be making a paper mache replica of Stonehenge. He's not unhappy. He's surviving without me.

But I'm his Mommy. I fear that this time apart will render me inconsequential to his life. I know I need to take care of myself. So why do I feel guilty if I decide to continue fighting my illness?

It's now 2 months, 7 days since I last saw my son. And it hurts like hell.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pandora's Box - Fear

My therapist has asked me to write about one of the emotions that has been holding me back. I fear that if I dig deeper I will find that I'm an imposter and that I'm really not bipolar. That I'm making things up.

I know I'm broken, but I fear that I will find that I'm more broken than I expected. That no one will ever see past my brokenness to love me.

I fear I will always be alone. Alone like when I was pregnant and fell violently ill. When I told my son's father that I was pregnant, he never touched me again. Not so much as a hug. 

Women's bodies are strong, but pregnancy is so mysterious and confusing. You inhabit a body that becomes quite foreign. There were times I thought I was miscarrying because I had no idea what was supposed to be normal. I needed someone to hold my hand, even if I wasn't going to be alright. I wanted someone to hold me. 

I was so lonely, sick, and frightened.

I had to drive myself to the ER three separate times because I was so violently ill. My ex couldn't be bothered to drive me. 

The first time I was admitted to the ER, a tube was shoved down my throat and the vacuum switch thrown. The nurse left the room. I was alone watching the blood that had pooled in my stomach come flying out into a container on the wall. The machine should have been switched off after 2 or 3 minutes, but the clock in front of me showed each painful minute that went by. When the nurse finally came back in 10 minutes later, I was hysterical. She offered me a sedative but I refused it afraid that I'd caused so much damage to my unborn child, he probably couldn't stand the extra stress on his system.

I was sent to the high risk maternity ward where I promptly forgotten. No breakfast or lunch was delivered to me because no one remembered I was there. No one remembered me. The buzzer was broken so I stumbled down the hall, dragging a long empty IV bag behind me. The doctor didn't come until the evening of the second day because no one had told him I had been admitted.

In those three days I was in the hospital my son's father visited me once for an hour before stealing a box of gloves so he could paint his model figurines.

I had the love and comfort of friends and family at that time, like I do now. But you can't curl up at night in your friend's bed. And I stopped seeking refuge from nightmares in my parent's bed by the time I was 7.
Jeremiah's first Christmas. All six pounds of him.
I want someone to love me, someone who wouldn't be repelled at hearing the words, "I'm pregnant." Someone to talk with, to laugh with me and at me. To argue with. Someone to say, "I love you and I want to be with you."

But I fear that I will never hear those words. I am afraid that my illness will prevent anyone from ever loving me.

I was robbed of a happy pregnancy. Yes, I was fortunate to have a great joy once my son was born. My life was forever changed. But that vast loneliness was so painful.

It sounds strange and a bit perverse, but on some level  my ex's repulsion of me was more painful than my rapist's obsession with me. At least he had the courtesy to stalk me for 4 years.

I fear that I will always be alone.
My fear isn't irrational. I was left alone once. I fear I will be left alone forever because I'm not fixed. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


These past 2.5 months have been brutal since my son has gone down to visit my family. Without the responsibility of him around my therapist has been pushing me to dig deeper into the recesses of my cluttered, dark mind.

And there are emotions in there.

So many emotions.

Some emotions welling up are so new, frightening, and overwhelming that my chest physically aches. So much so that the one night I found it necessary to make a phone call to help me get through the night.
Not all self-harming is obvious to the naked eye. I've struggled with this illness for over 24 years and up until 2 years ago, I've never had the courage to admit this problem openly. Over the past three months I have worked extremely hard with my therapist to develop cognitive behavioral coping skills and calming techniques that I have used successfully to stem the tide of crazy that swirls in my brain at times.

But that night, the night before Robin Williams would end his life, I had so many painful emotions bubble to the surface that for the first time in years I was scared of myself. Each coping skill I tried to implement failed to have a desired impact; I grew more anxious. I couldn't breathe.

All I could think about was hurting myself. Badly. Really, really badly. I wanted the trapped pain to be outside of me. The pain was so bad this time I wanted to drive a knife in my thigh. Stab and twist. Because a twisted wound can't heal on it's own.

I've never had feelings that intense before.

I had no desire, no intention, no plan to end my life.

I just didn't know how to cope. It was 1 AM and I needed to talk to someone. I just needed to say the words, "I'm in a lot of pain right now. My therapist is helping me work through some difficult things and these feelings make me feel like hurting myself. I'm not suicidal, I'm not going to hurt myself. I just need to tell someone I'm having these feelings."

And the voice on the other end of the line, Noelle, listened patiently to me. I rambled for a few minutes and felt so much of the tension flow out of my body. It was as if allowing myself to say these things out loud took the power away from overwhelming feelings. My pulse returned to normal and I thanked Noelle for her kindness.

I sent a text to a couple of friends letting them know that I had been feeling harmful, but I had made a call and was feeling better. One night owl friend called me within minutes and kept me on the phone for the following hour and a half. We spent the time criticizing and deconstructing The Silver Chalice, Paul Newman's debut film. (If you are sad and need a laugh, I highly recommend this film. From the Sharpie drawn sets and bending metal swords to the costume department's liberal use of drapery tassels, there is not one part of the movie that isn't hysterical.).

Today is National Suicide Prevention Day. If you or a loved one needs help please call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or online at I am so fortunate that there was a voice on the other end of the line.