Yesterday.

I want to pretend that yesterday did not happen. I wish I could erase it like chalk from mine and everyone else’s lives.

The day started out normally. Daughter had a sleepover the night before which equated to no one getting any sleep. The kids played in the morning, and in the afternoon, we all went to my parent’s home for a cook out. Direction: downhill. My daughter does not like to greet people. She doesn’t like to introduce herself, shake hands, touch strangers, or be the first to speak. She even goes to a social skills group that is trying (in vain, it seems) to teach her how to respond appropriately in these sorts of situations. Cook outs, or any family gathering, can be stressful. Will she greet her family today? Will she look her uncle in the eye? Will everyone just think she’s a rude brat? No two situations are ever the same and there is no formula for a good time with her. Sometimes, things fall in pieces around us and we are stupefied and can do nothing but watch it happen.

Eventually, she wound up inside the house, ignoring her friend and the rest of the family, under a blanket and being alone. She was given dessert on the couch, and after a while, I tried to get her to come back outside. “We will be leaving soon, you are running out of time to play.” Blank stares and whining followed this speech. I went outside. Time passes and suddenly, she is before me, wanting to play with everyone and engage with the family. “I’m sorry, but now it’s time to leave.” I could never have predicted the amount of fury and emotion that would come out of her at that point. And then; from me.

Back inside, I am trying to employ damage control. My own anxiety levels are spiking and I immediately feel as though I am pinned under a microscope. Walking into the living room, I discover that she has left ice cream to melt into my parents couch, and cake and frosting like mouse droppings on the floor and in the cushions. I can’t say for sure, but this might have been the moment when I lost. My. Shit. At this point, I don’t know who was screaming louder: her or me. Suffice it to say, it did not end well.

At home, as a family, we sat down and discussed what had happened. How lately, there seems to be a trend of disrespect, slacking off and a general disregard and even disdain at the house rules and codes of conduct. We’ve been letting things slip and not following through on consequences for anyone. This is fairly typical in a depressive state. I don’t feel as though I have the right, the authority or the energy to enforce rules in the house. I consider myself to be a joke of a mother and, as such, am treated as one. It is interesting to me to see how my affliction trickles down and creates chaos. And of course, along with that realization is the: “boy, they would be so much better off without me.” Not that this is a serious thought, more like a passing banner in my mind. I know something has got to give, but at this point, I don’t know what that something is. And I’m terrified that before I get it figured out, I’ll lose my daughter entirely and all of her thoughts and memories of me will be miserable.

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How

Lately, I’ve had the song “How Do You Know” from the movie Enchanted stuck in my head. Why? Because one of the main lyrics is: “How does she know that you love her?” And the verse that plays in my head goes: “How do you know that she’s manic.”

Need some clues?

  • Is she sanding walls at 12am?
  • Is she cleaning with fervor and won’t let anyone go to bed?
  • Are there projects that need to be completed RIGHT THIS MINUTE?
  • Is she enjoying running up and down the stairs?

Well then! She might just be manic!

Being in a manic state is almost like being normal on fast forward. Everyone has things on their to do list; but when I’m like this, the deadline on all the items on my list is immediate and devastating. I find it hard to sleep because visions of cleaning tools dance in my head. I also trick myself into thinking I have money to throw around. Thankfully, I have a good support team to stop me from cashing in all of my chips.

The downside, of course, is many projects eventually go unfinished. My attention wanes or I have an even better idea and move on. Sometimes depression crashes down around me and I give up, leaving sad little effigies to my prior state all over the house. Also, in case you’ve never heard it, here is the song I was referring to:

Ham and eggs

The holidays can be a stressful time for most, if not all people. If you don’t get stressed by holidays, then you are clearly a mutant and I might hate you. As a person with bipolar disorder, They aren’t just stressful. They become gut wrenching moments in time in which I have to pretend to be normal in front of a much larger crowd than I am used to. You know, those relatives to whom it would be considered impolite to force your true feelings on; even if only for a day. Easter can be particularly tricky for the two sided mom. I want my daughter to see all of her family, but I know that isn’t possible. So instead I create situations in my head that are 99.9% likely to never happen. For example:

Me: “Hey mom! Happy Monday! How was your Easter?”

My mother: “YOU WOULD KNOW IF YOU HAD BEEN THERE! YOU ARE SIMULTANEOUSLY THE WORST DAUGHTER AND MOTHER EVER.”

Me: ::sobbing::

My mom would never talk to me that way; but  I can’t stop myself for envisioning the hurt feelings of those I have irreparably wounded by not sharing ham and deviled eggs with.

 

On another note, we successful took our kid to the circus. Hurrahs all around! On the drive home, Nate and I talked about how impossible this outing would have been a year ago. It started at 7 and ended well past her bed time. There were far less tears than we had planned for; and really, everyone had an awesome time! Score one for me! FINALLY.

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Pete and Repeat

Anyone who is a parent or has even been around small children for any length of time knows they can sometimes be annoying. I love my daughter, but, it’s true. She can really annoy the hell out of me. One of the things kids do that irritates most of the population is ask the same thing over and over again. “Mom mom mom mom mom mom mom…” until the response they want to hear is given. Or: “Can I have a piece of candy?” No. “Can I have a piece if I clean my room?” No. “Can I have some candy if I tell you I love you?” No. On and on it goes. A lot of people can absorb these annoyances, have a glass of wine and be all right. For me, however, it’s a trigger. 

The endless stream of the same and similar questions; the random noise she just discovered she can make and, therefore, keeps making; the same tv show, over and over again. I can’t handle it. And it doesn’t just have to come from kids. There’s a bird in my yard who won’t shut up. My brother in law has a penchant for drumming on everything with anything. 

I don’t have it in me to walk away or ask someone to stop. I need the noise to stop, or I will put a fist through a wall. I’m not being sensitive or high maintenance, I just know that if I hear that noise one more time, a switch will be flipped that will take hours or days to be fixed. I’ve seen shirts for kids to wear that say things such as “I’m allergic to peanuts!” And “Please be nice, I’m autistic!” I need one that says: “Please be quiet or I’ll break something!”

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Backwards

The other night, my husband and I watched old home movies with our daughter. In the videos, she was just a baby. Mostly smiling, laughing, wiggling around like babies do. Where was I? I barely remember this time in my daughter’s life. Before the diagnosis; before the medication; before the occasional level headedness that I now enjoy. I DO remember spending a lot of time out of the house. Working, running “errands,” anything really to get me out. I hated life as a new mother. Some days I would call my mother or mother in law to take her, just so I could lay in bed and sleep. My husband would come home and find me still in bed; I would mumble something about not feeling well and would tell him where he could find our baby. Looking at the videos is cutting for me. On one hand, I get to see these little snippets of life that I missed due to my illness. I can see how happy she usually was. I can look at how messy our house was in the way that ALL new parents’ houses are; and laugh at the chaos. However, I mourn the time I lost with her. The disdain I felt at parenthood. The irritation and the anger I felt every time she cried. There was a lot of “faking it” in those early days. 

Now, I see my daughter for who she is: the joy of my life. Of course I still get irritated and angry with her; but there is no more faking it. I can smile genuinely at the life we have because of her. Her quirks and nuances fill my heart and sometimes I can’t help but cry over what an amazing kid she is. I know a lot of parents feel this way about their mini-me’s. But after spending so much time in darkness, the light that my child gives off is so immense that my heart can barely stand it. 

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Edges

What’s interesting about the time preceding a depressive state is that I can see it happening, but there isn’t much I can do about it. I can only see and respect the signs; warn those around me; and try to prepare. Almost like you would for a hurricane. 

Right now, I can tell what is coming next. I’m already struggling to wake up in the morning, my temper is flaring and repetitive noises are becoming more invasive and irritating. So far, I can control it. A bad day yesterday was countered with a trip out with a friend; but how long will that remedy last? How long until the blanket of depression falls on me like a lead weight? That might be even more difficult that going through the state itself. 

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Mini BPD

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if my darling daughter has the same issue as I do. It’s difficult for me to tell the difference between what’s normal for an almost six year old, and what constitutes a problem. These past few days should go down in the “problem” category. 

There have been countless meltdowns and tears shed over ridiculous, fixable, things. I wonder though, is it only because I am seeing myself in her? Or is she feeding off of me? One of our biggest concerns as parents is how to keep our children safe. How can I keep her safe from herself if she, too, is bipolar? How do I keep her from this diagnosis? 

I know there is a slight possibility that she will have issues as she ages; after all, mental illness runs in families. Hell, you should meet my family. We’d take up an entire ward in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There are more and more options for children who may have problems, but where does one start? I almost feel as though even looking into it condemns her to a life with a broken brain; just like me. 

I’d love for her to love words, art, science; for her to be talented in music and with sewing; for her to be funny and loving… but never in my life did I think she might take after my in this way. 

I’m Aware

Today is World Autism Day. As a woman married to a man with Asperger’s, I thought I would use the day as a jumping off point for a peek into our life. When Nate and I first met, I thought he was weird. I mean, really, really, really weird. He didn’t really talk to people, he had the strangest nuances, and just about everything he did took five times longer than it did for other people. I don’t know why I pursued him as relentlessly as I did. I just knew that I loved him; even if was, as I said, really, really, really weird.

Later, we would learn that he has Asperger’s and all of this things I thought were weird, are really just what makes him who he is. We have an interesting relationship. He has a need for routine. I swing violently day to day. If sure you COULD find a more mis-matched pair of mental problems to be married, but, you might be hard pressed. When I’m in a manic state, I have the urge to clean, to be adventurous  to move every stick of furniture in the house. While he stands in the middle of the room; paralyzed by all of the sudden, swift changes going on around him. When I’m in a depressive state, he is forced to do more of my share of the household work. And again, becomes so overwhelmed he chooses to wait out my state so I can do everything the right way. Over the years we’ve managed to hack together a semblance of what others would call normalcy. But it doesn’t take too keen of an eye to realize that something is still a little off about us. I’m too loud and he’s too quiet. I talk too fast and he doesn’t talk at all. But our commonality is how both of us struggle to find understanding and acceptance in a world that is only recently beginning to talk about disorders like ours.

I love my autistic husband and he loves his bipolar wife.

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Boxes

Whenever I get into a manic state, I always feel a desperate need to move out of my house. We’ve lived in the home we’re in now for about five years, and for every episode has been a corresponding itch to move. I need more space, more time, more organization. I always joke about throwing away all of my stuff during these times, but the possibility is very real. Tonight, I scoured the kitchen, tossing casserole dishes, coffee mugs, tupperware… just about anything I could get my hands on. My husband was by my side offering support and keeping me from tossing things I would later miss. The boxes of items for the Goodwill truck piled higher but I still can’t shake this feeling. There are other reasons why I want to get the hell out: Our daughter’s school is terrible, the house is small, the neighborhood is deteriorating. But is it all in my head?

This is the first time I’ve actively pursued the need to stretch my legs. I wonder though how I’ll feel during the next bout of mania. If we move, will the new house be too small? That neighborhood suddenly seedy? Worse yet, will my next swing be in the middle of a move? What will happen if I’m too low to get out of bed and we have piles of stuff to get out. Being bipolar affects my life in new ways that I’m learning about every day.