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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I believe I would be correct in saying that the “leveling out” I thought I was in, is actually the beginning of a manic episode. I say this because I had a hard time falling asleep last night because I couldn’t stop thinking about how all of our electronics needed their screens cleaned. I imagined them all, covered in fingerprints and God know what else, and I had to force myself to stay in bed; heart racing and head buzzing.
This past weekend was also a good example of parenting in a mild manic state. The things that normal parents can deal with: “Mama, mama, mama, mama, mama…. I need some juice.” They make me want to throw a watermelon out the window. Think about it. How satisfying would that be?! Thankfully, my husband was able to step in and suggest that maybe I needed a little alone time. I think he’s getting better at detecting my moods than I am.
Hopefully this mania will stay semi close to normal and I won’t do anything rash. Like throw away all of my stuff, or paint the living room pink. It’s been known to happen.