Mommyhood has been good to me

The year after I was diagnosed, I found a support group for those suffering from Bipolar Disorder and I joined. I started attending meetings weekly and got to know some of the group members. Each week there were regulars and newbies. I found the group meetings helpful in my recovery process and my journey to accept this illness that I will be dealing with for the rest of my life. We would basically just go around the circle and each person would take a few minutes to talk about how their week was, how they were feeling, and then the group would offer suggestions on any issues they were struggling with. We weren’t supposed to talk about meds, but of course everyone had opinions on them so that often came up.

It was before we had started thinking about having kids. I was just trying to figure out what was going on with me and how I could best handle my severe anxiety and depression now that I was out of the state of mania that caused my hospitalizations. The last thing I was ready to think about was throwing kids in the mix, sometimes I felt like I could barely take care of myself. How would I ever be able to handle one baby, let alone the two I had always dreamed of. Yet I still knew it was something I wanted for us, and my husband had said he was ready to try whenever I felt that I was. He was (and is) always so patient about things.

If there is one thing I remember looking back on those meetings, it is this one woman. I can recall her so vividly, and find myself thinking of her from time to time, even though it’s been years since I’ve attended one of those meetings. She was very petite and seemed so frail, often shaking as she spoke during her time to talk at the meeting. She had two kids and if I remember correctly they were about 6 and 9 or something along those ages – a boy and a girl. And she was married too, it seemed her husband was pretty supportive and caring. But it made me so sad to listen to her talk. She was on such a potent cocktail of meds and yet, she was still struggling so much with her anxiety and depression. She often spoke of how she could barely get out of bed in the morning to fix her kids breakfast and get them off to school. I found myself wondering if that would be what it would be like to be a mom who had bipolar disorder and two kids.

I am so lucky. Her situation is the complete opposite of my life as a mom.

Sometimes when I put the kids to bed at night I’ll wish it was morning already so I could get them up to play again. Usually as they are walking up the steps to head up for bathtime, I think about how much I love being their Mommy. It’s the best job I could have ever asked for and I never want it to end. Today I found joy in the midst of changing a poopy diaper which had leaked. I had my 10-month old daughter all clean and as I propped her up, naked on the bottom half, so that I could wrap up the dirty diaper, she peed all over the hardwood floor while holding onto the baby gate. I couldn’t help but crack up laughing. It’s the little things. I should have taken a picture, but I was too busy laughing and cleaning up the mess.

I hope that my friend from the support group has been able to find a good doctor who found the best combination of meds and therapy for her to improve her situation. Because really, that is what it comes down to when you are living with bipolar disorder. A good doctor, the right meds, regular therapy and a solid support network.

Still trying to help

So to follow up on my last post, we’re still trying to get someone to help her. I started to get really worried because of one status update that stated something about death being too easy. Once we saw that, we decided to call the suicide prevention hotline to see what they thought we should do. Unfortunately, they were only able to give us tips on how to approach talking to her, and since we’re not actually in contact with her, that wasn’t much help. I mean, she’s an acquaintance of my husband’s from grade school – he was never really friends with her. But when you see someone you knew from school who is in need of help, of course you want to do what you can.

Our next call was to the Emergency Mental Health Services hotline but we hit another roadblock there which reminded us both about how frustrating the mental health laws are in Virginia. In order to have someone involuntarily committed in the state of Virginia, they must pose an imminent threat to themselves or others. For some reason it’s not enough to them for someone to update all their friends on Facebook that “death is too easy”. If that’s not a threat to harm herself, then what is???

When I had to be involuntarily committed the last two times, one because I was breastfeeding and the other because I was pregnant, both times I was refusing medication and my husband was able to tell the police that he was scared I could be a threat to our son and unborn baby. Not that he really felt that way, but he knew it was the only way to get me admitted and back on medication so that I could recover. Both times he had to call 911 and the police had to come to our home. Both times I had to be handcuffed and escorted to the police car against my will.

She obviously has something going on mentally, but is refusing to admit herself and her close friends and sister are having a hard time convincing her she needs help. A few of her friends have reached out to my husband to keep him in the loop on what’s going on, and we’ve noticed that she continues to post weird status updates on Facebook. My husband has offered his advice in terms of his experience in getting me admitted against my will, but all we can do now is just hope that she eventually realizes that getting help is going to be the only way to make the voices and paranoia stop.

If anyone has any other suggestions on how to get her to understand she could benefit from mental health services, please share.

Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Back in 1990, Congress established the first week of October as such, given NAMI’s efforts at raising awareness for mental health issues. I didn’t even know until tonight when I was googling mental health ideas in order to come up with something to write about tonight in this post. I guess that speaks a bit to how “aware” the public is about mental health in our society.

I read an article recently in the Washington Post about how the mental health of many Americans has been dwindling due to job loss which leads to extended unemployment and feelings of despair and helplessness. I have definitely been there myself in the past. As I read the article, I found myself checking things off that I agreed with – there were so many. How when you first are laid off, you are so sad. Then you feel a sense of excitement as you eagerly start your job search. Then as the weeks and months go on, you start to feel depleted and discouraged. I can totally see how it could lead to severe depression. The article went on to talk about how, even when these people realize that they are in need of mental health services, they no longer have health insurance so they are not able to get the help they desperately need.

I hope that our government can get it together and provide these services to our citizens in need while they are in the midst of trying to find employment during this challenging economic time. I pray that these individuals have a strong support network through family and friends, to help them through this difficult time. And I hope that the holiday season and the new year brings new jobs to those in need.

Edited to add: My husband just asked me to look at the Facebook page of a friend of his (an acquaintance) from high school. She had apparently posted some weird status updates lately and he thought it looked like she might need help. He and I have been so immersed in my mental health issues for the past six years that when something like this comes up, it throws up red flags to both of us immediately. I was almost in tears reading her words. It seems to me she is suffering and is trying desperately to reach out for help from anyone. I begged him to call a few of his friends to see if anyone knew someone who could help her. He’s still working on it. I hope that somehow he’ll be able to reach someone who knows her and can step in before something tragic happens. Life is worth living and I pray that she’ll be able to see that.

He was able to reach one person who knows her, and that person is having lunch with another person who knows her. He asked her to call that person to explain what we’ve read on Facebook to see if they can help. He’s also going to send her a message to ask if there is anything he can do to help. It’s the least we can do.