What I want you to know about Bipolar Disorder

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by BipolarMomLife.

What I want you to know: I have Bipolar Disorder but it doesn’t mean I’m a crazy person

When I am manic, sure, I could definitely be described as crazy. But if you saw me out and about with my two kids in the town where I live, you would never know that I live with Bipolar Disorder. Of course, like everyone else, I have my good days and my bad. It comes with the territory when raising two little ones who are 27 months apart. But on those days when I may yell a little too loud and there may be more tears than there are laughter, I stop myself. I stop time for a moment and we hug it out. It’s my way of starting a bad day over in order to make it better. I like to think it’s one of the things about me that make me a really good mom.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in the spring of 2006 at the age of 27 after having suffered two manic episodes, each landing me in the psych ward for a few days. My job had been demanding so much out of me as the top producer in the company they figured they could just pile on the lofty goals. As a Type-A personality who is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my reputation in the industry, I had been working insane hours trying to keep up with their impression of what I could deliver. My husband had been traveling for work and when he wasn’t there, I had a very difficult time sleeping. So the stress of my career and the major lack of sleep finally caught up with me.

After seeing what seemed like a dozen psychiatrists and therapists, I was eventually diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. My life was shook to the core. I had to resign from the job I loved because of crippling anxiety that took over my body when I tried going in to the office. My career had almost become my identity and I fell into a deep depression when I had to let go of it in order to try to get well again. I spent the bulk of 2006 severely depressed, even struggling with suicidal thoughts for a few months. My husband and family were nothing but supportive. I don’t know how they went so long listening to me cry because I know there were weeks where I would cry every single day – I have the proof in my journals where I wrote about what I was going through. My friends were there for me, but I think my apparent sadness at group events made them uncomfortable at times, so for the most part they kept their distance.

By some grace of God I was able to come out of the darkness in early 2007 after having been put on Lithium by my doctor. It was what “brought me back”. I was starting to feel like my old self again and was excited about life again. In the beginning of my Lithium treatment I felt pretty numb because my doctor was trying to find the right dose for me. Once we got my blood levels to the therapeutic level, I was able to feel my emotions again. When I landed a new job, I was able to feel the rush of excitement through my veins. It felt incredible. Feeling happy felt so surreal. I was so thankful to have my life back. The best was yet to come.

Six months later, in the fall of 2007, my husband and I decided I had been stable enough to maybe start thinking about having our first baby. Little did we know how fertile we both were. I became pregnant the first month off birth control. Unfortunately, I miscarried during week 6 of the pregnancy. We were concerned that I miscarried because of the Lithium I had been taking, so we worked with my psychiatrist to decrease my dose and when I became pregnant again at the end of 2007, we tapered me off the drug completely. Somehow, I was completely medication-free during the pregnancy and my son was born completely healthy in September 2008 after 17 hours of labor which ended in an emergency C-section. I had been awake the entire time and stayed awake after he was born. I couldn’t take my eyes off this little person that my husband and I had created. It was a miracle.

I was adamant about wanting to breastfeed. All my friends did and I felt pressure (self-inflicted, remember – TypeA personality!) to do the same. It was not a good decision, but I didn’t know that at the time. I barely slept the first four weeks of our son’s life because by the time I would finish feeding him, I would then swaddle him back up, put him down to sleep, clean or feed myself, and then it was time to do it all over again. The lack of shut-eye caught up with me right after his baptism (at 4 weeks old) and I had to be hospitalized against my will since I was refusing to take medication due to my firm determination to continue breastfeeding my baby. I landed in the psychiatric ward again for a week, missing week 5 of my sweet baby boy’s life.

Coming home, I knew this was real. This was serious. I needed the Lithium in my blood to keep me normal. And I had to stay on my medication and monitor my sleep for my child and for my well-being. I hated what I put my family through.

Since then, we’ve gone on to have another child and although it wasn’t smooth sailing during her pregnancy, we got through it. I am vigilant about staying on top of my sleep requirements, I take my medication religiously, and I see my psychiatrist and therapist regularly. I do these things because they allow me to successfully manage this mental illness that I live with. So that I can be the best mom to my children and wife to my husband that I can be. Because that’s all I ever want to be.

Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. And people who live with mental illness are just regular people. Regular people who want to live abundant, loving, successful lives just like everyone else. So what I want you to know is that the next time you hear of someone dealing with bipolar disorder, be sympathetic, not judgmental. Our feelings are a little more fragile than most.

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