Jennifer Marshall, Author at OC87 Recovery Diaries googletag.pubads().collapseEmptyDivs(true);

Jennifer Marshall

Jennifer Marshall is a wife and mom to Owen (6) and Vivian (4). Before kids, Jennifer enjoyed a successful career as a recruiter, but several years ago traded in her resume-filtering skills to freelance write and run a non-profit. She began blogging anonymously about living with bipolar type 1 disorder and motherhood on her blog, Bipolar Mom Life, in 2011. The weight of her secret became too heavy in 2013 when Jenn realized she wanted to take off the mask and make a difference by sharing her story, and encouraging others to do the same. Today she is Co-Founder and Executive Director of This Is My Brave, Inc., an organization which provides people a platform to share their stories of how mental illness has affected their lives. This Is My Brave shows feature live performances of poetry, music, and essays in their theater setting, and are also shared via the organization's YouTube channel. Follow Jenn on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Kids Know Mommy Has Bipolar Disorder

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We don’t have a plan.

Chances are it will happen again. Mania will overtake my brain to the point where I’ll need to be forced into treatment. No matter how hard I work at staying mentally healthy, the statistics show that most people who live with my type of bipolar will relapse many times. This can be due to meds ceasing to work, life events, or changes in sleep patterns.

We probably should write down a plan.

That was the advice given to us as we sat in a dreary office speaking with a new psychiatrist one month before I would give birth to our first child. My entire pregnancy had gone so smoothly. My bipolar disorder appeared to be in remission as I indulged in ice cream every night and marveled at my growing belly.

Not even the loss of my laid back, corporate recruiting job, the same month we closed on our new house, rattled my mental health. We had conceived, sold our townhouse, found a new place to live, packed and moved, went through my job loss, and I was still okay. I was more than okay. I was so happy with how our life was going.

So when Ben and I met with the psychiatrist, I naturally was not really focused on preventative measures. Frankly, I was questioning whether I even had bipolar given how well I had been doing off medication. The meeting was meant for us to have someone in our back pocket, should we need her in an emergency. My ego ached for her to shower me with praise for how well I had been taking care of myself.

Instead, she focused on the inevitable hospitalization she predicted I’d face. That’s all I heard. “You’re going to fail at mothering with bipolar, so we need a plan for when that happens.”

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An Open Letter to Everyone

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Dear Wondering If I Should Share:

I used to be like you. Why should I air my dirty laundry? Why should other people hear about my problems? What if my friends all think I’m weird if they know my brain is broken?

I had those same fears. After being hospitalized four times I wondered if I had any friends left. My anxiety and paranoia made it a struggle to leave the house. I figured I probably wasn’t missed.

Life was good before mental illness invaded my world. Going from being the leading recruiter of an agency where I was making six figures at the age of twenty-six to being taken out of my home strapped down to a stretcher and later placed in a mental hospital was demoralizing. My reputation was shot to hell, or at least it felt like it. I had no idea how I was going to pick up the pieces of my life that were scattered all over the floor.

My bipolar disorder told me I wasn’t smart or successful or fun anymore. My anxiety tickled my limbs until I curled up in the fetal position only I wasn’t crying from laughter. My depression told me I had nothing left to live for. It shot vivid images into my subconscious and I couldn’t shut them out.

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