“How was the class trip to the aquarium?” asked my husband Steve at dinner that night. “The bus ride was crappy, with all the loudmouthed kids screaming their freaking heads off,” I replied, casually. “But when we got to Baltimore it was better. I was in a small group with one of the dads, and at least he kept his goddamned mouth shut.”
I still remember the variety of reactions around the table. Julie, my fifth grader, who had actually been there with me, looked scared. High schooler PJ barely glanced up from his plate. Our Swiss exchange student, Maurus, looked puzzled. (A lot of things about the US puzzled him. Maybe he thought all American moms swore like sailors.) Steve looked sad, and resigned. Throughout the rest of the meal, my frequent comments were shot through with profanity and negativity—in other words, the new normal for me. (more…)
Before I had a baby, I assumed caring for a newborn would be easy. I had read all the books and subscribed to the parenting websites. I was an organized person and coped well under pressure. My husband and I were happily married and we had just moved into our first family home. I had decided I would return to work after six months on maternity leave. I had it all figured out.
I thought I knew exactly what to expect when I was expecting. I thought I was prepared. Then I gave birth and nothing was anything like I had expected.
It is inevitable you will go a little mad when you have your first baby. From the moment your little one arrives your whole world is turned upside-down. You are tired, physically uncomfortable and trying to keep a tiny human intact on barely any sleep.
However, if you continue to feel low, hopeless, or anxious then you might want to talk to your doctor. Postnatal depression (PND) affects one in ten women, yet many people still ignore or hide their symptoms, afraid that they will be perceived as bad mothers or weak people.
I did this, and it turned out to be a terrible idea.
I am not a bad mother or a weak person, I just got sick. It was not my fault. It sometimes just happens. (more…)
I can’t believe that I made it 35 years without a single incident with the police that could possibly affect me for the rest of my life. But there I was, on my mother’s birthday, sitting in jail for an alcohol-induced physical altercation with my boyfriend. I knew I crossed the line and had allowed my mood swings to get the best of me. I ruined the romantic weekend that he planned for us by harping on something that happened almost a year ago. I was in a tailspin because of the stressful weekend that I had dealing with both my sons and my business (emotions were high, finances were low). I was a mental wreck and I knew it. He hoped that going away for the weekend would allow me to calm down and gather my thoughts — but I just couldn’t. My mind was a mess. Every little thing set me off and I didn’t want to play fair, so I drank the restaurant’s three-drink limit and everything I had been feeling came out verbally and physically.
I had completely lost control of my life.
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.”
This is the third of three essays by Emilia in a series. The artwork in this post is by Emilia.
It was during one of my many confinements at “The Hotel California” (my term of endearment for the psychiatric ward at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, AR) that I finally I agreed to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy).
This treatment was previously offered to me, but I immediately shut the very notion of it down. What kind of “special crazy” would allow doctors to send electric shocks through their brain in order to induce seizures? However, at this point I was desperate and the controversial treatment seemed like my only hope. My second marriage was on the verge of ending. I convinced myself that my husband would simply be better off if he didn’t have to constantly worry about me.