My name is Samina Raza Egilmez. I am a molecular biologist. I am 55 years old. I have been married for 27 years to a wonderful, patient and loving husband. I have a beautiful 25-year-old son. It sounds like a wonderful life. And it is. But I would be lying if I didn’t say it has been a hard fought one. I suffer from bipolar 1 disorder. Here is my story. And believe me, for each line that I’ve written, I could write volumes. (And one day I will!)
For the first 24 years of my life, I didn’t know what bipolar disorder was. I would have preferred to keep it that way.
Hello, my name is Natasha Tracy. I’m a writer. I’m a computer geek. My hair is not naturally red. I have done over 150 skydives. I have paraglided over the mountains of Venezuela. And I have bipolar disorder. Today, it is a big chunk of who I am, but thanks to my coping skills, I know it is not the only chunk.
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.”