Yeah, I stole lyrics from a country song. How lame. I am without my Sirius radio and the country station is the only one that plays music in the morning. Normally hate country, but I liked the lyrics and they fit where the post is going to end up, so oh well.
Today my brain was quiet (or as quiet as mine ever gets) but things were shiny and had auras. I don’t know how to classify that. Normal-ish? Hypomanic-ish? I’ve been hypomanic/manic for around three or four months. My brain having normal levels of thought actually had me bored. I didn’t know what to do with myself without ten internal dialogues going on at once. It felt abnormal to have normal thoughts because my brain has been going and going for so long now.
I spent some time on some message boards and found that a common topic amongst the bipolar sect is “will you have kids” and if you do “will you worry that you might pass the crazy on.” It’s something I think a lot about, so I figured I’d post about it.
When I was young, I swore I’d never have children. I was in the height of my illness and in such misery that the thought of dooming someone else to a living hell was unbearable. Plus how could I be pregnant without medication? How could I handle a child when there are so many days I can’t take care of myself? I forget to feed my dog constantly. I can’t even grow a plant. I thought I’d be a terrible mother and the weight of passing on my illness was too hard on me.
I held these thoughts even into my early 20’s. Then people around me stared having kids. Notably, though it’s something I don’t wish to discuss on here, my husband had a child from a previous relationship who was still a baby when we got together. We don’t see the child anymore and there’s an adoption process pending, but needless to say for a while I was around a lot of babies, one of which I cared a good bit for. It was a hard time in my life, but I really loved caring for babies. They brought out a compassion in me that I didn’t know existed. I babysat sometimes for my friends’ children, ranging from 1-4, and I magically became a different person.
Something clicked in my head, and I felt a void that had never been there. I felt like I was meant to be a mom. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea. I was the girl that never wanted kids. My illness hadn’t changed, I was actually cycling all over the place at the time. Months of depressions, months of mania. I just knew though, I was supposed to have a child.
I didn’t plan well, though my pregnancy was very much planned. I was on medication and just figured I’d stop taking it when I got pregnant and things would work themselves out. It took me nine months to get pregnant, and each month that passed with no positive test sunk me into a deeper and deeper depression. I felt incomplete. I felt like I would never get pregnant because someone like me shouldn’t have kids. I had no plan for my swings when I was pregnant. I had no plan on how to manage myself after he got here. I was underserving and the great universe knew it and made me barren.
My reasons were selfish. I know that now. Then, I don’t know what I thought. I knew what I wanted and knew I’d do whatever needed to be done to make it happen. I spent hundreds of dollars on fertility calculators. I was still worried about passing things on. I didn’t know how I’d manage through the pregnancy or motherhood. I just somehow had a feeling things would be okay, which is so rare for me, that I just trusted it.
Finally one month, I knew I was pregnant. Before the positive test result came back, I knew. I could feel it. I felt suddenly complete and could feel warmth from within me and I just knew. A few days later, a positive test result. I was ecstatic. I stopped taking my medications. Everything would be okay.
I was wrong. I lost in about three weeks in. I made an emergency appointment with the doctor I recently quit going to. We tried all sorts of pregnancy safe medications that I approved. Some anti-histamines and Busapr. Anything for bipolar I wouldn’t take. I didn’t want the medication to hurt him. I could go crazy for nine months, but nothing was going to touch my baby. I refused any medication that didn’t have years of study in pregnant women. I was physically and emotionally in agony. My marriage collapsed around me because I was so unstable.
Reality sunk in. Would I be a single mother suffering with bipolar with no support system? How high were the odds that my son would be bipolar or mentally ill in some other way? How could I parent like this? My journal from when I was pregnant has so many entries that say “Son – I’m sorry.” I talked to a few doctors who confirmed his odds were high since I have bipolar and technically my husband has a bipolar diagnoses, though as stated in a previous post, that’s my fault and not accurate. He does have personality disorders of some type. Combine the two and the odds are stacked against my son.
I hated myself. I hated what I had done. But I loved my son more than anything. I would have died for him even before he was born. I did everything I could to eat right and stay off any dangerous medication, my own problems be damned. I had a scheduled C-section because the idea of not knowing was a big issue for me. I needed some plan. Medications prescribed and in bottles waiting to go to the hospital with me so I could start back up on them the day he was born.
After I had him, my moods were still bad but not as bad. My husband stayed with me through it all, though not without issue. But holding that little boy in my arms, I had clarity that I should have had before I made the choice to have him.
One of the unique things about bipolar is intensity. Most bipolars are intense people in almost every way. We feel the same emotions, but at higher levels. I have the ability to love intensely. I might be one of the few people that can say “no one will love you like I do” and it would be true. I love my son with fire-like intensity. I’m sure all moms do. When he hurts, I feel it ten fold. When he’s happy, it brings me joy. I would sacrifice my life a thousand times over for him. I look at him and I fight back tears of joy. No words that I can write will ever be able to explain my feelings correctly.
So here’s how I feel now. I worry every day that I might have passed on some illness to him. Not just bipolar, but any mental illness. I hope every time I look at his big smile that he’s always happy, though I know that’s impossible. But if it doesn’t work out, if he is bipolar – well, who better to help him? My mom is an amazing woman and I would not be here today without her constant support, but I know she’ll never really get my illness. She can support me, but she can’t understand. I can do both for my son if I have to. I can spot the manias and depressions and I know how to talk to people going through them. I can hold him and tell him I love him, but I can also make sure he gets the right help. I can be an ear to listen when everyone else doesn’t get it. I can handle the rages and the tears because I’ve been there. I can understand like no one else because of my experiences.
At the end of the day, I do hate my illness, but it’s made me who I am. I’m someone people don’t forget. I’m not replaceable. I’m a better listener, a better understander, a better person because of what I’ve endured. I’m stronger than people twice my age because I’ve been through twenty times as much.
That person that I am? Has the ability to be an amazing mom to a son who turns our to be normal or a son who is just like me. Maybe being raised by someone with a misunderstood illness, even if he is normal, will teach him compassion and empathy for others. Teach him to be able to support and understand.
There are, of course, some downsides. I’m not always stable. When I’m not, I make sure to get away or to enlist help from my husband or my mom. I try to keep my swings away from him as much as possible. I’m more committed now to my health. I’m trying to be more med compliant. I’m considering therapy and support groups again. I have the ability to be a great mom, but my illness can take that from me quickly. I can’t help him through any troubles he has if I’m off hallucinating or crying all day.
My son gives me a reason to manage myself. Before him, I didn’t care. I could cycle like crazy and everyone could just deal or leave. I didn’t care. I could be in agony and I’d take meds just long enough to bear myself and then get right back off. I won’t let myself do that anymore.
I’m formulating the plans now I should have had before I considered getting pregnant. I didn’t, and perhaps the chaos that he lived in for the first six months of his life will leave an effect, but I hope not. I hope he doesn’t remember a mom who cried a lot or yelled at daddy and flew off the handle. I hope he remembers the mom I’m trying to be now. I hope that through the break through cycles, he’ll remember he has a mom that loves him with every fiber of her being and is doing everything she can to be there for him.
I still worry about his mental health. He has panic attacks and it scares me. I hope they’re fleeting. He’s only two, clearly too young to formulate opinions. I keep a watchful eye, but try not to obsess over everything he does. If he ends up like me, I’m sure I’ll never forgive myself. With every depression or mania he might have, I know I’ll feel them a thousand times over all laced with guilt. I stand by my pregnancy journals – for any sadness he may have because of my genes – I am truly sorry.
But I do not regret my choice, not for one second. He’s already an amazing kid. He’s charismatic. He lights up a room when he enters. He’s everyone’s favorite. He makes this world a better place just by existing. He makes my life full of hope where once there was only despair. I cannot imagine a world without him.
I know that many bipolar people choose not to have kids. I thought I would always be one of them. Everyone has to make a decision that’s best for them. Mine wasn’t thought out, but it was the right one for me.
So for my son, my reason for being, I will take better care of myself. That way, if my worst fears come true and he is mentally ill, he has a strong mommy to support him and understand him. Someone to cry to if he’s depressed, someone to speed talk to if he’s manic, someone to tell the scary thoughts he might have without worrying that I won’t understand or that I’ll think he’s not right. No matter who he is, no matter what illness he may have, he is my world.
And one day everyone will know: the world is a better place to have us in it. My illness allows me to offer things and do things others can’t. That part, at least, I do hope to pass on.
I love you, my little man. You are the best thing I’ve done with my crazy life. No matter who you turn out to be, no matter what problems may or may not come, you are perfect.