What to expect when reading bi-polar wife

Thoughts and feelings of living with bi-polar as a wife, mother, and person in the world.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

The blessing of having kids when mentally ill

Although my mental universe had been colourful and erratic preceding giving birth, actually having children concentrated it and increased the volume ten fold. Having the children was a  trigger which launched my fully fledged bipolar career. It would be easy to say "I wish it hadn't happened" but actually that couldn't be further from the truth. Having babies admitted me into another galaxy of weirdness and complete joy that I would never have been privy to. They drive me to distraction but the love I feel for them is a force of nature in itself.

So to recap,  I had Oscar over a 3.5 day period (of no sleep, hideous drugs and stress) resulting in a c-section and thinking I was still pregnant and that the child in the room with me was God, could read my mind and was omnipotent, followed by 3 months of crippling depression and OCD bleaching and control. Anti-depressants helped enormously. Fast forward 1 year and 20 days and Ralph enters the world in 24 hours after my placenta decided to make an appearance at 37 weeks on the bathroom floor. Another c-section. Just to say, I don't think most people having babies go through this. Don't be put off by my experience. HA! *rolls around cackling on the floor like a nutcase!!* So when they were really little I realised my symptoms went beyond normal post natal depression. I flagged it with the GP who at my request referred me to the mental health team. I had my first monitored manic episode when the boys were 1.5/2.5 years old.

Moving forwards a little, the kids have actually had to attend psychiatric appointments with me, have been at home when the CPN has visited, and also met the crisis team. I have been very mindful and measured about what they hear, and how much I disclose to them about my illness. I'd never put them in danger. But what is fantastic, is that they are fully integrated into my recovery and a part of my healing process on many levels.

Having little people around makes you work hard at wellness. Not just for you, but for them, my husband and the extended family. I want them to be fully aware of what mental illness is, to not be afraid, to be free to ask questions and to know that sometimes it's hard but it won't always be like that. I've introduced them to my illness in stages of explanation. They see the physical side very obviously, so when I am depressed it's about me needing lots of sleep, feeling sad and tearful and not always being able to deal with bad behaviour very easily. They respond with lots of cuddles, being gentle with me and helping out with practical stuff a bit more. I tell them where I'm at and they step up. Don't get me wrong, I am not forcing this upon them. They are not my carers.

I explained to them about medication. They way I packaged it was about my brain chemicals being out of kilter. Bipolar is a chemical affair, so explaining that my feeling happy chemicals don't flow the way that other peoples do made it clear for them. The tablets help re-balance that, with me trying out new things to make me feel better too. I know they understand this, because Ralph very kindly told the school parents on the drive that "Mummy isn't allowed to drive now for 6 months because her brain chemicals aren't right at the moment," and Oscar says, "Yes mummy I know you're fatter because of your tablets."

As they get older, they see things on TV or hear news articles etc. and they pick up on mental health. Being able to talk about mental distress, and the fact that I refuse to be fear based about it means that they have an open minded attitude and empathy. It also means when they feel "off" they ask if it is a problem or not, and explore triggers and solutions. I want them to know on a deep level that mental illness is not the end of your life.

When I am hideously poorly, the boys are my protective factor. What that means is they are the intellectual obstacle between me and serious self harm. All of my decisions take into account their well being and needs. They are also brilliant at helping me be in the moment, whether that be doing play-do when they were little, or now going on walks, playing football down the park or baking with them. They remind me to be silly, to show affection. I knew I was starting to feel better last year when on a really sunny day, I got Ian to lock the house and totally terrorised them in the back garden with the hosepipe. It was unplanned, I didn't have to force myself to do it and I belly laughed to the point of nearly wetting myself. It felt good to be fully immersed in "Being" without trying to be.

Finally, I do worry about them in the future. Bipolar is still not fully understood, whether it be genetic or social factors that cause it, but apparently if you are exposed to less stress, abuse, drugs/alcohol and have emotional resilience built within you, your chances are far greater than most. And this is what we do as parents. We try to teach them about sharing honestly how they feel, expose them the sport and challenge, encourage them to experience risk and failure in a loving environment and arm them with the reality of life. We also try to keep them grounded about money, and the illusion that "Stuff" does not make you happy. They can be little bastards a lot of the time but people tell me they are great. This fills me with hope. They stretch me emotionally like a rubber band and sometimes I wonder what on earth I am doing but chaos aside, I am glad that being mentally ill means I have a chance to be there for them in ways I might not have been if it had never happened. Who would of thought that being a bipolar girl has so many up sides!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New year

My Facebook feed reads like a daft punk song - fitter, stronger, thinner, faster.... (Daft punk - harder better faster. Catch it on YouTube...insert your own new year resolutions!). Don't know about you lot, but I am glad the festive madness is over. It truly feels like everyone turns into Buddy from "Elf" and the world has gone syrup and sprinkles mad. And why make a resolution on just one day out of the available 365? Nothing like a bit of pressure.  If you want to change do it when you feel it's right. Don't wait for ever and then accidentally cock it up on day 2 of the new year because it was a bank holiday and your days are all wrong and the gym was shut! Do it on April 25th. It's quite nice, spring is arriving and noone is paying attention to your "New you" agenda.  Or shockingly, don't do it at all!

I often feel like I have lost my footing at Christmas as you spend the whole time eating at odd times, walking about a lot, and generally not knowing what day of the week it is. For me too this year, we visited at least four places and I slept in strange beds and spent quite a bit of time in traffic jams on the motorway.  I like watching everyone sporting their new threads, cycling about on new bikes and having a spring in their step. It's like the pressure knob has been released, they've all opened their gifts and we can all relax.

So here I am. I have been delivered safely into 2017. For some I assume it's an anti climax. Nothing is actually happening other than the dross of normal life. Banality reigns supreme. For me it is manna from heaven. Lovely boring routine, no drama and a little bit of baking and/or cleaning. I am SO rock 'n' roll. I have 2 courses to do at recovery college which I am looking forward to. Anxiety management and comedy in recovery. I'm hoping I don't slip up and make too many jokes about being at the end of my rope or depression being the death of me! It's a very fine line. I suppose really I am just hoping for wellness this year. I had a discussion with my sister-in-law about success, and explained that for me being emotionally available and engaged in the land of the living for me was enough. That for me is success. For others it's about the job promotion, completing a course or reducing the size of their back end. We are all different. I would just love to feel OK for a long period of time and not feel dread, fear and panic on a moment by moment basis. Enjoying the moment, feeling lifted in spirit and free.

I am also going to keep focusing on my spiritual growth.This past year has been quite revealing and my God antenna has been buzzing all over the place. My Church family have been amazing in helping me navigate the path. It was lovely to talk to my mum too about this over Christmas. I am from a long line of mystical people, or people who are a bit odd, and although my Christian journey has veered quite dramatically away from the family party line, she still completely gets the whole reverence and sacredness of the spiritual life, and taking it seriously and practising with great care. She's wise. Earth bound people just think you're a frigging nutter.

So lead on people, lets put one foot in front of the other, and see where experience takes us.