This Is How Big My Brave Is

6 May

Something incredible happened to me on Friday. I linked up with one of my favorite writers online, Lisa-Jo Baker, and her Five Minute Friday writing flash mob. The stars must have aligned for me the night before. Because her prompt last week couldn’t have been more perfect for what I was hoping to write about that morning: how my friend Natalie survived a suicide attempt a year ago and so bravely chose to live her life and tell her story to help others.

It was through Lisa-Jo’s post that I was introduced to the brilliant new single by Sara Bareilles, Brave:

I chatted with Natalie via Facetime on Friday morning and told her how awesome the song was, how excited I was that I got to write on the word Brave for my post, and how perfectly fitting it was to use as a dovetail into her own blog posts this weekend describing what she’s gone through over this past year.  We couldn’t have asked for a better anthem for Nat’s Alive Day Anniversary weekend.

She went skydiving on Saturday. Talk about brave!! So proud of you, Natalie. Keep it up, girl. You’re inspiring more people than you’ll ever know.

I downloaded Brave to my ipad mini and had it on repeat basically all weekend. Besides making me wish I had been a part of the music video, it also made me want to take action. The lyrics will do that to you. Trust me.

So I spoke up.

It was a shortlink to my post about deciding to come out and write openly about the fact that I’m living with bipolar disorder.

And then this happened:

Screenshot 2013-05-05

You may be squinting right now since my screenshot is so small. So I’ll just tell you.

Sara Bareilles re-tweeted my tweet to her 2,749,330 followers.

I may have let out a little “WHOOOOOOO!!!!” loud enough for our entire neighborhood to hear.

I was so flattered that she cared enough to share my tweet. She believed in my brave. Enough to share it with all. of. her. 2.7+ million fans.

And I thought that was pretty cool.

My household now has this song memorized, and I love that the kids have fun watching the video with me. We play it loud and sing along while dancing around the kitchen. I thought it was an appropriate time to share this post I wrote to them last year, which I edited a bit to use as my Listen To Your Mother audition piece in February.


Dear Mister Man and Sweet Pea,

I’ve been thinking about writing a letter like this to you two for a while now. These past four years with the two of you in our life, have been the best (and most challenging) years your Daddy and I have ever experienced. They have not passed without some terrifying ups and downs. When I say “ups,” I really mean mania. My year-long battle with depression was won before you both were born.

You see, your mommy has Bipolar Disorder.

It’s something I probably won’t explain to you until you are much older. You don’t see me take my medication every night, but you have been with me to see my psychiatrist. You both love the special toy box she brings out to keep you occupied while we talk, and now when I tell you “Mommy has to go see her doctor,” you always ask if you’ll get to play with her superheros. Last time I had to go “to the doctor” it was my gynecologist and she only had a plastic uterus to play with. Wasn’t as fun, was it?

Right now my illness is hidden from you, but there are times it creeps out. I may yell a little too loud, or in a nasty way with a scowl on my face. Maybe it’s just part of being a little worn out from the whole Stay-At-Home-Mom thing, juggling the demands of running a busy household, but I also believe that my occasional outbursts have something to do with my condition. My patience is so thin you could poke a hole through it with a feather. Not all the times, but sometimes.

Your Daddy and I have worked so hard together to manage this thing though. We’re beating it, he and I. We’re doing it together. He tolerates my moods and hugs and holds me when I need the extra love. And I know that the only way I stay balanced is by taking my meds, seeing my doctor and therapist, eating right, exercising regularly and most importantly, getting enough sleep. The occasional bubble bath doesn’t hurt either.

Whenever I do have one of my moments, I immediately feel full of regret. I wish I could go back to re-do what happened so that I could handle the situation differently, more lovingly. But I guess that’s kind of what parenting is all about; learning from our mistakes and doing things better next time. I’m always trying to do better, my loves.

It’s true, sometimes I fear that one (or both) of you could inherit my condition. If either of you end up fighting my fight, your Daddy and I know we’ll survive. In fact, we’ll do better than survive. In the years since I’ve been diagnosed I have built up a library of my personal notes and records of my treatments: things that worked and didn’t work for me. We’ll beat it because we have so many tools and resources to turn to in order to get you back to healthy. So my loves I tell you this: don’t worry your little hearts. Having a mental illness is not the end of the world. In fact, it just means you see the world differently than other people do. In some ways that isn’t always a bad thing. Some great artists have Bipolar Disorder. It brings out your creative side.

Regardless of what your future holds, please know that you both have made our family so much richer, even in the midst of learning to cope with something as complicated and intense and draining as a mental illness. I am so incredibly thankful that your Daddy and I took the leap we did to start our family. Looking at your precious smiles today, I couldn’t imagine life any other way.

Someday, when the time is right, we’ll have the talk. It’s hard for me to imagine that point in the future. I worry about how my revelation of my illness may affect you. Will it make you sad? Will you feel hurt that I waited to tell you? Will you be upset that I kept a blog about living with a mental illness in which I wrote about you? I guess I won’t know until we get there, but my hope is that someday when you’re old enough and we do talk about it, you’ll listen with open hearts.

I hope you’ll tell me that you’re proud of me. That you’re proud of me for not being ashamed of having Bipolar Disorder. That you’re proud of me for telling my story to help other people. That you’re proud of me for trying my hardest at being the best mom I could be.

Because I finally am brave enough to say: I have Bipolar and I am not perfect, but I am perfectly your mom. I hope someday when I tell you this, I see you both smiling back at me with pride.

I love you both to the moon and back.




“Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is”

~Sara Bareilles

I have a feeling that this song will become a huge catalyst for not only the fight against teenage bullying, but also the battle to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. Please share. Everyone deserves their own chance to be brave.


22 Responses to “This Is How Big My Brave Is”

  1. Distracted Mom August 22, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    I heard that song for the first time the other day. I absolutely love it, too! Her music always manages to strengthen me.
    I love that you wrote a letter to your children. I’ve started to do something similar with the genealogy I’ve been working on, but feel like it’s, perhaps, something I should do about me for my children. I live with depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia and know that it affects my girls. I want them to know that even though mommy is fighting and struggling, I love my girls so much.
    Thanks for sharing your stories!
    ~Julie, fellow Northern VA mom

    • BipolarMomLife August 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

      Thank you so much, Julie, for reading and commenting! The song is so powerful and the message is so important. It had a profound impact on me and I’m so thankful Sara wrote it and put it out there to help others. And yes, my letter is my way of explaining what I’m going through to my kids now, in the moment. I think they’ll look back and appreciate it.

  2. louise May 17, 2013 at 2:17 am #

    Wow, absolutely beautiful… your letter almost brought me to tears – so touching. Once again, SO happy to have found you! And I really admire you for going “public”. So brave!

  3. Alison May 11, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    First, amazing RT famedom!!
    Secondly, beautiful, honest letter to your children. I think that moms like you who speak up, are helping so many who need to read these words. Good on you.
    Happy Mother’s day!

    • BipolarMomLife May 11, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

      Awww, thanks so much Alison!!

      It’s still kind of sinking in that I’m now blogging completely openly. But I’m so, so glad that I am now. I keep getting messages from folks that have found my writing helpful, and for that I am so thankful. It’s why I write.

      Happy Mother’s Day to you, too! Enjoy your beautiful family.

  4. Mytripletsrock May 10, 2013 at 1:49 am #

    I’m much older than you but can so relate to being a Bipolar mom. I have four year old triplet boys and am a SAHM. Needless to say, I look for any connection outside of my home… Glad to see I’m not the only one out there. Keep up the good work.

    • BipolarMomLife May 10, 2013 at 6:32 am #

      So glad you found me!! Thank you so much for reading. That is so wonderful (and challenging, I can imagine!) that you have triplets! You are definitely not the only one. There are lots of us out there. Thank you for commenting! I hope you come back and read more when you can. :)

  5. Jenny May 9, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    This is how I hope to talk to my girls about my PPD and PPA. I think writing a letter is a wonderful way to do that. You inspire me daily with your adovcacy and your writing. xoxo

    • BipolarMomLife May 9, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      Awww, Jen!! Thank you so much. I loved your post from Monday about how you’re enjoying recovery. We have a lot in common. I’m so glad to have met you via our blogs. (PS. My parents and my Uncle Max are the only people who call me Jenny). :) xoxo

  6. Stephanie May 9, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    I just think you kick so much butt. That’s all.

  7. Kate Coveny Hood May 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    You are SO brave! And I feel very lucky to have met you.

    • BipolarMomLife May 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

      Thank you so much, Kate!! I’m so glad to have met you, too. I loved hearing your stories from last year’s show and this year. Your writing is full of your passion for your family and I love that. xo

  8. Sarah May 7, 2013 at 7:09 am #

    Wow! When I read your letter to your children, I felt as though I could have been writing it. I have been living such a similar truth. I have told my children about my Bipolar and they have been wonderful about it. I let them know when Mommy is having a ‘bad’ day. Your letter was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it!

    • BipolarMomLife May 7, 2013 at 7:41 am #

      Thank you so much, Sarah! I believe mine will be loving and accepting when I share my condition with them someday. Thank you for reading & commenting. :)

  9. Jacqui May 6, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    Hi Jenn, sorry I’m just now coming to visit after Five Minute Friday. You left a sweet comment for me on my blog, but I’m so glad to be here, now. You are doing a brave thing speaking out about your bipolar disorder. I know that it will be used greatly…especially in the lives of your kids as you’re honest, vulnerable, and humble with them. It sounds like you’re a pretty amazing person. May God bless you and use your courage! Nice to meet you!

    • BipolarMomLife May 6, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      Thank you so much, Jacqui!! It took me quite awhile to reach this point where I felt that I could be brave and speak out. But I’m so glad I got here. Thank you for reading and taking a minute to say hi. So nice to meet you too! Keep in touch.

  10. Mrs Bipolarity May 6, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Girlfriend, I don’t even know what to say. You’re amazing. I just wrote a post about how I feel about being referred to as a bipolar mother… but what you’re saying is eye opening seriously amazing. And writing a letter to your kids!? That is so wonderful, and probably therapeutic and just flat AMAZING! I don’t know if I’m “there” YET. I worry a lot about my kids. I’m babbling, probably because I’m slightly unsure of what exactly to say because I love this post so so much. Bottom line, this is the best post ever. Good job, you’re amazing.

    • BipolarMomLife May 6, 2013 at 8:47 am #

      You just gave me chills! Thank you so much!! You are showing your brave too, mama! My kids are a long way off from the conversation I wrote about in my letter to them, but I’m confident that when that day comes, they’ll wraps their arms around me with love and pride. Keep doing what you’re doing. We’re kicking stigma’s ass!!!

      • Mrs Bipolarity May 6, 2013 at 9:04 am #

        WE ARE!!!! That’s my hope for my kids too. My three are all under four years old, so we are a ways away from it too…but I know that day will come. I also worry about other people saying things like “oh it’s your mother who’s bipolar” That type of thing. I love love love your letter to your kids though. I’m going to have to do that, either in a blog post or privately…great idea!


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