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Five Minute Friday {14}: Lonely

9 Aug

Five-Minute-Friday-14-Lonely

I was lonely back then, back seven and a half years ago when I had just been told I was facing mental illness. Two stints in a psych ward and it was apparent to the doctors but I was still in denial. I was so lonely.

I longed for someone to talk to who knew what I was feeling. Someone other than a psychiatrist or a therapist or a group leader in an outpatient program. They only studied these symptoms in a textbook. How could they really know what I was going through? They didn’t, in my mind.

Writing would become my call for help. My attempt to erase the loneliness by telling my story to see if there were others out there feeling my same feelings.

There were. There are. And it’s a relief to no longer feel lonely in this life with mental illness.

Today, nearly two years to the day from when I started this blog, I feel so far from lonely. Instead, I feel the compassionate hugs this community of readers, fellow bloggers, friends and family have wrapped around me.

Five Minute Friday

WW: Daddy’s girl

20 Jun

This is the dance we shared on my wedding day, almost nine years ago. I chose the song “Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle and my Daddy surprised me with a big screen playing a slide show DVD of images from my childhood up through college graduation. I choked back tears the whole time, but as hard as I tried to keep it together, I wasn’t able to make it through the dance with dry cheeks. It was the most special thing anyone has ever done for me.

I have always been a Daddy’s girl. And I will always be. I love my father fiercely. There is no one in this world who better understands me than my dad. Probably because I inherited my mother’s Type A personality and tendency to go from calm to super irritable and –  dare I say? – bitchy {sorry, Mom, but you know that’s how we get sometimes}  in mere seconds.

Anyway, when I first got sick, it rocked his world.

I know this because I have read his account of what happened when I had to be hospitalized.

I asked him to write it it down for me and as difficult it must have been for him to honor my request, to go back deep {because I’m fairly certain he had buried it away} in his memory and relive it, he did it.

It starts with, “How your world can change with a simple phone call.” and he goes on to document what happened on the night that I called him when he and my mom were at a dinner party with their friends, while I was going completely manic on the other end of the phone, over a thousand miles away.

I’m planning on including it in my memoir. I think it would be incredibly valuable, coming from a different perspective than just the person experiencing the episodes of bipolar disorder.

This is what is on my mind on this Wordless{ful} Wednesday. How much I love my father and how he means the world to me.

xoxo

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{Also linking up with Live and Love Outloud, The Paper Mama and Baby Baby Lemon!}

Dear New Mama ~ don’t ignore PPP symptoms. Please.

13 May

Dear New Mama,

My son was four weeks old and I was manic out of my mind in October of 2008. I was somehow able to hide it so well from everyone close to me, my parents, my best friend, my therapist, even my husband. No one knew but me. But who was I kidding? I couldn’t go on like this, and I knew it. The week after he was born I had broken down crying to my mom, handing her my cell phone pleading with her to call my OB to ask her what I could take to help me sleep. I had been off all medication (except pain meds from the C-section) since October of 2007. A full year with no medication at all: a recipe for disaster for anyone diagnosed as having bipolar disorder two years prior. But I was doing it for the baby. My husband and I both wanted a medication-free pregnancy, and then I wanted to breastfeed and did not want to expose the baby to medications that would come through in the breastmilk.

The first month, I had slept maybe 2-4 hours a night and it was catching up with me fast. I’d take two Tylenol PM and would get a few hours of sleep, but woke up, as I usually did since the baby was born, in a sweaty panic – I just knew he needed to be fed even though he was usually sound asleep at the time. I was trying desperately to make breastfeeding work, but we were struggling. He had lost weight since we left the hospital and the pediatrician forced us to supplement with formula but I was determined. I was so afraid of failing. My best friend was my cheerleader, urging me to keep going, visiting when she could to offer helpful tips and encouragement. My husband was also supportive and we knew it was risky being off medication in order to breastfeed, but we had decided to try it. My parents had arrived two days after the baby was born and were planning on staying a week before heading back down to Florida. When they realized how little sleep I was getting, they were worried and my mom pushed out her return trip by five days. After nearly two weeks of help from my parents, my husband’s parents, friends cooking dinners for us, and my husband being off from work, I had to learn to do it on my own. It is so foggy, those first four weeks, but we took pictures so I could remember. I did it on my own for two weeks, three days. Then the shit hit the fan.

The statistic was 1 out of 1,000. I never thought I’d be that one person who was dealt the postpartum psychosis card. I mean, what are the chances, right? But I guess I really should have seen it coming, having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder only two years earlier.

So, you may be wondering, how did I know that I was experiencing postpartum psychosis? Well, at the moment I didn’t. I just knew that how I was feeling couldn’t be right.

I was dead-set on breastfeeding, and therefore, was the sole source of milk for the baby so I had to be up every two to three hours. The process of changing his diaper, changing his outfit if he had leaked, swaddling him back up, feeding him on the boob, burping him, and settling him back down took me about forty-five minutes each time. Therefore, I had an hour or so to try to sleep before he would wake again, but instead of sleeping, despite what should have been my intense exhaustion, I would rush around the house doing laundry or dishes or I’d pump to try to get my body to produce more milk so that I could store it. It was as if my body had surpassed the exhaustion phase, and I was now invincible. I was starting to believe that I didn’t even need sleep. I also felt super smart – like my brain was functioning at a superior level. Having never been a stellar student in any stage of my schooling, it was weird, to say the least.

During the fourth week, before I was eventually hospitalized, I started experiencing hallucinations. Mostly things are fuzzy, but one I can actually remember is from the morning that my husband finally realized he needed to commit me. I had woken up several times during the night but just stayed in bed listening to the sounds of trucks driving along the highway not too far from our house, hoping to fall back asleep. When the dawn broke and light started filtering in through the mini blinds, the alien spaceship that was hanging from the center of our bedroom (aka: the ceiling fan) began to spin, illuminate, and hover towards me. I shook with fear. But kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want my husband sending me to the hospital. I had to keep feeding my baby. We had just started to “get it” and he was doing well. I was actually enjoying the bonding time it created between me and the baby.

THANK GOD my husband got help. He had to call 911 because he wasn’t able to get me to agree to go in the car to the hospital, let alone take medication. I was so lucky, because he knew the signs to look for from my two previous manic episodes, and he wasn’t afraid (or too proud) to admit that I needed medical attention. Specifically, anti-psychotics. Stat. And although I never had thoughts of wanting to harm my baby, who knows if those could have been the next thoughts to enter my mind had we waited any longer to get help.

What I want you to know, mama, is that if you ever experience symptoms similar to mine after the birth of your baby, please don’t feel ashamed about it. Don’t ignore the signs. Have your husband or partner read about them too, so they can be as prepared as you are. Knowing what you know now about postpartum psychosis is half the battle. The other half is being open to accepting the help you need to get better for you so that you can be there for your baby. I did, and I’m so thankful because it was the best decision my husband and I did for our family, and continue to do, each and every day.

The medication I take keeps me “in the middle”, as we in my family like to refer to it. I ended up taking it, under the close supervision of both my psychiatrist, OB-GYN, and high-risk OB-GYN, during my second pregnancy and we were blessed with a precious baby girl who has completed our family. I continue to take my medication, see my psychiatrist and therapist regularly, and lean on the support of my husband, parents, and close friends in order to keep my mental health in check.

I wish you all the happiness in the world as you meet your new little bundle of joy. I know that you’ll turn out to be one incredible mama. Just like I did.

Much love,

Jennifer aka BipolarMomLife

The 4th Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit 501c3 that raises awareness & advocates for more and better services for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. Please consider making a donation today, on Mother’s Day, to help us continue to spread the word and support the mental health of new mothers.

A promise

19 Apr

There have been many ups and downs in my life since being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder six years ago. Thankfully, the past few years have included significantly more highs than lows, mainly because I’ve been stable and have made a commitment to myself and my family:

I promise to always take my medication, see my doctor and therapist, and get good sleep.

This promise stemmed from the fact that, at 5 weeks pregnant with my daughter, I spent almost a week in a psych ward to bring me down from the most extreme psychosis of my life. It came about because I was so incredibly happy – over the moon, really – that we were pregnant after trying month after month for almost a year that I didn’t make sure I was getting enough sleep. I remember the nights leading up to the hospitalization where I would just lie in bed wide awake, my mind racing with baby names while my husband was sleeping soundly beside me. You see, when I knew I was ready for another baby, I wanted it like, that second. To have to live my life in two week increments for so long, and to have waited almost a year to see those two pink lines, both of those realities had driven me mad. Quite literally.

I count my lucky stars that I was able to get help. I took the medication I needed with my doctor’s close supervision, in order to make it through the pregnancy. And my wonderful husband took over many a night feeding during the first month or two so that I could get the sleep I needed at night and the naps needed to catch up during the day.

In the waiting room before my trial to be released from the hospital {yes, there was a trial due to the fact I was involuntarily committed}, my husband and my dad sat with me. I was in handcuffs. Don’t ask – we have no idea why they would cuff an almost 6-week pregnant woman who wouldn’t hurt a fly – but we think it was because they had to treat all the patients the same. My hair was a disaster, I had on mismatched sweats and the sticky-bottom hospital socks and I was just dying to get out of there. I can’t remember why I didn’t have shoes on.

This is where the promise occurred. My dad took a picture on his phone of me sitting on the small sofa in that tiny room. With cuffs on.

So I would always make good on my promise to keep taking my medication.

That was two years ago. And I have no intention of ever breaking that promise.

My family means too much to me to ever put them through that again.

Thank you to my dad, for thinking to take that picture. Now, Dad, it may be on your old iphone which has a shattered screen, but maybe you could find a way to email it to me so that I can crop it and Instagram-it so that I could add it to this post?

{Don’t hold your breath since he’s not that great with computers and he’s presently on a golf trip in South Carolina. But I’ll try to add it. For posterity.}

Mama’s Losin’ It

Two years ago today

13 Apr

It’s been two years to the day today that I was last hospitalized for a manic episode.

And what a storm it was. I had just found out I was pregnant and thus was so excited I couldn’t sleep for a week. You see, it had taken us ten months to conceive the little lady and being the impatient, total Type-A person I am, that was just way too long.

When I don’t get enough sleep, it leads to mania. My thoughts race out of control, I start talking in circles, and I lose touch with reality. My husband knew the signs all too well. He knew what needed to be done.

Within thirty minutes, his mom was here to help with our 18-mo old son, and the EMT’s and two police officers were standing in our bedroom trying to talk me into going with them to the hospital. When I wouldn’t consent, my husband signed some papers, and they cuffed me and put me in the squad car. Luckily this time it was pitch black outside and they didn’t have their flashing lights on. So hopefully the neighbors didn’t see and think I was being arrested.

 

Crazy how far I’ve come in those two years. I’ve learned so much over these past six years living with bipolar disorder. I’ve learned how important my family is to me, I’ve learned which friends care enough to actually talk with me about what I’ve been going through, and most of all I’ve learned that I can overcome this “mental illness” to make my dreams a reality.

Six years ago I was so crippled by depression and anxiety that at times I didn’t want to go on. I was being so selfish, but I saw how my condition was affecting my family and I hated that I kept bringing everyone around me down because of my mood. I felt like I had lost my identity because the career I had worked so hard to build over the past four years came to a screeching halt after my second hospitalization. I couldn’t handle the pressure at work any longer – the pressure that had pushed me to work harder and smarter over the years was now causing panic attacks and driving me deeper and deeper into depression.

Ultimately, I had to resign from my job and with that I felt like I was a nobody. I was worthless. I was sad. I didn’t feel like there was anything worth living for.

Looking back, it basically took me all of 2006 to pick myself up again. I went through so many weeks of crying hard every.single.night. It’s hard for me to think about what my parents and husband went through during that year. I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to stay positive and supportive to someone who was so incredibly sad.

But they did. And Thank God they did. I am eternally grateful to them.

I never would have imagined that I would be where I am today without the love and encouragement of my dad, mom, and husband. Along with my in-laws, brother, two sisters-in-law, and a handful of close friends, I trudged through 2006 and made it into 2007. I made it to see another day.

And now I know that there is so much to live for.

I am so thankful to have found a medication that works for me. I know that I am lucky. I take my medication religiously and stay on top of my moods to make sure I continue to stay stable. I have too much going for me to end up in the hospital again. I don’t want to miss a second of this life.

Because it really is too short when you think about it.

The smell of spring

30 Mar

Wednesday night I went on my second run in preparation for an upcoming 5k. I got home as my husband was finishing up dinner with the kids. By the time bath time was over, the kids were tucked in and stories read, I had to limp back down stairs to clean the kitchen.

I am clearly out of shape, even though at first glance I appear to be fit. I discovered the 5k last fall when I signed up for one in order to force myself to start working out again. It worked, and I went from having to walk most of the 3 miles each day I trained, to being able to run the entire thing by the end. It was awesome. Definitely empowering to know that my body is capable of running a race, actually completing it.

Back in the fall, those thirty-five minutes each weeknight evening or Saturday morning were so calming and thought-provoking for me. I knew I needed to find another one this spring, so I recently signed up for one in early May giving myself a month and a half to get ready.

This is week one of training and it’s been the most perfect weather for running. Slightly cool, mostly sunny, with a light breeze to keep you going. The smells of spring are everywhere around me as I’m running and I find myself taking the deepest breaths possible to make sure I take it all in to the fullest.

My sense of smell is hyperactive. I tie scents to experiences, to specific times in my life. I can recall memories just by taking a whiff of an old perfume or cologne my husband used to wear. It’s kindof weird, but neat at the same time.

When the scent of a season starts to emerge, I sometimes think of two of my hospitalizations. One was in the spring and one was in the fall. The spring one was the most recent, and the spring time was also the season in 2006 when I was diagnosed and then fell into a deep depression for the rest of the year. My parents were with me every step of the way and my mom and I used to go on long walks and we’d pray the rosary as we walked.

I think she prayed because she felt helpless. I felt helpless too, so I followed. I think our prayers were answered many months later when I found the medicine that works for me. My daily tears dried up and I started to enjoy life again. It was incredible.

I think the way the seasons constantly turn helps to remind us of the past and how far we’ve come. And no matter how bad things may be now, they can only get better with time. The next season will be here before we know it.

I remember when I lost my mind for a reason

25 Mar

I remember when, I remember

I remember when I lost my mind

There was something so pleasant about that place

Even your emotions have an echo in so much space

~ Gnarls Barkley: “Crazy” lyrics

Whenever this song comes on the radio, or “Unwell” by Rob Thomas for that matter, I think of my the time I spent in the hospital. Having to be committed against your will, to get well because you cannot help yourself, is a very humbling experience.

I remember some significant moments about the last hospitalization. Specifically, how when my husband had to call 911 to have them come and take me, I pleaded with the EMT’s and police officers to let me introduce my son to them. I was so excited for him to get to meet an actual police officer in person. He had such a fascination with police cars, fire trucks and ambulances. Such a typical little boy. My mother-in-law was in the nursery with him, trying to get him to go back to sleep. He had been sleeping, but woke up to all the commotion I was causing in my fight to not go to the hospital. My baby, at only 18 months old, was so sheltered from what was happening to his mommy. My other baby, the one that was just a tiny little miracle in my belly which we had found out about only the week before, would never know that her mommy needed to get well before she would ever be able to take care of two little babies.

I was the textbook definition of “crazy”, and needed the medical attention I could only receive in the hospital to be able to come home and focus on my health so that I could be the best mommy to my little boy. I like to think that I retain some of the clear memories that I have from my hospitalizations so that I remember how important it is to stay on my medication and see my doctor and therapist regularly.

These days, I like to sing those songs when they come on over the radio.  They remind me that bipolar disorder is just a part of who I am, and it doesn’t define me as a person. I think I experienced those four hospitalizations for a reason, and I am a stronger person because of them.

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