the manic mom and work

i am a bit of an overachiever.  i’ve always performed at a high level in school and at work.  i went to high school and college on academic scholarships, juggling sports, theater, music and other activities.  this was no different when i started to work.  40 hours wasn’t a normal work week for me.  i put in long hours handling many projects.  even when i left the office i was still working, still deciphering what relationship i was making that could pay off for the organization i worked.

but i don’t say this to brag.  on the contrary.  i ran at full speed ahead for 20+ years.  that coupled with a bad marriage filled with abuse, overcommitting, mental illness and little rest my body failed me.  it gave up and gave into the stress of it all and started a fight with seizures that i manage today.  the road marked with seizures has been difficult and scary.  although i know some of my triggers, warning signs come early and i often fall victim to the seizure before i can ask for help. i feel paralyzed, motionless trapped in my body.  sometimes i remember what happened, sometimes i come out in a fog with no recollection of the experience.  the seizures effected me enough that i had to stop working.

work was my identity – it was who i was.  i defined myself by my work, my successes.  without work i was lost – i didn’t know who i was.  managing chronic seizures was ok in the workplace.  while it’s a scary diagnosis everyone knows and is willing to help.  there isn’t a stigma over my condition.  no one questions its’ validity or seriousness.  i can be open and honest with everyone about having seizures.  it’s something that i have but it doesn’t define me.

i never knew how different life would be when i found out i was bipolar.  i would NEVER tell anyone at work my diagnosis. like and work are complicated.  add a baby to that and i’m not sure how i manage everything.  i’s an effort to get out of the house showered, dressed (without stains), fed, dinner in the crockpot and baby clean and dressed.  i don’t even have to feed her!  daycare does that if i can get there by 8:30am.  i feel like I’ve successfully run a marathon if i can get those things done and baby dropped off with a starbucks in hard and at the office by 9am.  it is a success.

then i add bipolar.  how do i explain everything that i am feeling?  i feel like a liar. like a fake.  i feel like I’m hiding a big part of myself.  i take meds everyday to keep level, but they aren’t 100%.  there are days that i am more irritable than others.  i am short tempered with my colleagues and staff.  i don’t have the patience to explain all of my actions to everyone.  i am too quick to act.  i can sort of get away with these behaviors as well as the lethargy, depression and mania that plagues my days because i can explain what’s going on with my loved ones.  that’s not so easy to do at work.  i can’t get out of a lunch meeting because i am anxious and don’t want to leave my office.  i can’t call in sick for the 100th time because i just don’t have the energy to keep my eyes open.  i can’t explain to my boss why i am twitching is due to a manic episode.  i feel like an incomplete me now at work.

so how do i balance work, motherhood and being bipolar?  too soon to tell, but would love to hear from you on how you handle it.

until tomorrow…

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sMOTHER…

I am by no means the perfect mom. Even though I am mentally ill I still think I’m a pretty good mom. My mental illness doesn’t seem to get in the way of day to day taking care of B and loving her to the best of my abilities.

I often wonder when I’m surrounded by other parents with their children if they’re in similar situations. Today was no different. I took B to the children’s museum in our town. It’s a place filled with wonderment and excitement where you can explore and learn and grow in a totally safe environment.

There is one room dedicated to kids under the age of three. There’s a locked gate and B can run around in total safety. I’m amazed at how other people take care of their children in similar situations. Despite my anxiety and sometimes panic attacks I sit down on the bench and let B explore and run around, sliding down the slide playing, pretending with toys, playing games, acting out stories in the little houses. Total freedom. I try not to sMOTHER.  You know, the mom who is all over her kid so much so that said child can’t breathe.  Well that’s not me.

Apparently, not all parenting is the same. I’m not an expert in child development. However, I think I’ve learned a few things about raising a child along the way.

Kids are pretty resilient. They’re not gonna break if they fall down and get a scrape or a bump. I’d like to give some of those other parents that hover over their children a little advice. Hello helicopter parenting!  Little Johnny can move without mom or dad coaxing, coddling or just plain forcing their child to play with something specific next. Let your kid be a kid!

Helicopter-Parents

Kids learn by playing. Kids learn rules. Kids learn right from wrong and how to interact with their peers. Kids learn what feels good and what feels bad physically and emotionally from play.  Kids learn about cause and effect, both in a game as well as in a relationship, through play.  If you stand over your child and only let them interact with you your child really isn’t playing.

Don’t suffocate your kids!  I give B room to explore the world on her own.  I’m not saying my way is the best way; it works for us.  I have, however, gotten many comments from teachers, strangers, even B’s doctor that she is a confident and self-assured child which isn’t typical for such a young toddler.  I want that for B.  I want her to be confident in herself but also know that I am there to pick her up and love on her.  I think it’s about finding a balance.  It’s working so far for us. 🙂

So please excuse my parenting rant.  I just want other moms and dads to have trust and confidence in their own kids.  Your child can climb those stairs, slide down the slide, build with blocks, run and laugh and climb all because of the love and caring you’ve poured into them.  Now just let them spread their wings so they can soar on their own.

Until tomorrow…

healthy-kids

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racing thoughts…

i’m trying to figure out what a manic episode is for me. it seems to change every time my medication is adjusted. i was put on lithium a couple of months back and definitely feel the difference. but i’ve been up all night and haven’t been able to sleep. my mind is racing a million miles a minute. i find myself clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth. i don’t seem to be able to rest. is this what a manic episode is like on medication? are you still supposed to be able to have a manic episode when you start taking lithium? i thought all of this was supposed to go away. i know there’s no cure but i thought i’d feel little bit better. this isn’t a fun or euphoric episode. it’s just so confusing.

writing this blog is definitely helping. i’m able to get out my emotions and express myself in a way that’s been really constructive. i’ve been missing that in the past. but now i seem to stay awake trying to think of new blog topics. is the blog feeding into my mania?

i’m still trying to figure out what all the titles are for my mental illness. rapid cycling? what does that really mean? is this something that i have? what about all the drugs that are available? am i taking the right things? lithium has such a negative connotation to it.

i don’t feel like i fit the typical classifications of someone who’s manic-depressive. i do have lots of dangerous behaviors though. i tend to binge drink as well as engage in risky sexual behavior. i definitely overspend and go on a shopping spree like a binge. i over eat and use food as a comfort. i start 1 million projects and when i get down i have 1 million unfinished projects. it’s nearly 1 AM in the morning now and i can’t sleep and i’m typing all this on my phone. i find the blogging to be great but it’s something else to drive my attention and focus on and leave the other things that i should be doing unsaid.

does any of this make sense? i feel lost in a sea of my diagnosis and google searches don’t seem to help.  is it like this for any of you too?

until tomorrow…

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i can’t say no…

saynocd

sometimes i feel like i do everything for the people around me.  my family, my friends, work, where i volunteer.  i get asked to run this errand, pick this up at the store for me, put this away, write this memo, chair this event, etc.  it feels like an endless laundry list of expectations and chores.  i feel like i can’t say no.

last night was no exception.  i worked a long day at the office.  while i don’t do work that is physically taxing it is emotionally exhausting.  my brain is fried after a long day.  i left the office later than i should and i knew i was going to be stuck in horrendous traffic.  no sooner do i start on my route my mom calls.  no hello.  no how was your day.

mom – on your way home can you stop and get a loaf of bread for dinner?

me – no

mom – well just go into Albertson’s after you pick up B

me – mom, it’s gonna take me an hour to get home.  I’m not stopping.

click.

seriously?  no, how was your day?  i didn’t even get to say that i’m exhausted or i have to get home to take my bra off.  nothing.  i already feel guilty about not running the errand, but did my mom have to hang up on me?  the rest of the car ride had me going over the conversation again and again.  what could i have said differently? how can i be firm in what i want or what i need?  but i haven’t been firm in vocalizing my needs – ever!

i think this internal struggle and dialogue and the feelings of guilt are part of my bipolar disorder.  i am a people pleaser.  i am always working off of my emotion.  if someone doesn’t behave or act the way i feel they should i loose my shit.  i explode.  i rant. i rave.  it’s an emotional build up with me and one unfair expectation and additional request tips me over the emotional edge and i take off like a bullet firing from a gun aimed at the person who just asked me to do something for them, again!

i think this back and forth is worse with my parents, especially with my mother.  she has the expectation that i should always do what she asks even though i feel like i don’t have a choice and she never says please.  most request are innocuous enough.  set the table, put away the laundry, let the dogs out.  however, keep in mind i am a 39 year old woman with a child myself.  i can’t imagine making such demands on B and having the expectation that she’ll do whatever i want, just because I’m her mother.  i think this situation would be difficult for anyone.  but i think i lash out rather than letting my feelings be known in a productive manner.

when i got home my mother was silent.  (yes, i live with my parents.  me and B and fiancé live with mom and dad.  most days it’s great.  some days it’s nuts.  more on that another time…) there was no apology when i arrived.  no, are you doing ok?  she ignored it, so did i.  we went about our normal routine.  i decompressed and took care of B.  mom was making dinner (it was her turn).  all appeared to be normal.  B was cranky at dinner and didn’t want to eat.  she just wanted a binky.  i knew what she wanted and i was parenting her.  no binky at the table.  dinner first, then binky.  everytime B moved or i said something to her my mom had something to say.

B wants her bottle.

she wants her binky.

she doesn’t like the fruit.

B wants a napkin.

i knew all of these things to be true.  i am sitting next to B, attending to her needs.  I am giving her things when she needs them, trying to calm and comfort her when she cries.  i was doing everything except giving B the binky.

when B was done eating i took her out of the high chair and put her on my lap.  quickly she starts crying wanting her sippy cup.  before i even get a chance to react my mom jumps – “she wants her sippy cup!”

this is when the bipolar me comes out – i erupt.  all of the negative emotions and feelings over the last few hours explodes.  i have no control.

why am i telling you this?  because i think it’s important for me to talk about my triggers.  i think it’s good for me to gain some perspective on experiences and how i behave and not to sugar coat them.  i want to learn from the times i explore so it happens less and ultimately not at all.  i don’t want B to be a trigger or for me to trigger her.  so yeah, i using this tale as an opportunity to look through the looking glass…

so i still think my mom is wrong.  she can be self-centered and demanding.  but she’s loving and caring and would do anything for me.  so i need to chill.  i need to look honestly on my triggers and start talking about things before i explode.  i should have said something to her when i got home, but i didn’t and that was my fault.  even though i take my meds and I’ve been through CBT i am still fallible and make mistakes.  i’m still snappy.  my tongue is sharp, usually with those i love the most.  i hope that won’t always be true.  i need to grow…

until tomorrow…

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toddler shenanigans

th

no one said that life with a toddler was going to be easy.  B is now 22 months old.  not a baby, but not yet a big girl.  she goes to school everyday when i go to work.  after 3 months she is finally at the place where she’s stopped crying when i leave her and she’s happy to see her teacher and classmates.  B is even happy to see me when i pick her up; she runs to me with a big smile on her face.  it’s the best feeling in the world.

however, once we get in the car all hell breaks loose.  there are tears.  there is screaming.  sometimes there is throwing things or kicking the chair.  it’s hard for B too.

last night was no exception.

i picked B up and she was just off.  totally cranky when she got in the car.  she wanted milk.  she wanted a binky.  when we finished the 3 minute drive to the house she wouldn’t get out of her car seat.  she wouldn’t walk to the house.

inside was no easier.  she started by hitting the dog.  then she ran screaming to her room, knocking all the books and toys off her shelf.  she wouldn’t let me change her.  she wouldn’t take off her shoes.  she wouldn’t let me leave her to take the dog out.  she wouldn’t come with me to take the dog out.  she wanted to be held and when i did she screamed and wanted to go down.

this back and forth continued all night – 3 hours full of a manic episode by the 22 month old.  I’m sure this kind of behavior would shred the strongest of nerves.  but i don’t know what that’s like.  I’m bipolar.

i try to remain as calm as possible with B.  i try to have a neutral or warm voice.  i try not to yell.  i try to comfort her or help her find ways to self comfort.  nothing seemed to work last night.  it took its toll of me.  i felt my hands shaking.  my face and neck got flushed.  my heart raced.  my head hurt.  i could feel my breathing rise.  i was going into an anxiety attack.

i don’t like taking anything when i get an anxiety attack.  i don’t like how it makes me feel.  i don’t like when I’m loopy or sleep too hard and don’t hear B in the middle of the night.  but as the screams and cries continued and the eventual throwing of the dog’s food all over the living room i knew needed some help.  when i give in to a medicine to get me out of that state i feel like I’ve failed.

do all moms feel like this when their kids go off the deep end?  i only know how i feel and i always make it more about my bipolar disorder.  i don’t know another normal than what i experience and even then i don’t know if this is normal for a bipolar mom.

i know it’s a phase.  B has lots of good days.  yesterday she was off.  normally i would be in a funk and starting a depression after a day like yesterday.  this would have been a trigger for me.  i feel better that i recognized what was happening and after B went to bed i sat down and relaxed.  i did some deep breathing exercises and turned off my phone and ipad.  i just sat in silence.  i needed that relief.

until tomorrow…

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i’m late…

i just came from the doctor.  i was hopeful when i called this morning.  i was anxious.  i was nervous.  i was confused.

i’m late.  i don’t mean late in the “i’m gonna be 20 minutes late for work because i’m stuck in traffic” kind of late.  i’m six days late on my period.  i went to meet with my doctor.  i went to  have a pregnancy test.

i took a test at home and it was positive.  i took another test the next day to be sure and it was negative.  i took 2 more tests and they were negative too.  i’m trying really hard not to get excited.  i’m trying really hard not to get nervous.  i’m trying really hard not to cry.

the test at the doctor’s office was negative too.  but there was blood in my urine.  i probably was pregnant but now i’m not.  i’m sad…

i have a sinking feeling in my stomach.  i have a sadness in my heart.  i have an ache and a void i wasn’t prepared for…will i have another baby?

i’m not sure how to process these feelings.  i feel like i lost something today but it wasn’t real for me yet.  why do i feel so off?

until tomorrow…

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which came first?

i’ve been unpacking a lot of the perverbial emotional baggage doing this blog.  sitting and writing and reflecting on life has been really good.  i’m proud of myself for sticking with the blogging process.  i tend to get into a new activity, burn through it quickly and start another just as fast.  painting, pottery, canning, dancing, meetups, crafting…i hoped blogging wasn’t going to end up in the pile of hobbies past.  but so far so good.  hopefully there are people out there reading this and I’m not alone…

so as i was thinking of a topic for today i realized i’ve been diagnosed as bipolar for over a year now.  where has the time gone?  i’m not sure if i feel better about my diagnosis but i think things are clicking for me and make more sense.  but i can’t help but wonder – have i always been bipolar or was this disorder brought on by some things that have happened in my life?

i feel comfortable saying that I’ve always had a certain amount of depression in my life.  but i think things became harder and more erratic for me when i met my ex-husband.  in the beginning of our relationship it was fun, romantic, i dare say idyllic.  we dated, we moved in together, we bought a house, we got married.  a typical boy meets girl scenario.

things changed drastically as soon as we were married.  he became controlling, questioning where i was going, who was i with, how much did i spend.  i really only saw friends on my lunch hour and relationships really suffered.  he didn’t like my best friend, he didn’t want to go to my parents’ house.  the list goes on and on.  he got really aggressively physically too.  if i did something to set him off he would put holes in doors, break furniture, scream, yell, throw things at me.  if things were strained and i didn’t want to sleep with him he would rape me.

i tried to escape anyway i could.  i worked a lot.  i volunteered with the junior league.  i worked hard to keep up the façade that everything was fine.  i was happy.  i had a great life.  but there were cracks.  friendships didn’t last.  the control tightened.  i tried to control anything i could for autonomy – my work, my volunteerism, my weight.

i lost 140 pounds while i was married.  yes, i was a big girl.  but i think the weight for me took the role of the self-control i felt i desperately needed.  but my body and my mind wanted control too.  in January 2012 i developed a seizure disorder.  i lost myself in the seizures, often having no control of my body and little memory of the episode.  the seizures were worse with stress.  i think i was bipolar by then.  the stress made me depressed and manic.  i’d go for days on no sleep, washing my floors at 3am.  but the stress and lack of sleep only made the seizures worse.

it took 3 years and a divorce to get a diagnosis on the seizures – conversion disorder.

  • Conversion disorder, also called functional neurological symptom disorder, is a condition in which you show psychological stress in physical ways. The condition was so named to describe a health problem that starts as a mental or emotional crisis — a scary or stressful incident of some kind — and converts to a physical problem.

once i knew what was happening i could finally say out loud what my ex-husband had done to me – he was emotionally, physically and sexually abusive.  he raped me.  now I’m a survivor.

it’s been more than a year since i’ve had a seizure but i know my triggers.  i’m being treated for my bipolar disorder.  i’m on medication.  i feel better.  i’m hopeful.  i’m happy.  although this didn’t happen overnight, i’ve been unpacking my emotional baggage and the crap in contains to let it go.  i just wanted to share, in case someone out there has had an similar experience.  you are not alone.

until tomorrow…

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