I am a mummy to two little people. I also have rapid cycling bipolar disorder. These are not two things that compliment each other well. I cannot count the number of times I have stopped and wondered how much damage my illness causes to my beautiful little people. Hopefully none, hopefully they will learn from it, learn understanding; acceptance; patience; gratitude; how to love; how to be there for others. I hope this is the case, but the voice of doubt, the niggling fear suggests otherwise. This is the hardest thing to live with. To know that seeing me live with bipolar has caused them pain, hurt, upset, fear, anxiety; to think that there may have been times when they could have felt unsafe, doubted my love and commitment to them, blamed themselves, breaks me a little more everyday.
As with everything, there are ups and downs, good days and bad days. But never days where bipolar is not there with me, sitting in my shoulder haunting me as I play with my children, bath my baby, read my eldest little person a bedtime story…
Every day is a battle.
Each and every one.
As with every battle, no two days are the same, not all days end in disaster. Some days there are victories. For me, those victories are the little moments where baby toddles to me and asks for a cuddle, or my eldest little person looks at me and says ‘mumma I love you.’ These are the moments are treasure but there are many more than cause me sadness and pain; moments that make me doubt myself as a mother, moments where I hate myself and feel they would be better off without me.
I take medication every day. Each morning when I wake up, I take these tiny little pills which are supposed to make it all better. They don’t. They help make the extremes less. They don’t mean that I don’t have to fight every day to maintain balance.
For the most part, I enjoy the hypomania stage. The energy it gives me, the love for life and enthusiasm for everything. My little people love it too, at first. They enjoy my energy and enthusiasm. They thrive off my love for life and enjoy the endless hours of carefully constructed play and learning opportunities I provide for them.
Until it becomes too much. Until I become too much. They become overwhelmed and exhausted, then unsettled and finally apprehensive about being near me. On occasions perhaps even slightly afraid of me because by now the hypomania isn’t fun for any of us anymore. I have become obsessive and demanding, everything must be done exactly as and when I need it to be. My expectations become unrealistic, I expect them to react and behave in the ways I anticipate.
Eventually, I become angry that things are not how they should be, that I can’t control everyone and everything around me. I become irrational and snappy for no reason, such as when they have made some minor mistake such as spilling a drink at the dinner table because they won’t sit still or falling and hurting themselves after I have given warnings. And then, at those times when they most need my love and comfort, they get my anger, my irrationality and my coldness.
No sooner had this occurred then I hate myself for it and want more then anything to take it back or undo it. But it is done. Of course, they forgive and forget. I apologise and explain. But it does not change it or fix it or make it ok.
Next comes the fall from hypomania. The need to be alone, the anger that no one understands, the feelings of worthlessness and self hatred. Sometimes go out on my own and walk in the dark. Sometimes I drink too much. Sometimes I hurt myself. I am crying out for help but no one can hear me.
After this, the depression kicks in. I complete day to day tasks but there is no engagement, no enthusiasm, no feeling anymore. I don’t give my little people the attention or love they deserve. I care for them, but I can’t connect with them. Again, I reach out for help but as I cannot bring myself to actually ask for help outright, I am left to fight alone. I message friends and we talk about events and activities in our lives. I may try to arrange to see them as I can’t stand to feel this alone, but I don’t say why. At this stage, all I want us for someone to listen, to hold my hand, to hug me and tell me it will get better. I won’t ask for this so I rarely get it.
It does get better though, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes after what seems like an eternity. Occasionally it gets worse first and I don’t want to carry on anymore. But if does get better.
Then, I can be ok again for a while. Still facing situations which trigger me everyday and could cause an episode, still having to fight everyday to stay ok, but managing it and coping with it. It is during these times where I give my absolute all to my children, trying to be the best parent I can be. Everyday I set my parenting expectations so high, on some of my good days I may meet them, on other days I may fall short. But the one thing that never falls short is how much love I have for my two little people and how I would give my everything them.
I just have to hope and pray that this is enough.