The year after I was diagnosed, I found a support group for those suffering from Bipolar Disorder and I joined. I started attending meetings weekly and got to know some of the group members. Each week there were regulars and newbies. I found the group meetings helpful in my recovery process and my journey to accept this illness that I will be dealing with for the rest of my life. We would basically just go around the circle and each person would take a few minutes to talk about how their week was, how they were feeling, and then the group would offer suggestions on any issues they were struggling with. We weren't supposed to talk about meds, but of course everyone had opinions on them so that often came up. It was before we had started thinking about having kids. I was just trying to figure out what was going on with me and how I could best handle my severe anxiety and depression now that I was out of the state of mania that caused my hospitalizations. The last thing I was ready to think about was throwing kids in the mix, sometimes I felt like I could barely take care of myself. How would I ever be able to handle one baby, let alone the two I had always dreamed of. Yet I still knew it was something I wanted for us, and my husband had said he was ready to try whenever I felt that I was. He was (and is) always so patient about things.
If there is one thing I remember looking back on those meetings, it is this one woman. I can recall her so vividly, and find myself thinking of her from time to time, even though it's been years since I've attended one of those meetings. She was very petite and seemed so frail, often shaking as she spoke during her time to talk at the meeting. She had two kids and if I remember correctly they were about 6 and 9 or something along those ages - a boy and a girl. And she was married too, it seemed her husband was pretty supportive and caring. But it made me so sad to listen to her talk. She was on such a potent cocktail of meds and yet, she was still struggling so much with her anxiety and depression. She often spoke of how she could barely get out of bed in the morning to fix her kids breakfast and get them off to school. I found myself wondering if that would be what it would be like to be a mom who had bipolar disorder and two kids.
I am so lucky. Her situation is the complete opposite of my life as a mom.
Sometimes when I put the kids to bed at night I'll wish it was morning already so I could get them up to play again. Usually as they are walking up the steps to head up for bathtime, I think about how much I love being their Mommy. It's the best job I could have ever asked for and I never want it to end. Today I found joy in the midst of changing a poopy diaper which had leaked. I had my 10-month old daughter all clean and as I propped her up, naked on the bottom half, so that I could wrap up the dirty diaper, she peed all over the hardwood floor while holding onto the baby gate. I couldn't help but crack up laughing. It's the little things. I should have taken a picture, but I was too busy laughing and cleaning up the mess.
I hope that my friend from the support group has been able to find a good doctor who found the best combination of meds and therapy for her to improve her situation. Because really, that is what it comes down to when you are living with bipolar disorder. A good doctor, the right meds, regular therapy and a solid support network.