Comfort: Five Minute Friday {6}



Back then, newly sick and with the fear of a mental illness diagnosis looming over my head, there were few things that brought me comfort.


One that was the most strong was her love

and her continued fight

to get me back to well.


There were so many tears back then. But we were able to smile when we were together for pictures, even if it sometimes felt forced. Behind the smiles there was silent suffering.


No matter what, she never stopped trying to comfort me. To ease my pain. To take the hurt away from her baby, her firstborn.


She will always bring me comfort in times of sadness. She’s my mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

I love you with all my heart.


Five Minute Friday

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

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.

From my little man & Five Things Friday

Little man brought this home from preschool yesterday in honor of Mother's Day.  I guess my new healthy eating routine is rubbing off on him. :) The other side is a poem about his fingerprints, along with a purple glittery impression of his little paws. I'd type it out for you, but I think it would make me cry again, so I'll leave it up to your imagination. My mom still has something similar to this from when I was in preschool. I will treasure it and will keep it forever. This is one for the baby book, for sure.

To go with this beautiful paper treasure, he presented me also with a door hanger that says "Do Not Disturb" which he decorated with stickers so that I could use it "when you need your quiet time, Mommy". AWESOME gift. I am in love. And feel so very blessed.

My Five Things for Friday:

  1. We're going to our first outdoor concert of the year tonight and I cannot wait!
  2. Tomorrow our new carpet gets installed and I'm thinking it might feel like we're living in a new house since I just finished painting the dining room yesterday. Pretty cool!
  3. The weather is gorgeous and I'm excited for the beginning of summer. Who isn't?!
  4. I am so over baby girl's canine teeth. Come in already, suckas! Poor baby is so fussy, I can't imagine what she's going through. Hopefully another week and they'll have cut through her sore gums.
  5. Sunday is Mother's Day {as I'm sure you're all aware} and I'm excited to be participating in Postpartum Progress' 4th Annual Mother's Day Rally for Moms' Mental Health. Just finished my letter last night and I'm really proud of it. Look for it here on Sunday, and also on Postpartum Progress at 5am. A huge thank you goes out the Katherine Stone for creating the rally and being the driving force behind advocating for women with mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Happy weekend everyone!

A Mother's Day memory

In the spring of 2008, my bulging mid-section was the giveaway that I was five months pregnant with my first child. We had just moved in to our first single-family home the month prior, and had excitedly invited our parents over for a Mother's Day brunch to celebrate. Mine were up visiting from Florida, and were staying with us for the weekend. My mom had brought her lapdog with her, a toy poodle she had called her baby ever since she brought him home when my brother and I were in high school. That Saturday night as she took the dog out for a walk before calling it a night, she accidentally left the front door open when it didn't catch the latch, and our cat slipped out of the house, undetected. In the morning, the house buzzed with the excitement of Mother's Day and the brunch that my husband and I were cooking for our moms. I was slicing fresh strawberries for yogurt parfaits, when I heard my husband ask if I had seen the cat lately. I hadn't, and we both thought it was strange since he was usually roaming around the house, stopping to rub his head against any shin he could find in the morning especially.

We immediately began searching the house for him. Calling his name and peeking under beds turned up nothing, and so we put two and two together and realized he must have gotten out the night before. The search party was on, as we began walking and then running through our new neighborhood to try to find our precious bundle of fur, our first baby.

 After half and hour of searching we still couldn't find him. I called my in-laws and asked them to come over earlier so that they could help us look for him. I was in tears as I raced up and down the streets in our little subdivision, while my husband shook a package of treats to try to lure him home. Another thirty minutes passed, and I started to really get scared. My husband said we should drive behind the neighborhood by the highway to see if he was out there. Dead probably, was my first thought. My poor baby!

He quickly drove us the five minutes to the busy freeway, but there was no sign of him, thank God. We rushed back home so that I could start calling the animal shelters in our area to see if anyone had turned him in. I was back outside, walking the sidewalk with my cell glued to my ear, trying to comprehend the questions the woman at the shelter was asking me. My eyes were scanning the perimeters around me for any sign of my white and orange tiger-like fur ball.

All of sudden I saw him. His white face and orange ears peeking out from beneath our backyard neighbor's deck.

"Riley!" I shouted, with no regard for the woman I was talking with at the shelter. "I found him! He's here!" A wave of relief swept over me, as I thanked her for her time and scooped him up in my arms at the same time.

His white fur was brown with dirt, damp from the humidity that was in the air. But he appeared to be in perfect shape, other than a little scared. Looked as if he had spent the night under the deck, so he hadn't wandered too far. Just wanted a taste of freedom, I guess.

That day is so vivid in my memory because I remember thinking, "so this is what it must feel like to lose a child in a crowded park or mall". My motherly instincts were so strong, even though I was not yet a mother myself. I wrapped my arms around my swollen belly that evening in bed and made a promise to protect my baby with all that I have, forever and ever.