Moving on anonymously - for now

My mom brought up a good point in regards to my dilemma of revealing or not revealing my true identity here on the blog: the kids. Playdates. Would other moms not want their kids playing with mine if they knew that I had Bipolar. Wow. Why had I not thought of this? It's a sad reality in our world that so many people are so incredibly ignorant to mental health issues, bipolar disorder especially. But it doesn't surprise me. Hell, I barely knew anything about it until it jumped up and bit me in the ass. I was forced to read up on it and learn about it as fast as I could in order to get my life back in order. My husband and my parents did everything they could to help. There were countless hours spent online researching symptoms and conditions to try to confirm what the doctors were telling us about what was happening to me. My dad took me to the bookstore where we stood in front of the psychology section for a couple of hours pouring over the books on the shelves to try to find some that could help us. My mom went online and was able to find Julie Fast's Health Cards System which she immediately ordered for me. Me, well, I was just trying to keep my head above water.

Once I received the formal diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, it was a bit of a relief to know that we had a starting point to help me begin on the road to complete recovery. That was in the Spring of 2006, and after spending the majority of that year clinically depressed, it wasn't until the beginning of March 2007 that I began to feel like my old self again. I had learned about the extreme highs I had felt, learned why I needed an anti-psychotic medication, and had also learned what it felt like to be at the lowest low on the depression spectrum and how once I found the right medication for me - the mood stabilizer Lithium - I could be completely balanced and could stay that way as long as I managed my moods closely with my psychiatrist.

When my mom brought up the point about playdates, it really made me think. And as usual for me, I can see both sides to the argument.

If I were a mom to two small children and had never been exposed to mental illness or bipolar disorder, and only knew what I heard of it on the news or in magazine stories, than yeah, I'd probably not want my kids playing with other kids whose mother had Bipolar. If I were that uninformed about the condition, I would probably think that she was a bad mother. And as my kids grew up, they would probably begin to believe the same thing, causing my kids pain by teasing them behind their backs.

These thoughts break my heart.

On the other side, there is a huge part of me that feels that if someone is so ignorant about bipolar disorder that they wouldn't be friends with someone who had the condition, then I wouldn't want to associate with them anyway.

But that is just me thinking about my viewpoint on the issue. I have to think about the future here and my kids might feel differently. I hope they don't, but I don't want to jeopardize their childhood development based on my desire to reveal my true identity and the condition I live with each and every day of my life. It's not fair to them to make this decision while they are so young. So I won't.

At this point, I have chosen to move forward with the blog anonymously. I just feel like it is the right thing to do for my family - not just my kids, but for my husband too.

National Pregnancy Registry

My daughter turned 8 months old yesterday. About two weeks ago she started crawling and just yesterday she started babbling non-stop. I am continuously amazed at how quickly she is growing and changing. And I am intensely grateful that she is a happy, healthy baby. I was hospitalized for bipolar mania when I was just five weeks pregnant. My husband and I had been trying to conceive our second child for seven months and it had finally happened, only to cause me such excitement that I couldn't sleep which lead to my mind racing beyond belief forcing him to sign me into a psych ward for four days. I had been working closely with my psychiatrist to come off the Lithium for the first trimester once I found out I was pregnant and then once the mania took over from the excitement of finally becoming pregnant, I continued to refuse medication because I thought I was doing what was best for the baby growing inside me.

Looking back now I know how very wrong I was.

The main risk that the baby faced if I stayed on Lithium was Ebstein's anomaly, a heart defect. The general population has about a 3% chance of this particular congenital heart condition, and the risk increases to around 6% for a person taking Lithium during pregnancy.

In my case the benefit of staying on medication greatly outweighed the risks of me becoming manic and needing hospitaliztion, and I definitely knew this having done a ton of research beginning back before I became pregnant with my son. But with his pregnancy I was able to somehow stay medication-free throughout those nine months and one month after his birth. And I think I was feeling some mommy-guilt in wanting to give this second baby the same drug-free environment in which to grow and thrive. It only seemed fair.

After spending four nights and five days in a psychiatric facility near our house, I was finally released to the care of my regular psychiatrist after being stabilized on Haldol via injections because I was very resistant to oral medications at the beginning of my hospital stay. They also used Zyprexa since historically I responded so well to it. Of course I was scared to death about how these medications were affecting the baby's development, especially because there is so little research out there on the use of a-typical antipsychotics during pregnancy.

This is what lead me to find the National Pregnancy Registry via an online search. They are collecting information from women who have taken certain antipsychotics during pregnancy and after childbirth to hopefully shed more light on the safety of these medications during pregnancy. They also need women who are currently pregnant and NOT taking these medications, to serve as the control. If you know someone who is willing to participate in this on-going study, please direct them to the site to sign up to join.

It is easy to participate - just a series of brief phone interviews and some completed paperwork releasing medical records is all it takes. They do a baseline interview during the beginning of the pregnancy, a 7-month interview, and a postpartum interview. Simple. Once you finish it will give you a good feeling knowing that you are doing something to help improve the quality of healthcare for pregnant women in the future.