How I Wish My Doctor Would Have Explained My Bipolar Diagnosis

How I Wish My Doctor Would Have Handled My Bipolar Diagnosis Looking back on my bipolar diagnosis nearly eleven years ago, there are many ways my doctor(s) could have handled explaining the news to me. Only now am I able to clearly see the advice and encouragement which would have made my recovery journey a little easier.

A diagnosis of mental illness is not a life sentence.

When I first heard the words "Generalized Anxiety Disorder" and "Bipolar Disorder" I was devastated. The doctor may have well handed me a slip of paper that said: BROKEN BRAIN and MENTAL PATIENT, because that's how those labels made me feel. Instead, I was given a diagnosis and left to figure out what that meant. I wish my doctor would have taken the time to assure me that yes, I may have bipolar for the rest of my life, but that it was treatable and manageable and that I'd be able to have a full and rewarding life despite my diagnosis.

Keeping a journal or mood chart would help me reach a recovery path sooner.

I wasn't introduced to the concept of the mood chart until several months into my diagnosis. My dad was the one who from the beginning encouraged me to keep a small journal where I could jot down the date, the meds I took (and dosages), how I felt that day, and any side effects I experienced from the meds. It was a simple activity that helped me to get a handle on my illness and I encourage everyone to utilize it no matter what type of diagnosis you encounter. Looking back at my old journals sometimes makes me sad because I remember how sick I was back then, but I also realize how far I've come.

You may have bipolar disorder, but that doesn't mean you can't have children.

One of the things that most devastated me when my mental illness first emerged was an intense fear of not being able to fulfill my dream of one day becoming a mother. I don't remember many of the doctors I saw during the first year following my diagnosis ever broaching the topic of motherhood, except for one. The consultation with the doctor who listened to my concerns over not being able to have children provided me hope for the future. He assured me that wasn't the case, and that by working closely with my doctors and putting a support system in place, a family was indeed something I could have. Within eighteen months after that consultation I was pregnant with my first child.

Learning to protect your sleep will be your greatest advantage next to your medicine, for managing your condition.

I am a night owl. I've tried to flip my preferences, by forcing myself to go to bed earlier in order to wake up before the sun. But I just love the way the house gets quiet after the little ones have been tucked in. There are plenty of nights when I have the motivation to keep burning the midnight oil, but experience has taught me that I will only pay for the lack of sleep in the days that follow in the form of erratic moods. Maintaining a regular sleep/wake pattern has been crucial to my long-term recovery and I wish I would have known this earlier.

The sooner you begin talking openly about your struggle, the sooner your true healing will begin.

I hid my struggle for many years because I felt so isolated and embarrassed. I was convinced that none of my friends or extended family members would understand. I thought everyone would think I was "crazy" for having suffered the number of manic episodes I had endured. The feelings of shame were so intense that I began searching for stories of other people who had made it out of the darkness. I told my psychiatrist that I wanted to start blogging about my experience and then write a book, and she immediately discouraged me from disclosing. I'm glad I didn't listen to her advice. The point at which I made the decision to write openly about my mental illness was the beginning of a better life. One in which I didn't need to feel ashamed about a condition that affected my brain.

 

What do you wish your doctors would have told you when you were first diagnosed?

 

Keep Climbing

Keep-Climbing

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed. My little man and I both had the flu last weekend, and I spent two straight days in bed, fighting off the virus that had crept into my bones. I got down on myself because the two goals I had set for myself in January - exercise every day and write 500 words a day - both went untouched for a full forty-eight hours.

Even when I started feeling better, I felt paralyzed by the growing pile of tasks I needed to accomplish this week. Which led to stalling. And self-pity. And more procrastinating.

I am just stuck, I thought. I know there’s a way to get back on track. But how?

Not knowing whether or not it would work, but thinking it was at least worth a shot, I gave myself the day off. After dropping off my son at preschool for the afternoon, V and I had an impromptu Mommy/Daughter day.

Our first stop was the mall, where we returned a Christmas gift I had given my husband at The Gap. She had a ball hiding in the racks causing her mama anxiety, quickly indicating how much of a challenge shopping with little Miss Independent was going to be. So I decided to head back towards home to pick a different activity. But not before snapping a photo of my big girl and her new friend.

new-friend{Because this isn't the least bit creepy. That's her avocado from lunch on her sleeve.}

Every Mommy/Daughter day needs a special treat. We stopped in at Starbucks for a little coffee time. Caffeine and sugar are always good for igniting my writer’s voice. My mini-me picked a chocolate cake pop which pleased me since I know I can usually count on her to share at least one tiny bite. Her brother? Never.

From there we headed to the playground. As we drove in to the parking lot, I was relieved to find it empty, not wanting to have to make small talk with other moms I didn’t know. I just wanted to soak up the precious minutes alone with my little girl. Greedy for our one-on-one time, new territory as of recently. I've stopped fighting her on afternoon naps, reminding myself that her brother gave his up around this age.

She wanted to do everything. I watched, mostly, cheering her on from the sidelines while sipping my latte, admiring my baby’s fierce determination and squeals of joy in the little pleasures like riding the springy elephant to being pushed on the swing, her fine blonde wisps blowing in the chilly breeze.

My playground bunny asked for help scaling the rock wall. Putting my coffee down on the bench, but not wanting to give her more assistance than she actually needed, I placed a hand on her lower back so she could feel my presence. And instead of physically helping her with the climb, I used words to motivate her.

“Find your footing,” I said, as her toes tapped the ledges to find her next step forward.

“I can’t!!” she cried, ready to give up before she had even climbed a foot.

“Don’t say ‘I can’t!’” I chided gently. “You can do it. I know you can.” I reassured her. She wanted to keep going. It’s not like my little girl to give up on something that easily. I knew she was just testing me, making sure I was there to support her.

The climb was slow. She’d ascend a step, but would suddenly seem to get stuck, not knowing her next move.

Stuck. Like me.

“Keep looking ahead, Sweetie.” I reminded her. Her tiny fingers reached up to the grip above her head, legs stretched straight until she found her next step.

That’s it. That’s all my daughter needed and a few more reaches and steps and she was at the top of the mountain doing a happy little dance. Proud mama below, cheering.

We wrapped up our afternoon outing with a trip to the library before collecting her brother at preschool carline where she promptly fell asleep. In that moment I sat in the car waiting for my little boy to emerge from school, full of gratitude for a day spent hand-in-hand with my second child who reminded me how to get unstuck.

Find your footing. Don’t say ‘I can’t.’ Keep looking ahead.

My mantras for the rest of this year. Thanks for the tips, baby girl. Let's keep on climbing.

 

Starting Over

Starting-OverThe show will go on in DC this coming May, 2014. I'm simply taking some time to figure out where to go from here, as my partnership unfortunately did not work out due to our vastly different work styles. I have an incredible team surrounding me here in Virginia and I know that with all the hard work and passion that is going into this project, it most certainly will be a success. I may have failed at a partnership, but I will not fail at executing my vision for this show.

I envision this show to become a community of people coming together to embrace mental illness so as not to let it define them, but to propel a movement forward. A movement built on the belief that those of us living with mental illnesses are real people who simply need help. By coming together as a supportive society which fights for mental health services and programs, we will

change and save lives.

Please follow along here, and/or via Instagram and Twitter for updates as they become available. For now, if you're local to the DC metro area, or you're interested in coming in from out of town to see the show, mark your calendar for the weekend of May 17 & 18, 2014.

Thank you for all your support and I hope to see you at the show!

An Open Letter to My Former Psychiatrist: On Being Right

8122306436_73cee6df2bMukumbura via Compfight cc

Dear Dr. H***,

You were right. Seven years ago this August, I left your office with my husband, round belly bulging with my nearly full-term first child, cursing your name. It was our first appointment together and you basically told me I was going to fail. When I explained to you that I had been off meds and symptom-free from my bipolar disorder for almost a year and that I wanted to stay off medication to breastfeed, you nodded with a sympathetic smile on your face, scribbled in your notebook and simply said we needed to have a plan.

A plan for which hospital I’d go to when I became manic to the point of needing that level of care. That level of care that you were so sure I’d need.

You were right.

At that stage of my fight, Dr. H***, I was still in denial about the fact that I had been diagnosed with a mental illness. I thought maybe, just maybe, since I had nearly a full year of stability without meds, the past had been a misdiagnosis. Perhaps those eight psychiatrists I had seen over the years since my two hospitalizations for mania were all wrong. I mean, I hadn’t experienced any significant episodes of depression or mania since 2006 and most importantly, I felt solid and stable. Didn’t that count for anything?

Didn’t that make me normal again?

I was so excited to be a mom and every spare moment I had was spent preparing for this new little life who would soon enter the world. His crib was set up, clothes had been washed and lovingly put away, and diapers and wipes sat waiting on the changing table in his nursery. One of the last things on my list was meeting with you, a psychiatrist who agreed to treat me without medication for the remainder of my pregnancy and beyond, according to my wishes.

Man, am I glad we met when we did. Because you were so right. And when the time came, four weeks after his birth, when the compounded lack of sleep and absence of meds in my bloodstream caught up to me in the form of full-blown postpartum psychosis, my husband had someone to call for help.

He called you.

How terrifying it must have been for him to see me unravel the way I did. How helpless he must have felt watching me slowly lose touch with reality, my eyes glazing over, unable to focus on the simplest task of taking a shower or eating a bowl of cereal. And when the psychosis reached its peak, he saw me scrambling to pull together every journal I had ever written in, piling them up before the blazing gas fireplace in our family room like an offering before I died. My legacy, scrawled in ink for my son to read someday since in my mind, I wasn’t going to make it back to the surface. I was hurling to the depths of hell which to me felt like being dragged to the floor of the ocean, my ankles cuffed with a ball and chain pulling me to the bottom. I was sinking faster than I could breathe. And I was so scared it was my day to die and I’d never see my baby again.

Mania to the point of psychosis can do this to a person.

I was taken under a Temporary Detention Order to the Emergency Room where I was held handcuffed to the bed. The doctors and nurses eventually determined I was a threat to myself or others and the green light was given to find me a bed. I was lucky, beds aren’t always available, as the Deeds’ family tragedy recently and unfortunately proved. I only had to wait overnight and the next morning I was transferred to our local hospital’s geriatric psych ward, the only open bed in the surrounding area.

I made it through. It wasn’t easy, in fact, it was pretty awful being in a psych ward for a week of my new baby’s life. My mental illness had landed a forceful blow to the gut, showing me it was in control of my body. Still, wandering the halls at night I’d stumble, groggy from the antipsychotics, to the nurses station to ask for another dose of whatever sleeping pill they could give me. I knew sleep was my friend in there. After a week, I got well with your help, and with support from my husband and family.

I focused on getting stable. I followed my treatment plan and took my meds religiously. Then it happened again. I thought I knew what was best for my next baby. I didn’t. Acute mania reared its ugly head to the point of psychosis, repeating the nightmare a year and a half later when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter because I had stopped my medication.

You were right again. At five weeks pregnant I landed in the psych ward again.

Those days are tough for me to look back on, the times I was in the hospital and the weeks and months of recovery afterwards. But I wouldn’t trade them for anything because they are a part of who I am now and they tell the story of how I’ve evolved. Those slices of my life do not define me, but when added into everything else that makes me the person I am today, I am grateful for those agonizing, terrifying, heart-wrenching experiences.

You are the expert when it comes to psychiatry, Dr. H***. Me, I’m just the patient. But when it comes to making life decisions, I asked for your opinion but of course only I could make that call. You expressed the same sadness that so many in this world share over the injustice mentally ill people experience when they expose their conditions. I was looking for justification that it would be okay if I wrote openly about what I had been through, but I didn’t get that from you. In fact, you recommended that I keep my illness hidden, lest I be discriminated upon because of it. Once more, it was as if I were hearing “destined to fail” all over again.

Good thing I didn’t listen that time.

I’m writing now, Dr. H***. Remember when I told you I wanted to write a book? Well, I still do, but first I’ve started self-publishing online, to gain experience. I have a blog, and over the past two years my readership has grown tremendously, all organically, due to my dedication to sharing my story in order to help others.

I’ve met so many incredible people through blogging and social media. It blows my mind how I can write about the struggles I’ve gone through and in return, I get emails from people saying, “Me too!” and “Thank you so much for being so brave.” My heart is blissfully content because I know I’ve uncovered my purpose in life and my words are having an impact on people, a positive impact. I can feel it. And every time I put my thoughts out there for the world to read, my voice grows a little stronger.

I’ve created a show and non-profit organization called This Is My Brave where others like me who live with mental illness can stand up on stage and share our personal stories, our suffering and our breakthroughs, the hope we’ve found in long-term recovery. This is our chance to show the world our vulnerability in an effort to raise awareness and acceptance.

For years after I was handed my diagnosis I feared the backlash of people who knew me finding out about my mental illness. Conversations were uncomfortable, I cared too much about what other people thought of me. It didn’t take me very long to realize that living in fear is not really living. Taking off my armor and choosing to expose myself and my story was one of the best decisions I ever made about my mental health and my life in general.

Revealing my vulnerability freed me to follow my dreams.

And I have you to thank. Thank you for being right. Thank you for letting me fall. Thank you for being there when I needed you. Finally, thank you for doubting me and advising me to stay silent. Because I needed my chance to prove someone wrong and you were that person for me.

Respectfully yours,

Jennifer Marshall (your patient from 2008-2011)

 Experience_BML

Insta-Friday

I am officially addicted to reading blogs. I could spend hours online pouring over blog after blog, laughing/crying/screaming YES!, etc. along with the woman who wrote it, and commenting to add my thoughts/feelings and a link to my own blog in case they are interested in my story. There are so many incredible stories out there. And so many amazing women behind those stories. Pouring their hearts out to those willing to listen. My friend Kim who blogs at MakeMommyGoSomethingSomething, is one of those women. She was recently nominated for for BlogHer voice of the year in the “heart” category. . . Go check it out. I have a feeling once you read her post, you'll immediately want to vote for her. She's such a talented writer.

A new blog I recently started reading is Life Rearranged written by Jeannette, a mama of a little boy and twin girls. She does a weekly link-up series called Insta-Friday and since I have been taking a bunch of Instagram pics lately, I figured what better time than now to join in the fun?

{from top left: Hubby and little man built a block garage for his Mater truck, Easter sugar cookies baked & decorated, baby Girl's Easter dress courtesy of Grandma, little man's Easter suit, Easter eggs filled & ready to drop off at church for the egg hunt, cooking up some din-din, first time baby girl sported piggies!, Rice Krispies as an afternoon snack, little man setting up a tea party}

life rearranged

A risk worth taking; a list worth making

Back when I was first diagnosed my dad had what turned out to be a genius idea: to journal about my illness. Every day he wanted me to write down four things: the date, how I was feeling, what meds I took that day, and any side effects I was experiencing. He was determined to figure out what the heck was happening to his little girl, and this little idea was one of the only things he could get me to do which in the end would help in more ways than we knew when I started. After my most recent hospitalization (which was right after we found out I was pregnant with our second child) I had a very hard time bouncing back. It is true that I respond very well to Lithium, but at the time I was adamant about not going back onto Lithium until I was past the first trimester because of the risk of Ebstein's anomaly. In reality, my risk was only about 6% if I had used the Lithium during the first trimester, but I refused. And I am very stubborn. And determined. And I got my way.

But looking back I wish I would have just used the medication which I so desperately need flowing through my bloodstream each and every day. Lithium to me is like insulin is to a diabetic. I know this now.

So instead of using Lithium during the first trimester, my psychiatrist agreed to use Haldol to treat my mania. It is the drug that they inject into my backside when I am hospitalized because I reject all oral medications when I am manic. Lucky me. They would have to use three people to hold me down while the fourth administered the drug. It would start working within fifteen minutes - by that point I'd have been walked back to my room and tucked into bed to sleep and let it work its magic. Once I was discharged from the hospital, I had my oral prescription for Haldol filled and continued on it for a few weeks.

Those weeks were such a huge struggle for me. Mentally I felt as though I could not put my thoughts together in sentences. Simply speaking a basic sentence was so incredibly difficult. I barely went out in public for three weeks because I was so afraid of not being able to hold a basic conversation.

I also had a very hard time writing. I found it hard to journal then, mainly because it was so hard to think let alone use a pen to write down those thoughts on paper. My family blog which was normally filled with descriptive paragraphs of what I had been doing with our son each day, were now filled with just little video clips and some pictures here and there. I felt paralyzed to an extent. It was almost as if I could feel the neurons straining so fiercely to fire off some kind of signal. But the neurons were back-firing. Badly.

The chemicals in my brain were so completely off and I wanted more than anything else to just turn them back on.

My dad had another brilliant idea during this difficult time. He told me one morning when we were talking, to make a list of 10 things I wanted to accomplish that day. They could be as simple as unload the dishwasher, make the bed, fold the laundry, or bake cookies with my little man. This way, I could look back on my day and see all the things I was able to get done. This simple method of goal-setting worked like a charm for me.

I still use this tactic to this day. I love to sit down in the morning and jot down the things that I want to accomplish that day. The weeks that I do it, I feel like I get so much more done around the house. For my family and myself. It's such a great thing to build into your daily routine.

Around week 10 of my pregnancy, fed up from the daily struggle with my malfunctioning brain, I decided to do something about it. I distinctly remember the day I called my high-risk OB-GYN to ask him if I could just go back on the Lithium right then, instead of waiting until the end of week 13. I was pretty much in tears on the phone and he said that I needed to do what was right for me. And that it seemed like I needed it. It being the Lithium. I said yes, and felt an enormous weight lifted off my shoulders when I hung up the phone.

After about a week back on Lithium I began feeling like myself again.

It was a well-calculated risk and one that I was glad that I took. Having to choose between taking a medication while pregnant or struggling with a mental illness that causes you physical stress and trauma is one that I wish no woman would have to make. But sometimes we have to make hard decisions. I was very scared and felt an enormous amount of guilt for having to subject my unborn child to a potentially harmful substance while she was growing inside of me, but if I had to do it over I would do exactly the same thing.

I'm forever grateful that she was born healthy and today is a thriving toddler who pushes the limits every single day. And I'm thankful that I have such a supportive husband and parents who were right there with me every step of the way encouraging me to make the best decision for me at that moment.

Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Back in 1990, Congress established the first week of October as such, given NAMI's efforts at raising awareness for mental health issues. I didn't even know until tonight when I was googling mental health ideas in order to come up with something to write about tonight in this post. I guess that speaks a bit to how "aware" the public is about mental health in our society. I read an article recently in the Washington Post about how the mental health of many Americans has been dwindling due to job loss which leads to extended unemployment and feelings of despair and helplessness. I have definitely been there myself in the past. As I read the article, I found myself checking things off that I agreed with - there were so many. How when you first are laid off, you are so sad. Then you feel a sense of excitement as you eagerly start your job search. Then as the weeks and months go on, you start to feel depleted and discouraged. I can totally see how it could lead to severe depression. The article went on to talk about how, even when these people realize that they are in need of mental health services, they no longer have health insurance so they are not able to get the help they desperately need.

I hope that our government can get it together and provide these services to our citizens in need while they are in the midst of trying to find employment during this challenging economic time. I pray that these individuals have a strong support network through family and friends, to help them through this difficult time. And I hope that the holiday season and the new year brings new jobs to those in need.

Edited to add: My husband just asked me to look at the Facebook page of a friend of his (an acquaintance) from high school. She had apparently posted some weird status updates lately and he thought it looked like she might need help. He and I have been so immersed in my mental health issues for the past six years that when something like this comes up, it throws up red flags to both of us immediately. I was almost in tears reading her words. It seems to me she is suffering and is trying desperately to reach out for help from anyone. I begged him to call a few of his friends to see if anyone knew someone who could help her. He's still working on it. I hope that somehow he'll be able to reach someone who knows her and can step in before something tragic happens. Life is worth living and I pray that she'll be able to see that.

He was able to reach one person who knows her, and that person is having lunch with another person who knows her. He asked her to call that person to explain what we've read on Facebook to see if they can help. He's also going to send her a message to ask if there is anything he can do to help. It's the least we can do.

Does my parenting style affect my child's mental health?

I recently read a short article online about how a parent's style of child rearing could affect the mental health of their child. Just the title of the article itself caught my immediate attention and I quickly skimmed over it. The point of the article was that researchers say by matching your parenting style to your child's personality, you can greatly reduce the child's risk of anxiety and depression. I got something else out of it all together. The first thing I thought of was how I tend to erupt sometimes when I get upset about something and the kids witness my anger. I always wish I could erase those moments. Always. I never want them to have to see me mad. I just have a terrible method of coping with my emotions. I have an especially difficult time managing my aggression if I am running on less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep. Something I need to work on. I am working on it.

I never ever take my anger or frustrations out on the kids in any physical way. It's just the tone of voice I use that I am sure is scary to them. For example, a few days ago my son and I were in the bathroom like we are every morning right after he wakes up. I leaned over to help him take his diaper off to use the potty (we're taking baby steps towards potty-training), and my cell phone slipped out of my sweatshirt pocket onto the floor into what appeared to be a puddle of water. I immediately blurted out some choice words in an angry tone, was about to grab a towel to wipe up what I thought was a pool of leftover bath water from last night's bath, when I come to find out that my phone had landed not in water, but a big puddle of liquid baby soap. Keyboard side down. UGH. More angry outbursts. Then I stopped myself.

I recognized that my tone was not appropriate for my son's ears. I realized that I didn't want him to see me mad like that. I explained to him what happened and why I had become upset. Then I tried to salvage my phone before we picked up his sister from her crib and went downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast.

So while I'm glad the title of this article made me think about how I need to control any angry outburst that might come over me in daily life, I think the information the study was able to reveal was even more enlightening. My 3-year old is so happy, inquisitive, energetic, and smart that I'm going to work on allowing those qualities to show through my parenting in order to hopefully give him a stable mental health starting point. There are so many smiles, giggles, hugs, kisses, songs and dances that I love to share with my kids. I'm going to continue to focus on staying positive, supportive, and loving in order to nurture my growing kiddos.

Our liquid baby soap has since been transferred into a pump dispenser so as to avoid another near cell phone drowning.

Getting back on track

I'm feeling extremely guilty for not having blogged in three weeks. When I initially started this blog, it was my goal to write a post a day and that has definitely not happened. Life happens, and unfortunately for me, sometimes gets in the way of my goals and ambitions. After I started the blog, I had a long weekend with my high school girlfriends, a trip with my kids to visit my parents while the hubby was on a business trip, then came home and got packed up for my trip to California with my husband for a cousin's wedding. Then our little man turned 3 and we threw him a birthday party with friends and family. So yeah, we had a lot of stuff going on that made it difficult to keep up with my lofty goal for this blog. But hey, I'm back at it now, so I have to at least give myself credit for getting back on track.

I've noticed recently that I am the type of person who gets started on an involved, long-term project, gets really excited about it and dives in with exuberance, only to find that my dedication dies down slowly over time until I'm no longer working on the project at all and have instead moved on to the next big idea. Kind of frustrating to say the least. I feel like I have lots of big ideas in my head which I've only just begun to scratch the surface of their potential. Part of the problem stems from my bipolar disorder, and the fact that when I become hypomanic I tend to feel like I can conquer the world so that is usually when I start something new and as the hypomania dies down, my interest in the project tends to decline as my mood winds down. But another big piece of it is the kids and the time and energy that they both require on a daily basis.

Don't get me wrong - I absolutely love spending time with them and doing things like reading to them or taking them on walks to the playground. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't sometimes wish for just four straight hours to dedicate to a project or a hobby like writing or sewing. Luckily for me, my wonderful husband sometimes will take the kids on a Saturday morning to give me some "Mommy free time" which is awesome. We'll tend to do that for each other - since it's football season he enjoys having time on Sundays to watch the games, so when he takes the kiddos on Saturday, I'll get them out of his hair on Sundays. It's our way of pampering each other I guess.

I definitely want to get back on track - with my writing and with my exercise regimen too. My 5k is coming up in less than two weeks (13 days to be exact!) so I'm aiming to get as many workouts under my belt as I can before the race. And if I'm not able to keep up with a post a day, I'll at least try for 3-4 a week. So my attempt to solve my "dwindling dedication to long-term project" syndrome is to modify my goals. Good place to start I guess.

Do you ever feel like your bipolar disorder causes you to lose focus? If so, how to you cope?

Can friends double as therapists?

I find myself wondering why my condition is so difficult for people to talk about. I am someone who wears my emotions on my sleeve, and when I feel a need to talk about what I'm thinking or what I've gone through in the past regarding my bipolar diagnosis, it's sad to me that I usually feel completely alone. My husband is of course always here and will listen whenever I need a shoulder to cry on. And I do feel as though my support system is strong. But sometimes I wish that more of my girlfriends would show an interest in what I have been living with these past six years. It almost feels like a dirty little secret. Except it's not dirty, and it's not even much of a secret anymore. I guess that people are just uncomfortable discussing mental illness. And that makes me sad. What got me started thinking about it was my drive home this weekend. My high school girlfriends and I had planned a girls' weekend to catch up and unwind without the stress of having to chase around toddlers, change diapers, and do naps, baths and bedtimes. (Our husbands graciously all agreed to our request for some R&R and amazingly we were able to find a weekend that worked for everyone.) Except the weather decided not to cooperate and instead of the beach for four days of sun, sand and cocktails, we were forced to choose a different location. One of the girls had just sold her house, and she was in the process of moving out so we gathered some air mattresses and crashed there for three days while Hurricane Irene wrecked havoc all up and down the East Coast. Luckily for us it was not much more than a bad thunderstorm with heavy winds by the time it got to our area.

I guess a part of me was hoping that at some point over the weekend I'd get a chance to talk with everyone about my hospitalizations, my recoveries, and my hope that I can somehow change the public's perception of bipolar disorder and postpartum psychosis by telling my story and the lessons I've learned. But our conversations seemed to revolve more around our kids, work, and family life in general. Don't get me wrong, I had so much fun getting to catch up and spend time with some of my friends who I have known for the longest time. The memories we made this weekend were priceless. I should probably get back to seeing my therapist regularly again instead of trying to turn one of my friends into my own personal Carl Jung. It's on my to-do list for tomorrow morning.