I am pretty much a rapid cycling bi-polar.  Seasons changing tend to set off shifts, but not necessarily.  In most cases, I am manic far more in the summer than the winter, and severely depressed far more in the winter than the summer.  In a lot of cases, I have 3 to 5 days of mania, followed by a lull of indifference for a day or two, and then 3 to 5 days of hellish depression. 

          In the depression phase, I am a pretty textbook example of a person with depression.  Of the following, I exhibit those in red.

  • Depressed mood and low self-esteem
  • Low energy levels and apathy
  • Sadness, loneliness, helplessness, guilt
  • Slow speech, fatigue, and poor coordination
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Poor concentration
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities

              My manic phase is a bit rougher in some ways.  While it is a welcome break from unexplained tears and thoughts of self-harm, it usually comes with impulsive behavior that is incredibly hard to resist.  I wake up with a notion in my head and it’s almost hurtful if I don’t give in.  Of the most common manic symptoms, I demonstrate the ones in blue.

  • Euphoria or irritability
  • excessive talk; racing thoughts
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Unusual energy; less need for sleep
  • Impulsiveness, a reckless pursuit of gratification — shopping sprees, impetuous travel, more and sometimes promiscuous sex, high-risk business investments, fast driving
  • Hallucinations and or delusions

             I think chemically, I am in a manic phase right now, but by the end of the day, I feel so defeated, I just want to give up.  It’s not enough that I am working hard to create a supplemental income for my family, while creating a healthy outlet for me, all while doing something that will (ideally) make the lives of other people better.  I want it now.  I want my certification now.  I want mastery of all the best techniques and to have the answers to all the questions without having to double-check some materials.  I want a good reputation in my field… now.  I have all this extra energy that I am pouring into activities with my family and into my work – studying and learning more and more about birth and ways to be a better doula – but it seems to get me nowhere.  You can’t predict birth, which is what makes it so frustrating and so exhilarating at the same time.  So I can work all I want, but until my clients are ready, I can only go so far.

  •           I want a house with a yard.  I want a dog to put in the yard.  I want to adopt a female infant.  I want to pay off our credit cards, or get their balances to points where they could be paid off in 6 months.  I want to be the perfect mom.  I want to be the perfect wife.  I want to be the friend no one can let go of.  I want to take care of everyone and never need anyone to stop to take care of me.  I want to stop worrying about my health, and know I will never need another ultrasound for anything.  I want to know what choice is the right choice without question.  I want to have the financial resources to be able to go out and buy clothes for the boys without taking it from a separate account, or putting it on a credit card.  I want to have the financial resources to make adoption possible whenever we’re ready.  Above all, I want a happy family.  They, my family, are the focus of my manic phases.

              I want to know that I am okay.  I want to know my children will be okay and that I am raising them right.  Mega is, most of the time, very polite and is a sweet boy.  He likes "Where the Wild Things Are," and "Monsters, Inc." on the rare occasion he is allowed to watch television.  He plays with his brother and gives him hugs and kisses, and then pushes him over, just like a normal older brother.  He resists naps, but needs the down time, and on some level, we’re pretty sure even he knows this.  Skeeter is my little shadow and loves to go wherever Mommy goes and do whatever Mommy does.  Most days, he has eyes only for me, but will settle for sharing a bath with his brother with Daddy’s help, and doesn’t mind when Daddy puts him to bed.  He mimics me all the time, and could pretty much care less about what everyone else wants him to do.  He snuggles all the time and could spend all day in my lap, even if it’s 100 degrees.  So do I think my children love me?  Sure.  But I just wish I knew that in a few years, they won’t resent me for my mood swings and my intensity

          

              I hope that they see that every thing I do, I weigh against their well-being.  When every fiber of my being is screaming to "just go pick up a few things we need," that we don’t really need and that would cost us at least a couple hundred dollars, I resist because I know what I am taking away from them if I leave the house.  When I don’t feel like cooking and want to sit down at TGI Friday’s and make someone else do the work, I know how much nutrition they are losing out on, and how much money it’s going to cost us.  I resist because their needs are more important than any urge I have – other than the urge to love, nurture, and protect them.  Even working toward my doula certification was done with them in mind – I knew I wasn’t ready to go to work, nor did I feel they would benefit from full-time daycare.  I knew I needed something that fulfilled some of my non-maternal needs and that doing so would make me a better person overall, as well as easier to be around.  I did not take a client until I felt they had a caregiver that was satisfactory for all of us.  Mega loved the sitter, and I think with time, Skeeter will enjoy his break from me, too.  Every thing I do, I do for them.  Every thing I don’t do, I don’t do for them.

             Bottom Line: I am having a rough time.  I am working hard, but I want instant gratification and we all know that most things that require hard work are not instantly satisfying.  I am working on a new approach to manage my moods, but it will take time.  I have a lot going on right now, and I know it will settle down in a bit.  I know (I hope) that I am moving in the right direction.  I know that I will get through this phase…  And the next…  But damned if it isn’t exhausting sometimes.

              There are many things out there that hit harder than bi-polar disorders.  It doesn’t take away my ability to be a good mother, or run my house, or even perform any other task.  I am still a whole person.  I am not helpless or insane or even dependent on anyone to help me make it from one day to the next.  There are more people with bi-polar disorders and tendencies than you probably imagine.  We’re not scary or wild, irrational, or dysfunctional.  We need love, support, and acceptance just as much as anyone else.  We’re just a little chemically different from you, and as long as we’re managing, it’s okay.  Bi-polar shouldn’t be an evil stigma and if more people talked about it and knew what it truly means to be bi-polar, it would be easier for people like me to feel safe and seek help, when needed, to keep themselves on a more even keel.  We’re just a little chemically different.  Love us the same.

                 

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