Tuesday, June 25, 2013

the bipolar mom....Perfectly Imperfect: Parenting with Mental Illness {Blog Carnival}

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This post was written as a contribution to the Perfectly Imperfect: Parenting with Mental Illness Blog Carnival.  The participating bloggers are sharing their experiences, thoughts, and opinions on how living with mental illness affects their daily lives and parenting practices.

my name is andie.  and i'm bipolar and chronically depressed, with borderline personality disorder added to the mix.  going past all those labels, i'm also a mom.

depending on how long you've read my blog,  you may or may not remember my disclosure regarding my battles with mental illness.  ironically enough, some of my first posts were about it.  i've tried to be up front to all of you and whoever else asks me about it.  last year, i shared my feelings on an article in Parents magazine written about a worst-case scenario of a bipolar parent.  in response to that article, I wrote a letter to the editor that was subsequently publicized.  and a few months ago, i wrote i'm not sorry i'm depressed, a post sharing my current situation of being the wife of a deployed soldier and how it affected me.
these are just some of the ways i've shared this aspect of my life.  here's another...

during my teen years and early adulthood, i was out of control.  binge drinking, substance abuse, giving myself away freely, and cutting.  i'd bounce back and forth from the depths of depression and suicidal thoughts to the heights of mania where i'd reorganize, start projects, and spend excessively.  i was a textbook case of bipolar disorder.  this was finally addressed when i was 22.  at that time i was also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which further explained my actions. 

after a year and a half, my medications were finally balanced and i was on an even keel.  but that's not where the happily ever after comes in. 

after that came the chore of rearranging my life, cutting out the things that triggered smaller episodes, and working to mend some relationships that i'd damaged.  i kept my diagnosis to myself for the most part as the few i'd shared it with responded in two ways: supportive or with an "oh, okay... {awkward silence}"  i quickly realized that i'd have to keep my "dirty little secret" to myself.

fast forward to my pregnancy with my son.  due to the fetal risks associated with my medications, i had to come off of them.  by the Grace of God, i was able to keep myself in control.  i had never been as happy as i was when i was pregnant.  i was so fearful of those dreaded three words: Post-Partum Depression.  luckily my doctor was supportive and understanding and got me back on what he could since i was going to be nursing.

it was 2.5 years before i was fully back on meds.  the time in between Bear's birth and that point was rough sometimes.  but i kept it together.  i had to...for my son.

when i see people from my teens and twenties, i can tell that they see me as my younger self... the hot mess that i was.  but how can i tell someone in passing the reason for my behaviors.  i can see how that would go. "hi! haven't seen you for years.  sorry i was such a b****y mess years ago.  it's because i'm bipolar."  yeah...

some of those who know about it seem to watch me closely when i interact with my son... as if they expect me just to wig out.  it's hard to beat the stigma.  so this is what i do... i write about it as i can.  share my story with the online world.  and talk about it with people i know as the opportunity arises.

i have faith that someday mental illness will not carry such a weight in people's perceptions.  the best way to do that is to break the silence that surrounds life with mental illness and all that it entails.

thank you for letting me share my story.

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Read other posts from the Perfectly Imperfect: Parenting with Mental Illness Blog Carnival:

Krissy, a work-at-home mama of 3, shares her experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and offers 8 Tips (compiled from other moms who manage depression) for Moms Who Are Feeling Depressed. Find more from Krissy on her blog, Facebook, and Pinterest. 

PlayDrMom, Laura Hutchison, PsyD, LP, RPT/S, shares her personal story about her lifetime struggle with depression spanning childhood through parenthood.  She hopes that with her post others may recognize similarities in their own lives (or the lives of their children) and not feel alone or helpless in their own struggles. She also writes a guest post on A Healthier Michigan about the importance of talking about mental illnesses in hopes to help end the stigma.  With openness of discussing the subject people will feel more comfortable with seeking help and continuing treatment.

Depression During and After Pregnancy: One Mum's Story
The mum of four beautiful children from What to Do With the Children, shares her experiences her heart-breaking struggles with antepartum and post-partum depression.  Find more from her on Facebook
Catherine writes on her sister's blog about parenting a toddler and baby as a mother with depression and PTSD, including steps she takes to cope. 

Erin from RoyalBaloo.com talks about mental illness, how it effects her as a parent, and what parenting with mental illness means to her.  She discusses some common myths regarding Bipolar and gives advice to what to say/not to say to a parent with mental illness.  Erin is a mother to 3 boys who blogs about parenting and their homeschooling journey.  Find more from her on her blog,  Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google +

If you would like to share this carnival, you can use the hashtag #EndStigma
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