Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Chronic illness, depression, mental health, motherhood

Bipolar and My Middle Name

Nicole means Victory for the People. I remember sitting on a green upholstered church pew when I was little and reading that on a bookmark that I owned. I’d twist the burgundy tassel top around my fingers and imagine myself helping people that needed help. I never realized that victory was meant for me, too.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Bipolar Disorder

To date I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder three times.

I have lived in denial for about two years and have avoided being medicated like the plague. I couldn’t reconcile that I was being diagnosed with the same illness that my father had, even though he had bipolar type 1 and I have been diagnosed with bipolar type 2. If you’re curious about the difference between the two types, I encourage you to read about it here.

Over time, the depressive episodes have gotten worse and lasted longer. The hypo-manic episodes have surfaced as severe anxiety and paranoia. Just this week, I hit rock bottom and realized that my misery outweighed my actual fear of going on medication. I saw the psychiatrist on Wednesday and began medication immediately.

I’ve lost too many precious days with my family to postpone treatment any longer.

I’m ready to redefine my normal and to discover facets of the “real” me again.

Victory Redefined

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

All those years ago when I was imagining myself being a helper, healer, and victor for those in need on a church pew in East Tennessee, I think I had it all wrong. I’m learning that victory isn’t always what we imagine.

Maybe I’m not running into a physical battle like I imagined as a kid. I’m not advocating for justice in a courtroom or championing for the rights of the oppressed.

I’m advocating for myself and because I’m doing that, I am fighting along some of the bravest people I’ll ever know. That’s you, by the way!

I believe victory isn’t about what you accomplish, but instead how you persist.

My middle name is Nicole.

I hope I can help you you acknowledge the victories you have every day.

Keep going. xx

Anxiety, Chronic illness, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, women's health

Mental Health and Motherhood

Dear Stranger,

Mama, I see you. I see beyond your pajama pants and messy bun in the school drop off line. Two panes of glass separate us–yours tinted darker than mine. There, in the shadow that the morning sun is casting on your face, I see the dark circles under your eyes and the taut thin line that your lips create just above your chin.

I look in the rear view mirror at my daughter.

She’s talking about how she doesn’t need her coat because the sun is out. It’s 34-degrees outside. I catch a glimpse of myself in that rear view mirror then I look back over at you. I see myself in you. We’re tired, aren’t we? Being a Mama is hard.

Nobody told me how hard it would be to navigate motherhood. No one took me by the hand and showed me that I can live with Major Depressive Disorder and still be a good mom.

Maybe you’re reading this as you’re rocking your newborn to sleep. Maybe this is reaching you as you’re sitting on your bathroom floor crying while your toddler throws a tantrum just outside the door.

I am writing this to you wherever you are, Mama.

I am writing this to me.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I know what it’s like to be full of enthusiasm and greet the day and your child with wide eyes and sweet kisses. The day ahead like a blank canvas–yours to fill with color and memories. Breathing in the scent of your kid as they lean in for a tired afternoon hug feels like magic.

Then there are the other days. Those days.

I know what it’s like to be full of dread and greet the day and your child with a hurried pace and tired eyes. The day ahead like a burden–yours to crawl through. Catching your breath at the end of the day as you lay your head on your pillow feels like magic. The regretful rush, lack of patience, and short temper sit heavily on your chest. Hot tears form in your eyes, but you never feel them fall because you’ve already fallen asleep.

Most Mamas can fully relate to both scenarios.

There’s the other days. The days when everything in the external world is just as it should be, but the storm rages inward. There’s a cloud so dark and heavy hanging above you and you can feel yourself fading–becoming it.

Then, there are the times adjusting to a new psychiatric medication. There’s the initial hope followed by the deep fatigue and other symptoms that creep in and take over for the weeks following. Finally, the medications sync with your system and you feel some sort of relief from depression’s weight and anxiety’s grip. You’re left wondering if the weeks of investment are going to pay off–the torture of adjusting to new chemicals swimming in your body.

The stigma associated with medication seems to find you on a cellular level and although you’re happy to feel more like yourself, you’re also struggling with feeling like a failure for having to need help.

All of this is so difficult. Yet, only the faithful few–sometimes the faithful one–check to see how you’re doing.

Motherhood is an all encompassing, invigorating, and absolute “play it by ear” song and dance. For those living with a mental illness it feels impossible to care for yourself–not to mention the tiny human that God has entrusted you with.

So, we prioritize those we love and let whatever treatments that may or can be wait on the horizon for another day.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Mama, this Little Hope Note isn’t a list of things you can or should do to make your mental illness more manageable. Thankfully and also ironically unfortunate, there are enough of those blogs awaiting you in your next Google search.

What can I give?

I just want to acknowledge you. I want you to know that you’re lovely and you are loved–as you are.

You aren’t broken.

There isn’t a day that I don’t think of you. In fact, acknowledging that you exist means that I’m not merely existing, but am part of a community–a tribe of Mamas suffering, but loving deeply despite it all.

You?

You’re a beautiful Mama.

The best that your child could ask for.

Be her.