Raising A Son With a Bipolar Mama

WP_20150629_008 I never thought I’d be able to have a child. I’ve spoken in the past a little bit about this. I’ve been thinking a lot more as he’s getting older about what I want to instill in him as he grows up. Things I want him to value, things I want him to understand, how to be come a man of character. He has a few different men in his life that are role models. His father is an amazing man and dad, but he grew up in a very stable household with very stable parents. He and I are very different people, so the way we raise my son will be different from the ways either of us were raised. I have bipolar disorder. That is a fact of life. It’s never going to go away. But there won’t be constant periods of terrible mania or depression.  Most of the time I’m just a normal Mama. My husband and I have set up our lives a little differently to make sure we have plans in place if I am having a difficult time. He goes to daycare 5 days a week. I don’t work, but we agreed that it would be easier for him to have a  consistent schedule, be around other kids since I can’t have any more, and most importantly if I’m really struggling that he will have a safe place to be.

As a parent, I want to give my son have the best possible life I can. That doesn’t mean just having perfect home cooked meals every night, making him try to have to be a baseball star, being a concert pianist… I want him to be well rounded in those areas, but I want him to be more than that. In my humble opinion, men of character are hard to find these days. The country is in turmoil and I don’t know if there are enough examples of how to be a gentleman, how to treat women, how to treat other people in general, how to talk about his feelings, how to be self sufficient, how to work hard, and be a gentleman. These are my priorities for him. This is the kind of man I want him to become. I’ve had a lot of negative experiences with men. I know there are a lot of good men out there, but have they grown up with a bipolar Mama? Have they been able to have all this instilled in them properly? I don’t know. What I do know is that I need a plan. A plan that my husband I agree on for my son to be the most awesome man ever!

With years of therapy under my belt, I would like to think I know my self pretty well. I have learned a lot about feelings, emotions, communication, and about relationships. I want to pass this along to my son. I want him to know that he can express himself in positive ways. Ways where he doesn’t feel ashamed or feels like he can’t talk to me. I always want there to be an open line of communication. I’ll work hard to always let him know he can be honest with me. I want him to be strong. I want him to learn to be independent, because there will be times where Mama won’t be well. Mama will be depressed or manic and I want to teach him to not be scared, but when he is older to be able to be able to do things on his own and take pride in doing so. I had parents that did a lot for us, but sometimes I think it was detrimental. I was handed everything. I did well in school and all, but I never had to work for anything. My husband on the other hand has worked nonstop since he was in 6th grade. I often tell him how inspiring that is and how his work ethic has opened numerous doors for him. I want my son to learn the value of a hard days work and feel the satisfaction of seeing the rewards that come from that. I’m not going to spoil him, instead I will love him and give him all my support. But he can’t have everything handed to him.

I spoke about becoming a man of character and about being a gentleman. His father is a kind loving man and I know my son will be too, but I want more than that for him. As a survivor of rape, I didn’t have anyone to stick up for me.  No one fought for me. Rarely in my life have I had a man be protective of me. My husband for instance is a good loving man, but he lacks that fiercely protective part. I want my son to be a man that will stand up for women. To never see a woman being bullied, treated poorly by other men, or being taken advantage of. In short, I want to teach him to be a gentle knight in shining armor. Some of you might this this archaic, but there needs to be more men out there fighting for justice and protecting people that need help. He will absolutely know how to treat woman and if I ever see or hear anything to the contrary, he’s going to have to face the wrath of a really pissed off Mama. I want him to be confident in who he is and loving of all people. I want him to grow up and be an amazing husband one day. I want him to have learned how to listen to his wife and family’s feelings, be compassionate, honest, and loving. And to protect his wife and family no matter what. I want to teach him all of this and hopefully that my illness will actually be beneficial in his up bringing. I hope he will be able to see the world differently than other people and inspire others by his actions and character.

Bipolar Community

Photo on 3-12-12 at 9.17 PMJust a quick little post this morning. The bipolar community and the mental health co not only fight stigma together, we stick together. We stand beside each other when people insult us, don’t understand us, and try to bring us down. I’ve had a few difficult instances of this lately and the support of the twitter bipolar community and understanding family and friends really helped soften the blow. Community you make me feel accepted. We are just a big family spread all over the word trying our best everyday and supporting each other. So thank you everyone for the constant support!

Confidence

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I’m 33 years old and I love who I am. I haven’t always been able to say that. I hated who I was for many years. Battled with self esteem issues of all kinds. A friend asked me the other day how I was so confident. I had a quick answer, but there is a lot deeper of one too.

Confidence comes in a few different forms. Confidence in how you look, confidence in your job, confidence as a friend of family member, etc. I’m not going to try to cover all there is involved to be a confident human being, but I want to cover the things that I have struggled with.

I’ve never been a size 2 super model. Hell, I haven’t been a size 12 since like 7th grade. I’ve always been a bigger girl. At 5’11, I towered over the boys more most of my formative years, well and frankly still do. I was awkward and didn’t like my body. Most teenagers go through this faze too, so I know I’m not alone. But in high school some how boys started noticing me and my confidence grew, but it wasn’t real. I didn’t feel it deep down. By being insecure deep down about how I looked, I got into some bad situations mixed with mania, it was a mess. As I grew up and had relationships and was around other men, I found my self believing that I was an attractive woman to other people. But it was all shallow. It wasn’t real. I never really believed it.

In 2011, I lost 70lbs and was feeling fantastic. I felt healthy and strong and could look in the mirror and be happy with what I saw. After that I unfortunately, had a pretty big abandonment issue, and I got super manic. Something kicked in and I felt like I was the most beautiful woman in the world. Now a lot of us feel super sexual during mania, but this was different. I honestly felt beautiful. And to prove that I was taking my power back. Men thought I was gorgeous and they lavished me with compliments, but that didn’t even matter. I felt it deep down inside. For once I felt like I loved my body no matter what size I am. To celebrate this feeling and well because I was manic, I did a pinup photo shoot to show that curves can be beautiful and to celebrate myself. The mania eventually died down, but my confidence about my body did not. I realized that it didn’t matter what size I was, that as long as I feel beautiful no one else’s opinions mattered. Today I’m a gorgeous size 22 and I rock it! I feel strong and confident and beautiful. I’m able to look at my curvy womanly body not perfect after babies and scars, but see myself as a beautiful strong woman. But I also have to feel beautiful on the inside to show it on the outside.

After battling for so long with finding who I feel that I am today, the other part is the confidence of who I am. I have fought so many years dealing with self hatred and doubt. Coming close to suicide and hating my self. This would be too long of a post it I told you all the details so I’m going to sum it up. I worked my ass off to accept who I am. I know I have my hard times. I know I’m not perfect. I know I screw up royally sometimes, but damn it I’m pretty awesome! I have realized over the years that I am a great friend, a loving person, a positive motivational person, funny, and caring. You should always be able to count on one hand 5 positive qualities about yourself no matter how you are feeling. It’s good practice. I have my down days, but those down times have taught me to see my inner strengths. To dig down deep and see the good inside myself, even when I hate my self and life.

Today make that list. Name 5 good things that you love about yourself. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are beautiful no matter what anyone else thinks. That you shine from the inside out! And don’t forget to smile friends. I’m here cheering for you!!!

Life After PTSD

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Before I say anything else, I want to say there is life after surviving PTSD. Trauma comes in all shapes in sizes, all ethnic groups, genders, economic groups, anyone any where is vulnerable to trauma. Trauma can occur in so many different ways. The most prevalent cases are our combat veterans, victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and other acts of violence. PTSD occurs when your brain can’t process that act or acts that were committed or viewed. It shuts you down. It makes you feel guilty. Guilt is one thing I believe all PTDS survivors have in commonl. ALL of us. We question what we should have done differently, if we could have been stronger, if we should have told someone, if we hadn’t obeyed commands. But none of it was our fault. We got into a shitty situation that we didn’t ask for. You’re not a bad person deep down, you just were so traumatized that your brain couldn’t process the information correctly. Some people go through things and end up with no after effects. People that are prone to PTSD are just wired differently. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or broken. Your brain just works differently.

With that being said, it’s all therapy talk. I know. You’ve heard it before 100 times. But it’s true. You just aren’t ready to be at that place yet. For a very long time neither was I. I was sexually abused for a year when I was 15. It was a terrible act by a terrible coward. The details aren’t important. When you tell people you have PTSD, the first question they as it, What happened? You don’t owe anyone an answer. Don’t let anyone push you to a place that will trigger you.

PTSD is a dark terrifying place. Filled with triggers, flash backs, self hatred, feeling of completely loneliness, guilt, and feelings of wanting to die.  But the thing that caused the PTSD is gone now, and if it’s not, please seek out help immediately. It can’t hurt you any more, but it’s haunting you. It haunts me still to this day, 18 years later, but thankfully not in my everyday life. For a long time, I felt like it would never get better, that I would never live a normal happy life, that I would be alone and scared and that the flashbacks would never stop. For me, it also caused me to have Dissociative Identity Disorder. So I had alters to contend with too. I went to therapist after therapist, medicine after medicine. It would get better for a little while, but would always come back. I was lucky enough to find an amazing trauma center in West Virginia where I did intensive therapy. Art therapy helped me the most. I didn’t have to use words. I used the terrible thoughts in my head and got them out of there with sculpting and drawing. It didn’t fix everything, but a lot was resolved.

I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, but I suffered for a long time. Yet, I never quit. I clung on to that tiny piece of hope and I prayed to God to keep me alive. I found people that I could open up to, that I allowed myself to trust. I laid it all out on the table. Once it was out there it didn’t just live in my head anymore. I had outted the demons. What the honest answer to living a life after a terrible trauma is time. It takes a lot of talking, writing and time. It’s a crappy answer. It doesn’t help in this moment, but the light will slowly come. Just don’t give up. Find one thing every day to hold on to. Find that one person you can call anytime you feel scared, do that one healthy thing that makes you feel better, hang on for dear life and know that you are so special and that the world needs you. It has plans for you. Amazing plans. Things you can’t imagine could ever be possible. I have an amazing 2 year old son. I never thought I could have a family, never thought I would be well enough. But I did. I worked with my therapist, overcame DID, the triggers lessened and the flash backs stopped.  But I had to work hard, so damn hard. But life is worth it. Living a new fresh life is more beautiful than you can see right now.

There’s strength in everyone. Even if you don’t feel it right now. There is always hope. I want you to see that I survived and have over come so much, and I was weak, I gave up 1000 times, I quit, I failed, I lost control, but that small amount of hope kept me going. Also find a support system. Even it’s it just one person, that’s enough sometimes, but you would be surprised that when you put yourself out there how many people care about you and would help you. Even people you meet on the internet. 🙂 I’m here for you all. I want to share my story to make what I went through mean something, to know that I can make something good out of all those hard times. Keep strong, go to your therapist, take your meds, and never give up hope. It’s a long path, but I know you will get there.

Living with out fear

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I used to live in fear of life. Afraid I would fail. Afraid to disappoint myself and everyone else. I felt weak, helpless.

I stopped! I realized I wasn’t truly living my life. I was going through the motions, but not living life to the fullest. I was watching the world around me and wishing I could participate. It was kind of an accident that started it all started to change. I have been a jeep girl ever since my dad bought me my first two door wrangler when I was 16. I drove it all over the woods and back country roads. I learned to drive off road. I eventually had to buy a new jeep. Her name is Rosie and she is bad ass. So here’s how it went down. I am part of a jeep club here in Tampa. I attended an event called trucks on the track. It is where trucks and jeeps can drive across a motocross track. I initially was just there to watch, too nervous to try it myself. I watched for a while and someone said I should go for it. So I told myself, I know how to drive through anything. Do it! Long story short, I killed that track. Something got ahold of me and I was filled with adrenaline. I was speeding through the course. Gassing it up the jumps. It felt awesome! Like I was flying. Turns out I was flying and didn’t really know it. When I came back after my runs, people were running up to me with videos where I had had four wheels in the air off a jump! I hadn’t really hadn’t meant to go that hardcore. But it felt good. It felt good to do something adventurous and exciting. I felt like I was alive again. So it began.

I decided that I wanted to challenge myself to do more. To do things I love that make me feel alive and follow through with them no matter how hard they got. I signed up to sing in the Clearwater Chorus. I was pretty nervous the first night showing up all by myself, but I really enjoyed it. I’m an alto. I am also not a soloist. I told myself this, and at that moment I made a decision. If I ever say to myself I can’t do something because I’m afraid, I’m doing it no matter what. So I raised my hand and tried out for a solo. It was bad and I’m not being hard on myself. I was so nervous that it was terrible.  But because no one else tried out for it by default I had to do it. In the end I ended up singing in an amazing Cabaret show in front of hundreds of people. Up front singing a solo! The same stage where the likes of Sheryl Crowe had sang. Pretty cool huh?

Ok, so I concurred that fear. Now what? At this point I was hungry. I was hungry for the rush of over coming fears and how great it feels to succeed. So I got it in my head that I needed to take a trip all by my self somewhere far, doing something adventurous. Pretty much spontaneously right after choir ended, I booked a trip to sail on a schooner, a tall ship the Liberty Clipper out of Nassau, Bahamas. More about that in a second. But in the mean time what was I supposed to do, just wait around? Nope, decided that I needed to finally get scuba certified after years of wanting to. Let me tell you, it was pretty horrible. I had an awful teacher, an awful class, and even worse open water dives. I panicked and almost cried after every class for two weeks. But I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t quit. So I stuck it out and managed to successfully become a certified PADI Open Water Diver. (still a pretty bad diver, but that’s beside the point) I felt so proud, and I still don’t remember saying that about myself before. I guess proud has never been in my vocabulary. It was exhilarating to feel that by working hard and pushing through I could accomplish anything I put my mind to.

So about that sailing trip. All of my thoughts and attention had been put into the scuba certification, so I barely had any time to even think about the trip and it was like a week and a half later! But you know what. This time it was different. I feel no nervousness. No fear. I was actually excited! Couldn’t wait to cross another thing off my bucket list! When the time came, I flew to Nassau all by myself. Managed to find a taxi, the dock and the ship, as well as figure out the weird down town bus system. When it was time to board the ship I couldn’t wait to meet the people I was going on this journey with. There were people from all over the country of all ages. From 20’s to 80’s. Everyone had this amazing spirit. A spirit of wanting to take in life. Have an adventure. Travel to places most people have never see. It was called an “ish” trip. As in there were no set destinations or ports of call. We were just going to sail “southish” or “eastish” depending on the wind and seas. I loved that about it! Just sailing around the Bahamas with no plans, no schedule, and feeling so free. There’s no better feeling that to be under full sails flying across the water with no land in sight, surrounded by water. It was so relaxing. I saw some amazing spots. Places you can only get to by boat. Small islands with untouched beaches. I had the opportunity to stand at The Glass Window, where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic. One side calm beautiful turquoise water and the other powerful navy blue waves. It was breath taking. On the same island there is this place called the Moon Pools. They are some incredible tidal pools on the Atlantic side carved out by years of water. There was also a cave and beautiful rock formations. Thing is. It’s all down hill over really sharp coral. I not hike! I fall on things and am clumsy. I may be from WV, but I’m not a hiker. It scares the crap out of me. And this place was steep! But I did it again, said I was too scared to hike down. You should know now what that means. I forced myself foot by foot down the cliff. Stopping and saying ok that’s enough, but pushed on further and further, telling myself that I would never be there again and if I didn’t make it down I could regret it later. Eventually I made it all the way down! The view was totally worth it! It was a powerful sight. A true place of natural beauty. I sat down on a rock inside of the cave and took it all in. Took in the fact that I faced my fears and again saw a huge reward. I felt thankful. Thankful for all that I had done over the last few months and thankful for everything the future has for me.

I am truly blessed. If you told me 2 years ago I would have done these things I would have told you that you were crazy. Fear is the devil. It’s the voice on your shoulder telling you that you will fail, that you’re not good enough, that you haven’t succeed in the past so why now. I’m telling you this. Ignore it. Push past it. If I can do it after so many years living in constant fear, you can too. It doesn’t have to be huge steps, just make one small decision and go from there. Tell yourself that life is worth living and there’s a whole world to see, even if it’s right beyond your front door. I surprised a whole lot of people these last six months. Some questioned if I was manic. I laughed and told them no. I had decided to live life again.

These are a few of my favorite things…..

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I’m too much in my head today. Got too serious. Here are a list of things that make me happy in no particular order!!

Kittens, kisses, swimming, turtles, sunshine, hugs, beaches, racerback tank  tops, mermaids, flip flops, my best friends, nail polish, pizza, jeeps, Mexico, Pepsi, dancing, palm trees, bathing suits, singing, sailings, journals, reading, art, sewing and of course my Charlie!!

Balance

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As a woman, a wife and a mother, I often find it hard to achieve balance in my life. My family is so important to me. They love me and support me through good times and bad. My husband is my rock and my son is my joy! Yet, I some times feel like I’m losing a piece of my self. I’ve found it very important to take time for me. To do things I’m passionate about. It helps me remember that as woman I still have my own personal identity. It is so important for my mental health to keep things balance between these three roles I play in my life.

My husband has always been there for me from the very beginning of our relationship. He is the most supportive, understanding, compassionate, loving person I’ve ever met. He accepts me for who I am. I’ve not always been a good wife to him. I’ve been selfish, mean, unhelpful, needy, and failed him. Yet, he’s stuck by me. His devotion has inspired me to be a better wife. Over the last few years since I’ve been doing do well, I’ve made a conscious effort to be the very best wife I can be to him. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a cook, I don’t keep a perfect house, and there are usually piles of laundry that never quite go away. But it happens. It’s not what makes someone a good wife. It’s the little things that add up. I bring him lunch while he’s working, I take care of our son when he travels, I make sure everything runs smoothly while he is away, I let him know how much he means to me. I owe him everything. Maintaining our relationship as husband and wife can be challenging. With work, travel, our son, and my activities, it’s hard to carve out time for each other. To achieve balance in our marriage I have to make sure we have special time just for us. Even if it’s just watching youtube videos before bed, singing together in the car, or reaching out to hold his hand. I make sure he knows he is important to me as a man and that I respect him. Being a good wife is a really important part of what makes me feel whole.

Becoming a mother has been much more difficult than I ever thought it would be. By having bipolar disorder, I was told most of my life that I could never have children because of the medication When I finally found my current psychiatrist and he told me it was possible, I was overjoyed. It took years to get to the point where I was ready, but when the time came I felt confident that my bipolar disorder wouldn’t stand in the way of having a family. The first year was terrible. I felt like a horrible mother. I didn’t feel connected to my child. I didn’t feel bonded. I felt down right guilty that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do this. To assure that he would be taken care of if I was having a bipolar episode we put him in day care after 3 months. I felt guilty that I didn’t work and that he was there, but it was a necessity for my mental health. But as time went on he grew older and now I feel much more comfortable and can’t imagine life without him. He amazed me every day and when he hugs me so tight and says “wuuv ouh” I melt. But I will never be one of those mommies. You know the ones. The ones that fill their days doing activities that are pintrest perfect, never exposing their child to TV and electronics, feeding them only organic non-GMO, gluten free foods, and bragging on facebook that their 2 yr old has mastered reading the classics and can play concertos on the piano.  And of course those mommies look like models and never have a hair out of place. I am not that mommy. My son is messy, constantly covered in sand from the beach, sticky faced, often eats drive through chicken nuggets, and sings along daily with Sesame Street. I never have good hair, sometimes I wear clean clothes, but I love him with all my heart. I do what I can. Some days are better than others, but I try hard to do everything I can to make sure he turns out to be a confident well rounded caring young man. I do my personal best every day. There are days when you feel like you win. When I see him learning to swim, when we sing songs together, when he eats his vegetables, and when I hear from his teacher that he peed in the potty. I know I’m doing a good job. Mommy guilt be damned.

Lastly there’s me. Beth. Woman. Individual. For so long I spent my life being afraid. Being afraid when the next depressive or manic episode would come. I didn’t feel like a real member of society. I felt like an outsider. Then one day I realized that I felt stronger and a little braver than I ever have. Another part of keeping balance is having me time. I took a leap of bravery and I joined a choir. It was such a positive experience. I made a promise to myself that when I say that when I’m afraid to do something I automatically had to do it. I made it through the entire season of the chorus! One of the first times in a long time I set about doing something and actually followed through it to the end. I’ve continued pursuing other interests and have had some great success. This part of individual balance includes time where I can read, go to the beach, or even do laundry in peace and quiet. Time to think, relax, and work on my mental health in a variety of ways. Friends are also so important to me. I’ve always had amazing supportive friends especially when I lived up north, but it was a challenge here in FL. Eventually I have made some incredible friends here that love me for who I am and are always there for me. It’s important for me to spend time with them. One on one. Where I’m not someone’s wife, not someone’s mother, just Beth. I need that. I need to feel that I’m a good friend and loved as an individual. I need some independence and it helps me feel like I’m not getting sucked into a single role where I feel like I’ve lost myself completely. It’s not selfish. It’s balance. Everyone needs time and activities for themselves. It makes me a better person.

By keeping balance in all three areas in my life, I stay balanced as a whole person. I feel complete. I feel happier. I feel more fulfilled. I feel more mentally stable when all parts of my feel balanced. When the scales start tipping in one direction I start to feel lost. I panic. I get anxious until I do something to even things out. I still struggle with this every day, but by recognizing what I need to keep my self happy and healthy it’s made things easier. The most important things to remember are do your best, allow people to love you for who you are, take time for yourself, and most importantly let go of the guilt. If I can do it, you can too. You’ve got this!

Always,

B

 

Finally back!

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I’ve finally worked out all the issues with the site and we are back up and running again. So much has happened since I last posted. I’m still a SAHM. I have thought about going back to work a couple times, but there are still periods of time where I think I’m consistent mood wise to do so. But I’ve been enjoying the hell out of life. The winter was hard as it always is, but not nearly as bad as previous ones. Living in Florida has made my winter depression so much easier. I get to be outside more, get more sunlight, and ride with the jeep with the top down, wind blowing in my hair.

I’ve overcome a lot of fears this year. I have pushed myself to do things I never thought that I could do. I joined a community choir and even sang a solo in front of hundreds of people. I was scared to death, but I sang on the same stage where Sheryl Crowe and many other famous people have performed. I also decided to become scuba certified so that my husband and I could do more things together. Let me tell you it was terrifying. Most of it I chalk up to a terrible instructor and a terrible open water dive site, but I’m excited to get out there and dive some beautiful places.

I have a bucket list that I will share at some point. On it is take a trip all by my self. In May I traveled to the Bahamas to take a week long sailing trip on the schooner the Liberty Clipper. It was incredible and exceeded my expectations. I don’t want to make this first post back too long so I’ll stop here, but next time I’m like to talk about finding balance as a woman, a mother, and a wife.

Always,

B