Baby Fever

In a perfect world, I think I’d have five or six kids. I love being a mother that much.  I know most people think that’s too many. There are also those who still believe that that for a bipolar mom, even one is too many. Ever since Baby Boy was born, though, Hubs and I knew that we defintely wanted more children. Despite my feelings, I’ve practiced caution and have been adamant about waiting  until things were right to bring another child into this world. In the scheme of things my bipolar diagnosis is still relatively new. My psychiatrist knows I’d like to have a medication-free pregnancy since the guilt and worry would eat me up. I have a new hope, though.

After learning I was allergic to several medications that could treat my condition, he suggested I try a supplement called lithium orotate before we give up and go with the tried and true prescription lithium carbonate. I really don’t want to take lithium carbonate because of the side effects. Since taking the supplement I have become much more stable. It worked a whole lot better than I expected for something over the counter. Most importantly it’s restored my hope – hope that I can lead a life much less encumbered by bipolar disorder; hope that I can go back to being myself and actually attain all that I had envisioned for myself. While on it, motherhood has become more like how I expected it to be. I find that I can be present with my son, that most days I’m not plagued with emotions that prevent me from functioning like a normal person. Needless to say, I’ve become a believer.

This is all to say that now that my hope is restored baby fever has firmly taken root within me. The timing feels right now and much to Hubs’s delight I have let him know I’m ready. I feel such a difference within myself I feel comfortable enough to ask my psychiatrist if we can stop the Latuda (lurasidone) at my next appointment (about two weeks away). I’ve spoken to Hubs about it, and while he too has the same reservations about pregnancy and medications that I do, he has no worries about me taking the supplement. I’m hoping that it can be taken during pregnancy and will also allow me to breastfeed safely. I know there is so much to consider and so many challenges, but I look at my son and I feel such joy and such contentment. Nothing about bringing him into this world has been easy, but ALL of it has been worth it. I feel my truest self as a mother and firmly believe becoming one has been the single best thing I’ve done with my life.

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A Song for Today

Last night Baby Boy and I had a rough evening while Hubs worked on our A/C unit. Baby Boy wouldn’t eat dinner, he fussed and fussed, he continues to refuse a sippy cup and will only drink his milk in a bottle. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… It all made me feel like I was going to explode and then of course after I put him down for bed I felt guilty for being so short tempered and cried on Hubs when he finally came in for the evening. And then I woke up still low today. I had to drag myself out of the bed. I cried on the way to daycare. I was late to work. A million thoughts are running through my mind telling me I’m deficient; that I’m simply not good enough. All this when I just thought I was in the clear. It’s been a month since my last mood disturbance so I let myself think I was “better.” I pray this is just a blip in the radar. Maybe I just need a really good night’s sleep, after all, it’s been three nights in a row that my sleep has been disrupted.

But until I feel myself again, I have to put on “the mask.” I’m a supervisor, and supervisors aren’t allowed to be this way in front of their staff. My direct reports don’t know I have a mood disorder so they probably think I’m crazy, never knowing what to expect…

I’ll leave you with a song. It came up on my playlist this morning on the ride into the office. The feelings it conveys perfectly reflects my state this morning.

Exercise

I really didn’t want to. I pulled another 9 hour day at work yesterday, and our A/C was (and still is) on the fritz. The last thing I wanted to do was spend a half hour sweating. But on Sunday while looking at our calendars, I vowed I wouldn’t let another week pass without exercising. I told myself, “It’s just a walk. 15 minutes out and then you can come right back. Plus the baby needs to get outside.” I even told my husband I needed him to tell me to just do it, to which her wryly said, “Get out there and just do it.”

So, I changed my clothes, filled up our water bottles with ice water and put my son in his stroller trike. I set the timer on my phone, turned on the tunes, and headed out. The nice thing about our neighborhood is that there are any number of ways you can mix up your route. I decided, “Let’s walk to the park, baby boy.” We did not take a leisurely pace. I was hot and sweaty and completely winded. I hated it, but found that I was able to push myself harder than I had in a long while.

For the final home stretch back to the house, I ran. It seemed like the distance didn’t get shorter until it did. My body hurt and I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t let my son see me give up even if he is just a year old and wouldn’t have any memory of our jaunt. When we got back in the house I was so wiped I thought I might collapse. It had been so long since I had done any challenging physical activity. As I cooled off though, I realized my mood had altered. I felt confident, I felt proud of myself for going 30 minutes instead of just 15, and, most importantly, I didn’t feel so damn tired. I actually had the energy to get through the rest of the night.

I thought, “This is why exercise is stressed so much at therapy.” Before I had the baby, I would take a long lunch once a week to head to barre class offered on campus where I work. I would also use the rowing machine at home a couple times a week. I have lots of excuses why I stopped. I’m sure most are the same ones other people use.

I’ve been blessed with a naturally petite frame, but I have a deep fear of becoming obese. It’s in the genetics. There are just too many in my family that are overweight, and I see how much it affects their quality of life, especially the women. We also have incidences of diabetes, hypertension, lots of cancers, as well as mental illness. All of these are very good reasons to do my best to take care of myself physically.

Even though I loved being pregnant, I frequently broke down in tears at my ever growing size. I was scared I would put on too much weight, and never get it back off. My doctor assured me at every appointment though that I was doing very well and not gaining too much too fast. Once I had the baby I wore my postpartum binder religiously, and breastfed to lose the baby fat. By the time I went back to work 11 weeks later, I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, 120 lbs. I was delighted.

And then I got sick. I spent lots of time in the doctors offices trying to find out what was wrong. I saw the weight come off even more than I planned. I got down to 109 lbs and a size 2. I was worried what it all meant, but I was also secretly ecstatic. Eventually, all they could say was that I got sick due to anxiety, after all I was a new mom with lots of new worries.

Fast forward a few months and a bipolar diagnosis, I stopped being physically ill all the time and instead dealt with trying to regain stability and find the right medicine combination. Much of the time I alternated from feeling insanely irritable to extremely depressed, and started eating for comfort. I ate like I could eat anything without consequence. Over the last couple months my weight shot up over 130 lbs and could barely fit into a size 4, my normal size. Which brings me to where I am now.

I need to get active again, not just so my clothes will fit right again, but also for my mental health. There’s a clear correlation, for me, that as I gain weight I feel depressed and lack confidence. I have accepted that a size 2 is unreasonable since it was the size I was while very sick. I’m a mother now, and the aim is to have the functional fitness to care for my family. I also need the mood balancing properties that exercise and activity brings.

I’m starting slow with my changes since I want lasting changes and not just a temporary quick fix. The goal these first four weeks is to walk with my son for 15-30 minutes 3 times a week. I’m also trying to cut out soda – regular and diet – and eat more wholesome foods instead of junk food. I hope to gain more energy for my day-to-day activities and to continue on my path of stability. I’m one month stable today, and so now that I’m here it’s time to focus on flourishing.

Therapy

I started going to therapy last year in the late summer/early fall, and I still don’t think I quite get it. I wish it were a more academic experience with little assignments to complete to help your mind and actions to take and you report back at your next session. It might sound ridiculous, but with all the thoughts circling around in my head, it’s amazing to me that the solutions for stability don’t come to me; that I need another objective perspective to point them out. So much of the time I end up feeling like I’m supposed to keep talking but I end up talking about things that aren’t on my list of topics for the session. Not that organic flow of conversation isn’t appealing or unproductive, but when you have real issues that need addressing it’s kind of important to stay on topic before moving on to tangents.

This is all on my mind since I went to therapy yesterday. Very recently I switched therapists thinking it was the right thing to do. I went with the new therapist because she came highly recommended by my psychiatrist and has a lot of experience working with bipolar patients. Her office is welcoming and I like her a lot. But yesterday, I left wishing I hadn’t changed. My previous therapist didn’t seem to have a lot of experience with bipolar patients, but she was recommended to me by my primary physician and we did manage to talk about the stuff that really needed to get sorted. The new therapist hasn’t been a total loss, I have found another effective coping mechanism with her help. She has me write a few sentences everyday about my experiences in a planner, no matter if I’m manic, stable, or depressed. With the old one, I only journaled in a notebook when I was depressed and my therapist thought it was a shame I only wrote while sad. Now, I go back and review my entries, when before I would simply write and forget.

I should probably give the new therapist some more time to get into a groove, but today I can’t help thinking that I should switch back. I’ve learned enough in therapy to know that I can be impulsive so I should really let this sit for a while before making any decisions. I have two weeks until my next session, so that should be plenty of time to mull this over more fully.

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Winter’s Come and Gone

Today is the first day of spring! In celebration I’d like to share one of my favorite songs – Winter’s Come and Gone by Gillian Welch. I play this song a lot, not just when the weather turns warmer. It brings me comfort in moments of sadness since it reminds me of the kind of music my grandfather listened to while he was still alive. This tune is even more joyous for me today since this is my first spring after finding out I am bipolar. I was diagnosed just before winter set in, and I was already prone to the seasonal blues. Now that winter is finally over, my hope for this spring is that I will continue to gain stability while nature bursts with new life.

 

Disclaimer on my Experience

Disclaimer on my Experience. A title like that doesn’t just drop into your lap. It had to come from somewhere.

It was all because of a mommy support thread on Facebook. A fellow mom pregnant with her first child asked those of us who had a c-section how we recovered. I let her know my recovery experience included keeping visitors at bay as long as possible, a post-partum binder, and sleeping on the couch until I could get in and out of my own bed. And that during this period of convalescing I kept the baby in a rocker next to the couch. Another poster misread what I wrote and said that she felt the need to tell this newbie mom that you should never sleep with your baby on the couch; that they should sleep in their own space with a flat surface. Her remark came off as very judgmental since she “wanted to make sure this new mom has all the facts” and was in direct response to thinking I co-slept with my baby those first nights home on the couch.  Co-sleeping, of course, is a controversial topic for parents. I’m for it and it was the best sleeping arrangement for our family while I was nursing. But nonetheless, this commentor made me feel like I had to put a disclaimer in my comment – to let this mom know this was my experience and may or may not be the best thing for her own family. In my mind that was understood.

It made me think what this means for society at large; that actually we do live in an age where you need to put disclaimers on your experiences – we need to put qualifiers in our speech. It’s phrases like “This was my experience but…,” “This is my opinion but…,” and “This is none of my business but…” Maybe I’m a bit sensitive to this topic, though. Words like “crazy,” “bipolar,” and “moody” didn’t use to bother me as much, either. But now that I have a mood disorder, they hurt a bit. I don’t agree with the philosophy others have that these words should be stricken from our vocabulary to prevent offending others. But I do believe loved ones should be very careful with works like that. I have come to realize that my loved ones are most likely to run all I say, do, and feel through  the “she’s having a crazy moody bipolar moment” filter since my diagnosis. It makes me feel that the validity of my person is at stake.

So maybe part of the purpose behind this blog is to acknowledge and own my experiences knowing mine is just one experience in the continuum of humanity. I need to accept that there is indeed a disclaimer – a bipolar disclaimer – on all I experience. Why else would my psychiatrist put special emphasis on the new aspects of my reality; that I need to be wary of all the ways my brain lies to me when I’m either hypomanic or depressed; that I need to  continue to live my fullest potential but also understand that the medications I need actually do put limitations on me. It seems counterintuitive, but in saying these things, he’s actually validating my experience as one with bipolar. He’s gently trying to make me accept that this is a part of me now, and I have to learn to live with it.