Thoughts on work and the future

I have not worked full-time in several years. In fact, I believe it has been 8 years since my last full-time position. I considered a career change during that period and I took the first class I need to in order to make that change. That was before I got pregnant with my oldest son and after he was born I worked part-time in a related position and I loved it. I couldn’t go back to it after the birth of my second son though as I had to quit when my FMLA time ran out while I was pregnant with him. I actually didn’t even qualify, but they were nice enough to help me out with a leave of absence.

I was fainting while pregnant. It wasn’t just happening when I was standing up or sitting down. I would even faint while laying down. I had a history of fainting, but I hadn’t fainted since I was in my mid-20s. I had to give up driving during this time for obvious reasons. I ended up seeing a cardiologist who had an answer that wasn’t discovered as a child despite visits to cardiologists and neurologists as having several different tests. I was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope and told that it would probably improve again after the pregnancy, but it gets worse with age and I will probably have a problem as a senior. Then, it will likely be treated with medication though some doctors go with a pacemaker which she thinks is far too aggressive.

The backstory during the period before kids

I didn’t work full-time back in those years before my first born due to my illness. I couldn’t get the treatment I needed due to insurance for some time and then I was in and out of partial hospital programs and I was in therapy three times a week. I was also hospitalized once during that time due to suicidal ideation. I wasn’t safe outside the hospital and home alone at the time.

There were some difficult things happening which contributed to the severity of my illness. My husband and I so wanted children, and it just wasn’t happening for us. I had an ectopic pregnancy and a missed miscarriage. I had lost a lot of blood during the D&C that removed the remains of the second baby. We had a diagnosis of unexplained infertility and our reproductive endocrinologist kept telling us we would have a child some day. I had trouble with the hormones during our 2 failed IUI attempts. I was afraid to leave my house so we took a break and never came back.

Around the due date of the second loss, around 4 years after we started trying to have a baby, I gave up. That is when I was so depressed that I couldn’t get off the couch. I couldn’t shower and I wouldn’t eat. Nothing was entertaining and showering was a struggle. That is when I became so suicidal that I had to get more intensive treatment than even the partial hospital program could provide and I went inpatient for 8 days while my medications were adjusted and I got extensive therapy. I got to talk about the trauma of my past and my struggles of the present. I got to utilize a weighted blanket when I became so anxious that I had trouble with my stomach and I couldn’t eat anything at all. It was at those times when I just couldn’t stop crying and calm down that I had this tool along with some anti-anxiety medications.

That hospitalization changed everything. I came out feeling better and the medication adjustment, which needed further adjustment outside of the hospital, was truly my lifesaver. I went back to therapy three times a week and within a month or so, my mood was stable.

Then, my husband and I got the shock of our lifetime. We were pregnant again and so was my sister-in-law. They had problems getting pregnant also, but they started trying after us and I found out she was pregnant before me. For us, this was a very tense time. I had this feeling that this baby was going to be born healthy and I, with the exception of having low blood sugar because he was a big baby and jaundice, he was.

As you can see, there were many stressors that impacted my life at the time which significantly impacted the course of my illness. Hormones, losses, and just this constant feeling that your body cannot do what comes most naturally to others.

Future Career Aspirations

The funny thing is that I don’t have future career aspirations. I have future career anxiety, but I know that I will be expected to work when my kids enter school full-time. I used to work in technology. My last two full-time jobs were working for software companies: one as a software support engineer for a shipping software company and the second as a technical trainer for a healthcare software company. Unfortunately, the tech industry moves at a fast pace and my existing skills are somewhat obsolete. I did take some programming classes last summer to try to bone up on those skills, but I feel like I don’t do these things day in and day out so my skills are not fresh.

That means that the thing that I know is not really something I can do. Plus, the career rehab organization for the state has it listed that I cannot work in this career anymore as it has lead to multiple episodes of my illness that have required intensive therapy. Now, I miss the problem solving that was involved in my day to day activities and both my husband and I aren’t sure if I could balance both the stress in my personal life and a professional life now.

I fear that if I continue to be a “stay at home mom” when my kids are in school people will begin to question why I stay home and that may lead to rumors. I would try to nip the rumors in the bud though my son may do that for me. He’s four and brutally honest. He knows I have something wrong with my brain chemicals and I take medicine to stay healthy and he may tell someone which is OK. I just don’t want to become the brunt of the mom jokes if I don’t go back to work.

How will I know if I can go back to work and when the time is right?

Father’s Day is Here

Father’s Day is a trigger for me due to the history I have with my father. I got through today by honoring the fathers that serve as examples to others.

Last night my husband and I got a date night and saw the Barenaked Ladies. We almost missed it because we had some serious issues with a sitter. I accidentally asked our sitter for Friday night instead of Saturday. It worked out in the end though. I had a blast and it was my 9th show and my husband’s 4th. I don’t know why I have so much fun, but I do. It’s not the same since Steven Page is gone because the other guys singing his parts doesn’t sound as good. I just found out Steven released a new album though and I have heard little blips and I love the content. It’s dark and it’s about recovery.

Father’s Day and my father

I don’t have any contact with my father so for me Father’s Day is a trigger to all of the verbal and emotional abuse that I experienced at his hands as a child. This year, I have used mindfulness and maybe a bit of the wise mind ACCEPTS skills today. I’m focusing on what is going on today, at this very moment, and today I see how loving my husband is towards our children. I see how happy they make him and how good of a father he is to the boys, both setting boundaries and comforting them.

I’m also making a special dinner to honor him tonight. I’m making baked ziti with salad. I also bought bread and ice cream cake for dessert. My 2 year old egg allergic son can eat it which was one of the reasons I bought it instead of a different cake. The sauce for dinner has been on the stove since about noon. I simmer it low and slow for hours. My oldest even helped me make it and he’s so proud of himself.

We have to call my father-in-law to wish him a happy Father’s Day and sitting here thinking about it is making me sad. It’s not the same wishing him a happy Father’s Day as it would be to my biological father as there should be two people that I’m wishing this to.

My four year old didn’t know I had a father for a while. He just assumed that I’d been born without one. I was doing our family tree and I had to explain that I had a dad, but he was mean and he hurt grandma. I told him that he’d never have to meet him. He has seen him thought at a family event. My father has never seen my youngest child, at least not in person.

This day makes me wonder whether or not I will regret not seeing him before he dies. Hubby says that I will never know how I will feel at his death, but he knows that nothing good will come of his re-entry into my life. My siblings have also cutoff contact with him and my husband rightfully feels that there’s a reason for that.

He gave me by bipolar diagnosis. I can trace it back at least 3 generations on his side of the family. One of my relatives was diagnosed as insane and wasn’t allowed to enter the US. My father is still in denial that he has bipolar disorder though which is one of the reasons that his children avoid him. Untreated, he is abusive and cruel.

I have two blessings to honor today though. My husband is the best father that I have ever known. He is loving, fun, kind but sets boundaries, and he makes time for them, even when work and other things get in the way. We also honor my father-in-law who raised my husband.

Mood Update

I got a big chunk of sleep though I still only got 6 hours which isn’t typically enough for me. I feel good today though. I’m neither up nor down. Right now, my anxiety is in check as well. Perhaps, last night’s fantastic date night is just what I needed to get back on track. I have also been consistently busy, but it was low stress. Structure has always been helpful. Hopefully, the pattern will continue. My husband and I agreed to a check-in tonight to determine if I need to call the psychiatrist to quickly nip any potential episode in the bud early. At this point, I think this weekend has warded the call and kept the demon in hibernation.

Thinking About the Dialectic

DBT, or dialectical behavioral therapy, has been a huge part of my therapy for the past 7 years or so. It has been the main therapeutic module that I have used and it has been the one that has shown the most success for me over the course of my lifetime.

A main idea of DBT is that of the dialectic. That idea is that universe is filled with multiple opposing sides and forces and that also leads to the fact that there’s also more than one to view a situation or solve a problem. It also has this idea that change is the only constant. Those two things, which I believe to be true, may seem a bit too philosophical; however, for me, they have been a big factor in my ability to adapt even when I am symptomatic. It’s something that my therapist and I walk through when things come up.

For example, I have two young sons, which is why this blog is called Being a Bipolar Mom, and there are times where things happen around them where we will test my perception or my problem solving abilities. For example, someone in my family will say something about my son’s speech sound disorder and tell me that he needs to have that fixed by kindergarten. I get angry because they make it sound like my son has something where it has a natural progression and we can say exactly when it will be “fixed”. I saw this as a shot at my son initially and I felt that they were placing way too much pressure on him.

Talking to my therapist, we were able to tease out details of the conversation that I may have misread because I was in mama bear mode protecting my son. I had the feeling of who the hell are they to say what my son should and shouldn’t do by such and such time and how the hell do they know if he is going to be able to do it or not?

The part that was missing was that they were trying to help. They told us they wanted us to send him for private speech therapy, which my husband and I were in the process of doing already, and that they were willing to pay for it. My mother-in-law used doctor google and informed herself of the horrible perils of a speech delay in K and how he won’t be able to learn to read, etc. Of course, she doesn’t know that my son can spell phonetically. He may not be able to say the sounds, but he sure as hell knows what they sound like. He can sound out some words too and he’s 4. Neither myself, my husband, his speech therapy team (2 SLP-Ts and a SLP-TA), nor his teacher think that he’s going to have any trouble reading as a result and think that we’re doing a great job with sound awareness.

Basically, in all of this, I learned that there was a disconnect. She was seeing his speech disorder as this horrible thing that was going to cripple him and that we should get him all the help that he needs. I heard it as you need to do more or he’s going to be illiterate. Part of that was that I let my mommy bear get out in front of me. I didn’t want him to hear any of what she said. The other part was that our communication was not clear. Instead of asking us about our son’s progress, she assumed that it was holding him back in ways it wasn’t. Instead of me asking her what she meant by paying for whatever it takes to get it fixed, I shouldn’t have bottled it all in getting more frustrated. We both wanted the same thing though.

Expressive Speech Delay Worries

My oldest son has an expressive speech delay. He goes to preschool three days a week and he has speech therapy two of those days. He also goes to a private speech therapist one day a week. At 4, my husband and I understand around 70-75% of what he says. The milestone for this year was 100% intelligibility. People who don’t know him should be able to understand him and that is not the case. It gets frustrating for him.

He has some form of a speech sound disorder. He understands what people are saying and he knows the words that he wants to say, but he can’t say the words properly.  He leaves sounds out, he makes substitutions, and he adds sounds and syllables to words. He has also begun stuttering which, at this point, is considered developmentally appropriate.

Anyway, we’re still working on the same sound as we were a year ago with some sounds added. The /f/ sound was the first sound that was tackled in speech and it’s still something that we are working on. He can now say most words slowly that begin with /f/ with a reminder. He says the /f/ first and then adds the rest of the word. He is SO proud of himself when he can do this, especially if he manages it without a reminder. We are almost to using it in conversation.

There are sounds he just cannot say because he cannot get his tongue to the right places yet. His private speech therapist gets into crazy positions with him to try to get him into a place where it will be easier to learn the physical piece. They laid down on the floor to try to get his tongue to fall back to produce the /k/ sound. They applauded when he made a gurgle sound because it means that he’s all that much closer to being able to produce the sound.

The rate of progression is frustrating and it is hard to see how frustrated he gets when people, especially family, fail to understand him. I’m concerned with his future. I know that speech delays and disorders can impact other areas of life and I don’t want that to be the case for him. He is so bright and he loves people. He loves to talk and play and creates these amazing games and stories. He is also incredibly sweet and I never want him to lose that due to frustration and feeling a little bit different.

Therapy and DEAR MAN

Last night, I had therapy and I spoke of some communication breakdown issues that I have been having. Of course, I didn’t actually KNOW that was the issue until we sort of teased it out. We did some role playing using the DEAR MAN skill primarily. So, this is how it went:

D – Describe the situation using a non-judgmental stance. (We through a little GIVE in here with gentle manner.) It’s important to us that we get to see you and we appreciate that we have the opportunity to stay with you when we are there. The house is 2 bedrooms though and there are four of us. It can get crowded and we are also on our family vacation making memories.

E – Express. We appreciate your hospitality, but feel like we are putting you out. It gets crowded after some time and this really is our only trip so we really want to make some family memories. Plus, the boys don’t really have playgrounds or any areas to play because you live in a 55 plus community.

A – Assert. Ask for what you want. We really would like it if we could spend half of the time in your home and the other half of our trip in a hotel. It is rare for us to get the opportunity to stay in a hotel and the boys enjoy it.

R – Reinforce. Tell them what’s in it for them. It must be difficult for you to have 4 additional people in your home. This will give everyone some space while we get to spend time together. Plus, if we stay at a hotel we are more likely to spend more time in town.

M – Stay Mindful. Be a broken record and stay on track if the subject is changed. We really appreciate the opportunity to stay with you and we really love spending time with you and we really would like some space for some of the trip.

A – Appear Confident. Maintain eye contact. Use a strong voice. Go in believing that this is going to be a success.

N – Negotiate. We are flexible as to how we split the time between the hotel and your home. Lets figure out what works best for everyone. (If they don’t agree to splitting the trip 50/50.)

So, now I have roleplayed a scenario with DEAR MAN that can be useful. My above example isn’t really perfect because I’m not going off our exact words unfortunately. It’s close enough though.

The stigma won’t silence me

I haven’t blogged in years until yesterday and there is a huge reason for that – stigma. I had been told that based on my publicly blogging about my mental illness that I was not employable. She found out that I had bipolar disorder around the same time and told me it didn’t change anything, but suddenly I was unemployable because I had an illness. She compared it to people sharing images of themselves partying Girls Gone Wild style and it has hurt me since. My life is NOT a party. It’s not a choice. I have to cope with the challenges placed before me due to my illnesses and I am continuing to learn and implement skills to do so.

I have mentioned that I have bipolar disorder. I received a bipolar disorder type 2 diagnosis in 2002 which was later changed to bipolar 1 with mixed features. I have also been diagnosed with various forms of anxiety with the latest being anxiety NOS or anxiety not otherwise specified. My anxiety typically revolves around people and social situations though which is why my main anxiety diagnosis has consistently been social anxiety disorder or agoraphobia with panic. The anxiety stuff for me is confusing.

In 2010, I was also diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. At first, when they were doing the screening I was confused. I thought of course I have these symptoms. I have bipolar disorder. Then, I learned that they are not one and the same and the stigma facing BPD is even more extreme than that of those with bipolar disorder. Insurance isn’t even required to cover it to the same degree. People with this disorder are seen as needy manipulators, even in some psychiatric literature.

Over the course of several years, I have developed DBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, skills to help me handle the emotional extremes, the abandonment fears, the outbursts, the self harm urges, and all of the other qualities that I scored high in during my screening. Now, I only have traits. I don’t have enough of the symptoms to classify as having BPD. I still have the attempts to thwart real or imagined abandonment and emotion regulation is an ongoing learning experience.

So, now that you know about my issues, I want to share an article written by NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall about the stigma around mental illness. I found it well written and it inspired my post.

Brandon Marshall on the Stigma around Mental Illness

This said, I’m no longer going to give into the stigma. I am going to tell my story, still anonymously, but I’m going to tell it. Once I know I can handle the negative reactions of the ones that I love, I will share with my name and shout it from the rooftops. I have nothing to be ashamed of and no one else with a mental illness should be ashamed either. I wouldn’t be ashamed to say that I had cancer, heart disease, fibromyalgia, or a host of other illnesses. I’m not going to be ashamed of this any longer. My kids are going to know that their mama is a strong woman with an illness who isn’t afraid to admit it.

My adventures, failures, and successes

It has been a long time since I have written about myself. In the past 3 years, I have not only had a second child while seeing my other son grow, but I have also had my share of ups and downs with my illness.

After O, my youngest, was born, I ended up with serious mood issues. In fact, I started having hallucinations and I was so depressed and anxious. I got sent to this AMAZING partial hospital program for women with perinatal mood disorders and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I brought my baby with me and the therapists helped me bond with my son and gave me the skills that I needed in order to be the mother that I wished to be. It is one of 2 programs of it’s kind and I cannot say how grateful I am to have had that opportunity. They also tweaked my medications while I was there.

My son had some serious issues when he was first born. He had too much amniotic fluid because he was born via c-section and he didn’t get to have it all squeezed out during birth. He couldn’t be laid down flat without gagging and choking. Well, my husband ran to get food the day after he was born and my mom was changing his diaper. He stopped breathing and began turning blue. The nurses didn’t respond to my page right away because they were busy with other patients so my mom ran into the hallway yelling that my little guy was turning blue. Then, after sort of failing to really get food allergies, we discovered that he was allergic to milk and soy. We later discovered that he’s also allergic to whole eggs, not just the protein that most people are allergic to. So we had an interesting start.

I didn’t have a therapist for part of this time and when I did go back we went back to focusing on DBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, skills as they had been so helpful in the past. This was definitely the right decision for me as they have helped me through many tough times.

Most recently, I have been using GIVE and DEAR MAN quite a bit. GIVE is for maintaining a relationship while DEAR MAN is a skill of assertiveness for asking for what you want or saying no to a request. Using them together has been very beneficial, especially for my marriage. I can word things in a way so that I’m not being aggressive with my husband, but I can ask for what I need. My husband tends to default to I always screw up and this has sort of prevented that in some instances so we can actually talk about a situation.

We also renewed our vows for our 10 month anniversary last month. That also required some self soothing skills to get through the anxiety the few days before when things were still being prepared. I was finding things that I found calming and relaxing and doing them.

Oh – and I’m recovering from a concussion that I suffered 4 weeks ago. Things are finally so much better, but taking care of the boys and grocery shopping and a few other things bring back the symptoms so I’m doing the things that don’t cause symptoms to flare and avoiding others. I have a babysitter until Friday in the hopes that everything is A-OK starting next week. I’ll have a positive update on my condition soon hopefully. When I had my CT scan 2 weeks ago, the doc said it was going to take time and rest so time and rest it is.