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.

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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.

Am I in for an episode?

Sleep has been inconsistent and elusive and I worry that I may be in for an episode of depression or mania. There have been events around the end of the school year that have impacted my mental health as well.

I wonder if I am due for an episode. It’s been a week without a night of solid sleep. I’m still tired so that’s a very good sign for me. I need to get sleep though or I am going to swing one way or another and parenting while depressed or manic is very difficult. I can barely take care of myself and sometimes I cannot even do that. Thus, I’m trying to ward off the demon lurking in the shadows.

It started with missing my morning medications twice this week. My routine was thrown off and I just forgot. It wasn’t anything intentional and I would never intentionally skip any medication without speaking to a physician first. I know my illness cannot go treated without a medication in my case. I have tried and then I ended up fighting for stability for years. I’m not going to fall into that trap again where I think I can do without the medications or that I am better off without them for whatever reason.

For me, at the time, it was the desire to have children. I felt, based on some opinions off ill-informed medical professionals, that being on medication would result in children who had horrible birth defects. Later, talking to people who actually understood the research and work with people with mood disorders, I learned that no two medications are equal and neither are any two patients. There is solid data around the effects of medication in pregnancy and a patient can do research around these medications with their psychiatrist and, perhaps, more of an expert.

Lack of sleep is a trigger for depression, mania, and mixed episodes for me. I think that it might be time to take something to help me sleep. I need to do all I can to control an illness that is sometimes uncontrollable.

Speaking of the lurking demon

My son’s last day of school was Wednesday and there was a family day on Friday. My social anxiety was out in full force to the point where I had stomach problems all morning before the event. I couldn’t stay home because my son was looking forward to this for two weeks. He even knew the date on the calendar. I knew I didn’t have a physical ailment so that was out of the question as an excuse.

I didn’t let the demon win. I went to the event knowing my husband would be there for a time and I believed that would be helpful. In reality, his presence wasn’t helpful because we took a divide and conquer approach with the boys and we were separated most of the time. I avoided the other parents like the plague as I was petrified. I did say goodbye and thank you to his teacher who is not returning next year. I did it though. I went. I let my son play with his friends and do the various activities. My anxiety didn’t stop him from having a good time. The demon didn’t win.

I immediately felt better upon leaving. I was no longer shaking and my stomach had settled. I used this time as a learning experience for my son. He knows I have a mental illness and we’ve talked about it before. I explained that was really hard for mommy and that we should do those things that are hard for us. We should try to do those things that are not easy.

Final proud mama brag

My speech delayed vision impaired son had a perfect report card. I’m not sure how to refer to his vision problem so vision impaired might not be the correct terminology and if that’s the case, I’m sorry.

He had Ms for meets expectations for everything. The M means that the kids are kindergarten ready in those particular areas and the goal is to have all Ms in the June before Kindergarten. Well, my kiddo has another year before he enters kindergarten and I’m so proud!! I knew he was smart, but I’m so excited that his issues aren’t holding him back.

Child Vision Problems and Mommy Guilt

My four year old has vision problems. We learned of them a few months ago and saw an optometrist who determined that he has bilateral refractive amblyopia or, in simple terms, two lazy eyes. The optometrist and I both felt that he saw well enough to go without glasses for a year just because 4 year olds are rough on glasses and because it wasn’t having a major impact on his life. The optometrist said we really have until 7 to fix the problem as his goal is to teach his brain how to see.

Enter today’s bombshell….

His vision is impacting his fine motor skills which is being seen at school. He’s in preschool and he cannot bead a string.

So he has to get glasses.

The doctor’s office is mailing the prescription based on our visit 2 weeks ago where they determined that he has a significant astigmatism in both eyes. Unfortunately, this is genetic as I also have astigmatism and I wear glasses. My husband has astigmatism as well and he wears glasses for the computer.

The good news that hopefully he won’t need them older and that his brain will learn to see based on the messages his eyes send. I’m not quite sure how it works, but I have done some reading so I do believe the optometrist.

Now I’m laying the guilt on myself.

I’m feeling guilty about the problems my four year old has between speech and now his vision. I don’t want to get any flack for this, but my doctors kept me on medication while I was pregnant with him. I had just gone through an 8 day inpatient stay 3-4 months before I got pregnant and they all thought that it was better for the baby that I be stable versus depressed as the risk of depression in pregnancy was higher than that of the medications that I was on. I saw perinatal psychiatrists and regular psychiatrists. I was in therapy 3 times a week. I was the most stable I had been for a really long time.

Now, logically I know that my husband had a speech problem as a young child so that is likely genetic. It has nothing to do with my medication. The kid is a chatterbox, but he’s difficult to understand.

Again, my husband and I both have astigmatisms and the optometrist told me it was genetic in my kiddo’s case. That means, again, that it had nothing to do with the medication that I was on to keep myself and my baby healthy.

In case you didn’t know, there are risks associated with being depressed during pregnancy to both the mother and the baby. One of the biggest is pre-term birth and another is low birth weight.

Here’s an article on it:

Depression in Pregnancy Doubles Risk of Preterm Birth

In the end, in my heart, I know I did what was best for my sons, myself, and my entire family, but every time something comes up or is wrong, I blame the medications. I have to let that go. I have to let that go.

A word of advice for any bipolar mamas.

I do strongly recommend that any pregnant women with bipolar disorder does extensive research about medications and sees the real specialists. My medication regiment was “approved” by both my psychiatrist and a perinatal psychiatrist. The perinatal psychiatrist was up on all the studies on the medications that were taken during the gestational period. She told me the risks, explained the research to me, and even went over what to expect after the baby was born. For example, I now know topamax isn’t safe during pregnancy for sure no questions while lithium is kind of an eh… because it slightly increases the risk of a heart defect that causes a hole in the heart that can be repaired via surgery.

I took neither of those medications. The one thing we knew about my medication is that my medication might cause cleft lip/cleft palate, but the research leaned more toward that being a non-risk factor as only 1 study of several including a long-term registry showed that there an increased risk of cleft palate when compared to the general population.

Oh, and we were also told that there was a chance that the baby may cry a lot the first few days and that I should get help with the night feedings. For me, it meant no breastfeeding, but again, it’s what I needed to do for myself and my family. A healthy safe loving mom is far more valuable than breast milk. Those boys need their mom and I do whatever I need to in order to be for them always. That includes doing things like taking medication, therapy, and not breastfeeding for me. It may mean different things for others based on their own situations, but that’s mine.

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 crazy busy mommy life

I have been very busy lately.  Tuesdays, J and I go to classes at Gymboree an hour away.  That basically eats up 3-4 hours of the day.  Wednesdays we go to therapy and that is also an hour away and eats up a lot of the day.  Fridays we go to swimming lessons and that is an hour long on Fridays, but is close to our house.  I am working on Saturdays which is also an hour away and we have been moving since the beginning of September.  We finally have all of our belongings in the new house, but we still aren’t completely unpacked.  The house is coming together nicely though.

My moods have been unpredictable lately.  I have been very sensitive to little things.  I will be totally happy and laughing one minute then so angry the next.  Then, 2 minutes later I will be very sad and break down in tears.  At first, I attributed this to PMS.  This is not a typical type of bipolar set of symptoms for me.  They aren’t long-term mood changes that appear to be chemically triggered.  They are specifically associated with different stimuli and triggers.

I had Mirena placed and I contacted my doctor to see if Mirena could contribute to such mood fluctuations.  She said it’s possible, but highly unlikely.  She had me schedule an appointment with the social worker in her office to dig into the cause of this problem.  This has me thinking.

I honestly wonder what the causes are.  Is it that I’ve got a 7 month old who is starting to teethe?  The only way we could calm him this evening was to blow bubbles.  Is it the move?  I don’t know anyone here and my husband has been obligated to go to more client events for work.  I feel lonely and sort of overwhelmed on days where I have no help with Jimmy V.  I was also physically ill a few weeks ago and I’m still tired and a bit sick.  I wonder if that’s not contributing to it as well.  I have been sleeping when Jimmy V is sleeping as often as I can to try to regain my energy.  I don’t think I should still be fatigued from a cold or from the flu a couple of weeks after being sick.

I guess long and short is I don’t know what is causing my mood issues.  I really wish I did.  My therapist and I are trying to tease it out.  I’ll track my cycle and see if the mood shifts go away.

I also need to meet some other parents of young children in my area.  I need things to do.  Being alone with a baby all day every day is so hard! I have a visiting mom who will stop seeing me November 1st because I’m out of the region.  Advice for meeting new people?  I tried finding a baby playgroup, but there were too few people for the group to start.  Hopefully, there will be a group in November.  I was going to join a gym that’s like a YMCA, but they wanted too much money for the first month. I got a free month family pass though so I am going to use it.  They also gave me information about a “matinee membership” which is good for Monday – Friday 11 AM – 3 PM which would work pretty well for me especially since they have child care.  Maybe I’ll meet some people there.

I need to stop having these crazy mood fluctuations.

Busy Busy Busy

I have been very busy lately which has caused me to neglect my blog.  I got a new job and we put an offer in on a house.  The offer was approved and we are due to close on August 28th.  We have so much to do before then.  We still have to find a lawyer.  We are getting home insurance quotes and the home inspection is scheduled for July 10th.  We are cutting it close with the home inspection as we have to have a list of things to negotiate on based on the home inspection by that evening.

Anxiety

I am having trouble sleeping from all of the stress which I know is a horrible thing for me.  Sleep issues can trigger an episode of depression or mania.  My husband wanted me to talk to my psychiatrist prior to the problems getting like this.  We discussed that I would do it at my next appointment.  I only have to wait it out until July 19th.  I will talk to my therapist about it as well and I meet with him today.

I have been having catastrophic thoughts lately.  My anxiety is high.  Often, the thoughts are that my son will die of SIDS.  I’ll wake up and he won’t be breathing.  It’s terrifying.  My therapist said part of it is that things are going so well I need something to worry about. We talked about the fact that I don’t know what it’s like to spend a day without worrying during our last session. We also talked about the fact that a lot of this stems from the past trauma that I experienced.

We came to the realization that I have had a lot of uncertainty and instability in my life in the past.  Often, I had legitimate worries that lead to me worrying all the time.  Now, I need to worry.  We also talked about my need to have control of things.  I have worked so hard on radical acceptance, but it still feels like things are chaotic when I don’t have control.  I feel like I’m free falling.  We talked about the fact that I don’t trust things to work out because they haven’t so often in the past.  He said I need to learn to trust things – to trust people.  It’s so hard to do.

Work

I start the new job on Saturday.  I have been taking my son to classes at the new job.  He seems to enjoy it, but he’s not getting everything I wish he was out of it.  He has been eating at the start of class which means he misses part of the class.  He is only 4 months old though so I have to pay attention to his cues.

I am looking forward to this job as I think the experience will help me with my long-term career goal of working as a preschool teacher.  I need to get back to school to get my masters degree in order to do so which we can’t afford right now.  The job will help me save for that and help me learn developmental milestones of 0-5 year old children.  I’ll get the hands-on experience of working with those age groups as well.

A little about me

I decided to start this blog with a little something about myself. I live in New England with my husband and my son. In 2002. after periods of highs and lows, mainly lows, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I did not genuinely seek help until after I was married in 2007.

In 2008, I took myself off of medication cold turkey so that I could have a child. I would never recommend this to anyone. If you want to come off medications, talk to your psychiatrist or other prescribing physician. Little did I know that having a child would be such a challenge.

In 2009, I became pregnant. Shortly after I discovered I was pregnant, I began bleeding. I was told that I was having a miscarriage. Then, the bleeding stopped, my hormone levels doubled and the doctors told me to be cautiously optimistic. Two weeks later, my hormone levels dropped and I was again told I was having a miscarriage. They did an ultrasound which showed nothing. They continued to monitor my hormone levels which plateaued. They failed to drop appropriately and my diagnosis was changed from complete miscarriage to ectopic pregnancy. I received shots of methotrexate to treat the ectopic pregnancy and it was monitored for several weeks. Fortunately, the levels dropped after a few weeks.

After the pregnancy loss, without medication, I began cycling. I was initially, as expected, down. Then, one day, my thoughts began racing and I began acting like a fool. I began “cleaning” the house which entailed tearing the bookshelves apart. My husband and therapist convinced me to go to the emergency room where they had me sent to a partial hospital program. I was started back on medication, which turned out to be the wrong medication, and treated with extensive therapy. I found a new psychiatrist because the one I had seen before becoming non-compliant was no longer with his practice.

This psychiatrist was a women’s health psychiatrist meaning she understood the impact hormones have in mood swings as well as kept up with the research on medications in pregnancy. She put me on a medication regiment that closely resembles the one I am on today. Unfortunately, she was not readily available and I had to switch psychiatrists. In the meantime, I received a consult with another expert on the effects of medications on a fetus.

In 2010, I switched to a psychiatrist who specialized in bipolar disorder and understood my desire to become a mother. She worked with me on the medications through my ups and downs. My lows still outnumbered my highs.

In the summer of 2010, after trying to get pregnant again for a year, my husband and I received a diagnosis of unexplained infertility. Month after month of negative pregnancy tests took its toll on my mental health. We tried IUI with Gonal-F. It failed. At the holidays, I needed a break from trying.

In spring of 2011, we decided to try again. I contacted the fertility specialist only to be told that we had to start over because we had waited more than 6 months. I setup a consultation again, but in June 2011, I discovered I was pregnant. I considered this my miracle pregnancy. It had been 2 years since my last pregnancy. I couldn’t wait to shout it from the rooftops!

Unfortunately, in August, I discovered my baby no longer had a heartbeat. On August 17, 2011, I had a D&C. We named that baby Alex. We never knew the gender of the baby. I was totally heartbroken.

In February 2012, around my due date, I became depressed. It was so bad that my psychiatrist encouraged me to enter another partial hospital program. I entered in late February, but in early March I became an inpatient for a mental health issue for the second time in my life. I was suicidal and no longer trusted myself.

In the hospital, they adjusted my medication and increased my dose of Wellbutrin. I think this was my lifesaver. It has made such a difference in my life. Things are night and day to what they were. I emerged from this period of depression within a month or so of my hospitalization. We decided to see the fertility specialist again.

Over Independence Day weekend in 2012, I learned I was pregnant again. I was afraid. At six weeks, I had some light pink spotting and I called the doctor in tears. I asked why is this happening again only to be told that the bleeding wasn’t necessarily indication of a miscarriage. I was scheduled for an ultrasound 2 days later, but the doctor told me that they could set one up for the following day.

I went in for the first ultrasound and there was my baby – complete with heartbeat. They couldn’t find an indicator as to why I had bled. They believed it was just an irritated cervix. From this point on, I was paranoid about every little twinge, every little itch, and I looked for blood constantly. I was afraid to tell anyone I was pregnant. I thought that telling people would mean the end of the pregnancy.

At 13 weeks,  I announced my pregnancy and all was well. At 18 weeks, we discovered the baby was a boy. We also discovered I had a low lying placenta with blood vessels from the placenta sitting on my cervix. This would need to be monitored because it put me at risk for a bleed. I was put on travel restrictions.

Around 32 weeks, we discovered that the placenta and blood vessels had moved. We also discovered that the baby was still breech. The doctor monitored this, and, at 36 weeks, we discovered he’d rotated to the head-down position.

At 37 weeks, my water broke. It was 5:30 in the morning and my husband was up, getting ready for work. I walked into the kitchen and I thought I had just peed myself. I called the doctor and they told me to come in. I took a shower as our childbirth class told us not to rush in such a situation. As I stood, I continued to leak and they didn’t even test to see if it was my water because I was dripping down the hall.

We tried to see if nature would take its course, but, at noon, I was given pitocin. Unfortunately, the baby was stubborn. I wasn’t fully dilated until the following morning at 8:30. I pushed for 3 hours and then had a c-section. Finally, I had my rainbow.

At birth, the baby had low blood sugar so they took him off to the special care nursery. He rebounded and was back in my room that evening. After discharge, we discovered he was jaundice and went back to the hospital. Now, he is a healthy 3 and a half month old.

I had some issues with postpartum depression. I was afraid to take the baby outside, to enjoy the world, after he was born. I worried he would get sick. It wasn’t until he was a month old that we even went to the grocery store.

Now, I have some supports in place. I go to a new moms group that meets once a week. I talk to other mothers. I have my mom visit often. I have a therapist. All of these things make a difference, but it doesn’t make bipolar disorder go away.

My hope is that this blog will discuss my journey and help someone else. I hope to pass on the skills that I learn to deal with life with a child.