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.

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.