Tuesday, August 5, 2008

How Motherhood Has Changed My Outlook

One of the unexpected things of my pregnancy and now motherhood is how it changed my outlook on life and having bipolar disorder. For years (many, many years), I didn't really have acceptance that I was really bipolar. You would think having a mania induced psychosis that landed me involuntarily in a psych ward with hallucinations would have cemented in my mind that I was bipolar. But still somewhere way down deep I wished or hoped that maybe my diagnosis was wrong. And that one day they'd say that really I had something that is "curable."

Deep down I have struggled for the last 15 years with taking antidepressants, tranquilizers, mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics. I secretly worried that by taking the medicines I was changing who I am. I always wondered "where does the line between personality and illness begin or end?" Sometimes when I was depressed I would think that maybe the person that I am is a negative person who was just meant to be suicidal. When I was up ... I thought hey maybe my personality is just meant to be energetic and happy. That's who Rachael is.

Over the last few years I stopped obsessing over whether I was meant to take medicine or not. And started to realize that I may have to take them for the rest of my life. But still I had the lingering thoughts -- what if ... what if it was because of the antidepressants that I became so severely manic in the first place. Maybe the course of my illness isn't really Bipolar 1 -- maybe it is something less. Somewhere in the last year I realized it doesn't matter anymore.

My therapist used to tell me that true acceptance would mean that I wouldn't feel any internal struggle about taking medicine and that I would stop "wishing" for things to be different. That I would accept that this is what is ... I am bipolar and I have to take medication to keep my illness in check. And suddenly now that's OK.

Somewhere during my pregnancy I realized that things could be a lot worse. I'm fortunate that if I eat well, exercise, maintain positive sleep habits and take my medicine I'm fine - I have no symptoms, no bad effects of my illness if I maintain myself. And honestly I could have a lot of diseases that are far worse ...

I also now realize even more how important it is for me to maintain my health because now someone else depends on me being well. As much as possible I don't want my daughter to ever think that she's been given the short stick with a "crazy" mother. I sure when she is a teenager she will think her mother is crazy - but hopefully it won't actually be because of my illness - just one of those things that happens between mothers and daughters during adolescence.
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