My life on the Bipolar Train
They always say that hindsight is 20/20 and I have to admit that “they” are right. I have been asked by several people when I noticed I had a mental illness and frankly, for the longest time I didn’t know. It is really hard to be that introspective sometimes, especially with a mental illness. I like to kid myself and suppress certain memories which can affect the way I look at my past in general. But I digress.
My first sign of bipolar disorder came in early childhood. I was always in the limelight and dance classes ruled my life. I would often force the neighbor children to be in my plays, yet they could never live up to my outrageous expectations. Damn 8 year olds…with their inability to learn the fundamentals of acting.
My ups and downs caused me to have issues with friendships and close connections in general. Only a select few (who seemingly also have mental illnesses now) could tolerate my range of rancid optimism and deep dark sadness. My childhood didn’t help. I was raised by my grandparents, who were wonderful but blissfully stuck in the 50’s. They were in a “she is just hyper” or “that is who she is” mindset and didn’t catch the signs.
My first year of high school was rough. I was in a “gothic” phase. Not sure why…maybe I just liked the color black, but I didn’t have many friends. The end of my 9th grade year I felt the intense urge to reinvent myself. Which is one of many times in my life I would do so. I was always good at being someone other than myself, a perpetual actress.
My tenth grade year came with hyper sexuality symptoms. Pairing adolescent curiosity with undiagnosed mania is a dirty mix. I would sleep with anyone, with no regard for who they were…what their “status” was. Somehow, I was able to maintain a seemingly long term high school relationship but it was not without its indiscretions. I was used to who people thought I was. A bitch? A whore? An actress? A downer? I had a range of emotion that often ended in rage. Things needed to go the way they were “supposed” to.
Fast-forward to my relationship with Joe. We met through our parents, who were neighbors. Joe had come up to his parent’s house to watch their dogs for a week and I met him there. After a hilarious and life-threatening trip to Ponderosa, we knew we were going to be the best of friends. About 6 months later we started dating. My swings were not readily apparent to him because he thought it was just the way I was. Thankfully, that has helped us maintain our relationship. He loved me while I was not medicated. He loved me for who I was. About 2 years later I became pregnant with our first child. This was a terribly confusing time for me. We were poor, working crappy jobs and living in just outside of the Detroit city limits. How could we have a child? I sunk into a deep depression. What was I going to do? This is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with, but how could we have a baby now? I decided to have a meeting at an abortion clinic in the town over and we got lost. We were looking everywhere, and were already late to our appointment. We pulled into the parking lot of what we thought was the place…and somehow it was not that abortion clinic. Maybe it was fate. We pulled into a Planned Parenthood. They informed us that they did not do abortions there and they gave us information to get to the clinic. I am not a religious person, but I do believe in fate. I was not supposed to be there.
And I didn’t go.
I was in a dark place, but my son helped me see the light. I often reminisce on what it would be like had I hopped back in the car and went down the road to my appointment, but I am so glad I didn’t. 7 months later I went into labor on my 21stbirthday after an authorized glass of yummy Shiraz. 3 days later my son Gabriel was born. As a first time Mom, I had no idea what to do. The hospital took him from me for 4 hours (even though he was healthy) and I was unable to breastfeed him in that time. I wanted to breastfeed more than anything. I craved that connection and I wanted what was best for him. However, the 4 hours damned us to a failed latch. For 3 months I tried to breastfeed him. I would often weep as I tried as hard as I could, giving him more and more formula to supplement. Joe was working often to help support us and I was alone with a baby and no clue. Depression turned to addiction. After I decided to give up on breastfeeding I coped with drinking – 2 bottles of wine a night on average. I didn’t shower, I overate, I was hangover, I felt awful. The only thing I knew I could do was take care of my son. I enjoyed playing with him, changing him, feeding him and watching him grow. But that light was not enough. I was in denial that there was anything wrong with me. I would switch from agonizing depression to manic rage in seconds. I was lost.
My symptoms continued but didn’t come out in full force until my daughter Emilia was born. Babies seemed to progress my illness. The symptoms became more and more apparent to my family at this point. This wasn’t just your run of the mill postpartum depression. It was something else. After being in and out of doctors’ offices I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar 1 rapid cycling by a PA in my local town and prescribed Lamictal. It seemed to work. It staved off my manic symptoms and my depressive phases were a little less deep. About 2 months ago, while checking up on some blood work I noticed my diagnosis and prescription was nowhere on my medical records. How could this be? I was angry and confused. I went off my meds in this time of hopelessness. Within 2 weeks I was unrecognizable. One day I was feverishly cleaning the house and all of a sudden I was on the couch.
I went about a full week on the couch, unshowered, staring into space. The only thing I could manage was caring for my kids and smiling at my husband as he walked by. Joe always tries to help, but there are no words that can be spoken to pull you out of that place. After weeks of this, Joe sat me down and pleaded me to get back on my medications despite the lack of a documented medical diagnosis.
The medication was obviously working. I started back on my Lamictal and slowly started becoming myself again. After feeling better, I decided to start my blog Mental Parent and it has been proven to be a worthwhile endeavor for me and the people who read it. My story is not new, and not even unique. A lot of people with mental illness with share this same story. My goal with my blog is to spread awareness about these disorders and stop the stigmas surrounding them. If you are interested about hearing more of my stories and blog posts, please do check out my blog and social media platforms.
Stay sane my friends!
My name is Heather Foster. I live in a small town in northern Michigan but I have big city dreams. I am married to my wonderful husband Joe and we have two beautiful children, Gabriel and Emilia. My main goal of my blog Mental Parent is to spread awareness about mental illness and show that you can still be a rock star parent with it. I have been diagnosed and misdiagnosed several times, although my primary diagnosis is bipolar, borderline personality disorder and PTSD. I hope, like many, to one day have a firm diagnosis and treatment plan from a caring Psychiatrist. Blog: http://www.mentalparent.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/mentalparent Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mentalparent