I am not ashamed of my illness.
I have bipolar disorder and you have a bad case of acne.
Who cares right?
Unfortunately, for some people, someone who has a mental illness is more than just that.
To them, we are the myriad of distorted perceptions that are wrongly associated with our illnesses; crazy, psycho, deranged. These derogatory labels allows for society to strip us of our individuality. We are no longer Jane’s and John’s.
We are bipolars and schizophrenics. Lunatics. Nuts. Insane.
It is because of this that I have an overwhelming fear of what will happen if my new friends find out that I have bipolar disorder; the moms of my son’s classmates. Like I said, I am not ashamed of my illness but I worry that my diagnosis would impact the new relationships that my son has made in a very negative way.
I knew that I loved her when she said “What the f*ck?” under her breath as she saw her daughter launch her backpack into a mud puddle. She heard me giggle and she quickly turned around to apologize. “No worries,” I said and then introduced myself.
Every day we met each other at the same spot along the fence at pick up time. Our conversations seemed to quickly escalate from the “safe” talks about the weather to leaky boobs during pregnancy. We just clicked and so did our kids.
They became husband and wife before the second month of school was over.
The more kids that my son grew bonds with, the more moms I met. Soon enough, we were all arranging play dates over the Christmas holidays because sweet baby Jesus, we needed time to ourselves and I was tired of getting poked in the ass by a spatula as I pulled cookie sheets out from the oven. Then these playdates turned into “Here Dad. The kid is all yours. Oh and I seemed to have misplaced my cell phone so you can’t call me” lunches at undisclosed locations that were as far away from our homes as possible.
We didn’t want to be found.
We laughed over platefuls of hot meals that we didn’t have to share and discussed important things like bikini waxing. Throughout it all, these moms had no idea that I was battling one of my worst depressive episodes of my bipolar disorder.
I hid it very well.
For 2 years, I’ve kept it a secret just like I had kept it a secret from my family and friends for such a long time. When I told my family, I knew that the only person that would be hurt by rejection would have been me. Now if these friends found out, the only person I worry about being hurt is my son.
Now be honest with yourself, would you let your child play with another child whose mom is bipolar?
As a mom, I need to protect him. I don’t want him to be alienated because I have bipolar disorder. I don’t want parents telling their child that they cannot play with him. I don’t want him to miss out on birthday parties or sleepovers or trips to the movie theater I don’t want him to hear statements like “You’re mom is a psycho!” being shouted at him in the school yard.
As I’ve said above, some people only see me as my diagnosis. They do not know that I am an expert builder of forts, that I am the goofy voices when stories are read, that I am the date to the park, that I am the best at whipping up a delicious “just jelly” sandwich, that I wake up extra early in the morning just so that my son can watch a movie before school, that I am the best at hide and go seek, and so on.
And as a mom with bipolar disorder, I am sure that judge my parenting.
Can she be trusted? That poor child.
What they don’t know is that my son is smart at math and he is starting to read, that he has a lot of friends and is always making new ones where ever he goes, that he behaves in class albeit that one time when he played “steam roller” on the reading carpet, that he laughs loudly and a lot, that he may get frustrated but he never gives up, that he has an amazing positive outlook, that he knows that hugs and kisses make things better for anyone who needs it, and so on.
Regardless if I may get depressed, anxious, hypomanic, and paranoid, I always love my son fiercely. That never changes.
These women of whom I have befriended are wonderful, but I am still very cautious. Who knows what they’ll think or do if they find out so I choose to hide my illness and that is incredibly sad.
It is sad that in this day and age, we are still fighting to be seen as individuals.
I hate that some people will always associate me as “bipolar” instead of who I truly am; a good mom who is raising a beautiful child.
Just like theirs.
Kimberly Morand is a mom, wife, nurse, mental health advocate, a Chuck Norris beard fondler, and a 5 year postpartum depression survivor. She writes the personal blog All Work And No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something, which chronicles her personal battle with bipolar disorder, family life, and her fear of spiders. You can also find her writing in the book The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood To Fit Reality and in Anchor Magazine: For Depression And Anxiety