Last week, I followed a link through CNN about a Mom of 2 children aged 2 & 5 who suffers from Bipolar Disorder. She was diagnosed in 2006 which means it’s been 4 years since her treatment began and 4 years that she has been under medical supervision. I am not a mental health expert, nor do I suffer from any kind of mental disorder or chronic habits that would render me unable to care for myself or my children. That said, I experience stress, mood-swings according to my hormone cycle, general irritability at people, situations and myself when things don’t happen exactly “my” way, and I have general highs and lows. Sometimes I refer to these times as things that make me “a little bit crazy.”
During the 21st week of my pregnancy with my second child, I felt a little unnerved and anxious. When I told my doctor he said that the feelings I described were symptomatic of this trimester and “typical” of 2nd births. Months after I had conceived, I guess I had what you could call “the blues,” and a general feeling of being overwhelmed the odd time, but nothing that could be clinically diagnosed as Post Partum Depression. In summary, I am a sensitive flower, but I have never ever thought about harming myself, or killing myself or others.
Which leads me to the story of this brave Mother and her unique case of mental illness. After I read the article–an incredibly honest and raw first person account of how she endeavoured to cope in her daily life–I felt an immense and immediate sadness for her children, for her, and for people who suffer mental illness in general. For example, when I think of drug addicts like Amy Winehouse and Lindsay Lohan, I don’t immediately think they are “spoiled rich kids who are seeking attention,” rather, I think: these individuals have some serious mental health issues which are indicative of their penchant to over use drugs. Check out this article which underscores this very point.
After reading this Mother’s story which includes a breakdown of her antipsychotic medications, plus her description of the routine that keeps her mind from fracturing, and allows her to make sense of her dis/ordered mind, she talks candidly about her use of recreational drugs and alcohol. She also speaks about locking herself in her bedroom for minutes at a time when the noise of her children grow unbearable, and her subsequent count-down to the time when she can have space without her little charges around.
It’s when I read the part about how she incorporated recreational drugs and alcohol alongside her prescribed meds that I believe my judgement-‘o-meter kicked in. I mean, to be completely honest, it doesn’t take a mental health patient or a recreational drug user to know that self-medicating is not only harmful to her, but to her children as well, and frankly to anyone with whom she comes in contact. If/when you are under the influence, your sense of reality is greatly compromised. This is psychology 101.
But more than what I think of her drug use, it’s what her particular drug use is doing to the people around her, and at the end the day, what she is doing to herself. The bigger issue for me is that she has children the same age as mine. Even with my marbles uncompromised by a chemical imbalance, my own children sometimes make me feel like I am losing my mind. When I posted a link of the article on my FB page, a high school friend made a comment. She said that she was playing “devil’s advocate,” but I don’t see it as such since the flip side is a harsh reality that I do not know, not having experienced it directly.
MY FRIEND’S COMMENT
“Was she diagnosed before or after she had children? I have to play devils advocate here, my own mother is severely bi-polar. Life choices look different on a manic high, to say the very least. It’s a guarantee some of her choices (the bad ones) will have derived from her illness. Bi-polar disorder is like ripples in a pond throughout a family.”
Here’s another article I found many moons ago about the author and writer Daphne Merkin who suffers from clinical depression. The story of her life is depressing, and dramatic, but in many ways hopeful.
So what is my point? Well, my point is that I won’t ever be able to walk a mile in this woman’s shoes, anymore than she will be able to walk a mile in mine. I don’t know what it feels like to be out of your mind, and out of control while totally aware of the fact that you don’t feel in your right mind or in control. I don’t know what it feels like to not want to get out of bed, or to not want to live. I do know what it is like to feel overwhelmed, but my coping strategies don’t include a daily doping strategy of drugs and alcohol to help pass the time in addition to what a doctor might prescribe.
Let the healing begin.