Just in the past two weeks, I have learned of one accidental death, one suicide, a slew of hospitalizations, and listened to friends who are struggling with depression and anxiety and overall life, in all of its joy and overwhelm. I sometimes, as I do now, wonder how far to go in giving of myself and my support, in order to lend a hand. I am balancing my own recovery. What else do I have to give others at this point? I also wonder if I even would be the best candidate, or if others would be able to better support those in need. I also have fleeting, guilty thoughts of how, although I have been a pretty good friend when I am specifically asked and needed, I have rejected and repelled so many friendships over the years.
I am critically analyzing my behaviors now as a flow of give and take. It is not mechanical; it is omnipresent. I don’t ever consciously expect something in return for my deeds. Yet, when I think about how I have met some of my newer friends it has been in cohort-type support groups. In these settings I am attending to “get” something that would benefit myself. Of course I, and we, would offer help if something arises (see above), but I, and we, all have very self-important reasons for even attending these meetings.
To give any sort of thought to question if I should then lend myself to a friend in need takes me back to that selfish motivation. In order to change that I very much do need to reciprocate the giving when and where I am needed, and when asked. Anything less would be breaking the flow of giving after the taking has been copious.
addiction, advice, alcoholism, bipolar depression, bipolar disorder, bipolar parent, coping skills, disorders, imperfection, mental illness, motherhood, normal, normalcy, parent with bipolar, parenting, parenting with Bipolar, PWB, recovery, sobriety
Being recently diagnosed with Bipolar Depression (and not just the unipolar depression I have come to know for oh-too-many-years now), I am still learning this new language, my personal triggers, and thus my new coping skills. One issue that was in the background for me until recently as well, has been struggling with the issue of Parenting while Bipolar. I will call it PWB.
I am, right now, what my therapists and support group peers call “high functioning.” I maybe have not always been that way, but I have hid it well in recent years. I am also proud of that status now, although it also adds a bit of shame and stigma in an unintended way. The mask I hide behind on a somewhat daily basis does not usually show the pain of the depression nor the racing and pushy thoughts that others would label deluded, radical or outright insane when I am hypomanic.
I also have not been hospitalized, and for this I feel lucky. Some of my friends over the years have, however. I feel grateful for this. Although one never knows if it could or will happen to them, and you have to do the best you can in the present and try to avoid overloading yourself to avoid that from happening. Because I am labeled “high functioning,” I feel awful not only when friends struggle, but when I am going through an up or a down phase and I realize that I am so good at hiding it. I need to appear in control, probably to feel in control. I also do not want to lose control. I also do not want to appear incapable, which adds to the self-placed shame and feeding into the stigma. I want to be respected, not pitied nor avoided.
Parenting even without a mental disorder is always going to bring blessings and challenges. I have also struggled with alcoholism, and I hid that pretty well for the most part. My child never saw me falling down drunk, but did see me constantly holding a full glass of my beverage of choice however (and not so great for social modeling as it is called!). Since my early teens, I have also struggled with depression. Depending on who was in my company, this was interpreted different ways: I was either oversensitive, lazy, unmotivated, mousy, not wanting to work or go to school, irresponsible, etc. I heard many terms. Only a few depressed friends ever tried to reach out since they probably saw something in me that they could identify with. I can do this now as well.
Given that I have been very familiar with this side of “my bipolar,” I have known how to take my own time outs when I need them, steal the rare nap, and call out sick when I need to. I always got the job done, just after the darkness lifted. I also don’t make or return many phone calls, and I tend to repel people during these times. Sometimes I would end up getting out of bed and taking a shower only at the time when I needed to go do a pick up from school. Yet I showed up clean.
I rarely let my child see me cry, although it may have been obvious I was sad, or slow in speech and movement. Yet, I made it appear to work, and I still do. Being a single parent makes this even harder, however, as the other side of my life involves my child’s always busy academic and social life. I have never, ever shorted my child of this, although my level of involvement and my outlook on the activities or the other persons involved definitely have varied, depending on my unpredictable moods. I have actually gone to the extreme, to almost complete burnout, to make sure my “stuff” does not affect her life and impact her any more than it already may be. I have gone above and beyond volunteering, baking or helping with stage backdrops, etc. I may have faked it…but I did it.
At the other Bipolar extreme, my hypomania may come out in various ways. Half of my mania presents as “Über-Fun Mom!” I talk fast, I dress up weirdly, I play, I take spur of the moment trips with my child and sometimes a friend or two. I spend money I don’t really have, we go to extravagant dinners, I make online purchases at midnight that happily surprise my kid in about 48 hours. At these times I have delusions and have thought I was related to Mother Teresa, or was convinced that I should stay up as late as needed to translate the Voynich manuscript (which has so far been undecipherable even to expert linguists!). I am a great mom and friend at these times, and I am creative and energetic. It all looks fine and dandy from afar!
But the other half of the hypomania is like a light switch and turns on the irritable, irritated, and irritating. Easily agitated, unnerved, anxious, angry and enraged. I have thrown things, broken things, or threatened to break things. I have had destructive things removed from my hands. I have driven fast, and stopped quickly, scaring the crap out of people. I shake so much my insides reverberate, my voice raises and quivers, I say snippy or snide things to people that I don’t really mean, I give people emotional and figurative hoops to jump through, and I feel ugly inside. Most of that is hidden behind closed doors, or my facial mask, and privy only to those closest to me and whom I love the most. Unfortunately, my child has been a witness to most of this.
For years, I regulated all of this with alcohol, and previously with other substances. I could bring myself up or down to balance out my actions and feelings. I became a nicer person at least for a while. I could smile, relax, have fun or be quasi-productive. I no longer do this nor have these crutches since starting my new phase of recovery. I still struggle, even with new medications, to have full control over the swings. What I am gaining with my meds and therapy though, is a slight pause and a gradual softening of these swings and some clarity of thought.
With these tiny breaks, I can somewhat see the patterns, recognize the triggers and see when my moods are even just starting to swing. I now have a language to contextualize it all. It no longer feels like a demonic possession which I cannot control, or a shameful wave of feelings that do not seem like my own, and which I cannot explain to myself nor anyone else. I know that it just IS, and I cannot create nor destroy it. This is a huge start. My coping skills are getting a bit better but they definitely need a lot more work.
Amidst all of this is my child. My child is seeing my ups and downs, and is old enough to be able to verbalize concerns. I am trying my best to explain things as I learn them. I am trying to say what I am feeling and to tell what I need. Yet, as a PWB, when I am overly stressed with parenting, there is a fine balance that I am still struggling with. The balance I am trying to find is to distinguish between what is “normal” and expected for me to tolerate (with a growing youth), and what part of my intolerance is due to my uncontrollable thoughts and moods. For that I have no answer, except to be constantly alert and aware, and damn, that is taking a lot of energy and time!
PWB is not an easy trajectory for me. I also know that it is not easy for my child, who has seen many faces of my swings over the years and who is now getting “TMI” overload with my new language and labels. I want to inform and make aware, but also not create a caretaker or co-dependent of my child. My child recently asked “Why do I have to have a Bipolar Mom…I mean, Why Me?” It felt like a dagger pierced my heart. I had to respond, “It could be worse, and at least I have not been hospitalized!” (Gee, that was hopeful!). We also have a bit of a family history of alcoholism and mental illness. That doesn’t help. So we have to talk about these things as well. What a shitty deck of cards to be dealt. At least I know that my child has ME to educate and to look out for any signs or symptoms along the way. I never had that. Ever.
It took an old episode of a show “The United States of Tara,” to solidify my half-assed point that night. In the show, the mother has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Think “Sybil,” the movie. In this episode, the sarcastic and always-rude teenage daughter spurted out “Why do I have to have a Mom with Alters?!” See, I said, you could have a mom with multiple personalities!
It is now turning out to be a fave show of ours, and we are now watching episodes back-to-back on Netflix. It may not make our issues go away, but it will definitely help put them into a darkly comedic perspective. If that helps to get us through the next few weeks, I will be quite happy.
I would like to share this unique opportunity to inform those working with and/or personally experiencing Recovery (of any sort), or who have friends or family in Recovery, to utilize these free online resources. Tommy Rosen has over 20 years of addiction recovery teaching experience. You will find this to be a holistic approach to some very important and proactive topics, with some cutting-edge speakers!
ABOUT THE EVENT:
Recovery 2.0 produces two FREE online conferences each year, which showcase the voices of top professionals and thought-leaders to deliver cutting-edge scientific, spiritual, and practical approaches to treating and overcoming addictions of all kinds. This will run May 3-7th and it is not too late to register!
May 2014 marks the third Recovery 2.0: Beyond Addiction conference. Over 25,000 people participated last year! You may participate in all or parts of the event, at your leisure. It will start at 6 am (PST) and run for 24 hours a day!
FREE Conference Registration:http://recovery2point0.com/
Recovery 2.0 also meets the qualifications for 25 hours of continuing education credit
for MFTs, LPCCs, LEPs and/or LCSWs. (These have a fee associated with them; See site for details)
You may also buy the May 2014 Recovery 2.0 Conference Recordings. Enjoy each interview free during the conference, May 3 – 7, and if you wish to own the Conference for your Recovery Library you may purchase it (Also see site for details).
Pass it on!
It has been a while since my last post. I have not been short of ideas about which to write, but I have been short of time and concentration however. My moods have seemed to have been improving steadily, and yet I still have had some physically and emotionally challenging days and weeks. Even a new bout of shingles in there, which really did wonders for my mood!
Seems that this nasty virus flares up when my immune system is weakened, and I do not get enough sleep, or pay as much attention to my diet as I need to, or when I am under a lot of stress or depressed which also weakens and tires me out. I guess ALL of that was happening at once. The worst part of having this unfriendly virus/house-guest that never goes away, is that it then results in feeling even more crappy, achy, and flu-like, and it depresses the shit out of you and lowers your immunity to other things. What a cycle! It is a lot of fun, let me tell you.
Anyhow, I have been spending a bit too much time thinking of my disorders and my recovery in a quasi-scientific way as of late, especially while in bed, shivering under the covers. It does help me to be informed about myself and others, but it also creates a wall of distance between myself and the disorders (which ironically is part of myself). If I read about “it” then I won’t have to feel or think too personally about “it.” Get it?
It makes complete sense to me!
When I saw my psychiatrist the other day we spoke about upping the dosage of one of my medications for the bipolar disorder. He and I spoke at some length about my symptoms. He then asked about my alcohol cravings at a recent party I attended where everyone was drinking, and to which I looked at him puzzled and thought “WHAT?…OH, RIGHT! THAT!” but to which I quickly replied…”Good, I meant, O.K., I mean I haven’t had them too strongly as of late.” (I am also on medication for those too!). Funny thing was that I almost forgot about my alcoholism! How can that even happen?!
I can tell you exactly what happened…it was my one-track one-focus mind that was active at the time. I had been focusing on my mental health recovery so much lately…Reading a few books at once, watching videos of others with BPD 2, and even joining a support group for those with bipolar and depressive mood conditions. I even have a little pod of awesome new friends through the group,who I am totally enjoying the company of! I also haven’t been in touch with any AA friends and I haven’t gone to an AA meeting since last week. Now there is a recipe for a small-scale personal disaster!
I am at the point in my recovery where my therapist said folks like myself get “cocky” and I feel it. Yet I know that I must stay a part of my recovery groups and programs in order to stay on track. I am like a child who thinks s/he is independent enough to stray from the parents yet who doesn’t fully have all of the life skills in order to do so, at least 100% safely. And I like risks. Taking a risk on my health and my life however is not one that I wish to do at this stage. I have already done plenty of that.
I also know that both issues have to be addressed in my recovery planning. I must balance the two, and that is where I am struggling right now. In my “manic” states I will scatter my brain all over the place, take on many projects and think I am in control of it all. I also can, on the other hand, become obsessively goal-oriented and focus intently on one and one thing only…until it is done, at whatever cost or in whatever time it takes. Neither of those states are ideal. I also can be in a “depressive” phase also where neither option sounds remotely possible, and it seems worthless to even try to accomplish anything at all.
The really fun part of these disorders is that they are unreliable. You never know which, Jekyll or Hyde, will appear, although you may sense them coming on. The addict knows that their substance, or the object, of choice and thus addiction, was reliable to some extent. Life is not. It is indeterminable and unpredictable. It is this scary unknown that keeps many of us away from seeking help or treatment, and scares the crap out of us in recovery. We may be very brave and like risk-taking, but deep down we have strong roots of fear.
Control is something we crave but which we truly never have. And so, persons like me have to dually learn that we have control and then re-learn to take control, and at the same time we must now realize and accept that everything is out of our control. It may sound confusing, and it is indeed!
Regardless, we move onward and ahead, and we try to shed these illusions. We learn to reshape who we are and who we want to be…The art of which is a fine balancing act.
It has been over a month since my last post. It is not that I haven’t had constant dialogue still running through my head. I have. I guess I have been busy returning to a more stable life and also (perhaps a bit excessively) busy with activities which have not left much down time to write.
I have noticed some new and mixed feelings just in the past two weeks, that oscillate between really enjoying where I am now, and yet an odd sense of shame, stigma and regret. I have had an upward, and inner, sense of pleasure of a newly sober life, and of an improved state of my moods which have been a lot more stable as of lately. At other times I also have had interspersed pangs of shame and regret, usually triggered by recent social situations-meeting new people, feeling as if I have to hide my true self and my recovery status for the sake of myself and/or my child, feeling more than different than I usually feel, and realizing what a bad friend that I have been over the past years.
Hearing news of successes, babies, and exotic vacations from those from my past, who also include exes,has added to a retrospective guilt pile that I have been accruing and attempting to bury. There is also some jealousy. Some fleeting self pity as well. Why could not my life have taken a different path, and why do I have to miss out on some of their lives blessings? The answer is that their paths and their lives are not mine, and I know this.
I know that I should not let other’s people’s successes cause envy or even self-degradation. Yet, it is my newly found recovery and clarity that are also creating these moments of reflection. I innately know that my self-worth is not vested in other’s lives nor their views of me.
I also know that I am not the only one who has an ego playing mind games about these exact issues. I am assuming it is a part of the growing pains of recovery for some of us. I am still processing the present and now my past along with reshaping what I would like my future to look like. This just happens to be one of those difficult times where the three intersect.
Over the weekend, my kid and I started watching a new series on Netflix. Well, new for us, but not newly filmed. It’s the British series of Sherlock Holmes, surprisingly called “Sherlock.” We absolutely love it. Adore it. Great everything-dialogue, intrigue, acting, etc. Cannot help but get pulled into the action and feel your brain moving faster as each episode progresses. Leaves you feeling a bit smarter too! I also told my daughter that we would have to go back and read the original stories (some of which I’d read in earlier years), and watch older film versions since she was enjoying this one.
All of that being said, I went to a recovery bookstore called the Sober Camel the very next morning. The older man behind the counter was moving around on his cane. As we moved toward the back of the store he called out to my child. “Hey, Gladys!” and asked if she could help him carry some books and pack them into a cardboard box for him. Apparently they were moving, and we had no idea. It was great timing that we showed up when we did.
Since her name isn’t actually Gladys, I had to explain to her later about the generational aspect of his salutation. She helped him out, and put piles of books into cardboard boxes for him, but I could tell that she thought it was a bit strange. She is a tween. I thought it was great. I also explained to her later, that in earlier times people just helped each other and kids helped their elders without being asked, and when asked, it was just a respectful expectation to do it. Nothing weird about it. I wish it was still that way very often, and it’s how I choose to live. I just love when I meet people who are friendly and also mutually respectful. I eat it up. Unfortunately it is a fading feeling with each passing generation from my experiences. So we walked around, looking at some books and coins, and the man also walked around, moving things into neat piles for the move.
But it gets better…The man came back to meet us at the counter and mentioned that he just lost his cane in his travels around the store. As we looked around for the elusive wooden stick, I mentioned something about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson’s cane. In the first episode we watched, Dr. Watson left his cane and yet managed to walk, and run, until someone returned the allegedly necessary instrument to him. Similar to his situation now. Suddenly, and seemingly randomly, the man said “If you turn around, right over there we have an old copy of Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A 1927 edition. It’s one less book I have to move if you take it.”
So we gratefully accepted it.
Amazing. Recovery bookstore. Sherlock Holmes?!
Synchronicity at its best… A “God Shot” for sure.
Wow. I am disillusioned with much of politics but I am impressed by this speech.
This Initiative not only interests me, for so many personal and professional reasons, but hear what Obama says in this brief clip. The youth experience of turning to drugs or alcohol for so many reasons has far reaching consequences. As he mentions humbly and candidly, some of us had second, or third, or multiple chances, and some did not. Some have had our problem paths turn to end too abruptly, some ended in a quick fade of the habit, and some went on to become problem-laden or addicted.
Better programs for prevention, and reform across the various intersecting systems including the justice system are not sensitive to this and unfortunately there are a myriad of disparities based upon ethnicity, “race,” language and gender or other “statuses.”
I hope many of us in recovery will find our voices to be advocates for change in our own ways.
A free online screening is happening March 1st for this groundbreaking documentary film.
“The Anonymous People tells the story of the more than 23 million Americans living in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. The 88-minute film will be offered as a free online stream – for 24 hours only. In addition, filmmaker Greg Williams, Hazelden’s William Cope Moyers and others will answer viewers’ questions in a live discussion at 5 p.m. Eastern.”
DATE: Saturday, March 1, 2014
To Join the Event :
Join the Hazelden Online Community at: