The bottom line was though, if I didn’t take some kind of action, this was going to be the shortest marriage in history due to me being so poorly (and consequently, extremely difficult to live with).
When I discovered I was pregnant with little MK it was the most incredible moment of my life.
A heady mix of excitement, overwhelm, disbelief, and nerves.
The nerves came from events of the recent past.
I had miscarried less than a year before, with my previous partner.
That was devastating, and left me terrified that I was incapable of seeing a pregnancy through.
In fact, I went on to miscarry a further two times shortly after the birth of MK, but of course I wasn’t to know that back then. Thankfully.
But also, and quite simply, I had nerves about whether I could cope with looking after a little person. Frightful nerves.
Let’s face it, looking after myself hadn’t always gone to plan, had it?
Bipolar and motherhood – can they mix?
Could I manage to live with bipolar and also provide a stable, positive environment for the soon to be MK?
But do you know what? So far so good.
At times it’s incredibly difficult to offer consistency when I’m either having a depressive low or being hypomanic.
It’s almost too much to fight, but as Bob Marley said:
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.”
This invisible strength I somehow conjure up fascinates me though.
Yes, as Bob Marley intimated, when you just have to do or be something, you do it.
Is it Mother Nature waving her magic wand? Is it some kind of inner superhuman strength?
Or is it perhaps that I love this little chap so much that nothing, not even bipolar, can beat team Mummy and MK?
Who knows, but thank you to whoever or whatever you are. Thank you for protecting my boy from the gremlin within.
But oh my days. When little MK goes to school, or to bed, and I’m in either one of these states, I either collapse into bed the moment I’m on my own, or start scrubbing the skirtings!
Whichever the extreme, it’s a thoroughly exhausting few days. Or sometimes more than a few days.
From time to time I ask Handsome Doc whether he think MK feels or notices a different Mummy at times like these. I know Handsome Doc will always give me an honest answer.
What he tells me is that MK knows and loves his mummy just as she is, and that he will see the mild (hugely restrained) mood changes as normal mummy behaviour.
I hope so. I really do.
Bipolar and motherhood can mix.
Now. Falling pregnant when you live with bipolar, as you may well know, doesn’t come without it’s challenges.
Firstly, I was 38 when I fell pregnant. An ‘older mum?’ Well yes, I guess so, but it’s all relative, isn’t it? And I certainly didn’t feel old! Still don’t for that matter!
Oh and incidentally, I was decidedly unimpressed when a nurse casually joked about me being a ‘geriatric mum’.
A what? A what type of mum?!
But yes. I had heard correctly. Apparently in the past this is the way in which pregnant women over the age of 35 were described. How lovely!
I believe the term nowadays, and it’s still hugely unflattering, is ‘women of advanced maternal age’. Again. How lovely!
Back to the challenges of a pregnant woman who lives with bipolar. The most monumental challenge of all, for me anyway, was dealing with my meds. Or rather, the lack of them.
All those hateful yet at the same time wonderful meds that I took daily, had to stop.
They had to be fully out of my system for at least three months before I fell pregnant. On in particular can be horribly harmful to an unborn child.
Now at times I resent taking these meds. The side affects, as I’ve mentioned before, can be pretty ghastly.
That said, I resented NOT taking them far more. No bipolar meds? Seriously?
The process of slowly reducing my intake was like a bit like watching a gruesome horror movie in slow motion, creepy music at full blast, and with the lights switched out when you’re on your own in a haunted house in the middle of a very dark forest. That bad.
Withdrawals from the anti-depressant, Citalopram, were particularly miserable.
I was, and still am, on the maximum dose of 40mg, so to deprive myself of this hefty dose of chemicals was quite a shock to the system.
Serious dizziness. Constantly.
The concentration of a 2 year old in an astro-physics lecture.
Confusion over simple things like organising my journey into work.
Crying until I ran out of tears.
Low mood. Very low mood.
Mental and physical exhaustion.
Being unable to complete a sentence without losing my train of thought half way through it.
Senior moments. These may have been more down to the fact that I was a ‘geriatric’ though! Losing my phone then finding it in the fridge or the linen basket wasn’t uncommon.
Nonetheless, if I was hoping to fall pregnant, this was the way it had to be.
Happily, I fell pregnant quite quickly after stopping the meds which was my blessing, and one for which I will always be very grateful.
My pregnancy however, was nothing short of a daily trauma.
I was hungrier than a bear after a winter of hibernation, and ate for 102 as opposed to just 2.
I withdrew from friends, and to a lesser but still significant degree, from family.
I was bad tempered and snappy.
I felt horribly low and lost.
I was scared.
Plus I was due to get married three months into my pregnancy.
Not great timing I suppose, but when I first hoped to fall pregnant I reckoned it could take a while and that the wedding would come long before a pregnancy did.
As it happened, it didn’t. But in fact I love that MK was present at the wedding, albeit that he was in my tummy at the time!
In my mind, planning for a wedding ought to be part of the whole celebration. Choosing a dress, flowers, rings, a venue and so on.
Surely that’s exciting, isn’t it?
But no. I swung from being obsessive to the point of ripping up invitation envelopes in a rage if the stamp was a millimeter out of place, to being utterly disinterested in the whole thing.
Looking back on it I now feel enormous guilt.
I feel guilt towards my now ex-husband, as this was of course his wedding too, and I took all the joy out of the planning process.
I’m sorry MK’s daddy. I’m sorry to have put you through that.
I also feel guilt towards my family, who can read me like a book. I can’t ‘act’ for them. They see right through any kind of performance I may try to put on.
Knowing I wasn’t right put an enormous strain on them, as naturally, they wanted me to do the right thing and to find happiness and security. At long last! Yet they couldn’t be at all sure I was going to reach the finishing line.
The day before the wedding I sat on a bench in Berkeley Square in London crying, and talking on the phone to one of my oldest and dearest friends. I was telling her I just couldn’t go through with it. I felt lost and completely alone.
Yet the man I was due to marry and the man to whom I was due to make some pretty bold promises the following day was waiting for me at his office so that we could set off to the airport in less than an hour.
We did get married in the end, and I think I enjoyed the day. I think.
In fact yes, I did enjoy it. It was a cracking good party, but given the fact the gremlin was also having a party (in my head), the entire day is very blurry and confused.
Oh how I missed my meds.
Just after the wedding, my mood swings were so severe that I visited my then psychiatrist. He explained that given the fact I was now past the three month mark in my pregnancy, I could go back on a lower dose of some of my meds.
I have to say I felt decidedly uneasy about this, as by that stage I’d already fallen madly and deeply in love with MK. I was terrified of doing anything that may harm this miraculous, tiny little creature growing in my tummy. He was entirely dependent on me making good decisions for both of us.
The bottom line was though, if I didn’t take some kind of action, this was going to be the shortest marriage in history due to me being so poorly. I was extremely difficult to live with.
But without doubt, the biggest factor in my going back on some meds was that I had a very real fear that if I didn’t get myself back on an even keel, I wouldn’t be allowed to keep my little MK.
I was convinced, in my head, that he’d be whisked away from me as soon as he was born.
Being back on meds improved my mental well being significantly. And thankfully quite quickly.
Just before Christmas in 2012 my beautiful little MK made an entrance, and has barely left my side ever since.
Contrary to my ‘off my meds’ state of mind, he was not whisked away from me. He remained in my arms and now by my side.
He’s my mini bestie!
We do everything together – we shop, we play games, we swim, we play football in the garden (badly), we talk, we laugh and we cry. We also have some pretty epic stand-offs! Just normal mummy-son stuff, but it’s not pretty.
As we said before, motherhood combined with bipolar can be extremely challenging.
There are dark days when I have to manually increase the brightness for his sake. There are hypomanic days when I have to press the ‘slo-mo’ button repeatedly. But that’s ok.
I have a wonderful son who brings me complete joy and gives unconditional love every single day, and he makes my life more worthwhile than ever before.
So many women have far worse pregnancies than mine, and indeed so many women would give anything to be able to get pregnant.
I am, in this respect, hugely blessed.
Thank you MK. Thank you for being my superhero and my saviour.
Keep well. x