Being a bipolar mummy


I am many things. I am a mummy, a wife, a daughter, sister, granddaughter, friend, colleague, boss, customer, enemy (possibly) and acquaintance. I am sometimes shy, sometimes brash, mostly considerate, a bit of a gossip, a lover of family, a loyal Marks and Waitrose shopper, a knitwear fanatic and helpful whenever I can be.

I also am, or rather have, bipolar!

I was diagnosed in 2008 after having a breakdown and have been learning to deal with it since. I’ve had a few years of massive ups and downs but since my early 20s I have got a good grip on my mood swings without the use of medication. Ian and I have researched almost everything to do with bipolar and have learnt to recognise the warning signs of an oncoming episode, as well as possible triggers and best ways to deal with it. I no longer spend my maximum credit card allowance on shopping sprees, attempt to buy houses abroad, go driving around at ridiculous speeds or attempt/ contemplate suicide.

Being pregnant, however, made all of my worries and instabilities resurface. I had fears of being low during pregnancy, having postnatal depression to such an extent that I could not look after my new child, embarrassing or disappointing her when she was old enough to understand, and worst of all, passing on this mental nightmare to my beautiful baby girl.

For the majority of the pregnancy I was fine, mentally anyway! I think I was so busy buying baby clothes and doing her nursery that I managed to keep any dramatic changes in mood at bay. But with six weeks left till my due date I started getting low and all of a sudden everything hit me and made me unable to cope. I was weeks away from being responsible for a tiny being; weeks away from birthing a small Turkey in the complete knowledge that I still cried over paper cuts. It was like all of the confidence I had built up during the previous months was completely dashed. Again and again I doubted my ability to cope and raise this small human being. What if I fucked up? What if I let her down? What if she hated me? Admittedly I was not as low as I had been in the past, but still it felt like a massive weight on my shoulders which made the actual massive weight on my front feel like a massive mistake that I was unable to do anything about now.  Having experienced a childhood scarred by my dad’s bipolar disorder, I am especially weary of how my behaviour might affect and impact her now and later on.

Luckily for me, I fell in love with her instantly and every single ounce of me was about being the best mum I could be. So what if I didn’t sleep more than half an hour at a time, and more than 3 hours in total? When people told me to sleep I reassured them that I was fine and resented them for implying that she was naughty for not sleeping. But very quickly people’s unwanted and sometimes stupid advice and criticisms began to get to me. And this was made worse by my constant tears, lack of sleep and patience, the baby that wouldn’t be separated from me, the excruciating pain from my stitches, my inability to poo, and of course the relationship problems that no one mentions to you before you give birth.

Having been together for 9 years I felt that not a lot could get in between me and Ian; we were so alike and got along so well and had still been in the honeymoon phase. But then we disagreed on so much with her and my hormones, inexperience and broken nether regions made me very emotional and snappy, just as his inexperience, worry and inability to breastfeed her made him anxious and snappy with me. What I presumed was meant to be the happiest time of our lives was a very difficult time that saw us arguing more than I had ever expected. Even petty things like how many layers she wore out or who pushed the pram made us battle with each other. Even now, 8 months on, I still sometimes get the green eyed monster after convincing myself that she likes Ian more, or frustrated that he’s interfering and questioning which will also make wonder if he doubts my ability. In the back of my head I know that he is there for me and struggling too, but still these squabbles and fights add to my low moods.

I have had a few lows that have seen me stay in bed for a day, or two, but overall I have surprised myself and others by not letting the urge to roll up in a ball take over me. There are times that I have put my head in my hands and thought that I must be doing something wrong. If she won’t feed properly, or sleep, or won’t stop screaming for no apparent reason I can’t help but question my ability and convince myself that she doesn’t like me. I have no doubt that every new mother must do this, but my confidence is linked to my depression and I know that if I let it get on top of me I will sink into a black hole.

My husband and family tell me I am doing a great job and look great, but when she won’t settle I feel I am an utter failure and when I look in the mirror I see a fat mess that has sympathy eaten her way through enough crap food to put weight back on after giving birth and losing it all. But all of my mental demons are at odds with the fact that to most people I look like I am fine. With a new baby, a loving husband, nice home and new car what could be wrong with me? The idea that I am getting depressed over things going wrong makes me guilty, therefore making me lower and this is a delicate balance of mental stability to juggle.

It doesn’t matter who warns you about how hard being a new mum is, nothing can prepare you for the real thing. And if you have a preexisting mental illness I think it is harder because you are constantly trying to fight being low and mentally beating yourself up for being such a shit mum. And for anyone to walk on eggshells around you makes the whole situation that much more unbearable as you just want to be normal. All of the things that set you off pre-baby are still triggers but have been added to by an entirely new and unpredictable experience. And the lack of sleep and time by yourself to recuperate and collect your sanity and calm yourself down is the cherry on top. Just as you have been shat on, woken up or cried at for the umpteenth time and think you are at your limit, the black dog rears it’s ugly head and makes the whole situation that much worse!

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel! I have found that listening to myself and doing what I feel is right has helped my confidence a lot. Ian and my family know to help me and understand what I am going through without treating me like an invalid or incapable mother like I feared. Also the realisation that Savannah is my baby, and she is not necessarily anything like those in the books, or those of other people and therefore instead of expecting her to be something else, I should understand that she will only do things when she is ready. Attachment parenting has helped with my anxiety over something going wrong, and any worries about not being able to bond with her were put to bay by breastfeeding, sling wearing, co-sleeping and picking her up when she cried. This is not to say that this would work for everyone, but I am very sure that doing this has prevented me getting as low as I could have.

I remember how lucky I am to have her when so many people that I know have struggled to get pregnant and have babies. I look at how quickly Savannah is growing up and how beautiful, clever and adventurous she already is and remind myself that as opposed to fucking her up, I have made this small person in me and then continued to feed and love her into what she is now. We have a life time together, and she will one day be old enough to understand mummy’s problems, and I just hope that I can help to make her an understanding child and adult that doesn’t judge me. As clichéd as it sounds, I know I am doing the very best that I can with her, and I can only do that whilst looking after myself.

And there is no shame in being honest about how you feel. I obviously don’t tell everyone I meet every detail of my mental wellbeing, but postnatal depression and mental illnesses are so common and nothing to be ashamed of. I have learnt that asking for help and admitting defeat is sometimes the only way to build my strength back up again!  My bipolar will never really go away, but I will fight as hard as possible to make sure that it has as little impact on Savannah as possible.

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  • Josie

    Wow loved reading your post. You were so honest and shared so much that is personal to you.
    You sound like a fabulous mother. I’m on my 3rd time around and still question myself! Love with children is always the answer, and your clearly cracking that one!!

    19/04/2015 at 7:28 pm Reply
  • Bridget

    It is amazing and fantastic that feel able to share this. Many people never get to this place in a whole lifetime. To understand that listening to yourself and doing what you feel is right, is the the best thing , and a sure way to live everyday by.
    We all doubt ourselves in so many ways sometimes, but we can all be our own best friends. You are woman, your are mummy, you are magnificent, you are indevidual. Love all of you.

    19/04/2015 at 8:19 pm Reply
  • Ryan

    Mind opening how you’ve dealt with your own mind. Makes me think. Thanks x

    20/04/2015 at 9:32 pm Reply
  • dd

    I can relate alot… and i would say i realised i suffered depression after my mother died in a car accident.. it hit me 18 months after and the lever was in my abusive childhood. Suffering in silence. The anger and guilt felt that this person was taken from me before i finally was brave enough to forgive discuss and get angry with hidden feelings and emotion.
    I was very fortunate. Although i lost the backbone of our family i still had great memories. I Silk had a lovely daughter i needed to raise teach nurture and protect. I worked hard sometimes 70hrs a wk so that she did not go without. With an abscent father and a very supportive granddad there were many challenging times ahead. I buried my pain in my job and through meaningless relationships. Somehow It felt better knowing that i didn’t have to show my inner self to a man i was dating. It became a balance act as i kept any date or boyfriend or relationship hidden from my daughter. It was MY motherhood. When it got to the point where the relationship could grow i turned my back on it. I Also learnt how to keep my emotions hidden from my daughter. I hid my depression very well. At times im sure i convinced myself i was ok ! I wasn’t lucky enough to have support. Our culture views mental illness as bad as if you have a bad spirit inside of you. So i suffered in silence until it became overwhelming. I could convince myself i was worthless as i was a single mum. I was so fragile and lost. Even my language was fragile. All seems such a long time ago and I’ve learnt how to manage those times before they turned dark. Your blog is brilliant. A breath of fresh air. An opportunity to share your collective. I really do believe that we who understand we suffer mental illness are the lucky ones because we have an opportunity to learn about our illness and this enables us to understand ourselves better be better equipped with managing lapses and skilled in avoiding triggers where we can.
    Far too many ppl suffer in silence and i was surprised to learn that clinical depression trends to highly intelligent ppl / over achievers and ppl pleasers.
    Sharing experiences is great. These days I try to shield myself from triggers. Things are much easier to cope with now and i learnt how not to hide so much from my daughter 🙂
    Once again thanks for sharing

    11/07/2015 at 1:34 am Reply
  • Idalia

    Oh oh oh… also. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, opening night, 70mm, Dolby Suodounraborm, etc. I’m watching the opening sequence with my mom and dad: the (admittedly beautiful) wide-shot of a lone figure climbing up El Capitan. As the credits go on, my mom begins to fidget, mumbling to herself.We cut to William Shatner, pulling himself atop the sheer rock-face in all his bloated, touped glory, my mom BURSTS into laughter, offending a theater filled with dutiful, rapt Trekkies.Get a life, indeed.

    06/01/2017 at 6:27 am Reply
  • Charla

    merci de nous faire partager votre expérience à travers vos récits et vos photos nous pensons très fort à voÃnr!!F!asu§ois, Chrys , Jahin ,Neela

    06/01/2017 at 6:49 am Reply

    I've made panna cotta, but never with chocolate!! How could I have not thought of it yet! *horror* This looks soo good, I wish I had a few of them right now 🙂

    08/02/2017 at 3:52 pm Reply
  • kredit für selbständige mit negativer schufa

    I hear ya, Diana! I love physical books too and continue to buy/read them. I may not have ever transitioned partly to the Kindle if my parents hadn’t bought me one for Christmas! =) In fact, I’ve heard that the iPad can be pretty similar since you have a library on there too.Ooh! Good idea about empty bags! Sometimes, when I remember, I pack extra ziplocs or bags folded into triangles. You’re right that they can be so randomly useful! And you’ve reminded me about the hand sanitizer that I have in my purse and never use. =P

    11/02/2017 at 4:05 pm Reply
  • serie se kleinkredit günstig

    I’m interested in knowing what type of cardio plans are safe during pregnancy. I’m in my second trimester now and have more energy to workout but I’m afraid to overdo it. Since you have stayed so fit through your pregnancy could you share some cardio ideas with me, please?

    12/02/2017 at 5:26 pm Reply
  • http://www./

    Hey, you’re the goto expert. Thanks for hanging out here.

    19/02/2017 at 6:44 am Reply
  • http://www./

    Such an adorable card! The bee is too cute and i really love your punching all around your card :)Thanks for joining us at Crafty Cardmakers.Fiona x

    28/02/2017 at 11:59 pm Reply
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