I became a mom while my friends were attending frat parties. I was nineteen when Grace was born and turned twenty a month later. I wasn’t diagnosed with Bipolar until a few years after she was born. Post-partum hit me like a train and lasted for months. My parents are divorced, so I had an idea already of what kind of parent I wanted to be. I am also the oldest of three. Riley wasn’t old enough to see much of my struggles after high school, but Will was. I knew I wanted to shield Grace from seeing times like that. All moms struggle, even the ones without a mental illness. Being Bipolar doesn’t mean I’m a bad parent–I believe it makes me a better one.
People tend to forget that Bipolar Disorder is an illness, just like diabetes. It disrupts your everyday life, and it’s a lifestyle change for sure. When I first got diagnosed, I’ll admit I went off the rails. I was young, and I didn’t understand what was going on. Medication was something I wasn’t interested in at first. They always made me feel foggy or sick. I was throwing up all the time. As the years have gone by, I’ve gained more of an understanding of what is best for me. During the first year, Tristan’s parents were such lifesavers (although they’ve always been). I knew I didn’t want Grace to have to experience the bad episodes, and they understood. Whenever I knew I was not well, she was always welcome at their house. I have so much gratitude for Tristan’s parents. Their support over the years means so much to me.
Stable is not a word you think of when it comes to the word Bipolar. When you become a mom, stability is something that HAS to be in your vocabulary. Children require a stable home environment. My parents are divorced, and it was something I didn’t handle well as a kid. It was also something I didn’t handle well at twenty either. By the time I was a senior in high school, I had a pretty good idea about what kind of life I wanted for my kid. Little did I know I’d be pregnant two years later, haha. It came fast. I like to think we did well with Grace. She has so much love in her heart, and she’s going to do big things. I promise.
To be honest with everyone, there have been very few times that Grace has seen one of my episodes. We moved into Tristan’s parents shortly after she was born, so she’s always felt comfortable at both places. I’ve shielded Grace from most of it, but one day we’ll have to have a conversation about it. She hasn’t seen an episode since she was a baby and we couldn’t talk about it. I’m not naïve, I know I can’t hide it forever. I’ve spent so much time thinking about the day we talk about it. I want to be as open and honest with Grace as much as I can be.
I know that I will never lose perspective when it comes to how my illness affects her. It’s so important to me that she knows that my symptoms are not her fault, they’re parts of an illness. Our line of communication will always be honest. I want her to feel comfortable coming to me with questions, and I want to be able to answer as best as I can. Counseling is something that could also be helpful. My biggest fear is Grace ending up like me (not that I’m awful), but I want her to be happy forever. Unrealistic, I know. I’m going to do my best to make sure she has the best life. Grace Melinda deserves the world.
There isn’t a handbook when it comes to parenting. You take life as it comes, and you cherish every moment of it. It goes by too fast. Even if you don’t have an illness, motherhood can still be challenging. For all you moms out there, you’re not alone. Becoming a mom is the best thing that ever happened to me. Grace is amazing. We got so lucky. Kindergarten is in less than a month, and I know she is going to do so well. My little genius (she’ll tell you this herself).
There are a few things I like to keep in mind being a parent with Bipolar Disorder. Here you go 🙂
- Consider your loved ones feelings always.
- Show love as much as you can.
- Listen to them.
- Don’t feel shame. Your illness is not you or your family’s fault.
- Learn how to become more aware when an episode is coming on, and how better to handle it.
- Breathe. ❤