I Had To Write This Down.

This morning I work up and decided I wanted to be a writer. Not a sociologist or a lawyer or an academic. Just a writer.

I  went downstairs, had my two cups of coffee, took my kids to school, and proceeded to clean my kitchen cabinets while my toddler took all the pots and pans out. The babysitter came, and I was alone, and I kept at it. Sorted and labelled tea bags. Gathered paper bag full of breastfeeding supplies. Rearranged the small appliances in the now empty cabinet. Organized the pots and pans. Threw away a bunch of shit.

Then decided I needed to go to Costco. Searched for my rebate coupon. Made a list. Went to Costco, wandered the aisles. Bought diapers, paper towels, toilet paper, ziploc bags, ham, cereal, waffles, syrup, juice, two bottles of wine.

And I struggled to hold back the tears as I walked the aisles. Because yesterday, I literally sat on my hands for 45 minutes until I knew I couldn’t leave my house and get back in time for the babysitter to leave at her regular time.

Because all I wanted to do was go to an expensive-ass store and spend $300 I didn’t have on clothes I don’t need. I bought stuff online instead.

Because last night I asked my husband to take my children out for dinner because I simply could not stand to have them all around me. We didn’t read our book. I just couldn’t wait for them to go to sleep. And I wanted to just be alone.

Because I worried last night as I was going to sleep about going to sleep. Because I couldn’t sleep, was drenched in a cold sweat, and got up to take a shower at 6 am. And then made pancakes and bacon and drank two cups of coffee and prayed my children didn’t act crazy. And when the neighbor boy who sometimes goes to school with us said that we needed to clean our car, I told him he could walk. He’s six.

I shouldn’t be drinking wine, or coffee for that matter. I take three drugs that are supposed to help my mental health and I shouldn’t be drinking with any of them. And I know this, but I don’t care. They are rituals, how I start and end my day. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have them.

I just had to write this down. I left my groceries in the middle of the living room floor, and came upstairs to write this. And listen to Maxwell. And E. Badu. And Tony Toni Tone. And feel the music pulse through my body and move and exit as tears. And I turn it up as loud as I possibly can without getting a headache.

Everywhere I look, I see mess. Mess that needs to be cleaned. Mess that needs to be cleaned by me. Right now. I haven’t eaten today. And I’m not fasting. I’m struggling right now to even want to give anything up for Lent. Because I am so fucking angry that I can’t control this no matter how hard I try no matter what I do no matter how good I’ve been I still have this. I sill have bipolar disorder. And it scares me.

Most people don’t even believe me, don’t believe I have bipolar. I’m accomplished. I’m friendly. I laugh. I joke. It’s not full-blown mania. My thoughts are all over the place. The words tumble faster than I want them to.  I literally cannot sit still. Overabundance of energy, but not directed. Haywire. I take anti-anxiety meds to take naps. To slow things down.

And it makes me worry. You can’t see worry. You can’t see anxiety. You can’t see the panic. Only I can. And my husband can. And he says you’re really hyped right now. What can we do about this? And I don’t know.

I don’t even know if this makes sense. I just needed to write it down. I just needed to make a record of this. I just need to know that I’m not…I don’t know.

I’m going to finish my cabinets. And sing along.

Mad Mommy: The What Ifs

(Cross Posted on CocoaMamas)

She lost her babies because of a what if. Actually several what ifs.

“I couldn’t see living the rest of my life worrying and wondering what had happened, or what if she hadn’t taken her medicine, or what if she relapsed,” said Ms. Baker, who has four children of her own.

Ms. Baker was the gestational surrogate of twins for Amy and Scott Kehoe. None of the four adults involved in bringing the children to life are genetically related to the twins, but the Kehoes are the ones who chose the sperm and egg donors, chose Ms. Baker as a surrogate, and paid for all her medical expenses. Ms. Baker had previously served as a surrogate for other couples, and at first, days after the twins birth, stood in front of a judge and relinquished custody of the children to the Kehoes. But then she changed her mind*. Because of what ifs.

She changed her mind because what if Amy Kehoe, a woman who through some biological quirk could not have a child through her womb with her egg or her husband’s sperm, didn’t take her medication for some mental illness? What if her medication stopped working? I mean, what if she went all Susan Smith on her kids, or Andrea Yates, or Amber Hill? Women who all, because of mismanaged mental illness, went on to do the unspeakable to their children, children they were genetically related to, children they birthed from their womb.

Amber Hill was actually on her way to the hospital when her mismanaged depression got so severe to cause a psychotic break that factured her grip on reality.  I remember the day things, my depression**, got so bad that I knew I needed – must – go to the hospital. The day after my 28th birthday, I dropped my kids off at day care. I sat in my living room. And it felt like my world had come to an end. It had been building; the sadness, the hopelessness, the profound sense of nothingness. I was in so much pain – my body from fibromyalgia, my spirit from a sense of being very far from God. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating, I couldn’t concentrate. For the first time in my life, I was seriously looking for an exit plan. And at that moment, I knew the only way to save my life was to get someplace where I could totally let go and not even be responsible for me anymore.

Thank God I never felt I could do anything to hurt my children, but I doubt Amber Hill did either. Described as a lovely woman who loved her kids, her depression was simply (if that word even remotely captures it) not managed, and the depths of what was occurring in her brain caused a major malfunction and her children were the casualties. For most people with non-managed depression, they themselves become the casualty, as I thought I was going to be on March 18, 2009. But once its managed, usually with medication and therapy, most people with mental illness live like… well, most people. Up days and down days. Happy days and sad days. Days were you (figuratively) feel like you want to kill your kids. (Just joking. Really just joking.)

Does a history of mental illness, knowing what we know non-managed mental illness can lead to, make a woman unfit to be a mother when the child is not coming out of that woman’s womb? Or when a custody battle arises – what kind of information do we think is relevant to show whether a mother would be fit or not? I don’t think I’m getting divorced any time soon (if you know differently, I hope y’all got my back), but it is always in the back of my mind that with the right lawyer, the fact that I spent a week on the psychiatric unit of a hospital when my children were 1 and 3 years old surely cannot bode well for me. Or that I take 4 anti-depressant/anti-psychotic medications daily to manage bipolar disorder, and given my history, will likely need to take them for the rest of my life to function “well.” Or that I have to see a psychologist and psychiatrist on a regular schedule or that I’ve been in a day program.

I feel for Amy Kehoe, the woman who lost the babies in the surrogacy case. She’s had her illness under control for 8-9 years, and takes her medication faithfully. While Ms. Baker, the surrogate, has a genuine concern as she voices her what ifs, I hoped someone reminded her that life is all about what ifs. What if her husband got hit by a car and died as he rides his bike to work? Then the twins wouldn’t have the two parent home Ms. Baker imagined. What if she got breast cancer, and had to go through treatment, meaning the twins didn’t get the kind of care Ms. Baker expected them to receive. What if one of their other children developed mental illness, and perhaps became a threat to the babies? Then what?

And so what if Amy Kehoe did have a relapse, and dealt with it? Sometimes, I’m what what my therapist calls “fragile-stable,” meaning I’m okay, but I’m teetering near the edge. But I’m still parenting the best I know how. I’m still living. My kids are still growing and learning and laughing. And they are living too. No childhood is perfect. No family is perfect. No parent is perfect. No mother is perfect. I wish Ms. Baker, instead of worrying about the what ifs, had instead focused on the here and now, and saw in Amy Kehoe a woman who simply wanted to be a mommy.

* The law on the Kehoe surrogacy case concerns the fact that some states, like Michigan, do not enforce surrogacy contracts, so people like the Kehoes have no legal remedies when the surrogate decides to keep the babies, esp. when they have no biological ties to the children.

** I hope you all know, but I want to make clear – people like to throw around the saying, “I’m depressed.” Most times people mean they are sad, in the dumps, upset, about something. What I am talking about, and what these women were experiencing, is/was clinical depression, something that may or may not have been triggered by some event. Clinical depression has certain symptoms, that many times you cannot simply “get over” on your own. I was not depressed about anything. Contrary to popular opinion, while I may have been tired because I have two kids and am in grad school, that did not “cause” my depression. I’ve had depression since I was 16 years old, and probably developed Bipolar II in college, way before having kids or being in grad school. Depression is something in the brain, out of my control, although I can manage it, but not caused because I “do too much” (although doing too much can trigger symptoms). I really despise when people say that. I didn’t cause my depression or Bipolar because I’m ambitious or because I work too hard. I think all of it was already there. Now I am working to find out who *I* am under all the labels, and allow me, myself, and I, along with befriending the illnesses, to have a peaceful coexistence.  [Okay, off of my soapbox.]

gloom and doom

Sunday night I experienced the worst mental and physical symptoms I have ever felt in my life, and I thought I was going to die. It’s no surprise that I suffer from mental illness, exactly what I’m still not sure. Major Depressive Disorder is the old standby, but I’m starting to think it may be a bit more. But I digress.

I was started on a new medication exactly one week ago. I was in such a bad place that I just took it without reading about it, and without throroughly discussing the possible side effects. Boy, I wish I would have. Never, ever, ever take  something that you don’t know what it’s going to do to you.

I spent Sunday feeling like I was going to jump out of my skin. I couldn’t take the noise of being in the car with my kids – it felt like their sounds were actually entering my body. I’ve always said it’s one thing to not feel safe in your external environments. But when you are not safe in your own body, you have a serious problem. And that problem took me to the ER.

Sparing all the details, they diagnosed me with akathisia, which according to Wikipedia:

is a syndrome characterized by unpleasant sensations of “inner” restlessness that manifests itself with an inability to sit still or remain motionless…Akathisia may range in intensity from a mild sense of disquiet or anxiety (which may be easily overlooked) to a total inability to sit still, accompanied by overwhelming anxiety, malaise, and severe dysphoria (manifesting as an almost indescribable sense of terror and doom)…High-functioning patients have described the feeling as a sense of inner tension and torment or chemical torture.

It was AWFUL. I really thought I was going to die. Thank God the psychiatrist knew what do to, based on the new drug I had recently started taking, which had nasty side effects all week (I’ve lost 7 pounds due to the naseau, sleepiness and restlessness…) Wandering through the maze and puzzle of mental illness SUCKS. I would not wish any of this on my worst enemy.