Being A Mother With Bipolar Disorder
Being a mother with bipolar disorder is not the easiest thing in the world, and my son is all grown up now and approaching his 19th birthday at the time of writing. But how did I manage during his childhood years?
I had a great support system, but I also raised my son from the age of four by myself as his father and I split up. After a short while, he moved to the USA – my support grew smaller. But thanks to my mum, I still had a rock-solid backup for when my illness took over.
As a mother with bipolar disorder, there are many hazards along the way; one of the benefits I have found is the protective rage I had, like a mother bear. I always remember an incident when I was with my son out shopping, he was only four, and a skateboard hit him, which had come from a huge group of teenagers. As someone with bipolar, I confronted the forty strong group, and they parted like the red sea. I must have looked quite ferocious.
When Illness Strikes
Throughout the years, I have protected my son from the effects of my bipolar; I never let him see my illness. Admittedly this caused me undue stress as half the time of his youth; I was unbalanced. Sometimes I was an overly excited mummy, which all kids love, and other times I had to withdraw and days out and things were handed over to my mother. While my son was out, I tried to manage my health.
I also tried to appear “normal” to other parents and learned how the mask of wellness was worn. A mother with bipolar disorder wears many masks and normally to protect their child. I didn’t want my son to be bullied for having a “weird” mum. So I dressed conservatively, kept myself to myself at the school gates, just occasional small talk with fellow mums and reigned in any enthusiasm if I was hypomanic. I don’t know how I did it, but it is the protective factor that proves the strongest, and you can achieve many things with this being the source of your parenting.
When I was ill, sometimes I would end up in the hospital, thankfully this happened when my son was under five, so he can’t remember much of this. Another thing I was grateful for was my support system, as I could not look after my son from a psychiatric unit.
I also overcompensated for my illness when I felt balanced, and my son’s wants and needs were met with gusto; he might have been at the time considered a bit spoilt, but I did not run the risk of him feeling deprived of anything if I found it difficult to show affection, I replaced it with activities, sleepovers with his friends, extravagant kids parties. I made sure his social interactions were wholesome and active. Once again, I hid all of my illness only to let it exist within the confines of my bedroom, or when my son stopped over my mothers; I could truly be me.
A mother with bipolar disorder can be fraught with lies, mainly to yourself, as you have to live for another while you want to focus on yourself to get well.
Living As a Mother With Bipolar Disorder
Illness aside, you still have the range of emotions that comes with parenthood, love, worry, loyalty etc. however, with bipolar, they can be ten times better or worse.
I began motherhood with postpartum psychosis. As I said previously, I have had ill spells and balanced spells; I’m pleased to say my son is well balanced and has a great group of friends and a career in the health and fitness industry as a personal trainer. By hiding my illness until he reached the age of understanding, which for me was fifteen years old, I kept silent and blamed my unwellness on stomach bugs and flu, things he could understand. He must have thought I was very unlucky with stomach bugs! But it has worked; I mothered by the seat of my pants. There was no other way.
Some parents plan everything, not me; I had to be spur of the moment. It was the only way I could function; the only things planned were Christmas, birthdays, Easter and pancake day. Other than that, activities happened when I felt well.
The key for me was to not put undue pressure on myself as there was little point as my stress levels were high wearing a mask anyway and not the Covid kind. As a mother with bipolar disorder having a child is the biggest decision of your life, the same as it is with all parents, but you have to step outside yourself and live as another person. I have spent so long living as another person I don’t know who I am anymore, which has caught up with me after all these years.
Would I change anything?
No, as a parent with bipolar, I went the extra mile; if I were balanced all the time, would I have done that? I don’t think I would. My thoughts would have been shared by normal life, whereas I lived an abnormal life, giving me the impetus to make amends at every opportunity for my poor mental health.
I know I’m not alone with this, as I have spoken to other parents who have similar mental health problems, and they all tell me, the extra effort they made was worth it in the end.
It may exhaust a person with bipolar disorder being a parent more so than any other parent, but I wouldn’t change anything; my son is healthy and well balanced, he can handle my mood disorder, he knows when to shut up, and he knows when I need help. He lives his life to the full, which is all I ever wanted for him; something I could never do.
I am still like a mother bear, but more akin to a zoo bear now that he has grown up. For those thinking of being a parent with bipolar disorder, I would say consider it carefully, can you wear a mask for the next eighteen years?
I hope you have enjoyed reading about an aspect of my life, and it might help you if you considering being a parent or if you are, then it is completely natural to live your life for that little person in your life. I also know not everyone with bipolar can mask themselves, which is OK, too, as each person is different.
I was just fortunate that I could step outside of myself somehow, not all the time, it took time to learn, but the key is to be patient with yourself. Parenting is tough for everyone, and if you have bipolar, it will be harder but worth every step in the journey.
Peace & Blessings