growinghumans


On being a mother with bipolar disorder
January 21, 2015, 3:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

When people hear that I am a blogger, they always ask what I write about. This is a tricky question because I don’t actually know at any given time and so I usually just give a glazed over answer of “mothering with bipolar disorder”. If this doesn’t scare them away immediately, they might ask what IS it like to be a mother with bipolar disorder.

This is actually a great question.

Because I never thought about it before I started this blog.

I feel lirussian dollke a Russian nesting doll. You know, where each doll has a smaller doll inside of it, wearing a different outfit.

My biggest doll looks like a mother. A happy mother who has a lovely child. That’s what most of the world sees. That’s why most people are shocked when they learn of the mental illnesses that I suffer from. I don’t look like a sad person. I don’t look like a person who snaps, or cries for hours until I throw up, or becomes so paranoid and anxious that I break out into hives all over my body. This doll doesn’t look anything like that, and that’s why it’s the biggest doll. The facade must cover it all, you see. Though, once the facade falls away, the ability to be an active parent also does. The dolls inside of the big doll are no longer mothers–they are women trying to stay alive.

The next doll is my anxiety; she is my anxiety because all the other dolls that she holds inside of her body are full of terrible things. She is pale, sweaty, and covered in hives that flare up her side when she can’t breath. Nothing in particular needs to set her off, it could be something that she’s made up–a look a person gives her or a stressful situation that doesn’t even exist. Paranoia.

The next doll inside of anxiety is my rage. She has an ugly face. Most bipolar sufferers deal with rage or anger in some way or form. I keep my rage hidden quite well, as you can see. It’s deep inside under a few other dolls. But when it is uncovered, it is terrible. I throw things, talk to myself, snap at my husband. When I was younger, I would hurt myself in non-life threatening ways to help deal with my rage. The pain would calm me down; would bring me back onto solid ground.

The last doll, the smallest doll, is my depression. She appears to be sleeping but really she is dreaming and hoping that the dreams will chase away the scary thoughts that invade her mind when the depression descends. She is small because she feels small. She is empty; there are no other dolls after depression. Just emptiness. She is kept as safe as can be expected, deep inside of all of the other dolls.

I do not let the individual dolls out of the bigger doll often; not if I can help it; lord knows I take enough medication to keep everyone in check.  But sometimes, they knock over, they spill out, I am left cleaning them up and trying to put them back where they belong inside of the doll that looks like a happy, well put together mother. She’s exquisite.

It is hard, you can see. It is a battle every day.

That is how it feels. This is what it’s like to be a mother with bipolar disorder.

Feelings within feelings within feelings. Dolls within dolls. And the littlest one is empty.

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2 Comments so far
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I wish more people understood this, the nesting doll thing. I’m not a mommy Carrie but so much of what you say speaks so much of my truth anyway. Things have been so, so bad recently. I haven’t seen anyone in months, haven’t even talked to anyone online. At some point my very closest friend reached out and I confided how bad things were, how I didn’t want to try to make it anymore, how every night was just hours of sobbing until I vomited bile. I finally saw her in person today and she was like, “I think you overstate things. I think you’re way more okay than you think. I mean you seem fine! You even look like you lost weight!” And while I’m glad my biggest doll doesn’t look like I’m falling apart, she was so *dismissive* in how she said it. Like clearly I didn’t look that bad, so she didn’t take it seriously anymore. I don’t know. It’s not pity I want from people, truly, but it’s hard to confide in anyone when I feel like I somehow have to demonstrate my breakdown for them to actually believe it’s happening. It seems easier just to hide from everyone than to not have anyone at all understand how many dolls are nesting inside.

Comment by W

I am so sorry you are going through this…the littlest doll is the scariest, remember that. And it’s ok to have her out sometimes. Love to you.

Comment by growinghumans




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