It’s taken me a few days to process everything and be able to share it. Thank you for all your support and patience as I figure this out.
For the last few months, since November I believe, the struggle has been so intense. When I reached out to my doctor, I was advised that the only option left to explore was Lithium. Just hearing that word… Lithium… freaked me out, and I set out on a journey of trying to figure this all out myself. And by this, I basically mean manage, and control my bipolar disorder.
I’m sure it’s not surprising, but this really didn’t work well.
If you’re not familiar with bipolar disorder, let me give you a quick rundown before we go further!
Bipolar Disorder is a mental disorder that is characterized by periods of an extremely elevated mood, known as mania, (or hypomania) and a depressive mood, known as depression. The period of time in each of these two states varies from person to person. It could be hours, days, weeks, months, or years. There are 4 types of bipolar disorder (that I am aware of). Bipolar one disorder, bipolar two disorder, cyclothoymic disorder and unspecified bipolar disorder. Each of these carries the same idea. The elevated mood, the depressive state, but the severity of each vary. Bipolar one disorder brings full mania. One may experience hallucinations, psychosis, and other extreme symptoms that could very well land the person in the hospital. Bipolar two disorder brings a less intense version of this, called hypomania. Hypomania brings euphoric behaviour and persistent disinhibition. Cyclothoymic disorder is characterized by severe instability in mood. These disorders are all very serious, very intense, and very difficult to live with.
Someone with bipolar disorder can certainly learn themselves, and their triggers, but no matter how much you learn, you can’t take away the disorder itself.
This was something that I had to learn. I had spent years learning my triggers, and learning tools to manage them. The drugs that they had me on weren’t helping me, and I was spiraling very quickly. I started using cannabis. I was already using it, but only recreationally. At this point I decided to use it to make it through the day. (A Few Things Every Cannabis User Needs – Thoughts with N this post has more details of my journey with cannabis.) I wasn’t necessarily trying to medicate the disorder, but more struggling to find joy in anything, and being high made things just a bit more fun. And, when you’re over a year into a global pandemic, who doesn’t need some joy?
It started slowly.
I would give myself permission to get high at 5pm. I saw it as a reward for surviving the day. In my head, I would just keep thinking, “I just have to make it to 5pm”. As the days passed, the time quickly became earlier and earlier in the day.
It was so easy to use.
I’m a work at home mom, and it’s just me and my 4 year old all day. I didn’t ever drive, and I was still taking care of the house and all the chores. The only difference was I hated things just a little bit less. I was laughing a lot more. But, unfortunately, the complete instability in my mood was still something I was fighting every day. One second I was extremely happy, and cultivating plans for my next adventure, and the next I was back to self-harming. I struggled to find a safe and happy ground to plant my feet on. I was struggling being a mom, and I couldn’t remember anything. It was beginning to feel like a very scary place.
I began doing research surrounding Lithium.
Lithium is a mood stabilizer, and one that I feared taking since I received my diagnosis in 2019. I have tried Lamotrigine, Latuda, Quetiepienne, and Abilify. None bringing any peace or clarity to the situation. Each bringing extremely unpleasant side effects, and the dreaded weight gain that I’d heard about. From my reading, Lithium was very successful in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Being in such an out of control place was very scary for me. I decided that I needed help. Cannabis helped to elevate my mood, but the instability was very present and making it difficult to function.
While experiencing all this, there is a major component to share with you that really affects it all.
My son is very abusive towards me, and my two other children. (I write about this a bit more on my Instagram, so follow me there if you want to know more.) But, basically, we’ve had a very troubled relationship right from the beginning. From the time he was 2 years old I started sharing my concerns about his temper, and his tantrums with his doctor. Of course, him being 2 , these things were normal. At 3 he was assessed by Child Development and was found to be incredibly bright.
The report indicated that I was the problem.
At 5, I was pregnant with my last and he continuously tried to kill the baby. I was in and out of the hospital and it was a very sad, and unhappy time in my life. At 6 the police were called because I called a crisis line (I wrote about this in it’s own post. You can read it here – Children’s Mental Health.) Also, during this period, I regularly took him to his doctor in tears, begging for help. Begging for answers. Begging for support.
I was routinely referred all over the place, and no one could ever give an answer.
This behaviour only showed up at my house, and it was not shown to anyone else. It was suggested to me so many times over the years that I’m exagerating, or simply making it all up. Why would do that, I don’t know,but it’s gotten to be a very hopeless feeling. When he was 7 he became violent on a daily basis and being a new mom again, I was struggling. He went and stayed at his grandparents for two weeks to give me a break. At 8 I ended up in the hospital on a suicide watch. The trigger was him. It has always been so hard with him. I love him so much, but it’s a very painful, and intense journey to be his mom.
Last week I called the school, hoping for support.
I was advised that maybe in September they would be able to help. Yes. September. The tears streamed down my face and they never seemed to end. When I finally brought myself to get up, I saw myself in the mirror. My eyes were puffy and red. There was a look of defeat in my reflection. I lost. It felt that this was going to be for the rest of my life. I will be punched, kicked, hurt, spit at, etc, every single day for the rest of my life. I tried to find space to accept it.
On Wednesday I went to the doctor.
If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw that I was feeling very anxious about it. I had already called to have the blood work papers ready, so that I could get on Lithium as quick as possible and start feeling better. After waiting an hour and twenty minutes past my appointment time, I was advised to change my environment. The environment is the trigger. She wouldn’t change my meds, despite me telling her they aren’t helping me. My son and I share a doctor, which I’m thinking isn’t very good, but sometimes it’s convenient. I told her about some of the recent situations at home. The tears starting falling again. Saying it all out loud felt like the weight of the world being taken off my shoulders. She told me he is showing signs of sociopathic behaviour. She told me she wishes she could help. Then, come back in a month and tell her my plan of how I’m going to change my environment.
It felt heavy.
Everything that I was feeling was so intense. I became even more angry, and upset. It felt hopeless. When my emotions become so strong, and so unstable, it’s very exhausting. It takes me a few days to recover. It’s almost like a hangover. But from emotions and moods. I laid on the couch for hours, feeling nothing. Watching my son struggle, and feeling my own struggle, I was falling a part. There is such a huge gap in the system for children to access mental health services.
It took me a few days, but I have made a plan somewhat now.
I have found emergency care for my son. Don’t worry, he has a very good relationship with this person. And I am taking time to unwind, and calm down. I was becoming such an anxious mess I couldn’t even carry a conversation. I need to get back in control, as much as possible. I am going to start taking some vitamins and supplements. I know that I don’t eat the healthiest diet, so perhaps getting adequate nutrition will help. I also found a naturopath nearby and have set an appointment with her. At the clinic they do hormone testing, and food sensitivity testing, etc. All kinds of tests that have never been done on me anyways. This clinic has experience treating other bipolar patients too. They use natural medicine. I know many of you may not be a believer in this, but when you’ve tried what feels like everything, this is the next step. I’m also trying to learn about mindfulness and how to become a more mindful person. I think that would help me on a daily basis. I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to figure out my son, and now I’m going to spend some time figuring out me, and taking better care of me.
Please, if you’re judging me for having him stay somewhere else for a little while, try to imagine what it’s like on a daily basis.
I needed help. I needed a break. Because he carries no diagnosis, I have no support anywhere. No one has ever been able to help me. It’s a very sad and scary world I live in sometimes. So I’m committing some time to caring for me. I’m currently dealing with a lot of guilt surrounding all of this, but he is very happy. I’ve spoken to him twice.
Have you ever hit rock bottom, and needed a break? I’m feeling quite lost and lonely, so I’d love to hear from anyone who can relate, or has anything to say.
My focus is me. I need to get better. I know I can’t make the bipolar disorder go away, but I can reach a point of stability and safety. I’m not going to stop until I get there.