I Was Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder a Week Before I Found Out I Was Pregnant


I clamped one hand over my mouth to stifle my scream as the other hand shakily held onto a home pregnancy test that had just turned positive.

It’s not that I hated the idea of another baby. My husband and I had two beautiful daughters. Another baby wasn’t planned, but we would certainly welcome another with open arms. It was just that I had recently — exactly one week earlier — been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had just started the appropriate medicine. It was just starting to pull me out of a terrible mixed episode.

Bipolar manifests differently in different people, but for many it has periods of intense depression, periods of mania and sometimes mixed episodes which have characteristics of both. My mixed episode felt like absolute hell. The mania side of it kept me going and going without being able to rest. I was stuck on overdrive working too much, taking on too many projects and then being extremely agitated to the point of tears when I couldn’t get it all done. I wanted to crawl out of my skin I was so irritated and anxious. That’s when the depressive waves would hit me with an inner voice telling me I was incompetent and didn’t deserve to be happy.

So the big question was, “Now what?”

My psychiatrist at the time said stop all meds cold turkey. Having just learned I had bipolar, I didn’t know enough to protest or ask for alternative safer medicines I could take during pregnancy.

 

As the meds wore off I slipped into a deep depression. Morning sickness is no fun. Morning sickness while having withdrawal symptoms from lithium is even less fun. But morning sickness with depression is the least fun of all.

Far from being excited about the life blossoming inside of me, I was lost in a sea of despair and vomit. I felt completely shipwrecked. My body and mind equally broken and sick.

The depression said, “You are a bad Mom. You don’t deserve another baby. You are a failure.” In response, my stomach lurched and my brain shut down.

A lot of those first weeks of pregnancy are a blur. But I vividly remember sitting on the cold exam chair at my OB office and seeing my reflection in the mirror. My hollow face and stained sweatshirt scared me for a minute, and then I just didn’t care any more.

Luckily my doctor did care. She made arrangements for the mental health department of the hospital where I would deliver my baby to call and check on me. I broke down on the phone with the nurse and told her the truth about how I had been feeling. She made arrangements for me to see a perinatal psychiatrist as soon as possible.

A couple months later after being put on a safer medicine and attending an intensive outpatient therapy program, I am feeling a lot better. Lately I have been looking down at my belly and smiling. My unborn baby is living growing proof that this broken and ship wrecked body and brain can still produce pure love.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

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