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To the Bipolar Mama Who’s Doubting Herself Today

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I get it. Some days you wake up feeling like you can conquer the world: you’re full of optimism, excited about life, charged with energy and ready to take on anything. The voices in your head are all happy and enthusiastic, encouraging you to greater heights and brighter vistas. You know — you just know — that everything is going to be all right, and that the choices you are making as a mother for your children are right and good and helping them grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Then there are days like this one.

Your eyes open and you wish they hadn’t. You burrow back under the covers and pray that some miracle of space-time would occur and allow you to sleep forever. When that fails, you drag your body out of bed, feeling like there are weights attached to your ankles. Taking a shower feels like an impossible task, so you skip it, hoping that dry shampoo and a messy bun will suffice for one more day. The voices in your head are dark and dismal. Your choices are bad, they tell you; your decisions are flawed, your children will grow into damaged people who resent you for being such a wretched excuse for a mother.

You doubt that anyone loves you. You doubt that you’re doing a good job. You doubt that your children will forgive you for your many flaws. You doubt that you’ll ever get life right. You doubt that you can even put one more foot in front of the other. You doubt your partner, your friends, your therapist, your psychiatrist, even your own children when they tell you it’s OK, that everyone is flawed, and that you are enough.

You don’t feel like enough.

Living with bipolar disorder is difficult under any circumstances, but as a mother, it colors and affects you in ways you never could have foreseen as a childless woman. Your responsibility to those precious souls feels overwhelming during the depressive episodes, and you worry they will interpret your sad moods as rejection. That they will see you withdraw and blame themselves. That they will grow up believing the unpredictable behavior, dramatic mood swings and suicidal ideation are normal.

You want to be healthy and balanced for them. You want to be fun and involved. You want to model stability and moderation. It just feels so impossible at times.

But look at you. You are here, now. You are holding the hands and wiping the faces and giving the hugs and trying so hard. Maybe the house is a wreck. Maybe the children get a little more screen time than usual. Maybe they have cereal for dinner. Maybe some things have to give in order for you to have time to find your way back out of the hole and into the light. So you see your doctor. You take your meds. You talk to friends. And slowly, the doubts will cease to scream, and hope will raise its head once more.

You are here, and that’s what’s important. You are modeling self-care to your children, and that is crucial. You are honest, and vulnerable, and real with them. There are no facades here. They know that Mom struggles, and that’s OK. Everyone does.

If there was one thing I could extend to you today, when the doubts clamor and the darkness surrounds, it is grace. Grace means simply being gentle with yourself. Forgiving yourself. Allowing yourself to be flawed, and realizing that nobody gets it right 100% of the time. Grace gives breathing room when perfectionism squeezes and suffocates. Everybody needs it. Especially you, the mama who is burdened so heavily with a disorder she never asked for. Hold on tight to grace, and hold out for better days. They’re on the way.

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Originally published: May 14, 2019
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