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Balancing Motherhood and Multiple Mental Illnesses

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I’m lying in bed again, wide awake as my fiance and daughter snore beside me. Sleep is again elusive, so I get out of bed and pad down the stairs. In the kitchen, I drink cold water and stare out of the kitchen window. This night is familiar, and it takes me back to so many other nights before it.

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As I stare out of the window, relishing in the quiet house, I remember how these nights usually ended. I glanced down at my hands, remembering how they ached from cleaning constantly. I could still feel the sting from the chemicals like it was yesterday. I could feel the soreness in my shoulder as I remembered pushing and pulling furniture into place.

And then, a glance at the garage door makes me remember how I would stand outside, watching the stars and dripping sweat from my latest nightmare. The night was always a chance to let my feelings out, knowing my son wouldn’t see how I was really feeling.

Now though, it’s different. These nights I stand in the kitchen with a cold cup of water are very different from how they used to be. I have a young daughter now, and I am much more stable than I used to be. Having children and two mental illnesses can be hard to handle.

My 9-year-old sleeps upstairs. My 8-month-old sleeps soundly, blissfully unaware of how I used to be. Parenting and struggling with my own diagnosis was hard. It was hard to fight my own symptoms while juggling life and trying to be the best parent I could be. I needed patience and understanding. I lacked those while I was unmedicated and newly diagnosed.

But now, it’s much different. I have a lot more tools in my toolbox. I am taking a medication that helps keep me in check. And while I will always go up and down on the rollercoaster that is bipolar disorder, I do not go as high or as low as I used to. The post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is manageable, too. I have medication that helps me sleep at night and therapy to keep the nightmares away.

But nothing is perfect. Stability is not perfect. I still have struggled when life gets too hard and sleep evades me. But looking at my children and knowing how life could be makes me grateful I have those tools to help me. Without those tools, I can’t imagine the kind of mom I would be. Those tools help me be a better version of myself.

A heavy sigh makes me turn around and walk back upstairs quietly. I slip into bed next to my daughter and snuggle close to her. I’ll need my sleep for the day ahead. This isn’t the perfect stable life I’d imagined I would have when I started taking medication, but its the stable life I’m glad to have.

Thinkstock photo via Liderina

Originally published: July 18, 2017
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