Originally posted October 7, 2013.
Guest Post: Today I am pleased to have Jennifer Killi Marshall of Bipolar Mom Life guest posting here today. Her article today is about what is was like for her to become an active participant in managing her well-being and what point she realized that self-care is not just a worn-out concept. Hers is an important story about coping and thriving as a mom with bipolar disorder.
I love Jennifer’s story. Because, as a therapist, I always wonder how to reach people, to help them come to the realization that their mental health is valuable and that they are important. Important to their families, to themselves. I’ll let Jennifer
Please welcome Jennifer to BirthTouch®.
Bio: Jennifer Killi Marshall is a 34-year-old wife and mother of two young children. Her blog, www.bipolarmomlife.com is her way of documenting her progress, keeping herself accountable and healthy for her family. She is also currently blogging for WhatToExpect.com’s Word of Mom community, has contributed to Lamaze.com’s blog, Giving Birth with Confidence, and is a regular contributor to Wyn Magazine, an online magazine focused on providing resources and hope for mental and emotional healing. She is also working on a memoir.
Jennifer is also currently producing a show, This Is My Brave, which will debut in May of 2014, in Washington, DC. This performance-driven event will serve as a platform for individuals with something positive to say about living with mental illness. It will include readings of personal essays, poetry and original music. Auditions will be held in early February. Learn how you can become involved at: www.thisismybrave.com. Connect with Jennifer online: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I reached the point in my life when I knew I needed to commit to a treatment plan for my bipolar disorder when I had come out of my fourth psychiatric hospitalization and was ten weeks pregnant with my second child in May of 2010. My first two manic episodes which resulted in stays at local psych wards happened two weeks apart in December of 2005, completely out of the blue. With no history of mental illness in my family, we were in denial during the beginning stages of understanding what was happening inside my brain.
It didn’t take doctors long to reach my diagnosis of Type 1 Bipolar Disorder but it would take me much longer to realize the benefits of sticking to a treatment plan.
Being hit with mental illness in the midst of living a seemingly normal, productive, enjoyable life can feel like a death sentence. I know it did for me. I thought I had lost everything and that I’d never be able to rebuild my career and my reputation. I thought it was my fault. I blamed myself for my illness. I experienced the lowest lows I have ever felt. I didn’t know if I’d ever get back to the energetic, outgoing, social butterfly I used to be.
That person I used to be felt worlds away. Just completely out of reach. And so I gave up on her for awhile.
When sunlight filtered into my bedroom each morning, I woke to anxiety clawing at my chest. Simply getting out of bed was a challenge, let alone finding the energy to take a shower and pick out clothes for the day ahead of me. I would usually spend the late afternoons and early evenings curled up on the couch watching TV, and inevitably the tears would flow as the weight of my depression crushed my spirit and will to live.
I struggled with suicidal thoughts for a few weeks but luckily never acted on them.
My husband, my parents and my in-laws were incredibly supportive. They fought for me when I had given up, and for that I am eternally grateful. By working with my doctors I was able to eventually find a medication that really worked for me. It pulled me out of my dark hole and I began to experience happiness again for the first time in a long time. It felt amazing.
Committing to a treatment plan was the key to getting well, but unfortunately I took that plan into my own hands when my husband and I decided to start a family. I learned some valuable lessons which I hope may help other women who may face similar mental health issues during their childbearing years. I was hospitalized after the birth of my son and again when I was five weeks pregnant with my daughter, both times because I was not taking medication.
I thought I was protecting my babies when in reality the benefits of staying on my medication far outweighed the risk of me not taking it.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned through all of this is that when a person with mental illness finds a medication that works for her, and she commits to a treatment plan which includes taking the medication as directed by her doctor, monitoring her sleep, exercising regularly and eating healthy foods, she can lead a full and productive life. I am living proof of this and it is my wish for all people living with mental illness.
I’ve learned also to embrace my mental illness because it’s just a small piece of what makes me who I am. And with my treatment plan in my back pocket, from here on out, I know I’ll be okay.