Saturday, February 14, 2009

Postpartum Health and Bipolar Disorder

When I started this journey, I desperately wanted to prove that a woman with a mental illness could have both healthy children and manage her illness. So far, I think I have succeeded. That's not to say that it hasn't been challenging. It has. But, I think I have narrowed down a few things that have helped me throughout the journey. Those ingredients for mental health have been provided by a large village of people.

The first ingredient is my incredibly supportive and loving husband. He has been my safety net. He catches me everytime I fall. He has developed a true understanding of my emotional challenges. He has learned what to say, how to say it, and, more importantly, when to say it.

The second ingredient includes my team of mental health professionals. I see my psychotherapist weekly and she has been available by phone at any hour of the day or night. She works closely with my psychiatrist who has extensive experience treating bipolar patients who want to become parents.

Of course, psychiatrists are only as good as the medications they prescribe. Throughout my pregnancy, I was on 100 mg Zoloft and 100 mg Seroquel. Postpartum, I continued those two drugs (reducing the Seroquel to 25 mg so I could wake up for night feedings) and added Gabapentin. In addition, I take DHA and EPA (Omega-3s) and prenatal vitamins. More importantly, I always take my meds. Always.

Finally, I breastfeed and practice attachment parenting. The breastfeeding induced hormones help keep me balanced and reduced the effects of the postbirth hormone changes on my mood.

This has what has worked for me. Bipolar women can be moms. We can have healthy children and we can stay healthy too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A system for people other than me.

The system is set up all wrong.

Need help? Just ask.
Feeling down? Get up.
Want out? Take a walk.
Lost your way? Find a map.
Trapped inside your head? Change your mind.
Disconnected? Call this number.

See what I mean? I didn't think so.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

References, please.

This is a call for references, scientific in nature. I am having trouble getting the time or concentration necessary to find these references. I need links to concise articles outlining the risks of plastic toys, especially in regards to BPA. I plan on posting the links here as well as on the website that my relatives go to to see photos of Pepper. Our relatives don't seem to understand why we don't want Pepper to have plastic toys (unless they are marked as BPA free). Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Nothing less than pathetic

I have been sick for the past week with a severe cold, I am tired, and I am growing increasingly unstable. On Friday, I talked with my therapist about my struggles. She suggested that I ask for help. A great idea, but it's a bit more complicated than that. I can't ask for help, or rather, I can't deal with the consequences of asking for help. I don't ask for help for the same reason that I don't invite others over to my house or host parties. I am terrified that no one will show up.

After that meeting with my therapist, I did take a friend up on her offer to come over and hold Pepper while I got a few things done around the house. It seemed like a safe first step to learning how to ask for help. She doesn't have any children herself and by all of her accounts her schedule is very open and flexible. She agreed to come over for coffee this morning. She never showed up or even called. So much for trying to overcome my fear.

Paying someone isn't even an option. Having only one income is quickly catching up with us, and it is only by the power of persuasion with the gas company that our gas and electricity is still turned on. So the suggestion that we get a sitter seems pretty ridiculous when our budget for food for a single week is $20 and I can't go to see my psychiatrist because I don't have the $130 to pay for the visit.

It's all starting to build now. I am frustrated. I feel defeated by mommyhood, my bipolar illness, and this cold. I need some continuous sleep. I need a break. I need some help, but I am terrified to ask.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My day in a nutshell

Here's the daily dialogue in my head:

"What did I come in here for again?"

"Now, where did I put those keys?"

"Where the fuck is my cell phone?"

"Where did I put my coffee mug?"

"What day is it?"

"Where is my [insert the name of any given part of my breast pump here]?"

"I wonder where I put my wallet."

"Who the hell put this here?...Oh...me."

"Seriously, where the fucking fuck is my cell phone?"

I think you get the gist of it. It's a true miracle that Pepper doesn't get left in the Neverland that my cell phone tends to occupy.

On a side note, I met Meredith Small (author of Our Babies, Ourselves) today. More on that meeting another day.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Who are you calling a waste?

How did a month go by so fast? I just realized that it has been over a month since I last posted. Honestly, not a whole lot has happened since then. Our sweet Cusco left the world very peacefully and I can only hope to leave this life with the same grace. I am still working at the wine shop, although much more frequently now. As such, Husband and I are playing baby relay. The up side is that Pepper is always with a loving parent. The down side is that those two loving parents are rarely with each other. Sigh. And before you read the rest of this post, please know that every single thing that we struggle through is worth it. I am eternally grateful for our little Pepper, and I wouldn't change a thing.

That's not to say that each day isn't difficult, because it is. I have gone from a fast paced life of endeavoring to obtain a profession to a much slower paced life of endeavoring to raise a child. The adjustment has been a challenge. I often sit in our neighborhood coffee shop watching everyone bustle off to their important business meetings or "save the world" efforts. Sitting their literally attached to my little one, I have this twinge of sadness. My old Ph.Duh. mentor mentioned the other day that I was wasting my talents by working at a wine store. This mentor is the same person who is often out of town for weeks at a time and is lucky to see his wife and daughter for an hour a day when he is in town. That's when I wonder who it is that's really wasting their talents.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When love isn't enough

We adopted our German Shepherd, Cusco, over 4 years ago. He was a senior dog at the time and we knew that our time with him would be limited. Nevertheless, we wanted to give him a few good years in a loving home. Cusco has given us more love and loyalty than we will ever be able to return to him, even if he lived the next 30 years. But, now it seems that the time has come to say good bye to our giant cuddle bug. His back end no longer works and he has lost much of his control over his bladder and bowels. His mind is still complete though, and that makes it even harder to say good bye. He can no longer go for walks, or fetch his favorite tennis ball. He can't herd us anymore or bring us his ball over and over again. He can still love us though, and we can still love him. But for a working dog, I am not sure that love is enough to keep him happy and living a quality life. Tomorrow, we will take him to the vet for a final assessment and opinion that will either confirm or reject my instinct that the time has come. I pray that we have given him the full and happy life every dog deserves to live.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Scars

Almost three days have passed since my mother and stepfather returned to California after visiting us here in New York. For the first time in my life, I have connected with some fraction of how my mother feels about me. I am still processing the visit, but I must say that it was the best visit I have ever had with my parents. Sharing this phenomenal joy of motherhood with them has opened new doors of understanding and new avenues within the mother-daughter relationship.

Running perpendicular to my forearm are over 20 scars, like tics of reference on a ruler. I fear what my mom sees in those lines. We have never discussed them. Now with a daughter of my own, I am overwhelmed with guilt for how sad those white puckered interruptions of my smooth skin might make her feel. I secretly plead with the universe that I may never have to see those same scars on my own child's skin. Is there anything my own mother could have done to prevent them? Is there anything I can do to prevent those wounds from forming on my daughter's arms? Or is the damage that my DNA brings to Pepper already done?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A View from the Edge

Have you ever wondered what the view from the edge looked like? No? Me, neither. But I can tell you what the view is anyway. I sit here checking out the view as I type. It's a bit scary. And instead of waking my husband to tell him what my edge's view looks like, I am typing. From my view from the edge, I choose manically cleaning my house and doing all the things that I couldn't get done during the day because of my new baby. I choose this over taking my meds tonight. After all, if I take those meds, then I will have to sleep. How can you clean a house while you're asleep? Let's just say that when you are examining the view from the edge, it's best to not look down.