My days probably don’t look much different from yours.
I go to workouts almost every day, drop off my kid at school, attend a couple of weekly Bible studies, and spend almost my whole day thinking of and caring for my family.
The only things that might look different are my doctor’s appointments every three months and my weekly counseling session.
You see, I’m a mom with Bipolar Disorder and ADHD.
I consider most things that I do as “treatment” for my mental health. I have reached a point in my life where I have found comfort in the things I do every day. Baking, reading, exercising, playing with my kids, and even cleaning all give me such a rich purpose in my life. It has been a long and hard road to reach the point where I am now.
Parenting with Bipolar Disorder and ADHD comes with its own sets of challenges.
My ADHD causes me to really struggle with making phone calls, scheduling various appointments for my kids, and remembering to take them to the appointments themselves. I work around this by putting tons of reminders all around me – on calendars, on my phone, and in my planner. I’m still quite imperfect and I still forget to take my kids to some of their appointments. Thankfully all it takes is a phone call to reschedule them and double down on my efforts to make it to the next one.
With my bipolar disorder, I don’t struggle quite as much as I used to now that I am on medication. Before going on medication, I would feel things so much more intensely- the happiness would be elevated, but the sadness felt especially crummy. I also used to struggle with occasionally yelling at my kids. My anger would surge in those rare instances and I was so much more susceptible to losing my cool back then. Again, thankfully now I am on stable medications and I don’t find it nearly as hard to stay level-headed.
My conditions show up in my life in different ways.
My symptoms have been improved quite drastically with medication, but I do still see small glimpses of them. With my bipolar disorder, I feel my feelings a bit more intensely than others normally would. When I am sad, I may cry or feel depressed. When I am happy, I tend to laugh or be silly. When I am angered, I become overly irritable and frustrated. I tend to feel the same emotions as everyone else does, but they are just magnified a bit. Since I am on medication, however, I don’t feel them as severely as I used to. My depression used to be crippling and my “up” swings would be the total opposite- laughing, having tons of energy and being way too silly.
ADHD affects me in other ways. I struggle with many “adulting” tasks such as money management, remembering appointments, driving, cooking, and keeping up with my daughter’s school assignments.
I have learned that the reason I struggle with these things is that my executive functioning is lacking in my brain. I have impairments that make it nearly impossible to think things through like other people can. In addition to medication, I use tools like my planner, my phone and my Echo Show. I am so thankful for technology that can remind me of important things without my brain having to remember everything. With the help of all of my treatment options, my ADHD operates quietly and subtly.
My conditions have changed my work life, too.
I am at a point in my life right now where working a traditional 9-5 job doesn’t make sense for our family. I would have to find child care for both of my children which just means that we would be breaking even anyways. It can also be very intimidating applying for jobs because they ask if you have a disability, and most job applications I filled out listed bipolar disorder as a qualifying illness. When I started being honest and listing that yes, I did have a disability, the phone calls for interviews suddenly stopped. This experience sent me a clear message: nobody tends to want to hire people with disabilities. I have grown to accept this as a hard truth about the world we live in, and I am at least thankful that I am not in a situation where I have to get a job.
My journey has been made easier by taking my medication every day. I shudder to think what my life would look like if I wasn’t taking medication. I feel so empathetic to anyone who struggles with mental illness because I know from personal experience just how hard it is to maintain a well-balanced life.
I especially feel for those of us who are parenting in the midst of mental illness.
At the end of the day, we just want to be the best parents we can be to our kids, and we would go to the ends of the earth to find out just how to do that.
I hope that in the interest of giving our kids the best parents possible, we can talk more openly about mental illness, such as Bipolar Disorder and ADHD, so that we can work towards finding solutions together.
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