I just cried. And yes, I hardly ever cry. But I cried that awful raggedy gut wrenching sob that has no place in front of others. So I cried it alone. And now, here, with swollen eyes and mascara over my hands I start to wonder why.
I spend so much time at the moment devoid of feeling. The highs and lows have levelled out and I like it that way. I never feel anxious anymore, I rarely feel upset. Others on mood stabilizers complain of the flatness, but I enjoy it. After the trauma of my last episode flatness is relief. The flatness is freedom for me.
But that doesn’t mean I am not affected by experiences anymore. I seem to breeze through a particularly stressful time and then suddenly become briefly incapacitated. I suddenly feel all of the pain “It HURTS!!” I recognise, quite angry at this realization. Then I cry, or I dissociate, or I hear voices, or I dip my foot into hypomania. But it always passes. And then I sail away on the Lucky Lithium once more, feeling no sea sickness even in the fiercest of storms.
I realised the moment I dried my last tear what this was about. For some time I have felt like I am being pushed into a box that is too small to cage me. I feel as though I am constantly running through time trying to get everything done yet always arriving late. I feel as though my internal resources are being sucked from me and I’m left running on empty.
Pressure. That’s the word of the day. Most of the pressure I feel is self inflicted, some of it isn’t. I believe all mothers will relate to what I am saying. It’s the daily grind, the balancing of work with family. It’s making sure there is food on the table and laundrey in the cupboards. All normal, everyday pressures.
But having a mental illness affects people in funny ways. I suddenly realise that I feel intense pressure to perform as a parent. As an individual with bipolar disorder I assume I my parenting skills will be scrutinized and I feel I must prove to everyone that I am a good mother. I thought many strange things when I had psychosis, but one of the scariest was that the police were after me and they were going to take my baby away. I know I was psychotic and this was a delusion but I will never forget that terror of losing my child. I feel I must prove to everyone around me that I am capable. What pressure to put on yourself!
Clearly Master D hasn’t received my memo, as he has chosen this particular shaky time in my self development to become a perfectly normal naughty toddler. I have left social events with Master D, almost in tears, after a typical toddler tantrum (his, not mine ;)). But instead of thinking “he was so NAUGHTY!” I think “Everyone must think I’m a terrible mother!”
But I forget I am not the only mother of an almost two year old. I forget all mothers go through this experience. Last week as I ‘ignored’ D’s terrible tantrum on the floor another mother came up to me. She gave me a grin and gestured to Master D “You’re doing the right thing” she said. I wanted to hug her.
But I know I’m doing the right thing. I know I’m a good mother, and that my illness has never had any impact on my ability to parent. I know I have nothing to prove. But just like I can still feel the fear of a previous delusion, I still feel pressure to prove what I already know I am.