When I’m suffering from a manic episode, I need to craft and I cannot prioritize.
Every task that my brain comes up with must be done right then. And, like most people suffering from a manic or hypomanic episode, I come up with a lot of tasks.
Many times, my brain thinks I should start new craft projects for friends. “The holidays are right around the corner!” my manic brain screams in November. “I must cross stitch something that’ll normally take me 30 hours to complete, but right now it’ll only take 5!”
Basically, my manic brain is too ambitious for its britches. When I’ve started new projects in a hypomanic state, where I feel euphoric and superhuman, I rarely finish them, leaving them–and their accoutrements like needles–around the house for anyone to step on.
During hypomanic phases, I’ve made oodles of poorly-sewed plushies (including a whole sushi tray); painted multiple canvases and glass pictures; and cross stitched coasters, QR codes, and a multitude of other fabric projects. I don’t properly prepare for these projects, and I also usually don’t clean up until the hypomanic phase is over.
I also feel a sense of urgency with the projects. They end up rushed: I pull the stitches too tightly, warping the fabric, or splash paint on the trim when painting awkward-looking trees on the walls–permanent fixtures in our dining room that my husband absolutely hates, haha!
Like many people dealing with mania, I’ve also purchased hundreds of dollars of supplies. I’ve cluttered up my garage and ended up buying so many duplicates, I ran out of space and ended up throwing them out in a moment when I was more stable and clearheaded.
I’ve even left my fabrics and embroidery threads on the floor for the cat to pee on, eventually tossing more than half of my massive collection.
One hypomanic Christmas, I thought my father-in-law and his wife didn’t have enough presents, so I stayed up on Christmas Eve making them pink and purple hats with spare fabric and hot glue–without measuring.
The hats turned out too small, were scratchy, and fell apart almost immediately after being opened. I still remember my father-in-law trying the hat on and having it not even cover the top of his head.
After we finished opening presents, the hats were unceremoniously placed in the trash. Christmas Day, I felt ashamed and embarrassed, my face hot and tears welling in my eyes.
Recognizing that almost all of the presents I’d made for family members were of poor quality and thus rightfully unappreciated, I stopped making presents and really participating in the holidays for years.
Years later, when my daughter was four months old, I entered a similar hypomanic state and decided to paint a cherry blossom branch on a huge canvas.
Putting her in my Ergo front-pack baby carrier, I hunched over the kitchen table and painted for 4 hours, losing track of time while she slept. The project felt so urgent, I didn’t stop to eat lunch, feed my child, or even go to the bathroom.
Realizing that I was only creating when my brain was sick, that was the last craft project–or art of any kind–I produced for four years.
Thankfully, I am now much more stable. Once I was on an more even keel and not in danger of going manic, I started writing fanfiction and enjoying creating again, writing quick short stories that I can produce and publish online for my fans in a few hours.
Since then, one year after I began writing for fun again, I’ve embarked on other art projects. I’ve painted small ceramics: tiny projects–fridge magnets and paperweights–things I can get done in small increments, and things that won’t trigger that sense of urgency again.
This past holiday season, I took up cross-stitching presents for Christmas gifts again, this time for fun, and the biggest project–which really did take me 30 hours–turned out beautifully. My stitches are straight and just tight enough to make the project look nice.
I earned this stability through hard work–taking and rebalancing my medication cocktail on a regular basis, checking in with my treatment team whenever I feel like I’m slipping into a mood episode, and engaging in psychotherapy.
I am happy to say that I am now creating again, thoroughly enjoying myself and taking my time rather than feeling pressured to complete things on an unreasonable timetable.
And when I do feel that invisible pull, that pressure, that sense of urgency that I feel sometimes even when stable because that’s what my sick brain associates with crafting, I set the project down and do something else.
I am much, much happier now.
Have you ever felt like this? What does your brain force you to do when you’re manic?
I can hear you now: Sticking to a routine is one of the most difficult things ever with bipolar disorder. Why do I have to do it?
I’ll tell you why: because your brain thrives on structure, and following a daily routine can help prevent and treat bipolar mood episodes, according to Ellen Frank, PhD, professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of the Depression and Manic Depression Prevention Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
In a study of interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPRST) and its effectiveness of managing mood episodes, Frank found that patients with bipolar disorder who followed a routine survived much longer without an episode than those who didn’t follow a rhythm, and that IPSRT was extremely effective at preventing mania and depression.
My therapist told me years ago that consistency would be the best gift I could give my children, and I despaired. How could I, being an inconsistent person based on my mental illness and habits developed in a chaotic childhood, provide them with a life with reliable “rocks,” or big activities that we did daily?
Finding–and sticking to–a pattern has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. And as we’ve added to our family, I have changed the pattern. But I’ve noticed a stark difference in my own happiness and the happiness of my children when I create order in my life rather than submit myself and my family to chaos.
The importance of creating a daily routine–and following it!–can’t be stressed enough. But how do you create–and more importantly, stick to–a routine?
Read on for some tips and tricks based on my own personal experience.
Tip #1: Start Small
When I’m manic, I tend to want to organize my life. When I’m in this state, I suffer from the compulsion to make to-do lists and plan out my schedule and the schedules of my family.
So my first tip is probably obvious: don’t start planning your routine when manic. My next tip is probably less so: start small.
What I mean by that is don’t add a bunch of items to your to-do list all at once and expect to follow them daily. You’re setting yourself up for failure that way.
Start with the “rocks,” or big activities: meals, sleep, and work hours. Which leads into tip two.
Tip #2: Fix Your Sleep Hygiene
I could go on and on about how crucial sleep is for stabilizing your mental health. (In fact, I have, here and here.) Sleep hygiene is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can get yourself on an even keel and reduce the severity of mood episodes, even and especially preventing them.
Sleep is a rock in your day, so try to schedule sleep times. Schedule wake times. And try to stick to those. If you have sleep problems, talk to your doctor. You need enough sleep.
How much is enough depends on each individual person. Some adults need 7-8 hours, others need more. But if you’re not getting enough sleep, that’s a fast track to mania.
I go to sleep between 9-10pm every night. Approximately twenty minutes before bed, I shut off my phone and take a shower or bath, depending on my mood and how much time I have. I wind down at night by lying in bed by either praying or planning out my next fanfiction.
Waking up used to be much more difficult for me, but now that I’ve lowered the dose of one of my meds, I’ve been finding myself waking up with much more energy. But I still roll over and go back to sleep after turning off my alarm.
I’m telling you this tip–fix your sleep hygiene–but I’m also telling myself. I need to start waking up at 7am consistently like I used to and address the likely lingering slight depression.
Starting tomorrow, I will be waking up with my alarm at 7am and forcing myself out of bed rather than shutting it off and sleeping in. Wish me luck!
Tip #2: Schedule Meal Times
In addition to sleep, one of the quickest ways we can stabilize our moods is to keep our blood sugar levels stable. Being an Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), I know I myself am extremely susceptible to being hangry.
If you can, try to stick to regular meal times. Eating 3-4 small meals a day will help you keep an even mood, but not only that, it’ll help you lose weight or maintain a healthy one.
My meal routine is simple. I take my meds right before breakfast at 9:15am, eat a breakfast of a single egg and a glass of milk with sugar-free salted caramel syrup, and then take my daughter to the park until 12pm, at which point I eat lunch (usually last night’s leftovers). I eat a small snack at 3:30pm. Dinner, which I usually start making at 4:30opm, is between 5:30-6pm, depending on the recipe. I also drink about 144oz of water throughout the day.
This schedule works very well for me and my family, and helps keep me sane. Try scheduling your meals for regular times. You won’t regret it.
Tip #3: Schedule Your Work Hours
For most of us, work takes up most of our day. If you can schedule your own hours, do so. Whether you work in an office, attend school, or work from home, you need to set a start and end time.
According to Dr. Frank’s research, having a set work schedule will help you feel better. If you can, tap your colleagues, teachers, and family to help you meet your obligations with enough time for you to complete the day’s work at a set end time.
I’m a writer and a stay-at-home parent attending online psychology classes for my graduate degree, so my work day starts at 8am, when I wake up and make my daughter breakfast.
After that, we go to the park until 12pm, when we return home to eat lunch. My mother-in-law, who lives with us, watches my daughter and reads her stories and practices her sight words and hand writing from 1-4pm, during which I study. Then I make dinner at 4:30pm, eat at 5:30pm, and have time for relaxation with the rest of the family after the dinner dishes are done at 6:30pm.
At 8pm, the bedtime routine begins, including a bath for my daughter. She’s in bed by 9pm, and then I take my own shower and go to bed shortly afterwards on most nights.
My schedule is not very intense, and it leaves room for flexibility. But if you’re a homemaker, it’s especially important for you to schedule a set end to your workday. Without a specific time to stop and relax, you can easily work yourself to the bone.
As I said in the last tip, I have penciled in time to relax with my family from 6:30pm to 8pm. I also have a “night off” from the bedtime routine on Mondays, which I usually spend writing short stories or cross-stitching, hobbies I enjoy that chill me out.
Make time each day to do something you enjoy. Self-care is incredibly important in fighting mood episodes, especially depression.
There’s any number of things you can do for self-care. You could take a walk, indulge in a cup of tea or coffee, or do something creative, like painting or writing.
For a list of 100 Doable Ideas for Self-care When You’re Suffering from Depression, click here.
Tip #5: Forgive Yourself
If something throws you off your routine–and something always will eventually–don’t panic. Try to be flexible enough to roll with the punches.
Accept what has happened and then follow your routine as best as you’re able. Forgive yourself if you can’t quite make it one day. There’s always tomorrow.
When something interrupts my routine, I get crabby. That’s what I mean about feeling an impact to my happiness when my routine is altered, especially without my permission. But even with my permission, I struggle to remain happy with the change.
For example, Monday nights are my night off, and Tuesday is the night my husband and mother-in-law go shopping. This Monday, my mother-in-law suggested that they hit the store that night rather than Tuesday and give me a night off on Thursday, a change I agreed to because it would be better for my husband.
By the end of the night, while doing the unexpected bedtime routine with my daughter, I was cranky. She got on my nerves more than I care to admit.
But I bathed her and put her to bed, tucking her in and singing “Rock-A-Bye Baby” twice, as is her routine. Then, exhausted, I went directly to bed.
I made sure to give myself grace for being annoyed and reminded myself that this change was temporary and I agreed to it. The next day, Tuesday, my mother-in-law took over the bedtime routine and gave me that night off instead of Thursday, which I was pleased with.
Sometimes routines don’t work out, and that’s okay. As long as you forgive yourself and get right back into it as soon as you can, you’ll be alright.
Make adjustments as needed, like getting a hotel room if you’re not going to get home on time to sleep. A hotel room costs less than a hospitalization if your mood destabilizes.
If you suffer from bipolar disorder, routines are crucial to your success in treating your mental illness. They prevent and treat mood episodes, keeping you stable and happy.
Think of following one for not only yourself, but also your family and those around you.
To follow a routine, start small, fix your sleep hygiene, set meal times, schedule a start and end times to the work day using your colleagues, and forgive yourself if the routine doesn’t go as planned.
You can follow a routine. You can be consistent, despite your mental illness making that difficult. Schedule your rocks and stick to those commitments. You will benefit from doing so.
Trigger Warning: This post contains a discussions of suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please:
Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
Text TALK to 741741
Or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
For a post with a list of domestic crisis lines, click here.
For a post with a list of international crisis lines, click here.
Trigger Warning: This post has brief mentions of the 2020 covid pandemic.
4 Times You Should Call Your Doctor to Save Yourself from a Depressive Episode
People all over the world face mental health struggles, and with the 2020 covid pandemic isolating people and causing physical illness and death, the challenges have never been greater. But some people are still confused about what problems need professional help, especially when suffering a depressive illness.
Depression is a serious illness that can lead to people taking drastic actions such as committing self-harm or dying by suicide. Even when the depression “isn’t that bad,” you may still be sad, apathetic, or just tired all the time.
Your mental health might still be in the toilet, and that’s no way to live.
If you’re living with a depressive illness, you deserve medical attention. The earlier you get treatment, the more effective it’ll be, but even if you’ve been living in the black, viscous pit of depression for years, you still have hope that therapy and/or medication can help.
But when should you, you personally, call your doctor? I’ll give you a few reasons below, as well as examples about when I’ve personally brought in my own treatment team.
A Note Before We Get Started
If you already have a psychiatrist and/or a therapist, awesome. That makes getting adequate treatment easier. But if you don’t have one available, ask for a consultation by a primary care physician (preferably yours, if you have one) to refer you to mental health services.
(For a more detailed post on how to start seeing a therapist, click here. For a more detailed post on how to get a psychiatric evaluation, click here.)
1. Call Your Doctor When… You’ve Lost Interest in Well, Everything
Anhedonia is the loss of interest in things you used to find pleasurable. It’s a deep well of apathy that’s one of the classic signs of depression. Food, hobbies, even sex don’t appeal to you anymore, and you have no desire to do anything except curl up in a blanket fort and hide for the rest of your life.
This is no way to live. Call your doctor. They can help you.
As a person with bipolar disorder, one of the first signs of a depressive episode for me is when I’ve lost interest in writing. Writing is my lifeblood; I adore putting words to paper and either trying to inform my readers about something that can help them, or tugging at their heartstrings, or both.
So when I find writing starting to be a chore to me, that’s a sign that I need to call my therapist and let her know that I’m sinking into a depressive episode.
2. Call Your Doctor When… Your Sleep Patterns Have Changed
Sleeping all day is not normal. Being tired constantly seemingly without reason can be a symptom of depression. Insomnia or difficulty falling asleep are also possible symptoms. If your sleep patterns have changed and you can’t pinpoint why, it’s time to call your doctor.
When I first put my daughter in preschool, I was suffering a massive depressive episode without realizing it. I would drop her off at 9am and then go home and collapse in bed, sleeping until 12pm, even after having slept 9 hours the night before. I was sleeping up to 12 hours a day and I was still exhausted.
When I pulled my daughter out of preschool due to the covid pandemic, I realized I needed to wake up. She needed me to be a present parent; I couldn’t afford to sleep all day.
So I called my doctor. He adjusted my medication, and I recovered from the depressive episode, which enabled me to be a better parent.
3. Call Your Doctor When… You Can’t Stop Crying
Crying releases endorphins and can be a release for some people. But crying during a depression isn’t usually a healthy release; it’s constant and exhausting and tends to rile people up, not help them. If you find yourself shedding tears and can’t stop, call your doctor.
I sobbed my way through my time committed to a mental hospital. I absolutely could not stop crying; everything was awful and my face was constantly wet. The sobfest may have been due to postpartum hormones; I had just given birth to my first child, but my tears never stopped for a solid week.
After starting medication, I stabilized and stopped crying. Now I’m a happy, present spouse and parent who only cries for release.
4. Call Your Doctor When… You Have Thoughts of Self-Harm or Suicide
Thoughts of self-harm and suicide are serious enough that you need to call your doctor immediately. If you have more than a fleeting, intrusive thought of driving your car into oncoming traffic and it starts to become a plan you could see yourself acting on, then please absolutely seek medical attention.
During my pregnancy with my son, when I was suffering thoughts of self-harm, I did not call my doctor. I was isolated and lonely from a recent move across the country, and while I told my obstetrician I felt sad, I didn’t let her know about my thoughts.
I ended up making a suicide attempt five days after my son was born. Committing myself to a mental hospital and earning a diagnosis of bipolar disorder saved my life. I was given a referral to a psychiatrist, who gave me stabilizing medication. Now, 13 years later, I am a happy and stable parent and writer.
Don’t be like me. Don’t prolong your suffering from these debilitating thoughts. Call your doctor.
Sunday, October 10th, 2021 is World Mental Health Day, an initiative by the World Federation by Mental Health intended to bring awareness to mental health issues faced by people globally.
What better way to celebrate World Mental Health Day than to take charge of your own psychological well-being?
From losing interest in pleasurable activities, changing sleep patterns, constant crying, to thoughts of self-harm, depression has varied symptoms that add up to a debilitating condition.
If you are facing any of these four challenges, don’t wait. Call your doctor today.
Child abuse comes in many forms: physical abuse, emotional abuse, medical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. When we’re suffering from depression and dealing with the inability to take care of ourselves, we are at risk of neglecting our children. This risk must be mitigated in order to prevent seriously harming our kids.
It’s all well and good to say so, but how does one prevent child abuse when they have depression? Here are 4 crucial tips to parenting with depression.
Tip #1: Practice Self-care
You’ve heard the analogy of the oxygen mask on the airplane. Before you tend to your children, you must put your oxygen mask on first.
Self-care is that oxygen mask.
Self-care may seem like just another item on the to-do list. But it’s actually crucial for you to function. Self-care is taking responsibility for your physical and mental well-being. If you don’t perform some self-care on a daily basis, you’ll not only neglect yourself, you may start to neglect your kids as well because you’re burnt out.
Some people think self-care is limited to bubble baths and painting your nails. That’s not true. Taking your medications and attending therapy are forms of self-care. So is getting enough sleep, eating well, and drinking enough water. Spending time outside and with other people also falls under that umbrella.
If you put your oxygen mask on and practice self-care on a daily basis, then over time you’ll be in a much better position to care for your children. Avoid burn out. Prioritize self-care.
Tip #2: Seek Professional Help for You and Your Child
When you’re a parent suffering from depression, the bond with your child may suffer. You might neglect your duties at home and spend a lot of time in bed, ignoring your babies. This is frightening and confusing to a kid, who needs you to be a consistent presence in their lives.
Before the situation gets that bad, seek professional help. Find a therapist you can trust for yourself, and talk about your feelings with him or her.
But don’t forget to find a therapist for your child as well. He or she may need help understanding why your depression affects you the way it does. Your kid needs a trusted adult to be a comforting presence. A therapist can teach your whole family coping skills.
For a post on how to start seeing a therapist, click here.
Tip #3: Communicate with Your Child
As I’ve said before, parental depression can cause unusual behaviors in you which are scary to your child. Nip that in the bud and communicate with him or her as much as possible about your depression.
Let your kid know that your mental illness, while not going away, is not his or her fault. Explain that you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, and you’re doing your best to cope with it. If you are taking medication, tell your child that you are taking steps to circumvent the depression and its effect on him or her.
Don’t be afraid to let your kid know how you’re feeling that day, be it tired, sad, or even and especially happy. Don’t make him or her responsible for your emotions, but do share them with your child.
For a post on how to communicate with your children about your mental illness, click here.
Tip #4: Forgive Yourself for Mistakes
You cannot be the super parent every day of the week when dealing with depression. Setting too high of expectations for yourself and your children can be dangerous, because if you fail, it can trigger overwhelming feelings of despair.
Recognizing that you deserve forgiveness for mistakes, especially while suffering from depression, can be one of the hardest things you’ll do. But you must forgive yourself if you mess up, because you’re setting an example to your child to forgive you and others.
Know that “good enough” parenting is really good enough. Allow your kid some leeway when it comes to screen time. Offer them a cheese and celery and tomato plate instead of a full dinner, but only occasionally, when you really can’t cook. (For a post on 22 easy meals to make while depressed, click here.) And don’t cut back on your kid’s activities; get him or her out of the house as much as possible, so he or she can be around other people.
Parenting while suffering from depression is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Neglecting yourself comes easily; neglecting your children is just the next logical step. Don’t get there. Practice self-care, seek professional help for you and your child, communicate with him or her, and forgive yourself for your mistakes.
These practical tips will help you foster a more positive environment for you and your kid. Eventually, if you continue taking care of yourself, your depression will lift, and you’ll be able to say that you did a good job parenting while suffering depression.
It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing a two-month hiatus for The Bipolar Parent. For the past eleven weeks, I have been working on personal projects, and have lost all motivation to work on the blog.
I have high hopes that a two-month hiatus–one month to rest and take the pressure off, another to get back into the swing of things–will help me recharge my batteries.
I appreciate all of you as readers. Thanks in advance for your understanding. Please stay safe in quarantine, and tend to your families.
How does bipolar disorder manifest in men? Find out with this post for Men’s Health Week on the Bipolar Parent!
June 10th-16th is Men’s Health Week, celebrated the world over. The week is meant to heighten awareness of conditions that disproportionately affect men, and to encourage those affected to seek treatment for their physical and mental health issues.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and Overall Differences
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive disorder, is a severe mental illness where people with the condition cycle through two types of mood episodes. To fully explain bipolar disorder in men, we must first look at the two “poles” of the disease: mania and depression.
People with bipolar disorder can swing between these two states over periods of days, weeks, months, or even years. Rapid cycling occurs when four or more mood episodes happen over the course of a year. Men are only about 1/3 as likely as women to have rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.
There are also different forms of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder I involves depression, but also the presence of severe manic episodes, which sometimes require hospitalization. Bipolar disorder II sufferers deal with severe depressive episodes, but only have hypomania, a less intense form of mania.
Men are more likely to have bipolar I disorder than women. The tendency to have a manic episode rather than a depressive episode as the first onset of bipolar disorder is more prevalent in men than women. Conversely, women tend to have depressive episodes first. In addition, these first manic episodes in men are often severe, sometimes leading to prison.
People with bipolar disorder also suffer from mixed states, where they feel symptoms of depression during manic or hypomanic states, or symptoms of mania during depressive episodes. A 2006 study showed that 72% of women presented depressive symptoms during hypomanic episode, while only 42% of men did.
However, these overall differences are all tendencies. Men can have rapid-cycling bipolar disorder 2 with mixed states, and women can have standard-cycling bipolar I with the first onset that was manic.
Denial of a Problem
Unfortunately, many people deny that bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses exist. Men are more likely to be in denial that they have problems, and therefore don’t seek help as often as women.
Women are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants when being treated for bipolar disorder. This is possibly because women more often express their feelings to doctors. Socially, men are encouraged to stuff their emotions. As bipolar disorder is disease that primarily affects emotions, diagnosing bipolar disorder in men who deny there’s a problem can be more difficult.
Similarly, manic states cause men and women to feel euphoria, which can be expressed as extreme confidence. Men are expected to feel more confidence than women in society, so diagnosing a manic state becomes harder.
Violence and Aggression
Mania can include symptoms of irritability, which encourages angry outbursts. Bipolar rage is a real thing.
One of the ways bipolar disorder manifests in men, especially during manic episodes, is through violence and aggression. Violence during manic episodes is rare for bipolar disorder sufferers overall, but is more common in men than women.
This leads men to be imprisoned more often than women. Studies show that men with mental illnesses are 2-4 times more likely to be incarcerated than their representation in the population.
Substance abuse is a serious problem with men who have bipolar disorder. At least 72.8% of men with bipolar disorder struggled with some sort of substance abuse problem at some point in their lives, compared to 27.2% of women with the same mental illness.
Men with bipolar disorder are twice as likely than women with the condition to be currently addicted to illegal drugs and/or alcohol, according to a 2004 study published in the journal Bipolar Disorder.
No one knows why men and women with bipolar disorder differ so much when it comes to substance abuse issues. One argument is that men use drugs and alcohol to cope with bipolar mood episodes rather than traditional medication.
While bipolar disorder affects men and women at equal rates, there are several differences between the two genders when it comes to this mental illness. Men with bipolar disorder are more likely to have more severe manic episodes, less likely to seek help, have more violent outbursts than women, and often struggle with substance abuse.
Bipolar disorder is a serious problem, especially in men who self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. We must raise awareness of this issue, and encourage the men with bipolar disorder symptoms in our lives to seek treatment.
If you suspect you or a loved one has bipolar disorder, don’t delay. Call your doctor today, and ask for a referral to a competent psychiatrist. He or she can confirm a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and start prescribing medications to help you manage your mood episodes. You deserve help.
For a post on getting a psychiatric evaluation, click here. For a post on how to start seeing a therapist, click here.
What does a complicated holiday like Mother’s Day mean for your mental health? Find out on CassandraStout.com!
For some of us, it is a day to celebrate the women who raised us–with flowers, chocolate, or homemade crafts. For others, it is a day of intense guilt and shame, reminding them of an abusive or neglectful parent. For those whose mothers left them or passed away, the day is a poignant reminder of what they do not have.
But what does Mother’s Day mean for your mental health?
In addition to featuring Mother’s Day, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. During May, mental health organizations strive to combat stigma about mental health conditions and educate communities and families about coping tools for mental illnesses. One thing that professionals want people to be aware of is the effect holidays, especially holidays centered around togetherness and emotions, can affect different people mentally.
Your Mother’s Effect on Your Mental Health
Your mother shaped your mental health, first as a child, and then as an adult. When you are little, your mother taught you how to handle stress, mostly by example, but also, hopefully by actively teaching you. Your mother also modeled how to manage relationships, including friendships, romance, and parenting, teaching you what to do and what not to. The types of behaviors learned, and whether they are healthy or not, can depend entirely on your relationship with your mother.
Even those whose mothers abandoned them as children or passed away taught them something by their absence.
And people with mothers who suffer from mental illness, especially if it is untreated, have another entire layer–and sometimes multiple layers–of complexity to their parental relationships.
What if You’re a Mother?
For those of us who are mothers ourselves, we’re walking a tightrope of societal expectations. Many of us suffer from postnatal depression, and a few of us have more severe cases of postpartum psychosis–including delusions, irritability, and hallucinations–all while facing a lack of resources and support from the community at large.
Facing down Mother’s Day as a mother can dredge up complicated feelings, ranging from happiness at the relationship you have with your children, to exhaustion from facing another day, bowing under the pressure of being a mother.
How to Handle Such a Complicated Holiday
All of this makes Mother’s Day a complicated, and at times, triggering day on the calendar. We may feel joy celebrating our mothers, but we may also feel pressure to do so in spite of our feelings. And we also can feel intense guilt or shame at our perceived failings as mothers and as daughters.
So how can you handle Mother’s Day, which is so fraught with emotion?
First, practice self-care. A lot of women think self-care is limited to having bubble baths and painting their nails. But that’s just not true.
Self-care is taking responsibility for your physical and mental well-being. That’s it.
Try to get enough sleep during the week, eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of water, exercise, and spend some time outside and with other people, as much as social distancing would allow. Tap into your social network and ask for support during a time when you might be feeling vulnerable.
Secondly, give yourself space to experience your feelings. Mother’s Day is a complicated holiday, but you yourself are a complicated human being, capable of feeling all manner of emotions at any given time. Letting yourself experience your feasr or sorrows privately can help you get through the public times more easily.
Write down your impressions of Mother’s Day. If you are angry with your mother, write a letter expressing yourself. (Then burn it. This is only for you.) Keep a journal just for you about your complex feelings surrounding motherhood.
If you have a wonderful relationship with your mother and want to celebrate her, then by all means do so, and also celebrate your friendship! If you have a neglectful or abusive parent, then do what you can to take care of yourself in this time–if that means skipping the holiday, then don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for doing so.
If you have a daughter this Mother’s Day, try to be patient with her during this complicated holiday. She is likely struggling with some of the same issues you have with your own mother. Give her the grace you would want your own mother–or your daughter yourself–to give you.
Mothers shape our mental health. They teach us how to take care of ourselves, and how to prioritize our own well-being. Or, as is so often the case, how not to do that.
Our mothers taught us so many things, good and bad, and Mother’s Day is a way to acknowledge our mothers’ effects on us–without drowning. Motherhood is a complex and difficult challenge, and as long as we try our best, we are good parents.
You can handle this complicated holiday. You are stronger than we know.
This post appeared on the International Bipolar Foundation website, here.
Are you bipolar? There is a day on the calendar to celebrate your struggles with the disorder.
World Bipolar Day (WBD) is celebrated each year on March 30th, in honor of Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday, as he was posthumously diagnosed as probably having bipolar disorder.
The day–an initiative of the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD), and the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD)–means to combat stigma and raise awareness of bipolar disorders.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is marked by abrupt changes in mood, energy, and executive function–the ability to accomplish tasks on a daily basis.
Bipolar disorder comes in several forms.
People with bipolar I suffer from manic episodes–periods of increased energy, euphoric mood, and decreased need for sleep–depressive episodes–periods of intense, pervasive sadness–as well as weeks of relative stability. People who suffer from bipolar II deal with even more severe and lengthy depressive episodes and hypomania, a lesser form of mania. There’s also cyclothymia, or bipolar III, where people have lesser forms of depression and hypomania, but cycle more rapidly between the two.
Episodes of bipolar disorder are not the usual ups and downs that everyone goes through. This is a lifelong condition which interferes with day-to-day functioning. The prevalence of bipolar disorder has been estimated to be as high as 5% of people around the world.
There are several causes to bipolar disorder, including genetic components, environmental stresses, childhood trauma, and other factors.
International groups like IBPF, ISBD, and ANBD support global efforts from scientists and advocates to investigate causes of bipolar disorder, methods of diagnosis, coping strategies, and medications to successfully treat the mental illness. World Bipolar Day was created to celebrate these efforts, acknowledge the struggles of people with the disorder, and raise awareness and sensitivity.
You can celebrate World Bipolar Day by taking care of yourself. But if you have bipolar disorder, how do you cope with the day-to-day challenges the mental illness brings? There are several strategies:
Take Your Medications
Your medications are there to help you. If you don’t take them on a regular basis, you won’t know if they work. Figuring out the right cocktail of antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety meds–as well as electroconvulsive therapy–requires a lot of patience, as the testing process takes time and a toll on your body.
But there is hope. Bipolar disorder is one of the most manageable and treatable disorders. You can find a correct combination of medications or electroconvulsive therapies to treat you. For a post on how to get a psychiatric evaluation, click here.
Talk therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, is one of the best ways to learn coping skills to handle the challenges of daily life. An unbiased, sympathetic therapist can help you understand patterns of your behaviors and help you correct said patterns. Attending therapy is essential for daily functioning when you have bipolar disorder.
For a post on how to start seeing a therapist, click here.
Self-care is not limited to bubble baths and painting your nails. It’s taking responsibility for your physical and mental well-being. Self-care involves sleeping enough (but not too much), eating a healthy diet, spending time outside and with other people, exercising, and drinking plenty of water.
Practicing these tenants of self-care on a day-to-day basis is crucial for you to feel better. Even if you can’t do all six everyday, try to eat, sleep, and drink enough water. Your energy levels and mood may improve immensely.
World Bipolar Day, celebrated every year on March 30th, is a great time to take stock of the strategies you’ve used to cope with your mental illness. If you have bipolar, taking your medication, attending therapy, and practicing self-care will go a long way towards improving your ability to handle your condition.
There is no shame in having bipolar disorder. It just means your brain functions differently. Make the effort to treat your mental illness on World Bipolar Day.
Hello, hello! Welcome to the Bipolar Parent’s Saturday Morning Mental Health Check in: The Future Edition! Thanks for stopping by.
How are you doing this week? What parenting challenges have you been facing? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you practicing self-care? How has the coronavirus affected your life lately? I hope you don’t have it! Let me know in the comments; I genuinely want to know about you and your struggles.
My (Two) Weeks — And the Future of The Bipolar Parent
I didn’t update last week, and for that I apologize. I was waiting on some news that was time-sensitive.
But now I can share it: I have a job! My friend and frequent commenter, author and mental health blogger Dyane Harwood, was approached by an editor at Verywell. Part of Dotdash (previously About.com), Verywell is a website focused on health and medicine that boasts 17 million unique visitors per month.
Dyane was told by the editor that Verywell needed a contributing writer for their articles re: bipolar disorder. Dyane, bless her, said she was overextended, and passed my contact information and blog onto the editor.
The editor contacted me, and asked if I would be willing to blog for them on a regular basis. After discussing the challenges of being a working parent with my husband, I agreed to take the job.
I am so excited! This is a wonderful opportunity to expand my writing resume and add feathers to my cap. A million thank yous to Dyane!
All of this means there will be some changes to The Bipolar Parent, my personal blog. I will be writing four articles per month for Verywell, and I don’t know if I will be able to continue blogging here as frequently.
My children will be out of school for the summer, and my husband is not comfortable with drop-in daycare for either of them. Rather than writing blog posts while they are in school, I will be writing in my very limited free time after the kids go to bed.
That being said, I need to discontinue the Saturday Morning Mental Health Check ins. I apologize in advance, but I already know that I won’t be able to keep posting on Saturday on The Bipolar Parent while writing for Verywell.
I hope to continue posting on Fridays, but I am uncertain if I will be able to keep up the quantity of quality posts while blogging four times a month for the other site.
I will check in with myself in April (next month) and make an honest decision. After that, whatever I decide, I will check in again in August, three months later, and see if I need to reevaluate my ability to post to both sites.
Whatever happens to The Bipolar Parent, I plan to continue blogging for the International Bipolar Foundation, so you can see me both there and at Verywell. If I’m not producing original content here, I will be linking to both my Verywell posts and my IBPF posts.
I appreciate that you’ve all supported me in my writing. The journey from beginning blogger to contributing writer at IBPF and Verywell has been long, but you all have been there for me. Thank you so much.
Hello, hello! Welcome to The Bipolar Parent’s (Belated) Saturday Morning Mental Health Check in: Keto Edition! Thanks for stopping by.
First, I apologize for this post being late. I completely forgot to write it on Friday, and on Saturday, I was ridiculously busy, which I’ll go into below. Sorry about that!
Secondly, how are you? How’s life treating you? Do you attend religious services? Are you on a diet, like me? How are the kids? What are you struggling with? What are your parenting challenges this week? Let me know in the comments; I genuinely want to get to know you.
I started the keto (extremely low-carb, moderate protein, high fat) diet with my husband to help us both shed some extra weight we’ve been carrying around.
I am currently 190.4 pounds, and have lost 2 pounds since Tuesday. But, since my weight tends to fluctuate over the day, I am not counting the loss until I lose at least 6-8 pounds.
The last time I tried the keto diet, I ended up with massive headaches and brain fog for the first week. A while back, my sister recommended magnesium supplements for headaches. As I don’t absorb magnesium through supplementation very well, I was elated to find out that pumpkin seeds, which have 0g net carbs due to their high fiber content, give me 50% of the recommended daily value of magnesium for a 1/4 cup serving.
Now, eating the pumpkin seeds, I have had very few headaches, and am snapping out of the brain fog much more quickly. It’s such a relief.
As for being busy on Saturday, I cleaned the house because my husband and I planned to go on a date that afternoon, and I wanted the house to be nice for the babysitters, a trusted couple from our church.
The whole family pitched in to clean the house, and we got it done in time for our date at 1pm. I should have spread the cleaning out over the week, but I’ve been dealing with depression/exhaustion/brain fog from the change in my diet.
But it hasn’t been a bad week, not at all. I’ve been able to maintain a positive attitude, which helps immensely. Hopefully next week will be even better.