There’s really no nice way to say it…it just sucks. Even when things are good (and it does happen), there’s always the knowledge that it’s only for so long. Eventually, you’ll hit the top of the hill and come rocketing down the other side. Personally, I always try to do the best I can when I’m up, using that time to get all the jobs I’ve been putting off, finished. Truth is, it rarely happens. The joys of hypomania: I want to do all the things, so I start all the things but rarely finish any of them.
For the last couple of months, I was apparently in a hypomanic state. I’ll admit, I never noticed it. For me, it can be hard to tell because it feels like what I imagine “normal” is like. I was engaged with my family, keeping up on housework, enjoying hobbies and finding new ones. In fact, no one noticed what was going on…until I crashed down on the other side of the roller coaster. And boy…what a crash.
This spiral was only the second time in my life I’ve ever been genuinely suicidal. Like, not in the “man this sucks and I don’t want to be here anymore” sense but in the “it needs to end NOW” sense. To some, it may not seem like much of a difference, I suppose, but it’s a huge difference to me.
I’ve had down patches where I wondered if it would be better to just stop living, but deep down the logic part of my brain always says “no, you’d be missed, it wouldn’t solve anything, things will get better soon, etc.”
This time, though, that logical brain just threw in the towel and said “Eff it. It’ll get better, but it’s just going to get worse again anyways so who cares?” It said “yeah, you’ll be missed, but it’s better for them for you to be gone. If you love them, you’ll give in.” It said a lot of things, and it was scary.
So I sought help…
God bless my mom, my crazy, also bipolar mom. She texted me constantly, talking me through it, badgering me for responses, and keeping me going until my family got home.
By the next day, I had an appointment with my doctor and a vow that I wouldn’t be left alone at all until my follow up on Tuesday. I met with a therapist who asked about what happened and said: “It’s your choice, but let me tell you why a hospital stay might be the best thing for you.” That night, I was at the ER and then checked in to an inpatient program.
But what about the kids?
My youngest didn’t have any clue what was going on, but my daughter understood at least
a little. I’ve tried to always be honest about my mental health, not to scare her, but because it’s like any other chronic illness. And like any major illness, sometimes that means a stay in the hospital. Alas, didn’t make it any easier when she had to go home and I wasn’t there to tuck her in.
During my stay, which ultimately lasted 9 days, various combinations of my family came to visit me. The kids were only able to visit twice, but we crammed a whole lot of love into those visits. Jamie climbed on everything (and accidentally called the nurses twice). Eileen colored, chatted, chased her brother around, and generally brought me joy. During those days, the kids made me all sorts of pictures to hang up in my room, and I called as often as I could.
It was hard, but we found every way we could to stay connected while I was away.
Why did I decide to go to the hospital and lose 9 days with my family, and almost a month of work?
The fact of the matter is my Bipolar isn’t going away. This is a lifetime long condition, and I’ll be battling it forever. Does a visit to the ER heal it? Obviously not. But it does provide a safe space for me to get through a horrible episode with round the clock monitoring, professionals to help me learn new skills and double check my meds – all without putting the burden on my family.
Parenting makes everything a little bit harder. There’s guilt that comes with every episode and the attempt to put me and my health first. I spend every day of my life trying to balance the distance necessary to stay healthy without making my kids feel abandoned. This decision was just as difficult, but important for exactly that reason. I needed help and it wasn’t fair (or realistic) to expect them to provide it. It was hard for us to be apart, but at the same time, it was necessary.
The most important reason of all
There’s another reason, though, that I chose to be committed to the inpatient facility. The odds are not necessarily high, but high enough (around 10%), that my kids will have either severe depression or Bipolar disorder as well. If that happens, I want to help them have the tools necessary to cope and, if needed, the comfort and confidence to get help. If that means a week in the hospital, then that’s what it means. I will willingly lock myself away if it helps them see that mental health is important and nothing to be ashamed of.
More than anything, I don’t want them to ever be ashamed.
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