Please welcome Emma White, The Real Supermum, to healthpsychologyconsultancy. Emma has kindly provided some insight into life as a mother of 6 with Bipolar Disorder. I am sure you will agree, this is an extremely powerful narrative that gets right to the heart of Emma’s experience. Please do visit her blog, The Real Supermum, which is well worth a read!
I welcomed the hot water upon my face; I turned the shower temperature dial to 9, the water was piping hot, enough to burn my skin. As the steam filled the shower cubicle; I breathed a sigh of relief. I was numb to the pain. Burning my body with boiling water was my escape, my coping strategy. I do not recall when I started using this method of self-harm, but it worked. While taking a morning shower awakened some senses, I remained partially numb; there was always a part of me that would never respond.
I dressed and went to join my partner in the kitchen; he was preparing breakfast for our two young children. He had long stopped asking if I wanted anything to eat, I hadn’t eaten in days. I also starved my body of food, another coping strategy I had invented. I was on a downward spiral.
Under the clothing I was wasting away, my rib cage was protruding through the skin and my face was a mimic of a skeleton. A ghost like reflection stared back at me when I caught a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror.
I was ill, we both knew it, yet we were too afraid to admit it. I had to get dressed and go to work, yet I was struggling to recall what day of the week it was. I did not go to work that morning, I have never worked again since that day. I did however walk to the GP Surgery. Sitting in the waiting room I felt stares, the tears fell freely, my head raced and my palms became sweaty. My name was called. I had come alone, I knew I had to do this, yet was fearful. Was I ready?
I don’t remember speaking with the GP, but do recall being transferred to another room where three strange people sat in high back chairs watching me as I paced the floor. They asked questions, I answered. They looked at each other, nodded and wrote quickly into note pads. They were from the mental health crisis team. They assessed me. I returned home.
I would be assessed gruesomely and endlessly over the coming weeks by a variety of health professionals. I was assigned a psychiatrist, yet assigned another when I finally revealed I was at least 4 months pregnant.
I was diagnosed with Cyclothymic Disorder (Bipolar) when I was five months pregnant with my sixth child. I cried, I shook, I shouted and I fell to the floor in a heap, but it was also a relief. There was a valid reason behind the rapid mood changes I was experiencing. The highs and the lows had become a part of my life, I had grown accustomed to them, yet they were destroying me. I was no longer living, just surviving.
When did Bipolar enter my life? I do not know. I have wasted so many days wallowing in self-pity looking for a reason why this happened to me, looking for someone to blame. Was it the result of being raised in a broken home? Being unwanted by my mother at the age of 12 and being sent to live with my alcoholic father and wicked stepmother? Was it the eleven years of domestic abuse and violence I suffered at the hands of the man I loved?
I was 13 when I first tried to take my life. What hope was there for someone like me? I dropped out of college early, experimented with soft drugs. I never fitted in, I found it difficult to follow rules and often felt alone due to my demeanour. There was always something about me, yet I could never put my finger on it.
Some will argue that Cyclothymic Disorder results from unmet needs in the early stages of childhood or that it may be genetic. Whatever the cause, I have it.
I have also been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and a sleep and eating disorder. I have a few labels attached to my medical notes. I am not aware of which labels still remain after two years of therapy other than Cyclothymia. I cannot help but think they had no idea what was wrong with me, so gave me a few so they could later choose one.
From November 2009 to May 2010 I have no memory; six long months lost in a sea of confusion. I do know my 6th baby was born in that time. I will always feel that stomach churning guilt when I think of those six months. Has that period of time affected my six children? I will never know. To date, my children do not know I am Bipolar, the elder three understand my “head is a bit funny” at times.
I am often asked how I cope with Bipolar and having six children: I have no reason to believe I would be sat here writing this if it was not for them. They are the reason I fight daily to tackle my demons. They give me the courage, the strength to fight back. I will never be the perfect mother but I will be the best mother I can be.
I created a group on Facebook in May 2010, a place for mothers who like me needed to share their fears and worries, an opportunity to meet other mums. I had become all but a recluse and had lost many outside friends. This group would become a lifeline to many, it would even save lives. My blog was created 10 months ago, a platform for me to express some of my demons; the other mums also shared theirs. Together we created a very real life parenting blog. This group and blog created The Real Supermum, the person you see in me today.
My children proudly inform anyone who will listen that “My mum helps other mums and she writes a blog.” I smile each time I hear those words as they have yet to say “My mum is ill so she does nothing really.”
If you would like to learn more about me or the online work I do for others, feel free to drop by my blog – The Real Supermum Blog (http://www.threalsupermumblog.com).