Monday, July 27, 2009

Final Advice to a Newbie BIP (Part 1)

In today's post, I'm going to try to respond to Lily's comments from my post on Blogging to Learn. As a newbie BIP, she has a lot of questions and concerns, and I believe my answers will have application for others. So, here goes.

1. I'm not anti-medication. I do believe that most BIPS are badly medicated or over-medicated. I believe our doctors prescribe medications they know very little about, and don't research enough alternatives. I believe that Big Pharma and the insurance companies are determining our treatment rather than people with any insight at all. I believe most of the medication for bipolar mood disorder, which has been developed for other illnesses, but is being given to us is ineffective at best and can be truly harmful, which is what happened to me, Gianna, and many others.

I don't agree that all BIPS have to remain on medication for the rest of their lives. After 15 years of research on bipolarity, depression, and related topics, I believe that the treatment protocol for bipolarity is sadly lacking. I believe that most BIPS can profit from therapy, dependent upon the insight and skill of the therapist. I believe that if a BIP requires medication, it should be part of a larger wellness program. I believe that BIPS can achieve wellness.

However, having said that, I also believe there are people who read my blog who should remain on medication. In some cases, pre-medication they heard voices, and now don't. In other cases, their manias were off the charts, and now they are controllable. And in my case, Adderall has saved my life during some horrific depressive episodes. I'm hoping I'm off it for good, but if I need it again in October (when my depression usually hits), I won't hesitate to use it.

But...those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know what I truly believe in is taking responsibility for one's illness, engaging in a wide array of wellness activities, keeping a mood chart and journal, and seeking wellness in a disciplined and thoughtful way on a daily basis.

2. I believe BIPS can be good parents. My son who's now 20 was four years old when I was diagnosed. When he was seven, I started taking medication, which unalterably changed my life for the next six years, and made me so sick I had to fight each and every day to survive. Despite being happily married, doing work which provided great fulfillment, and having people in my life whom I love dearly and who love me, it was my son who saved my life.

When I was so sick that death might have seemed a reasonable alternative, I used to hold a key chain my son made me in preschool (It was a Gerber's baby cap with his picture in it) as an amulet, and quietly affirm the following: "I will never abandon my son. I will never abandon my son. I will never abandon my son." I believe my love for him saved my life.

However, I don't believe we should have children to save our lives; I was just lucky that I'd given birth before my diagnosis. And if I had not been given 26 different medications in different dosages and different combinations, I never would have gotten so sick and none of this would have been an issue.

I also believe that everyone shouldn't be a parent. In fact, I have read about BIPS who have been or are terrible parents. In some cases, their illness is so out of control that they cannot provide the stability, love, and care their children need. Others seem to think only of themselves, behave badly, take no responsibility for their behavior, and have no clue that all of this isn't a healthy and positive environment in which to raise children. (Of course, there are people who aren't BIPS who are terrible parents, but that's not the focus of this blog.)

But, I believe there are still others like me, who ended up being really sick, but who work (or have worked) so hard to provide our children with a "normal" and healthy environment, and equally hard to achieve wellness that we've still been good parents and good role models despite our illness and perceived shortcomings.

Wow! This is all quite emotional for I'll continue tomorrow.


KJ said...

You gave that reader some great advice. As you know the question of whether BIPs should have children is very near and dear to my heart. I think you answered that question perfectly. In a lot of people they are not even diagnosed until children are already born so it is a moot point anyway. However, the real answer I think in all of it is taking personal responsibility. Susan you are someone who does that in all aspects of your life, so you will by nature be a good parent no matter what your challenge. Just like me, I may not suffer with bipolar but I have my own challenges that I overcome to keep being a great parent. I think those who are already selfish and prone to be the victim are just worse during bipolar episodes. Those BIPs in my humble opinion show not be parents. I know first hand how children suffer when a parent is preoccupied with their own issues and unaware that there are children with needs and wants right in front of them. Sorry to vent and remember just my opinion and experience!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear KJ,
Yes, I know this topic is near and dear to your heart, and I was hoping you'd write a comment about this.

I agree with everything you've said. And yes, there are lots of non-BIPS who have issues, some of whom shouldn't be parents.

But, I'm always surprised when I read about BIPS who seem to be unaware that their illness is causing their children to suffer. Or...they are so preoccupied with themselves that they don't see their children have their own needs that need to be addressed.

I thank God that my husband could be there for my son when I didn't feel well enough to do certain things. But, in the very worst of times, I let my son know that he was my top priority. And even if I wasn't feeling well, I was always there for him.

I told him that his problems or concerns always superceeded my own. And, that if I was resting in my bedroom because I was depressed, I could always rouse myself to listen to him.

I also always made sure that I was showered, and that I blow-dried my hair and dressed--even if I went back to bed.

Some people will read this and think that if I could dress and shower, I must not have been as depressed as they were/are.

Personally, I don't know of anyone who's experienced as many depressions as I have. But, some of what I did was just an indicator of my level of self-discipline. And, the rest was my vow that despite how I felt, my top priority was always my son.

Given that I only have one child, it certainly was easier than having four like you do.

Sorry for rambling. But, I, too, feel so strongly about this that my response to your comment may be a bit too lengthy.

P.S. Thanks for all the nice things you said. As always, I appreciate your support and kindness.

Paula Joy said...

Those are some great thoughts - and I can see why it would be emotional.

Good for you for sharing your experiences with all of us!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula,
And thank you for your support. It's always so difficult to write posts that are very emotional and deal with issues we care deeply about.

I so appreciate readers/friends like you who are so supportive.


WillSpirit said...

Hi Susan

It has been nice getting to know you through your comments on my site, and by reading your insights.

My mother had severe depression. She was so preoccupied with her sadness that sometimes she did not even notice me sitting in bed with her. Practically catatonic. Then she killed herself. Since this was in 1964, I don't think she or anyone knew what to do.

I am glad that there is more awareness now. And more support. I am very impressed with how you were able to be there for your son in spite of your low moods. It sounds like you gave him a wonderful gift. It will no doubt help him to deal with his own adversities in life, to remember how you kept going in spite of your pain.


Emma said...

Dear Susan,
So beautifully and thoughtfully expressed. I suspect I have always been aware of my limitations, and I had such real concerns about my ability to parent well that I chose not to have children. I am fortunate to have a husband who supported my choice. I believe I made the right decision for me at that particular time in my life. No regrets, our lives have been enriched and blessed by the children of family and friends, and we have had the love and companionship of two absolutely amazing dogs.
Lily's comments touched me, because I remember there was so much I wanted to know as I searched for answers. At that time I did not have the resources or connections available today through the internet. I resisted until recently. My loss!
There is so much experience and wisdom which can be shared, and hopefully there may be a common thought or link which just may resonate and help another.
Thank you!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Will,
My heart goes out to you. I don't know what kind of help was available for your mother in 1964, but I suspect it had to be awful.

There were far fewer choices in terms of medication. The stigma for getting help had to be far greater. And if your mother was so depressed she was almost catatonic, clearly she wasn't getting the help she needed.

Under those circumstances, I can't envision what she must have gone through.

And I can't fathom how frightening and devastating all of this must have been for you.

Sometimes, there just aren't words to describe my empathy for someone else's pain, and loss. And I feel that way now.

But I do want to say that despite what I wrote, I believe people can commit suicide and still love their children deeply.

You can't possibly imagine--or maybe you can--the breadth of pain and suffering a person experiences during these depressions.

And I have always felt that since I am one of the strongest people I know--and it was extraordinarily difficult for me to survive--I understand how others might not be able to do it.

Hugs from Los Angeles!


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Emma,
As always, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I was hoping someone could present this point of view.

To refrain from having a child because you were aware of your limitations (at the time) is one of the most selfless acts I can imagine.

I guess you and I view parenting in a similar way--as a tremendous responsibility--that we need to be equipped to deal with.

I'm always so surprised that others don't see it that way. But, I, too, believe that people can have children in their lives without being parents. And they can love nieces, nephews, and friend's children or have a job in which they "parent" as a teacher, or counselor.

And yes, like you, I also believe we can have deeply satisfying relationships with our animals.

Again, thanks for presenting this point of view. And, you're right, there are so many more resources than there were--even a decade ago.