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My Journey to Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis: A Blessing in Disguise

New Latina: Psychology Corner

(Editor’s Note: This is part III of a three-part series under our “New Latina Voices” column. Part I is HERE and Part II is HERE.)

Baby on Board

Many people cannot have children; I should have considered myself lucky.

Most of the women I know who share the good news cry tears of happiness and joy. They hug their family and friends; everyone acknowledges their blessed lives. That wasn’t exactly my story. Actually, it was far from that.

I strolled home and secretly waved goodbye to all of the nightclubs and bars and restaurants I imagined becoming my new friends. I walked in my home and cried myself to sleep. This wasn’t exactly the way I pictured it to be. I was a wreck and in no way prepared to be a mother. I had a jumbo slice cold pizza in my fridge and two cans of half-filled soda.

Over the next few weeks the changes began.

I visited a toxic specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Washington. She told me it was best not to keep the baby. My psychiatrist strongly advised against me keeping the baby. No one thought I would make a good mother. At least that’s how I saw it. And if anyone knows me, I prove everyone wrong.

My sister and I went to my first ultrasound at 8 weeks. It was the size of a peanut. I decided to keep the baby. I thought of a million names and decided on Kai. If I named it, then the pregnancy would feel more real. So when I would get down on myself my sister told me to “Think Kai.”

I planned on supporting the baby on my own, living on my own, and being on my own. Kai’s father lived in New Jersey and was dating another girl. I was heartbroken and fell into a deep depression. I didn’t do the normal cutting, I had a baby to live for now. So I checked myself into the hospital. I decided against going on any medication and opted for a new type of therapy – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This type of therapy helps to change one’s way of thinking.

After the hospital I enjoyed my time alone with me and Kai. I would talk to my belly and thank him for saving me. My social life didn’t exist. People stopped texting and calling because I stopped responding. I was alone. What got me through it was knowing I wasn’t truly alone – Kai was growing inside of me.

Taking Care of Two

I channeled out my depression by doing random things. I bought bath crayons in the kids’ section of a store. Every night before bed, I would take a bath and write positive things in the tub. Things that said, “You can do this”, “You are not alone”, “Kai is your gift”, “You are loved.”

I read each night “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” I was addicted to Baby Center and Our365. I rearranged my apartment at least ten times. I revised my registries. I cooked new recipes. I went on non-alcoholic friend gatherings.

I didn’t have a car – so I took the bus to work. I walked to and from the supermarket with a cart my mother gave me in tow. I ate breakfast by myself, cooked dinner for myself, and went to some birthing classes solo. In the simplest words – it sucked.

I imagined pregnancy to be a beautiful thing, not a depressing situation. I bought ice cream almost every night at the corner store and spoke to the nice Vietnamese woman. We got to know each other well as she was the only person I saw some nights and the guy in the morning across the street who made me Mango shakes. I did what I had to do.

This wasn’t how I imagined pregnancy to be. I was supposed to have a big house with a white picket fence and a diamond on my left ring finger. Instead, I was pushed on the bus, standing next to rude people each day. I was almost stalking Kai’s father because I was begging for him to return to me after the terrible years behind us. I was trying to forget my past. I wasn’t saving money because I was stuck in a lease. But this is what mania did to me. I got pregnant in a manic state and dealt with the consequences.

Except Kai was anything but.

One thing was for sure – my head was clear. I was no longer numb. I could feel everything, mentally and physically. I was tired.

Life was tough, but if I could get through this, I could get through anything.

Love Blossoming

Each night I prayed for a beautiful, healthy, and blessed child. I even prayed for a baby boy with dark hair and light eyes. I wanted a child who wouldn’t suffer the way I did. I promised I would never try to take my life away ever again. Something changed inside of me. Kai was a blessing in disguise. I loved this child. I started to love myself.

My therapist and I prepared for Post-Partum depression. It hits almost every woman who suffers from Bipolar or a mental illness such as depression or schizophrenia.

By seven months of pregnancy my boyfriend returned and things started falling in place. I still had terrible credit, lots of therapy, self-esteem issues, trust issues with my boyfriend, apprehension of the baby coming, and no music. Life was far from being where I wanted it to be, but it was a start.

The day my son was born was the beginning of my new life. When he opened his eyes the doctor said I had a beautiful baby boy with brown hair and gray eyes.Instantly I knew he was my gift. My bipolar is not cured and will never be. It’s a struggle almost every single day. Some days I can’t get out of bed and other days I can’t pause my racing thoughts.

But it’s not the therapy and medications that made me get through it the last few years – it’s the decision I made that day when I found out about my pregnancy. I promised to live my life for him. I was given a gift of a child to love myself. And I will remember that for the rest of my life.

Where I Am Now:

Since the day my son was born, I have changed in many positive ways. Post-partum was a tough one, but that’s a story in its own. After getting over that hump, I have received more recognition at my full-time job. I was even voted “Most Changed” at the end of last year. Go figure.

I started a side business in graphic design. I went back to my dancing gigs that I had stopped when I was in college, and am making an extra living through that. I am now a songwriter and am performing as much as possible on nights and weekends. I am an avid blogger and now a writer.

I spend every waking possible moment I can with my son and my partner (his father). He and I are doing fantastic. Times are hard, but we go to therapy sometimes and we talk everything through. My partner and I plan on getting married sometime soon when I can work out all of the kinks in my credit. Our life is busy and only a year ago financially a struggle. I know after the hard pregnancy I can overcome any battle. Nothing is too hard. Maintaining structure is key. Since my bipolar has been in my control now, my life is where it should be.

Yes, I get exhausted, but I haven’t experienced a state of mania or depression the way it used to happen. Many times I miss the mania (and sometimes the depression) because I don’t get as creative as I used to. I still have a bad case of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and when I become depressed, it gets worse. On the other hand, stability is much more beneficial to my creativity.

Things I must do to maintain stability:

See a therapist at least once or twice a month
Natural medication/emergency medication – many people I know have to take medication. Without it, most bipolars become out of control.
Maintain a strict budget
Have 1-2 credit cards – but strict rules on spending
Keeping a structured schedule by using a calendar with all dates for myself, my partner, and our son
Taking daily walks
Eat healthy
Exercise daily
Channel out hypomania/depression through writing or songwriting
Use a happy light during winter months or rainy days
Keep busy, but not wearing myself out
Setting five alarms to wake me up in the morning
Pushing myself almost every morning to get out of bed and face life
Think of my son in times of struggle
Continue to learn how to love myself
Have a support system – I let people know when I feel as though I’m becoming manic or depressed. This helps stop them from happening.
Honest with everyone around me, especially about how I am feeling.
These are the more lenient guidelines I stick to now. They change when I am seeing signs for mania or depression.

Medications (prescription/natural) I have used for bipolar:

Xanax (used only for panic attacks)
Klonopin (in case of emergency)
Valium (used on a daily basis for the bipolar – however it lasts 72 hours in your system, easily addicting)
Lamictal (this has been by far the best medication I ever took)
Seroquel (for sleeping)
Effexor (prescribed when I was diagnosed with depression)
Lexapro (prescribed when I was diagnosed with depression – put me into a state of mania)
Lithium (this one caused my blood levels to change and thus I had to take Thyroid medication for it)
Synthroid (Thyroid medication)
Ambien CR (for insomnia)
Folate (Folic acid used for depression – more natural than anything, and I used it during pregnancy)
St. John’s Wort (natural)
Fish Oil Pills (a very high mg count)
Breastfeeding – it’s not a drug, but it definitely helped during post-partum depression.

I hope my story will bring insight, compassion and hope to those who are living with this condition or love someone who is. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments box and I’ll be happy to answer them.

The writer is a Latina who wants to share her story and journey with bipolar disorder, to bring aware and provide information on this condition.


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  • Criscilla Stafford
    March 15, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Thank you for writing this.

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