My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – the Genetics of Bipolar Disorder

The risk of having a child with or without bipolar illness was something I contemplated a great deal but did not necessarily pray about.  With my first fiancé I was bound to the idea of adoption – that a diagnosis of bipolar and a diagnosis of clinical depression were too much to hand down to the next generation.  My fiancé at the time did not agree with me and wanted to have a biological child(ren) rather than adopt. 

When I met my soon-to-be husband some seven years later, he also was adamant about having a biological child.  Instead of two clinical diagnoses of depression and/or mania, we each brought to the table a pre-existing condition; I brought the bipolar illness and he brought an alcohol dependency under remission at that time for about 15 years. Somehow in our first year together, my soon to be husband and I settled on the idea of a natural conception.  We were blessed with early success in pregnancy within a couple of months of trying which at 39 (when we conceived without any assistance) is somewhat of a miracle in itself.  My position at the time of carrying my child is that Nurture is a strong proponent in the Nature versus Nurture battle.  If we can avoid a divorce event or something similar such as the abuse I suffered at an early age, perhaps my daughter’s child within will be upright and healthy and right in her relationship with God.  Since my daughter’s birth, we have sought continually to provide for her spiritual development and her spiritual journey.

James and I are open with our daughter who is 16 about Dad’s alcoholism and about my bipolar illness.  We talk about responsible behavior for our family as avoiding alcohol and for engaging in and not avoiding emotionally challenging events.  We accept that to have a meltdown and cry is an important process for growing up and challenges Mom and Dad to listen.  We also talk about the importance of mood recovery.  Once we have cried and released the source of our anxiety or concern, we then try to move on and recover the mood and move onto the next event or challenge.

I am hoping to teach my daughter how to be more fluent in her emotions not just successful in her studies as I have been learning to be in the last several years.  She already is exhibiting signs of emotional maturity that I did not have at that age. She is not obsessed with being the top student in her class.  When she feels upset about something like a misunderstanding with a friend, she is largely able to talk about it and express her feelings.  When she is emotionally or physically tired and ready for bed, she says so.

I feel that with God’s blessing we will move through whatever illness may come our way – this including the current testing for breast cancer.  With God’s help we will manage through any abuse incidents that may have presented in my life so as to avoid the repetition in my daughter’s life as she continues to blossom and to bloom into a beautiful young woman.

I am letting go….

I am letting go of any childhood abuse I sustained between six and ten years of age. I recently have had an abnormal mammogram, an abnormal ultrasound and a request for an MRI for both breasts.

I feel like I am being called to let go of the abuse I experienced as a young child so that I can continue to heal particularly with respect to any sort of breast abnormality or cancer I may currently have or any cancer that is soon to be discovered.

I won’t find out for at least two weeks if I have breast cancer. My MRI is on June 17th. Until then, I will be working on forgiving those who I believe participated in the sexual exploitation of me and my body and my mind when I was six, seven, eight, nine and ten.

I release any perpetrator and give the abuse over to God as to how to handle those individuals and how to judge those individuals. The judgment is not mine to make.

Again, I will also be working on forgiveness to those parties with the main desire to move forward in my life in a way that is free from anxiety and free from these deep pockets of pain. I feel that by letting go of this abuse, I may be more able to forgive and more able to have an illness-free life going forward.

Thanks in advance for any support you can muster for me as I release this abuse to God and to the void. I no longer want to possess this experience and the anxiety and depression that comes along with it.

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Ego versus Spirit

My therapist tells me there are two ways of being – through the Ego or through Spirit or God.  The Ego is all about me and what I have accomplished with little glory to God.  The Spirit is all about what can I do to be useful with all the glory for accomplishments to God.  Like most people, I struggle with this dichotomy.  I would like to use that big Ivy League brain graduated magna cum laude for some great invention or some great medical break-through like the cure for HIV/AIDs or the cure for cancer.  At the same time I am increasingly aware that my Spirit self seeks to be in situations or in jobs where I can serve the Will of God no matter how great or how small the accomplishment.    It is my Spirit self who finds solace in cleaning up the kitchen after Wednesday Night Supper or feeding the homeless.  It is my Spirit self who finds comfort and a sense of self in providing a healthy meal to my family.  It is my Spirit self who can stop and acknowledge the efforts of my husband toward the goings and comings of our everyday household.  In short, my Spirit self is thankful and mindful of others including God.

 I am at a cross-roads right now in this journey to find God or Spirit as evident in my work life.  I have not found that place yet, what it looks like or what it will become.  I do know that I have an Ego that tends to get in the way much like that person who was arguing with Einstein in the dream I wrote about in the letter to David Bohm.  I also wonder out loud if writing about my illness might be the best way to serve others.  If I can share my experience of bipolar illness in a way that is helpful to others, maybe I am finding God in my work (or He is finding me).   

Since the time of writing that letter to David Bohm in or about 1995 or 1996 (see prior post), my Ego has gone through what I call a shredding machine.  I feel 150% less sure of myself in terms of the kinds of jobs I can hold and keep.  At the same time I feel that my Spiritual self is more and more in control as I seek God in daily or even mundane interactions.  The satisfaction I gain through clean-up activities at my Church on Wednesdays or after feeding the homeless is real.  Right now I am feeling my way through the process of having very little Ego to fall back on which means more “pressure” or maybe better stated more “room” for God to step in and be in control.  Perhaps this letting go for God is also responsible for my drafting this text and for deciding to share its contents with others struggling for stability. 

Just as an update, my church-related activities largely have been suspended due to covid-19 and due to a situation at my place of worship.  I continue to pray on a regular basis, but could definitely improve in the area of giving thanks to God.    

What Makes a Marriage Work?

This is a reworking of a comment I left on a prior blogpost I read and commented on….

I did not meet my husband (one and only) until I was 38 years old. Before then I had been in a series of relationships, some lasting a while (almost three years) and some not lasting long at all. I seemed for years to go back and forth between men who were like my father and men who were like my step-father. This yoyoing back in forth consumed all of my twenties and some of my early thirties. I was engaged to be married to someone before my current husband arrived on the scene.

I learned from that failed engagement that a couple does well to share a belief in God and to argue well. My fiance had clinical depression so on that level we understood each other’s behavioral health challenges. I have bipolar illness. But our relationship was toxic. We always had the same argument over and over. Why aren’t you opening up? Why aren’t you letting me in? Eventually he would call off the engagement, but it was a friendly parting. Years later he wrote and seemed to wonder about our getting back together. I had already moved on.

After the engagement broke off, I began a period of celibacy. This lasted for almost 7 years. During that time I stopped with the yoyo dating and focused inward on myself and my job. It was very important for me to validate myself during those years with something other than a relationship (short-term or otherwise) with a man. I did not even kiss a man for this 7 year period before I met my soon-to-be husband.

I met my current husband (one and only) at an online data service in 2001- this was very early in the web dating sphere. That is a story in and of itself. The first thing I noticed was that our mutual faith in God seemed to make things easier. I also noticed a couple of other characteristics of our relationship as it started to grow and mature. These are my insights into what has made my marriage a successful endeavor for someone with bipolar illness and someone with addiction issues.

For me there are three keys that help my marriage work – though I cannot guarantee these will work for everyone. Hold some sort of faith belief in common. It helps me through the darkest hour if that is not a topic that I argue about with my spouse but one that grounds me in that relationship. Second, be able to argue well. I try not to always go back to the I told you so’s. I try to make each argument have a beginning, middle and end. I try to learn from it once it’s over instead of drudging it up over and over. Finally, a sense of humor goes a very long way. I find it important to be able to laugh at myself and with my partner. It is amazing how a good laugh clears the air.

In addition to these three items, I am adding the ability to be thankful to God for people who are helpful in my life’s journey. I am still working on being thankful every day instead of always asking God for something. There is so much to be thankful for. So here is my two moments of marriage wisdom. Took me until I was 38 to figure it out – still figuring it out at 56. Oh well, later is better than never. 🙂

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Becoming a Mom

Becoming a Mom has been the greatest gift God has ever given to me.

I got married at 38, got pregnant at 39 and had my child at 40.  I often talk and think about how as a person with a behavioral health diagnosis I have done everything “late.”  I have to talk with myself about how life events like graduating from Ivy College or graduating from Business School or obtaining my professional project management certification may have occurred on God’s timeline rather than on my own.

Perhaps I am not late in achieving these life events any more than I am early in my perceptions or thoughts about time and matter and anti-matter.  Perhaps all of these thoughts and events and timelines are under control with the ultimate project manager – God himself.

Still, I have a hard-time accepting that these successes are on God’s timeline rather than my own.  I want to be able to say “I’m normal” and therefore “my successes have occurred in the way I have prepared for, planned and executed.”  In reality these successes are contingent upon allowing myself some “grace” and the opportunity to pursue my accomplishments in an elongated timeframe.  There are many goals that I have currently that I continue to pursue – the message to myself along these pursuits is that God is in control of these developments, even though I would prefer to be in control myself.  I would prefer to be in control just as that ten-year-old child within does so as perhaps despite myself to take full blame when things don’t go according to plan.  If my child within is six and/or if God is in control, I am no longer in control of the outcomes of my life.  If I give my life over truly to God, then every outcome including the potential for child abuse at age six is part of his plan for me and I need not accept any particular outcome as “my doing” or “my fault.”  Perhaps my role in God’s eyes is to tell my story of abuse so that others will not have to endure such happenings or at a minimum can feel some solidarity surrounding those events.

So it was with having my daughter — the biggest accomplishment of my life.  For years, I heard that Lithium was contra-positive toward being pregnant and carrying a child.  For years in my twenties and my thirties, I asked to change my meds so that I might be ready once I got married to carry a child.  When I met my husband, we talked at length about the fact that bipolar illness has a huge genetic component and that there would be some risk of passing the illness along to my child.  I considered this strongly and even looked into the idea of surrogate eggs and surrogate Moms.  In addition, there was a study occurring at a local university hospital which posited that risks to the fetus for heart impacts associated with lithium use by the mom were grossly overstated. My husband was not keen on the surrogate or adoption alternatives, so about 7 months after we were married, we started to try through traditional methods to get pregnant.  I was 39 at the time.  I believe that prior to this time, I may not have been ready to be a Mom, at the same time I do not really advise people to wait too long to have kids.  My husband and I were very blessed to become pregnant within two months of trying.  For most people at the age of 39 in vitro and other pregnancy/fertilization tactics would have been needed.

Even amidst the throes of postpartum depression and related problems, having my daughter in my life and experiencing her as part of my family with my husband continues to be the greatest blessing in my life.  Even now in the midst of the teen years and our occasional head-butting, my daughter continues without a doubt to be the love of my life tying with my husband. 

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Coincidences and Mania, Coincidences and God

When I first started out my faith journey, coincidences had the capacity to overwhelm me and send me into episodes of mania.  It was as if I were first tasked with perceiving events that seemed highly significant and then making sense of those events without any help from friends, therapists, doctors or the Divine.  For example, the fact that I went to Ivy College and later lived on a dead end street called Ivy Place might be one example of such coincidence.  That I worked on a software program while with a state funding agency called CT and after worked on a software program at an engineering company called BCT and eventually worked for a company whose acronym was BCT at times seemed all powerful and too much to comprehend and process.  Once again, there was this notion of patterns and pattern recognition. 

As my illness matured, these coincidences and patterns seemed to migrate out of the paranoia realm and generally into the context of the Divine.  The existence of patterns and patterning data at one time were enough to land me in the hospital overwhelmed by the level of coincidence I was experiencing.  With a more informed sense of my Creator, I came to understand that while the patterns and coincidences still existed, they were not to be feared.  God was the author of the coincidences and patterns.  There was nothing to be fearful of as this was God’s domain and God was in control.  The coincidences that at one time could send me into the hospital later became a sign that perhaps God is near and God is in control.  Then as now, there is no longer cause for needing interpretation and logical understanding as these coincidences are in God’s hands.   And now I can perceive of them in the hands of God.

Today, I continue to experience coincidences large and small and largely experience them in the hands of God.  The connections between things, the names that seem to repeat, the patterns of colors or numbers or shapes no longer are a source of consternation for me.  If anything, the coincidences now serve to remind me that I am not the author of my own reality.  God is.  In any case the coincidences that crop up in my life today do not necessarily occur more frequently than before, earlier in the life cycle of my illness.  It is just that I am attuned to these coincidences should they occur as occurring within the purview of God.

This brings me to a critical juncture.  My spiritual and emotional intelligence has grown since my first days of perceiving coincidences as overwhelming.  One lingering question is how does that person who is largely comfortable with coincidences in life today interact with that child within of six or that child within of ten?  This is largely unexplored territory and may be the topic of future work and/or writing particularly if the likelihood of abuse at age six continues to present itself.

Question – do others have experiences surrounding coincidence and coincidences? If so, what is helpful for you in that regard? Does a spiritual approach help work for you in managing these perceptions?