There was a time I thought my bipolar meds were more of a curse than a blessing.
Side effects like headaches and weight gain.
Dependence on a healthcare system that could be compromised by greed and politics.
I had a lot of resentment about the hand that fed me. I wanted to get healthy enough that I wouldn’t need my medication. I wanted to have a family and be able to breastfeed my children, which the medication made unsafe.
So I got connected to doctors who emphasized the natural healing of the body: holistic psychiatrist, naturopath, chiropractor, biofeedback specialist. I really thought there was a chance I could change my reliance on medication to keep myself stable and accomplish it through other means.
I was wrong.
Healing my gut worked wonders, but the labor did not. Preparing nourishing foods helped me lose a lot of weight, feel terrific and wean off the mood stabilizer. The cost? A massive monthly bill for food and supplements, plus many hours in the kitchen and on the pot. For a while it was worth it, but cooking everything I ate and taking it everywhere I went took its toll. My husband wanted to be supportive, but he also didn’t want to eat or pay for strange foods for the rest of his life. And even though I was able to come completely off my meds for a little while, I needed to add back a low dose again a couple months later.
Then we got pregnant.
I had always dreamed of being a mom, but as soon as I found out we were expecting, I was terrified. Suddenly I understood why people chose abortion. I questioned if I could even handle being pregnant, if I was too sick. The holistic psychiatrist told me to come off the medication to avoid harm to my baby, especially in the first trimester. I made it 7 months without them before I experienced psychosis on vacation and had to be hospitalized.
I didn’t fully stabilize until after my daughter was born, so my husband had to care for a tiny infant and a very ill wife. I needed the medication then too for postpartum depression. I had to surrender my desire to breastfeed; my milk stayed with me her first year, but the medicine made it unsafe for her to drink.
To add to our difficulties, our daughter was beautiful and healthy but couldn’t tolerate infant formula, and we tried them all. We searched for the cleanest ingredients and even ordered from Germany. When that didn’t work, we scoured the Tennessee Valley for breastmilk donations and my eyes were opened to how many mothers needed food for their babies. Sometimes we had to do enemas at 4 am when she would wake up screaming because she couldn’t poop. But she made it, and we made it, and by the time she was 8 months old we had regular donations to keep her full.
In the years following her birth I kept dreaming. I wanted to add to our family and hoped for a better experience a second time around. I had received a second diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the time came to focus our attention there. I did intensive therapy for a couple years, which reduced my nightmares and restored mental clarity. But the low dose of medication was no longer working. It took another couple of breaks and hospitalizations for me to let go.
Today my life is different than I thought it would be. I’ve made my peace with being mom to one incredible 4-year-old and taking two medications every night. I still incorporate gut-healing foods into my daily routine, and I think they keep us healthier than we would otherwise be. And staying stable on a therapeutic dose enabled me to go back to a career in teaching, which I otherwise would not have been able to do.
Giving up and letting go are not the same. I don’t regret my dreams or what we attempted. I had to let go of what I wanted to take hold of what is, to be filled with gratitude for the family I have. Now I can receive my medication with open hands, not as a curse, but as a blessing on an abundant life.