"Sometimes when I need a miracle, I look into my son's eyes and realize I already created one."
For as long as I can remember, I have always been trying to stay strong; trying to hold it together. As a mom with a mental illness, it can be very challenging at times. I am 32, a mom to an amazing two-year-old boy, a marketing consultant and I have bipolar II and anxiety. Nobody would know by looking at me that I deal with internal struggles that consume me at times. There is no "look" to mental illness. I get up every morning, I take care of my son, I do my consulting work and make sure our family has food and clean clothes. To the outside world, I am a "normal," functioning adult.
What people don't see, with the exception of my husband, are crippling panic attacks that leave me shaking and breathless, the constant worry that something awful is going to happen, the depression that makes me numb and hopeless or the hypomania that causes racing thoughts and temporary feelings of euphoria only to be followed by a crash into depression.
I have had anxiety my whole life and depression began at age 14. It wasn't until my late twenties that I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. After finding the right combination of medicine and therapy, I was stable for about three years. However, when my son turned one, things went downhill. I'm not sure what the trigger was, but I slowly spiraled deeper into depression during 2016. By last fall, I hit the lowest point I had been since before my diagnosis. I desperately wanted a break from life. I felt hopeless, lost, alone and didn't know how I was going to keep going.
Before my son was born, I made a promise to him to never stop fighting no matter how dark my days got. When I would sit and think about not wanting to live through this emotional pain anymore, I looked into my son's eyes. His smile and laughter are contagious. His hugs and kisses make me melt. He exudes pure happiness and it fills my heart. With one smile, he reminds my why I am here and why I have to fight.
I fought for a year. I fought going to the psychiatrist and therapist because I thought I could get myself out of this state. I finally realized, I wasn't going to "win" on my own. After going through trial and error with medication once again, we finally found one to add to the mix that has given me my life back. Part of me felt like a failure because I needed help and I have to take yet another medicine, but I know that's not the case. I would never think that of another person, so I shouldn't think that of myself. Easier said than done, of course. We're our own worst critic.
I now feel like the fully functioning person that the world thought I was all along. I have a chronic illness, so I know I'll have rough patches again. I hope that I remember not to wait as long to get help if I need it, but one thing is certain -- I will always find strength in my son's eyes.