Nightmares While I’m Awake

I lay in bed, my brain twisting with horrible thoughts. This weekend my husband takes two of our small children to a baseball game without me because I’ll stay home with the baby. A thousand scenarios race through my mind days before they leave. I can’t sleep and know I won’t be able to until they are home.

Someone could try to kidnap one of my children. There could be a bomb. My husband could be robbed at gunpoint in front of them. He could be hurt or killed.

My legs twitch and the pit in my stomach grows. Why do I do this? Worst case stories pile up. Which one is the worst? Because that’s the one I’ll play from start to finish multiple times. I hate myself for allowing these images to take over.

They could get in a car accident, killing everyone, leaving me with no family. There could be a random shooter.  

At therapy, this is explained to me as irrational thinking. My anxiety revs up when things are out of my control and I allow the news to intertwine with life. Does it help that my mother in law used to send me articles about children being snatched from grocery stories when their mothers turned their back for just a minute? No. And I’ve asked her to stop sending those. She just sent me an article about bacteria in the ocean killing people, though. I’m not sure we’ve made progress.

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They could be crossing the street and someone could run a red light. One of my kids could wander away and my husband wouldn’t notice because he’s preoccupied.

How do I turn this off? I don’t know if I can. I tell myself it’s irrational, but then a voice in my head tells me, “But these things really happen to people!” An attempt is made to silence the voice from continuing hounding me with horrible ideas.

Sunburn! Sure, it’s not as bad, but what if my husband forgets the sunscreen. Worse, they could accidentally fall off the top balcony.

Let the thoughts come in because trying to stop them causes me more anxiety. Recognize them, then figure out where they are coming from. In this case, it’s a lack of control. I won’t be there to watch after my babies (ages four and seven). My very capable husband will be companied by his father and another friend (albeit the friend has a 4-year-old also). The adults equal the number the children, which eases my worry, slightly. The scenarios anxiety comes up with play through like a train going over a crossing.

They could eat too much junk food and throw up in the car, coming homesick. Someone could flash them. I’ve been flashed in the city multiple times, the first time when I was their age. It’s not something you forget.  

I tell myself to see my thoughts. Let them pass, wave them goodbye, have hope, know the likelihood is everything will be fine. My children drive me crazy, but they are my life. I’m not always the best mom, but I’m pretty sure that definition is unattainable. Especially for an overactive thinker and anxious driven woman such as myself.

They will have a great time. They will be part of a parade of little leaguers and get to walk the bases. They will love this special time with their dad. He will feed them cotton candy and they will come home wired, maybe a little sunburn, and probably asking me about panhandlers.

Deep breath. I can’t control everything. Life would be boring and too predictable if I could, but truth be told. If I could put a magic protective bubble around my family, I would do anything to do so. Anxiety runs deep, affecting me in so many ways. Out of sight out of mind? Not when your anxiety fills in all the blanks for you.

Melisa Peterson Lewis is a blogger at Fingers To Sky with over two-hundred personal essays on book reviews, insights on aspiring to complete her first novel, and some good ol’ fashion soul searching. Follow her on Facebook or Instagram, she’ll follow you back and not delete you.

Featured Photo by Eduardo Balderas on Unsplash

Other Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

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Should You Have Kids If You Have a Mental Illness?

I often wonder if I’ve screwed up my children. Not only do I enact terrible punishments like limited screen time or healthy options before sugar, but I also insist they do homework and get to bed at a reasonable time.

Most of all, though, I worry that I literally screwed them up. You know, genetically.

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I have a veritable soup of family history maladies to pass on to them. Plus; I have my own limitations, bad days, breakdowns, and personal failings they’ve had to witness. They continue to witness. They witnessed just this morning.

The real punch to the gut comes when they exhibit signs of mental illness themselves: anxiety, fixation, depression, and negative self-talk.

As I rub my kid’s back and tell him advice didn’t follow the day before, I wonder, What have I done?? The unhelpful voice in my head adds, This is your fault, You are a terrible mom, and You shouldn’t have had children. Some days, it adds, They would be better off without you.

Back when we were deciding whether to have children yet, I worried about such ‘logical’ conclusions. I didn’t feel like the best genetic specimen.

The thing is: no one is the best genetic specimen.

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True, there are some people with very serious cases and/or horrible genetic diseases. Those people are true heroes, in my mind, for choosing the difficult option to not reproduce.

Besides those, I’m really just about as crazy as the next person. Mostly. In fact, compared to many of my relatives and ancestors (who obviously procreated), I’m stable enough to run a small country. But, as I said, they still had children. I even have a few distant relations who I think shouldn’t have had children and still did. And you know what? Their kids are fine. Mostly.

In trying to play Devil’s Advocate to my own mind; let’s suppose a hypothetical situation: What if I were a perfect parent? To continue that fantasy, my kids would have to be born perfect. Their kids would. And so on. Then, as happens in every sci-fi story line, the rest of the world would hunt us down and assassinate our family out of envy.

No one is perfect, at least by the definition of making no mistakes.

Further, despite what one of my kids thinks, mistakes are essential to life. Mistakes make us human and that’s not a bad thing to be. Frankly, we don’t have another option since we were born like this.

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To specifically answer those negative thoughts of my mind:

  • This is your fault: Blame doesn’t matter. What can we do moving forward?
  • You are a terrible momI am a good mom because they are alive and we keep trying.
  • You shouldn’t have had children: I’ve had the children and will continue to raise them well.
  • They would be better off without you: Of course they wouldn’t be better off without me. Have you seen how stepmothers in fairy tales are?

Having kids is hard no matter what. Beating myself up over their problems only adds to my mental strain and depressive triggers. Choosing to be pragmatic and move forward with what I have is a better option than giving up and hoping they’ll still turn out. Even if “moving forward” means that I might have to get checked into a recovery program, that makes a better future (one in which mom’s still around) than trying to maintain an impossible reality.

I saved the best benefit for last: since everyone deals with some sort of mental or physical issue at some point in life, my struggles and authentic life lessons are preparing my children for their own futures. Because of what they start with, what they learn, and what I teach them; they will be loving, honest, supportive, and self-aware.

They will, as every parent dreams, be able to make the world a better place. Someone’s got to live in the future, after all. I may as well try to help mine be better. Mostly.

 

Photo Credits:
Jenna Norman
Aditya Romansa
Sai De Silva

If Only, a poem about motherhood

“If only, if only,” the young mother sighs, “I did all the chores;” there’s hope in her eyes.
She washes and foldses and relocates toys.
She vacuums and bleaches and separates boys.

“If only, if only,” the young mother shouts, “You’d not kill your brother when I’m not about.”
She wrestles and time-outs and wait till Dad’s homes.
She chastens and kisses and picks up her phone.

“If only, if only,” the young mother frets, “I didn’t buy takeout whenever we’re stressed.”
She hustles and buckles and drives to the queue.
She searches and scrounges and pays for the food.

“If only, if only,” the young mother fears, “When I spent the money, the money was there.”
She saves scraps and worries and checks the receipts.
She eats less and coupons and admits defeats.

“If only, if only,” the young mother pleads, “You’d all go to bed so that there’s time for me.”
She chases and washes and brushes their teeth.
She last-drinks and stories and wishes sweet dreams.

She closets and darkens and blocks all her calls.
She’s lonely and hopeless and sees only walls.
“If only, if only,” the young mother cries, waiting for change till the day that she dies.

If you feel trapped like this, send me a message. At the very least, we can swap diaper stories.

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Daiga Ellaby

Weekly Wrap-up 12/4 – 12/10

My original plan was to spend my day editing and forgo my weekly wrap-up, but when I woke this morning I felt good and the need to write was there for me. What I love about writing my weekly wrap-up is it gives me a chance to close out my week and talk recap of the issues that were discussed.

So, here is the review of my week.

Cutting and Self-harm, My Story

The first blog post of the week was a reblogged piece I wrote in September but a more extensive and edited piece. Self-harm was a big part of my life as a teenager and young adult, and I felt it was important to share my own experience with the topic. These types of subjects are hard to understand if you have never had to deal with self-harm, so my aim was to tell my own story so that people can relate or at some level understand why someone would choose to self-harm.

Car Anxiety

In this blog piece, I explore a part of my social anxiety that has become a major part of my daily routine, my driving anxiety (which I really love to call “car anxiety.”) What was good about a piece like this one is that car anxiety encompasses both driving and being a passenger in a moving vehicle. It was great to get feedback on a piece like this and I made the decision to add this subject to my memoir. I am not sure if it will make the final cut but it was fun to write.

Going Through the Motions of Life

Going through the motions of life. With a mental illness as a part of your life, it is not uncommon to have this feeling. We have all, for the sake of sanity, made the decision to go through the motions of a daily schedule without actually being there mentally. This blog piece talks about how you can still be productive despite going through the motions of life.

Finding Happiness With a Mental Illness

Can you find happiness with a mental illness? I am still on the fence that I could share my life with someone who has never spent a day in my shoes. The chaos of life is bad enough but to share my mental illness with someone is an idea that I may never be comfortable with, still, in this blog post I explore my thoughts on the subject of finding happiness with a mental illness.

My Mother Saved My Life

Without my mother, there would be no James Edgar Skye or The Bipolar Writer. In this blog post, I talk about the one person who has always been there in my ten years of ups and downs that have come with my diagnosis. This piece is small because in my memoir I devoted two different chapters about how my mother saved me from myself. This was a good piece to write as we near the end of 2017. I wouldn’t have the courage to write my blog if my mother would have given up on me.

My Experience with the American Healthcare System

What can I say, my experience with the American Healthcare System hasn’t always been great. Over the course of my diagnosis I have racked up way too much medical expense debt and over the years my family has had issues being able to afford my medications. I talk about how having a “pre-existing condition” worked against me, and how finally having the ability to have insurance is no guarantee that I will be able to keep it. I really liked the response from other bloggers from other countries around the world because it shows just how messed up the American system is compared to the world.

Why the Mental Illness Community Should Share Their Story

In the coming weeks, I will feature the stories of other fellow bloggers on my blog The Bipolar Writer. Sharing my own story has changed my life and it has helped me analyze the many aspects of my illness. In this blog post, I make a simple case why sharing your story is helpful to the mental illness community.

Other Blog Posts

I talk about entering my screenplay into a competition here.

I also reblogged a couple of older posts…

A Look How Suicide Effects Families

Winter Speaks Memories

So that is my week in review. Thank you taking the time to read about my journey every week. The positive comments I get each week (and even the few negative ones) make writing this blog worth every second.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt

My Mother Saved My Life

There has been one constant in my journey with Bipolar One disorder, and that is my mother. Since the day I was diagnosed she has been there for me fighting the fight that I should have been fighting all along.

She fought for me when I didn’t fight for myself.

I can’t imagine the pain that I put her through over the years. I tried once to figure out how many times in the last ten years that I hurt her. The hospital visits. The suicide attempts. When I decided to not eat most days. When I couldn’t get myself out of bed for weeks at a time. When I just ignored her or caused more problems than she deserved. When she would have to rush home almost weekly because I couldn’t handle life.

I lost track eventually.

How much it must have hurt her to see me not want to a part of the world and not wanting to exist. I just can’t imagine that pain she held inside, and what is even more amazing is that she always believed I would come back.

I don’t deserve my mother, I never did. But, I wouldn’t be here without her. The Bipolar Writer is only possible because of her.

My mother saved my life.

My mother did everything she could those early years of my diagnosis. She fought to get me to see a psychiatrist in the adult system of care. She adjusted her life so that she could take care of someone who, more often than not, told her that he wanted to not be apart of this world. I was the worst version of myself, and even when everyone told her to give up on me and put me away, she said no.

So many people have given up on me over the years and I really can’t blame them because I was insufferable for so many years. Yet my mom stayed the course. My mom was the only person that believed everything I have achieved over the last five years was even possible. Finishing my degree. Writing over the last two years.

James Edgar Skye, my pseudonym, only became possible because of her.

My mother was relentless. She would always make sure I had my medicine no matter the cost or the fact that I had no insurance. She would take me to my appointments for the first three years of my diagnosis because she knew I wouldn’t go. I was so lost, and yet she had faith in me always.

My mother has a big chapter in my memoir The Bipolar Writer, but I thought it was time to honor the one person who willed me into the person and writer I am today. To always believing in the big possibilities in my life.

I am alive because my mother had faith. My mother saved my life. I love my mother for always being there for me.

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: sydney Rae