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November 17, 2016

An Open Letter to my potentially Bipolar Child.

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Dear Child,

I want to start out by stating, unequivocally and without question, that you are amazing.

The past 14 months have been near-literal bliss, save for this morning when you pooped on my hand after getting me up at 5:00 a.m.

I want you to know that the moment they pulled you from my belly, covered in goo and impossibly tiny, I became your mother. I have never, and will never, regret conceiving you with only the tiniest bit of help from modern science.

But, dear child, there’s something you need to know.

You see, Mommy is bipolar. This means there is a chance that you are bipolar. In fact, given that members of mommy’s family are also bipolar, the chance is probably quite a good one.

Even now—especially now—I’m worried that I did the wrong thing by wishing for you, by trying so hard and so long for you, by peeing on sticks for you, by taking pills in the hope that you could exist someday. Because if I’m right, dear child, and you are bipolar, there’s a chance that you might experience the kind of pain I had to endure in the 28 years before I was diagnosed—and to image you even having to taste an existence defined by this unending psychic noise breaks Mommy’s heart.

I hope that knowing this might be your reality one day will mean we can help you faster, but for me it was a bad 28 years. There was endless mania, and crushing depression, and self-harm, and always the feeling of just not being right or fitting into society. I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy. So why, dear child, would I risk you having to go through the same?

Well, that’s what I need to explain.

This is not just a letter to freak you out. It is not to inadvertently cement your resentment against me for ignoring Darwinian law and procreating—mental illness and all. There’s a reason I was willing to risk you inheriting my disease, and it’s actually the silver lining to Mommy’s life of pervasive angst before you.

The reason is that bad things can get better. Things do get better—I got you. Optimism, dear child, is still possible even in the depths of despair, and I’m living proof. And you can be, too.

I think the real reason I’m sitting here writing this today, as you lay on the floor and accidentally swallow your own fingers, is to provide a sort of roadmap for being bipolar, a CliffsNotes pamphlet summarizing my life experiences, a first edition of Bipolar Disorder for Dummies.

I can help, if you’ll let me, because I think that, together, we can manage this if we need to.

For example, dear child, I’m going to teach you the importance of taking the brain insulin that might be your array of mood stabilizers. I give you my solemn pledge that I will not try to cure your mental illness with Adderall, or authoritarian parenting, or homeopathy, or a gluten-free, dairy-free, tree-nut free diet. I will have no qualms whatsoever about medicating you from as early an age as you require, with pharmaceutical Skittles in every color of the rainbow if need be.

I’m going to teach you coping skills—skills that took Mommy years to acquire. We’ll talk about feelings, and anger, and sadness. We’ll practice deep breathing and mindfulness. You’ll learn about ways to quiet your brain when it’s racing, when bad thoughts are intruding, when it’s telling you to harm and destroy instead of inspiring you to grow and create.

Exercising helps. Massage helps also, so find a boy or a girl—whichever gender floats your boat—who will give you a foot rub every night, just like Mommy found Daddy.

Oh, and this is very important, dear child: therapy helps. Find a good therapist, even though it will take a long time, even though you’ll probably go through a dozen until you find the right one, just like Mommy had to. And then you need to go. Every week. Even when you don’t want to.

It does help, even though it might seem like it doesn’t. It’s called neuroplasticity, dear child, and it means you can change how you think through power of will and mental training. It’s mind over matter, essentially, forging new connections and pathways and patterns, and you will be grateful for it if you happen to be bipolar.

Dear child, it’s important that you know there is nothing wrong with you. You may have a slightly more difficult time navigating the Byzantine streets which are the path to adulthood, but that’s not your fault; and it’s by no means impossible to surmount the same chemical imbalance which nearly killed Mommy.

Ultimately, the reason I conceived you, grew you, birthed you, and am raising you with all-encompassing love is because I believe you deserve to exist. You deserve life, to experience the world in all its wonder, because it is wonderful. Even if you’re bipolar.

You are the culmination of my life’s choices, thus far. Why would I deny you, for example, the overwhelming oxytocin rush that is parenthood, that is your own you, just because you might be bipolar? I think I can make your life rich and rewarding, even if you’ve inherited my mental illness, and the fear that I won’t be able to is no reason to take away your chance to be.

People might make Carrie Fisher jokes. People might judge as you come to consciousness and learn to live. People might even doubt your intelligence or sanity while you’re struggling to overcome the slightly unjust hand of cards you’ve been dealt. But you know what, dear child?

Forget them.

You are perfect.

With endless infatuation and pride,
Mommy

~

Relephant:

A Poem for my Right-Brained Girl, Living in a Left-Brained World.

 

~

Author: Shannon Frost Greenstein

Image: author’s own

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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Shannon Frost Greenstein