The time has come for me to shed some shame. A "secret" I didn't want to get out, for fear of the stigma and consequences.
But there are actually TWO people in my wee family of three who fight a disease with serious highs and lows. Rowan.... my seven year old type 1 diabetic. And myself, diagnosed Bipolar II November 2004.
I've held this information to much self overall. I learned quickly that when you disclose something like this to someone there are one of two reactions. The first reaction is rare: understanding. The other reaction: a 360 about-face turn, and run. Sad but true.
It is said that the average person spends a decade in the mental health system before being accurately diagnosed as bipolar. Bipolar II is even harder to diagnose, as it is primarily misdiagnosed as clinical depression.
I have been stable since being placed on my miracle drug the same year as my diagnosis. There have been incidents, primarily when my marriage ended, and I just couldn't cope with the stress, and spent me spinning off into a dark place. A seriously dark place. A place where I experienced audio hallucinations encouraging me to do some less than pleasant things to myself. I will never forget December 2005, walking barefoot in the middle of the night to Vancouver General Hospital. I knew, even in my aggitated depression, that if I was to stay home alone without my children, there would be a grizzly discovery for whomever came to the house the next day.
Five years stable. Balanced. Able to stand being in my own skin, able to recognize my impulses, not do anything rash, and just breathe.
But then Type 1 Diabetes came into Rowan's life. My demons of depression crept back out from the shadows. I sobbed uncontrollably and non-stop for practically the first two months after she was diagnosed. Don't misinterpret that to read that my sobbing has stopped, but I am able to control it, and stop it from appearing when the girls are around. I don't want Rowan to assume responsibility for my tears, my sadness, my battle to remain balanced.
It has been nine months now since Rowan was diagnosed, and I'm recognizing, and appreciating that I can't do this alone any longer. I miss the days of psychiatric appointments, helping me to stay centred. I miss the days of participating in the Highs & Lows community choir. I miss the days of the Art Studio run by Vancouver Coastal Health (I have a full circle story about the Art Studio, but that'll have to wait for another time, perhaps another entry). I am finding the anxiety of caring for a type 1 diabetic child as a single parent with a meager support system in this town too much to bear. I can hear the alarms ringing in my head... and experience has taught me what happens when I don't listen to those alarms. Think Titanic. As if everyone on the boat heard the distress alarms, but didn't get out of their cots to inquire.
So Type 1 Diabetes has in essence, encouraged me to reach out, seek help. Something I've been terrified to do as I walked the quick sands of depression for the last three years out here. There is such a stigma, and my greatest fear is that the Ministry will find a single bipolar parent unfit, and apprehend my children. That kind of fear is debilitating when you need help. The good news is, I think it's good news... is that the Ministry is reluctant to apprehend medically fragile children. I don't know if that's a blessing or not. But it has helped me fight the fear just long enough to reach out and whisper desperately "I need help"
None of the three of us are in any immediate danger. I love my girls too deepy and completely to ever do anything truly rash or cause them any trauma. They are my beacon in a dark stormy seascape. But for there benefit, I'm taking seriously tangible steps to create a mental health team out here, because the anxiety of managing Rowan's type 1 diabetes is slowly eating away at my emotional balance, and if I'm going to care for them as best I can~ I have to care for me first.