Hi, I’m Taylor Arthur, and I am so excited to be writing for Mental Illness in the Family here on HealthyPlace. Unlike the other authors of this blog, I am the mentally ill member of my family. My high school sweetheart, Jack, and I had no idea when we were married that I had a serious mental illness, and my illness almost ended our marriage (Bipolar Spouse: Coping With Bipolar Husband, Wife). But 16 years later, we are balancing bipolar disorder, marriage, careers, and children in a life not far from what I imagined on our wedding day.
Diagnosis with Bipolar 1 Disorder
When I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder during our senior year in college, we did not think motherhood would be possible for me. My recovery was painful and slow. On psychiatric medication, I was unable to read or even watch television. I couldn’t count, couldn’t tell my left from my right, and cried uncontrollably all the time. I could barely make myself brush my teeth, let alone care for another human being. I stayed on my medication, kept going to therapy, and kept hoping that one day I would be healthy enough to be a mom.
Having Bipolar and Becoming a Mom
Before we had children, we organized a team of doctors who helped us make the many decisions we faced concerning a bipolar pregnancy. Could I discontinue my medication during pregnancy? What were the risks? How would pregnancy hormones affect my moods? Would I be able to take medications and breastfeed? How would we make sure I slept enough to avoid a manic episode? Would I suffer from postpartum depression?
In the end, we listened to our doctors and made the best decisions we could. We have two miraculous little boys, and one more in heaven. There is no right answer to all of these questions and no way to tell the future. But this I know: my boys are the best thing I have ever done.
Being a Mom with Bipolar
Still, juggling family life and bipolar 1 disorder is incredibly tricky. The needs of small children often conflict with my bipolar needs. I struggle to prioritize my own health and have suffered because of that. But, as time goes by, as I continue seeing my therapist and asking for help, I’m learning how to achieve this balance between my duties as mother and patient.
Here in the Mental Illness in the Family blog, I’m looking forward to delving into many of the difficult topics mental illness brings to motherhood. There were so many times along my journey I wished I could have talked with someone who had succeeded in a bipolar pregnancy. I would have loved to have coffee with her and just pick her brain. So, that’s what I’m hoping I can be to so many women out there facing the same questions I did.
I want to encourage you, support you, and inform you as best I’m able. I don’t believe there is a right way to be a mom with a mental illness. Every woman’s body is different, and every family has unique strengths and challenges. But when we share our experiences with each other, we can all benefit.
More about Taylor Arthur
I’m excited to share my journey with you, and to encourage you in yours.