Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pregnant and in the closet

In the August 2007 manic episode, I felt like recording and sharing what was happening was very important to God’s purpose. The words in the 43 page manic journal flew from my fingertips as epiphany after epiphany blossomed in my mind. I felt like a vessel and I wanted to get God’s message right.

I was in quite a state. I elected to stay home from work to rest, but also to go to Kinko’s to make ten copies of my manic journal. I felt I had to publish what I had written to those close to me, because it seemed like such an important dissertation. I mailed all 43 pages of my manic journal to my close family and friends.

They were shocked and saw the pure mania in those pages. It was my world-view and my understanding of organized religion. It was the coalescing of my adult faith, of my mature spirituality. But it was frantic and stream of consciousness and it revealed things very personal to me. Nathan thought it smacked of Kevin Spacey’s writings in the movie Seven. I realized it looked like Russell Crowe’s voluminous writing in A Beautiful Mind. While it represented clarity and truth to me, and seemed to be something I simply had to share with the world, to my family it represented a descent into a dark place.

In spite of this, many of the recipients of that package said there was truth in the writing. Nathan said he agreed with the majority of what I had written, but it was just the form of expression that troubled him. Priya and Sean said it hit the nail on the head in terms of organized religion. My dad said some of it resonated with him, and that he believed in heaven on earth too. Bless their hearts, in the midst of the shock and fear they were feeling, they were honest enough to validate some of what I thought.

I’ve kept that journal as a reminder of what mania looks like in print, but I also reread it in times of trouble and it strengthens my convictions. It brings me understanding of the world around me. Since then I have written over two hundred more pages, but never in the frantic scribble of those first 43 pages.

My therapists have told me that writing is good therapy, and can help me process and track my thoughts (thank you so very much, Marie Wood…you are a gift of a therapist). It is a great form of expression for me. The therapists told me to give my spirituality a voice on paper, when I am manic and when I am stable both. For a few years I only wrote when I was manic. In 2010, I started writing when I felt well too. I am learning how to write and not be scared of what is written. I am learning how to record emotion and analysis at the same time.


My time in Fayetteville was hard. I never could find the right legal job. Work was work, as it should be, and there was no place for mental weakness. There was no room for any shearing of intellect or for any departure from reality in the practice of law. Lawyers do not have disabilities. For those of you out there who are practicing law while suffering mental illness, I know the hell that is your every day. I was always terrified my bosses would find out I was Bipolar, but at the same time I was desperate to shout it from the rooftops and be done with it. I felt like I was “in the closet,” hiding a deep dark secret that revealed who I was at my core. I hope for a day when we can meet mental illness where it lies, because it does not discriminate by profession. If we deal with the fact that we all suffer from something and we accommodate our disabilities, we can all be more productive and save loads in health care costs. And save lives lost to alcoholism, addiction, and suicide.

I hope I am not the first attorney to “come out of the mental illness closet.” It’s 2010 and I should not be the first. If I am, I hope I can demonstrate that there is nothing to be ashamed of and there are ways to practice your art and stay healthy and feel fulfilled and accepted.

I did get pregnant in September 2007. As soon as I found out I was pregnant I lost all appetite and lost 13 pounds. I felt that dizzying head nausea that many pregnant women feel: a nausea that doesn’t start in your belly but seems to start in your sinuses and wend its way up through your eyes and ears and temples until you can’t open your eyes without feeling as though you will throw up. I remember with wistfulness that Nathan took me out to a romantic dinner to celebrate my pregnancy and I could not even look at the menu, let alone take a bite to eat. It was strange for me to eat nothing all day but Jolly Ranchers and Saltines. But that’s all I could handle.

All this was normal for early pregnancy. But then I started to deteriorate mentally. I felt certain I was killing the baby by losing so much weight. I battled with myself daily about whether I wanted the baby or whether I had made a mistake. As I watched the pounds drop from my body, I thought I was not equipped to have a baby and could not survive the pregnancy. Deep in a pre-partum depression, I hated the baby for causing this strife. I felt like the baby was an illness, a plague that I wanted to rip out of my stomach so I could get back to some form of health. How could I ever be a mother if I hated the life that grew inside me because of how it was tearing me apart? I knew I was in bad shape and called out to my mother to make an emergency trip to Fayetteville to help me survive. I clung to my mother and my husband in those early weeks, and my dear Priya assured me my baby was a fighter and would pull through this. I told only those three about my poisonous thoughts and they all assured me they were normal and would not do lasting harm to me or the baby. They turned out to be right, and their faith and consolations overwhelmed my doubt and despair.

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God, to have these guys in a room together again....