You wake up after only four hours asleep, but that’s ok, you feel fine. Today is going to be a great day, a productive day, one of the best days of your life. You get in the shower and sing every song you know, and keep singing as you dress up and do your hair. You have no reason to leave the house today, but you’ll find one. Maybe you’ll go shopping. You know you don’t have the money for anything, but your purchases are always justified because you always find a place or a reason for it. You get the kids up and make them breakfast. You’re silly with them, more than usual. You hope they’re noticing the extra effort you’re putting in, because today is so special. Then you remember that they don’t understand that and you try to tone it down.
Something goes wrong in the morning and you lose your temper. Only now it’s hard to stop the anger, hard to control it. It comes spurting out of you like lava from a volcano; to stifle it leaves you with burns and splatters. After the anger quickly subsides as fast as it had occurred, you feel angry and sad with yourself. You spanked your toddler for, well, what did we spank him for? You can’t remember but you feel shame and embarrassment as a mother and you apologize over and over. But then you remember how important and special today is, so you stop focusing on that.
Your children need you, but they can wait until [you go to the store to buy things you don’t need] [you finish cleaning the kitchen, living room, nursery, bedroom, bathroom, laundry…] [you finish writing you’re brilliant, world-changing ideas] [insert bizarre and not important errand here, nothing is more important than your children].
It doesn’t matter what other people think, or do, or are. They aren’t here right now. It’s only you, and your children, and your toddler did something else to disrupt your rhythm! How dare he, he’s being so selfish, he knows that I need to scrub the kitchen floor on my hands and knees, it’s the only way to get it clean, and he’s throwing toys on the floor! He’s a little monster. Reality doesn’t hit until the anger is done seething its way through the soap sponge in your hand on the floor. He was just being a toddler. Again, you doubt yourself for a second, but today is SO detrimental to the rest of the week, month, and year. He was just being a toddler, but you’ll be so much more than a mother when you’re done.
With a clean house, you can do anything. Your writing will change the world, and people will raise their children differently. You’ll be their best friend, their only friend, if only the advice you give them is good enough. You check your planner; there are not enough spaces for everything you want to get done. You need to catch up with your friends, your church family, and your actual family! You plan so many social commitments you can hardly keep track of them. Sometimes you can’t. Commitments sometimes fall through but it’s ok, because they understand how important and busy you are. You apologize half-heartedly and move on. They understand who you are and what you accomplish daily.
You make plans with family and one set of grandparents can’t do it. You start to stew over it and realize they’re doing it to hurt you. They’re faking their illnesses and they don’t want to help you with the kids. They don’t even like your kids, who are you kidding? You cry about it and quickly get over it as soon as the next thought comes along.
You’re accomplished, you pay all of the bills, make a new budget, take complete inventory of your pantry, meal plan for the next two months, do all of your visiting teaching, but this all needs to happen before next week before the darkness comes. Because when the darkness comes, you won’t feel like doing anything, and you’ll feel like nothing. You continue to spin around and around in a productive circle, planning, executing, shopping, until you’re not able to complete everything you set out to do. Realizing you’re human, not capable of doing all of your plans, cripples you.
You suddenly look at the pile of dishes and are unable to just DO them, they give you anxiety. Desperately, your productiveness takes over your entire body and you don’t have control anymore. You’re organizing your child’s closet by size, coat, onesie, long-sleeve onesie, dress, nice shirt, outfits, swimsuit, pajamas, etc. Your toddler comes to see you, because he misses you and you know this, but he’s hindering productivity and getting in the way so you play with him and try to be silly but get too aggressive and all of a sudden all you think of is hurting him and if you hurt him he’ll go away for a long time and it scares you so you call to your husband who is able to rescue your son from you and now while you’re hanging up clothes and organizing and reorganizing you’re now obsessing over what a horrible mother you are. It would be better if you weren’t here anymore, you just don’t want to do it anymore. But this is a 3m and it belongs in this pile, and I need to hang this Sunday dress, and you’re just the puppet below the giant puppeteer that is your mania. And no matter how you plead or cry, it doesn’t let you stop because this needs to be a certain way because it’s the best day of your life.
You wake up after sleeping for twelve hours, but you feel like you could sleep forever. You want to sleep forever. But you hear both of your children shrieking at you for food and for nourishment and for love. It’s the only reason you have to get up in the morning anymore.
Yesterday was manic. You didn’t know it while it was happening, but you feel it in your muscles, bones, and joints. Every step makes you creak and groan like you’re an eighty-year-old woman with osteoporosis.
You get some cereal and let your toddler out so he can roam free, and you get your baby out of her swing and lay her on the ground. You’ll change them in a little while, you’re just so tired, you just want to sit. You idly think what death would be like, if this would be it, just thinking how tired you are and that you just need a minute. Just close your eyes for a moment, and then you’re gone.
Suddenly, you’re waking up from a three hour nap. Your toddler had self-entertained the entire time, then you remember he had come and tried to wake you up a few times, but you shooed him away. You’re a horrible mother, again. You didn’t give him attention, again. You should just kill yourself, they would be so much better off without you. But your baby starts crying so you go to make her a bottle. While you’re on the floor with her, you go ahead and change her. She grins at you like she always does and you wish you could reciprocate her love but it’s next to impossible. You just don’t want to exist anymore.
It’s naptime for the kiddos so you put your baby down and you change your toddler and put him down. He protests loudly because he didn’t get playtime with you today, but you’re just so tired and low and dark. You slowly crawl back to the couch and get back under the blankets.
Your planner glares a hole into your heart. You slowly remember all of the appointments you had made just the day previous. Pulling information out of your brain from the day before almost feels like you were in a drunken stupor, doing things and saying things that you normally wouldn’t. You cancel all of your appointments as they come, explaining how tired and hurting you are, and you hope they understand. They probably don’t even care that you’re not coming, they’re probably relieved. You hate to be a burden on anyone. You should just kill yourself.
Your mom calls, but you don’t have enough emotional energy to be able to supercharge her the way you could before. You let it go to voicemail. People are frequently calling and texting and face booking you, either from yesterday or to check in with you. But you’re so tired that you don’t answer your phone. You don’t have the strength to text someone back. You have an idea of how the texting would go, and you just can’t keep up a social contract right now. It’s too difficult. They don’t really care anyway; they’re only keeping up the appearances for the sake of social norms. Care for the depressed mom; get a few points from society. But part of you still wishes they would reach out.
Sisters from Relief Society come and visit. You should [just force yourself to clean your house] [get dressed] [take a shower] [take a bath] [take a walk] [eat something] [read your scriptures more] [go to church more] [etc.] but you don’t feel like arguing with them. You know they’re doing their best to help, but they just don’t understand. They can’t. You don’t feel like telling that you’ve tried all of those things, that you read your scriptures daily, sometimes twice, seeking comfort. That prayer gives you anxiety and you can’t get out of your head so you can have a conversation with your Heavenly Father. That sometimes the act of going to church drains you to exhaustion because there’s the spiritual side but there’s also the social side that you just can’t handle. That the act of forcing yourself to do things is how you get out of a depression, so you know that you can’t just force yourself to do something. That it isn’t possible. You literally have zero strength or muster to do anything. The act of breathing is draining you right now. You look at other moms and wonder with bewilderment how they even get dressed in the morning, much less get their kids dressed and get outside on a daily basis.
You call your dad and he asks you what’s wrong. He’s never been much of an emotional guy, so it’s hard sometimes to relate to him. He asks what’s wrong again, a bit more gruffly, and you break down crying. “I know, I know,” he says. But he doesn’t know. No one knows what you’re feeling. Not even your therapist, who you’ve been seeing for almost four years.
Eventually people stop coming even though with all you can sum up you told them you need love and support. You need them to call. Even when you don’t call back, seeing their missed calls tells you that they care, that they think of you. Seeing those text messages that they actually do think of you fight back the thoughts that the world would be better without you, that you’re a horrible mom. Their visits push back the dark thoughts to the edges of the walls of the room, and can’t close in on you because there’s someone else talking with you, distracting you from what’s at hand until your husband gets home.
So you go to bed, another sleepless night.
Tomorrow is a brand-new day.
These cycles are very real and can be very frightening. Someone could ask me while I was in a manic cycle if I was ever going to stop cleaning or working and I would reply, quite confidently, “Not until I drop,” because that was how I coped with mania; I would just run until I couldn’t anymore. Alternatively, if you’d ask me if I would ever escape from my depression when I’m at the very depths of a down cycle, I would tell you it was endless and that I doubt I ever would. I am now in some intense treatment for my bipolar disorder, and I’m happy to say that I haven’t had a manic OR depressive episode like these in months, whereas before I was repeating this cycle every two weeks. There is hope, and you don’t have to feel like this. You can have a controllable baseline without it being a flat-line. Thank you for your time.