One of the things that I think is natural to hope for when going through a difficult period as I have been is that life will stay smooth through the recovery period. There's never anyway to ensure that, and of course something eventually will challenge every recovery, but lately I've seemed to be getting my challenges early.
In July I stopped taking Depakote, a medication I had relied upon a very high dose of for many years, and which took 7 months to taper off. Before I had a chance to know how I really was doing without it I lost my job. As I recovered from that I had to go through the realization that Emsam had become my only real option. (I'm now working hard to remind myself that this is not exactly true, I know MAOIs work for me and if the patch fails I can do another one orally. It's just that there would be a 2 week wash-out and I don't know if I could survive that. I think that would be 2-3 weeks in the hospital and oh my.) Then I had to decide to make myself sick, and go through the last 2 months. Now I'm recovering from that, getting closer and closer to feeling good, and I got news yesterday that you need to read the whole paragraph below before you think I'm an awful person.
For the most part, this is wonderful, happy news. I'm going to be an aunt for the first time in the summer. This will be a much wanted, much loved baby with parents who will be so incredibly devoted to it. It's a chance for my mom to FINALLY be a grandma after 45 years of parenthood. And I will love the baby dearly.
However, I can't say "I'm going to be an aunt" without crying. I can't think about how in not that many months I'm going to be holding this tiny person and seeing some signs of our shared genes (curly hair? my sister and I both have a type of birthmark not supposed to be genetic but too rare to not be in our case? funny toes?). I'm so excited.
I'm also hurting. A lot. I've known since the day I started lithium that I couldn't have children. You can't while on lithium, and I wasn't on it very long before I knew that I was bipolar,and I decided a very long time ago, when people first threw the idea around and I refused to accept it, that if I was ever diagnosed I would not have children. I knew that for one thing, for me it is strongly genetic and I will not pass this to a child, (and to be totally clear that is not true for most people with bipolar. My family tree however is weighed down with it, and my sister even did research on the genetics long, long before this baby was conceived). Mostly though I had to accept that I would never be a good mother. I am too sick too much of the time and after growing up with a bipolar parent who was unmedicated, I knew that even though I am excellent with meds, it wouldn't matter when I was sickest. And of course until the last year there was no sign I would ever live a life that looked normal to begin with.
Of all the things bipolar has taken from me, this baby is a reminder of the ones that hurt the most. Because the truth is that my sister, who I love and am not being mean about, has gotten to have so many of the things I wanted in life. It's not that I'm not happy with my life, it's that most of my dreams died a very harsh death, and she hasn't had the same experience, which is wonderful for her, because she has had to deal with many of the same horrible childhood experiences I have.
The truth is, I seriously doubt I will ever marry. The simple reason is that emotionally there is too much damage for me to even want to try to work on the things that a physical relationship would require. That may change, but I'm actually very comfortable with that idea. I'll never have a child, and I'll never be pregnant. Yet of the two of us, it was me who spent hours daydreaming about the perfect nursery and naming my unborn children while I was a kid. My plans after college very clearly included a PhD; that will never happen for me, while my sister is working on hers as I write.
And there's another point, one that I just realized after being too stunned by the news I'd just learned to really talk to Dr. Mind about it: there have been two other times I've been "Aunt Just Me" and both those times I've wound up losing all contact with the children I let myself love. This was first true with my high school friend's children after her alcoholism made me unable to be her friend anymore. Breaking the bond with the children was worse than breaking off the friendship, and that was not an easy thing. The 2nd time was with the friend who decided my illness was the work of Satan. Needless to say it didn't take a huge amount of her thinking that to not want me to be with her child, and so I went from Aunt to "awful person".
I know this baby will never not be my niece or nephew. Yet I'm scared to love any child like that again. When you can't have children and then people encourage you to love theirs and then take them from you it becomes ever more scary to try again.
And so I'm happy. But I'm also grieving my own losses, and angry again at my illness.