A couple of weeks ago I decided to change what is ultimately a major part of my life. I decided, with a little of my husband’s push, to become a stay at home mom. I was under no illusion that this was an easy job, nor always a satisfying job. I have seen too many stay at home moms to think for one moment that it is easier than a nine to five or not having someone tell you what to do is easier than having someone spell out your duties like a general in the Army.
I am not a very good career woman. I don’t have a great way about myself especially with others day in and day out. I can usually fake it for a couple of months but most bosses and most co-workers begin to sense that there is something different about me. It is incredibly impossible to hide a mental disease when you are surrounded by the same people day in and day out.
I have never been fired; although I have been made to feel as if I was. I have been encouraged to find a different job or been warned about my lack of something essential that everyone else shows. I have been teased, hurt, and embarrassed in the workforce because of my mental disease. I have kept it a secret for well over five years, and in that time I have had four different jobs. Four. Mostly because I have a mental disease and no one outside a medical professional can easily diagnose the disease despite the symptoms.
Time will never be able to erase the knowledge that despite how others cope, or what writers state, or even what those around me want me to believe, I will always have a mental illness. I will always go through periods of up and down, sideways and backwards. And because I go through these periods with all the symptoms that accompany them, I am looked and even assumed to be something I never meant to be.
I could cry about this; I certainly have done so in the past. I have shed more tears on my jobs than I have ever done on something as monumental as my lost dreams. I have cried more times for being told negative, horrible things because people are reacting to a disease they can’t see. Would those bosses and co-workers have been more sympathetic if they had known I was mentally ill? Possible. However, it is more likely they would have been too scared to do anything but stay away.
I resent the hell out of the fact that I have this disease; that out of all the people born in my generation of family, I was the one given this disease. I resent the hell out of the fact that my sister, my cousins, even my husband doesn’t have this disease. I resent it because they can so easily make assumptions about me and in this case, my career, without ever knowing the truth. They can so easily make-believe; imagining in their heads the trials I go through and continually showing the incredible lack of compassion each time they give an opinion about a disease they have no idea what is.
The thing about life is it is for the most part amazingly ironic. One of the easiest, and often times strongest, triggers for major depression or a bipolar episode happens to be lack of compassion. I surround myself with people in my personal life and previously in my professional life that love to talk about my moods, my needs, what I should do, what I need to do to be more happy, and yet, not one of them has any knowledge about the actual disease. I have had bosses tell me how horrible I am, yet even if they knew about my disease, they couldn’t possibly understand the value of their words.
Despite all of this, I actually go back and forth on whether it was a good idea to be a stay at home mom. The one thing about being a bipolar mom to two children is they have pretty much lived through every thing I could throw at them; they are not ultimately hindered or stopped because of my disease. Don’t get me wrong, they will grow up in a world much harder, grayer, and sometimes much more horrible than a child who has a parent without this disease. It is the selfishness of motherhood. It is the truth that can not be turned around.
So here I am spending an inordinate amount of time with my children. I am teaching my daughter during the day, and picking my son up from school only to do his homework each afternoon. I am cleaning the house and even following an exercise program so that my kids will get their fitness in.
And there are moments that this scares me. Will my diseased self be able to teach my child enough knowledge to get her started in kindergarten? Will my diseased self be able to find the patience to spend long hours, without break, with two children who despite all that I have put them through are for the most part very normal children? Will my diseased self continue to expose them to amazing things (and free things)? Will I be able to continue to find an outlet in my writing? Will I be able to pay my bills despite this loss in income? Will it all turn out okay?
I understand better than anyone that life rarely turns out okay. It may, in some instances, turn out great but for the most part this future of ours will never be what we sit and dream it to be. It will go in unpredictable directions and toss us aside like we are a pebble in its shoe. And for some like me it will constantly test us, not only in our actions and thoughts, but in our very desires to live it.
I can hear my children laughing right now and it reminds me, like it always does, that for all my fears and all my darkness there are two amazing points of light in my life. Two points that need to be nurtured, that need guidance and love. And if being at home to give them the support they need is the right course, than that is what I shall do.
And if the days get long, and the darkness comes with its own price, I will pay it to hear my children laughing again.