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One Mother's Heartbreaking Decision

The following is an Editorial Resource from YourTotalHealth.

bipolarApril Trice, married, mother, mental health advocate, writer, Albany, GA

Life’s Hardest Choices

“In some people’s eyes, I committed the ultimate maternal sin by signing over my parental rights of my older children to their father. It is not easy for me to say I did this. It’s something that I still struggle with. You think, ‘Oh, what’s the worst thing a mother can do? Leave her children.’ But somewhere in the chaos that was my life, I saw that it was the best choice for my children, because they had already been living with my ex-husband and his wife, and I was consumed with self-preservation, just trying to stay alive. I would rather they not see me at all than to see me the way that I was. It would have been extraordinarily selfish and harmful to them if I tried to fight. A lot of choices that mothers make are not viewed that way, and they are viewed as failures. When you are tagged that way, it sends you into another spin.”

Falling Fast and Far

“In my early twenties, I was diagnosed with manic depression by a general practitioner I had never met before and never went to again. He prescribed an antidepressant, and once the prescription ran out, I never refilled it. People with bipolar can do all right for a while, maybe even a few years, but if they’re not treated, eventually they’ll screw up and lose everything. For most of my twenties, I worked as an escrow and closing officer for a title company, and I was very successful despite the fact that I drank alcohol daily. My boss knew something was wrong, but she tolerated my erratic behavior because when I was manic, I was so sharp, so on the money. What somebody else might take a year to do, I got done in a fraction of the time. Of course, that window where everything is perfect is very small before you go over the top into reckless behavior. You’re always trying to get back to that small window. That’s why drugs become such a temptation.”

In 2004, I left my third husband. I got involved with the wrong people. I think when you are bipolar, you are born with a predisposition to self-destruct and you’re not even aware of it. You put yourself into dangerous situations subconsciously. I got strung out on methamphetamine (meth) and became homeless for five months. It was a complete bottoming out. I was 98 pounds. I was a horrible, horrible mess. I reached the bottom when I overdosed on meth and sleeping pills. I did not know until later that I had been asleep for four days, lying in the same spot on the floor. People say they see the bright light or their life flashes before them. That was not what I experienced. I exhaled. I remember it clear as day. I was faced with the choice, ‘Do I inhale? Do I take this breath in?’ When I finally did breathe in, I decided, ‘Okay, figure this out. Learn everything you can about bipolar.’”

Getting Back Up

“I hadn’t seen my husband in five months. We had actually divorced, but the whole time I was gone he tried to make sure that he knew where I was and that I knew he was there. He never once gave up. I give him probably 99 percent credit in my being able to get back to a good place.”

My recovery began by getting on the right antidepressant and, once I started feeling better, a mood stabilizer. Even taking the medication in your absolute best condition, you still have bipolar. You’re still going to cycle, but you don’t go as low and you don’t go as high. I mourned the person who I used to be and the manic part, but I know this is better. My therapist said, ‘You were born going five million miles per hour, and you’re going the speed limit now.’ I went to five different therapists before I found the person I am with now, who has helped me tremendously. I had therapists who didn’t remember my name from one appointment to another and showed no real interest in my well-being. You don’t have to tolerate that. Shop around; your life may depend on it.”

Through behavioral therapy I’ve also learned that a routine is the number one thing in day-to-day functioning. I get up at the same time every day. Lack of sleep is the biggest trigger of my bipolar. I also eat three meals a day and do yoga every day. And I’ve learned not to take on too much. I no longer feel guilty about saying no.”

My husband and I remarried, and we have a 4-year-old daughter. Although I hadn’t talked to my parents and other family members for eight years, I went back and rebuilt every bridge I had burned. It was hard, but those are functioning, beautiful relationships now. I know I don’t have to accomplish massive things. It is such a huge accomplishment for me to get through every day, to have a functional marriage, to raise my daughter. I’m an open book because I have seen that it helps people. I want people to see the darkness I went through, because if they looked at me now, they would have no idea. They wouldn’t even guess that I had any type of mental illness.”

People think you can’t live a normal life with bipolar disorder. That is such a horrible misconception. Someday I hope my children will see that I’m okay. If you’ve lost children or a court has had to take them away, the best gift you can give them is to let them see that despite everything you went through, you’re okay. I’m never going to be perfect, but I’m better than I was. And now that I’ve been blessed with a second chance, I have made mental health awareness and education my life’s calling. I want to give my support to those mothers out there who feel that they have made irreversible mistakes. I want them to know that if I made it, they can too.”

—Laura Flynn McCarthy

What's Next: Bipolar and Pregnant


Review Date: October 12, 2009


Ask Your Doctor

bipolar disorderBefore you go to your doctor’s office, be prepared to ask these questions, according to your situation:


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