When I was growing up, my uncle was in and out of the hospital with Bipolar Disorder—then called manic depression. 95% of the time he was fine, but when he was “sick” as we called it, it was easy to tell, maybe because he would talk so fast or maybe because he would listen to his records all-night long as loudly as he could looking for hidden meanings. He was never a danger to us, but at ten years old, I was the family babysitter even when he was there.
I’ve struggled on and off with Bipolar Disorder for about 15 years. I’ve been lucky enough to have had long periods of time without any manic or depressive episodes—once without any medication and others with medication. But I still don’t think children are a good idea for me.
For one, I’m not sure what kind of damage it would cause to young kids if they saw their mom in a state where she really wasn’t herself. Even though I know my family would be supportive and would try to keep the kids away from me, I have Bipolar I, which means that I am susceptible to mania with elements of psychosis. It may be fun for me, but I’ve been told (more than once) that it’s not as much fun for everyone else around.
Second, there’s the medication issue—the medicine I take is strong. It needs to be in order to prevent future “attacks” or “episodes.” I take two medications—one can cause birth defects and the other hasn’t been studied for that. Taking medicine like that while pregnant would be similar to drinking or smoking while pregnant—not okay. If I were to stop taking meds during a pregnancy, it would leave me vulnerable to going manic—from what I understand from my friends and family, pregnancy is hard enough without having a little mania thrown in for fun.
Third, women with Bipolar Disorder have extremely high rates of post-partum depression. I’ve gone through one severe depression (long) in my life and that is enough to convince me that it would be nearly impossible for me to care for a baby in that state. (I can’t speak for other women, but when I am extremely depressed, it is hard for me to do much else but type.)
Fourth, Bipolar Disorder is genetic. While I’ve gained a lot from Bipolar Disorder and it is a big part of who I am, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, especially a kid of mine.
This isn’t my main reason for not having kids, but I’ve also heard of women with Bipolar Disorder having more trouble with Child Protective Services (mostly because of misunderstandings about the disorder and nasty divorces).
Do you have kids and how has your Bipolar Disorder impacted your life with your children?