By: Rachel E. Bledsoe
Momma used to say “your grandfather didn’t sleep well either.” A long night’s rest has never been an easy place for me to find. At 13, they called it severe anxiety combined with severe depression. Then at 17, they changed the diagnosis to bipolar disorder. At 23, they reverted back to severe anxiety and gave me little blue pills called Xanax. I was given a lot of little blue pills, four hundred at a time, and told to take 3 a day.
After a few months of three a day, I found myself wanting more. The ‘more’ turned into over 20 a day. A drug addict was my final diagnosis. After living with the disease of addiction for three years, I woke up one day not wanting to be anything other than who I was. I have not taken any medication for my diagnosed mental illnesses in over 6 years.
Now I have a son, he has my eyes. He laughs exactly like me. Every day I tell him how much I love his laugh. “Don’t hide it. Don’t be shy to laugh. Be you.” No one ever really told me these things. It took me a little over three decades on this earth to discover what I love about myself.
If I am asked today “do you have a mental disorder?” I will tell you what they told me. I will also tell you those labels are not my soul definition. They are just labels. And I pray to protect my child from such labels. I walked around in my 20’s saying “I’m crazy. I’m bipolar. I hate people. They make me nervous.”
People should make us nervous. I teach my son to be wary of strangers. Is there any difference in the rational thought, that just perhaps, not all people are kind and nice? People are strangers and the anxiety I feel from strangers is justified. I am not crazy. As for bipolar, I am probably that too. As I write this, I am on a bender of probably only 6 hours of sleep in two nights. The boy with my eyes has been sick. So I thank the bipolar mania for the ability to survive, thrive, and create with very little sleep.
A little boy with my eyes will grow into a man. And I carry no fears about him inheriting the unique chemistry his own mother has. I hope he too will learn that within these diseases are little blessings.
One of my favorite memories so far with my son is a morning breakfast. My son will not eat meat. It has taken me months to figure this out. First, I had to try every possible meat available which he still mainly refuses. I was astounded at his reaction to bacon. He took a bite, spit it out and threw it in the floor. He then proceeded to throw every piece of bacon off his plate.
I asked him “what’s wrong with you? Everyone loves bacon. You are not normal.”
His deadpan expression said nothing. Maybe he was waiting to get in trouble.
“On second thought, don’t be normal. There is already too much normal in this world,” I replied to his silence.
And I hope to always remember to teach him being different is okay. Mental illness makes me different, and there is nothing wrong with different. And for the record, I ate his bacon off the floor that day because it was bacon. And a family should never waste bacon.
Rachel E. Bledsoe is the Magnificent Mommy to the Terrific Toddler. When she is not writing, she can be found at her local newspaper where she is writing advertorials. After bedtime, she stays up late and has Misfits of a Mountain Mama while binging on Green Tea and Cheetos. When she is recovering from postpartum depression, she tends to dye her hair bright pink and shock her husband.