My lack of motivation is a topic that is routinely brought up by both my parents ever since Little Bear was born. He is now 7 years old. Like this is a serious broken record and it’s getting old and it isn’t new. It came up back when I had postpartum depression with the other two boys too for that matter. Many times I feel like it comes up whenever I’m not doing whatever it is they want me to do. Only this time, I have no idea exactly what it is they want me to do other than be this imaginary perfect parent that no one ever is.
It started with how I don’t spend enough time with my children. Not sorry, but I’m totally not into micromanaging every moment of my children’s lives. There is actually benefits to alone time and sadly in today’s age we don’t get enough of it as it is. So why is it my parents are pressuring me so hard to hover over my children the way they have been?
As Scholar Owl told me this week, if they ever want to spend time with me all they have to do is ask for it. It’s as simple as that. And as I’ve pointed out to my therapist, how do you spend time with an Autistic child that routinely requests that you leave him alone? You don’t. As a decent human being I still firmly believe you honor the request so long as said individual isn’t doing anything harmful. Why is this a crime? How much time I spend with my children is between me and my children. It’s none of anybody’s business but our own.
My mother brought this whole topic up AGAIN while in the emergency room as though somehow I am neglecting my children. And even before she could get any further into it – like listing all the things she used to do or whatever – I cut her off and simply stated that growing up Dad was owned by the military (it sucks, but that’s how it is while you’re enlisted) and she was never emotionally available. She gave me this look. Not sure what it was but I wasn’t even close to done.
I went on to say that I’m tired of never being good enough. I then said that I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy defending both of them. Just because something is illegal now doesn’t make them bad parents back then. I call bullshit on that. Laws change all the time based on the moral and ethical compass of society but that doesn’t make the individuals of the past evil simply because they followed the laws of the time. And yea she did try to make that “so we’re bad parents” speech but I cut her off again with the “no we’re different parents and neither of us are wrong” answer. I really needed to drive this point home.
So I brought up the controversy around Columbus and how his contribution in history is to be taught now in schools. Back when we were kids he was hailed as a great man that discovered the Americas but now people are saying he’s a villain. Was it right for colonization and slavery to be the way it was? No, absolutely not. Should this nullify the discoveries he made and be struck from school curriculum? I’m of the opinion that all of it needs to be taught and discussed openly. Everything. His discoveries, his treatment of and impact upon the people he encountered, his impact on trade routes – the whole thing that’s been recorded. Not just bits and pieces. The entire story of Columbus should be addressed and recognized, not wiped out of the history books like it never happened. We need to learn from history so we don’t repeat the same atrocities.
And it’s the same thing with parenting from one generation to the next. Each generation does the best they can with the knowledge and resources they have. It doesn’t make one generation better or worse than the other. My mother suffers from Major Depressive Disorder and raised FIVE children. Two of those children were presenting symptoms during childhood during a time when child psychiatry pretty much didn’t exist back then. She really did do the best she could with what she had. And my dad too. Sure he wasn’t home much until I hit 14 years old but damn, the man worked in the Air Force. They own you that entire time. I don’t care what anyone says. Your time doesn’t belong to you while you’re active duty. Does this make them bad, evil parents? No. And fuck anyone that tries to say otherwise. No one is perfect.
But things are different now. Laws have changed dramatically. Spanking in general in seriously frowned upon. And “implements” (like belts) are not longer legally permitted for that. Heaven forbid if you use soap now as a punishment, because they’re toxic and could poison your kid. Emotional abuse is a legal land mine no one wants to walk into. Where do you cross the line from discipline to abuse and how the hell do you prove it? So what’s a parent to do today? Nothing. Oh wait, you can’t do that because that’s neglect right? Oh I’m sorry, that’s my parents talking again.
Legally neglect is defined as not meeting the needs of a child. The needs listed (in Maine’s DHHS policy) are: food, adequate shelter, age appropriate supervision that protects them from harm, providing the means for appropriate hygiene, medical and mental health care (and yes they are this specific about defining those two separately). Apparently truancy of a child that is at least 7 years old and has not yet completed the 6th grade is also on the list of definitions of neglect.
So it looks like I did the absolute right thing last year by calling the mental health hospital for assistance when the school notified me that Little Bear was “chronically absent” and that they wanted to hold an “intervention meeting” with me even though at the time he was only 6 years old. This was how he ended up in the hospital’s intensive out-patient treatment program. It wasn’t the greatest of experiences for us but I don’t regret the decision. If his mental health was so poor that it was preventing him from attending school to the point that the principal wanted to take action even though the truancy laws didn’t apply to him last year, then SOMETHING needed to be done. Period.
Discipline ironically doesn’t fall under the “needs that must be met” list for the definition of negligence. Not saying that children don’t need it. I firmly believe children do need to be taught right from wrong. It appears that the state of Maine feels that it is completely up to the parents to decide whether or not discipline is needed is all. So I find it more than aggravating that my parents frequently accuse me of negligence when by legal definition negligence isn’t happening here.
As the staff over at the mental health hospital continuously likes to remind me, if I was truly a negligent parent I wouldn’t be going through all this grief for the care and well-being of my children (and for myself). This shit is hard. Just being a parent is hard. Being a parent of special needs children brings extra challenges. Being a parent with a mental illness has it’s own burdens. Having it all together all at once is… I don’t have a word for that. It would be very easy to just throw in the towel, run away, and hide. But I don’t. I love my boys and I believe in what I’m doing. I’m not perfect, but I’m not negligent either.
So then my mother switched gears on me and started in on my lack of motivation. Were we really going down this road right in the ER while waiting for her labs to get back? I know we went over this before back when we decided that I was moving back into their home in September and yet here I am still waiting for those bedrooms to be fixed up, stuck between addresses. What part of being disabled unemployed do people find so hard to understand? What the hell am I supposed to be doing exactly?
Dad seems to think I’m supposed to be not only paying half the bills now but also be full-time house keeper? No. Mom and I talked about this and I told him this when him and I got into a fight about it. I’m not “volunteering” for anything. She said she was going to write up a list of chores for the boys and I that would be our share. So I’m waiting for that list. The reason for that is because of how things went down with my sister-in-law when they lived with my parents. Whenever she did voluntarily do things it was either “all wrong” or she was “taking over” his house. And yea, it was like that for me the last time I lived here – or worse, he just expected me to do more and more without directly asking. It was just this snark and snide coming out of him. Even now that my brother no longer lives here he still expects him to come over whenever and just do shit for him. Hello, he’s a grown man now with a job and a family. He’s not some trained monkey or pack mule that you own and control. That’s just not how it works.
Seriously the more I write about this or talk about it with the therapist, the more I question the wisdom in moving in with them. But I then I think of how awful the apartment is and how the landlord just won’t fix the roof or the plumbing among other things. I have to do what’s best for the boys. Better to be here for a little while as I look for something better than stay in that hell hole I would think.
Do I really lack motivation? Am I lacking self awareness here? Or am I just being paranoid regarding my parents? Honestly I feel that both my disorders and my medications are playing a role here. I don’t think that I’m that bad. I can’t help but feel like my parents are trying to herd me into something. But of course I have to question myself here. Do I feel this way because of things that have happened in the past? Do I feel this way because I’m in denial of my current condition? Am I actively experiencing a paranoid delusion regarding my parents? I don’t know and I don’t feel like I have a solid way of knowing. It feels like any time I’m not doing whatever it is my parents want me to do they employ guilt tripping of some kind. And typically it involves lack of motivation, fear of failure, or imperfection in some way. Again, I have no way of knowing if I am perceiving any of this correctly. I do know that they treat my siblings in a similar fashion. They hold them to the same standards and expectations. I do see that. They use the same language and methods so it’s not just me. I’m not being singled out.
So I decided to do some research because frankly it’s what I do best. I sought out information on Bipolar Disorder, psychosis in general, executive functioning issues, and whatever else I felt my symptoms are currently. This is who I am now and where I am at. I feel as though my parents don’t want to accept it. For seven years prior to Little Bear was born, I really was on top of the world in many respects but it came with a price that they didn’t see.
My two older boys and I lived an hour away from them so they didn’t see the multiple panic attacks I had daily or the sleepless nights. I routinely got only 2 hours of sleep each night while in college just to get everything done. That was being a full time student, juggling in my middle son’s therapy sessions because he wasn’t in public school yet, studying, a part time job, my own therapy to address the anxiety and panic attacks, keeping the home clean – all of it. Eventually I had to drop the job. I think I ended up doing that after the first year and didn’t pick up a job again until the year before becoming with Little Bear. All the while I held a GPA above a 3.0 – NONE OF THIS IS REALLY NORMAL. That’s the hard truth.
Yet people will applaud you for it. Somehow working yourself straight from the grave is hailed and hero-worshipped. That’s what functional mania and functional hypomania is. It’s not being a workaholic. It’s far beyond that. It’s working yourself beyond your limits because you don’t see them, don’t recognize them, don’t feel them, and because your brain doesn’t register the need for sleep your body is never given the chance to recover. Eventually you will break down. And I did.
The very nature of Bipolar means you don’t get to be on the manic side of the spectrum forever. And that’s the other thing. Episodes for Bipolar tend to last awhile. It’s not like the weather at all. It’s more like seasons. That can last as long as a year or more for some. I really do not know what it is my parents are expecting. Retrospectively, before Little Bear was born I am comfortable in saying that I wasn’t a rapid cycler. I’m not sure if that’s true now thanks to the influence of meds. I mean 7 years on the manic side is a really long time. It’s why I question being diagnosed with Type 2 and not Type 1 but maybe it’s because I’ve never been hospitalized? I think I’ve been lucky in having family with medical backgrounds in that respect otherwise I probably would have been. It might also have to do with the class of medications I’m responding to as well. I have no clue. I’m in no position to diagnose anyone.
So these are the things I have found in my research:
- Bipolar Disorder is a progressive disease with cognitive impairment and functional decline, making early detection and treatment critical
- There is a question as to whether manic episodes increase the relapse rate of episodes similar to that seen in epilepsy – known as the kindling effect
- Psychosis can occur during Bipolar episodes and most certainly have an impact upon motivation in the individual
- Mood disorders (such as Bipolar), anxiety (such as PTSD), and psychosis can alter executive functioning of the brain
- And seriously just this this this – like all this regarding motivation and Bipolar and what I have been trying to explain to my parents all along since I’ve been diagnosed and put on these damn meds
I KNOW what they want/hope/expect is for me to come bouncing back with all that manic energy but the entire point of these meds is to make sure it doesn’t happen. Reading through all this I was at one point worried that I might still be psychotic. Particularly in the exhibiting of negative symptoms – as in avolition, which you can read about here and here.
And admittedly I can see some of that going on with me but… not at a clinical level. I’m still making it to appointments. Mine and the boys. I’m still posting in my blog. I launched a new blog for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been prepping for NaNoWriMo. I’m not doing nothing. I’m just not doing whatever it is they want me to do. Probably copious amounts of housework. And that thing they call socializing? Yea… I’m sure they want me to do that. Like in person. And showering. But hey least I get the boys in the tub, so that’s something.
Something I did pick up on in all my reading – and believe me there was more than what I’ve shared here – is that stress can trigger psychotic episodes. Which explains how in some articles I read listed PTSD as being one of the disorders that can have psychosis. Largely due to the stress and partly due to how difficult it is to differentiate the symptoms of the two apart. Like when is it a hallucination and not a flashback? For someone like me that suffers from both Bipolar and PTSD the two very easily blends together. Is there even a point in trying to sort it out? Probably not.
Finally I did come across this last webpage that I found particularly kind. I didn’t miss the fact that they only listed the lack of motivation as being a symptom of depression and schizophrenia though. Kind of frustrating there when Bipolar experiences depression and can also experience psychosis. I discovered today in my online research that Bipolar isn’t brought up very often in the general discussion for mental health. Bipolar has a lot of specialized attention but not much in the way for the general community. Depression and anxiety was expected, but Schizophrenia was mentioned far more often than Bipolar. Perhaps it was because of the keywords I was specifically searching for today? I’m curious though if anyone else has noticed this. Are we some taboo topic for discussion?