A few weeks ago I went to the intake interview for Canberra’s perinatal mental health community service called PANDSI (Post and Ante Natal Depression Support and Information Inc.). There are no other mental health services to support families with maternal bipolar disorder so this is the best fit for us. I don’t mind going to it, although I often have to deal with looks of surprise or confusion when I explain our situation. I decided to rejoin the service because they offer excellent support by touching base weekly with a phone call or email. Often when I am in a mania or a depression I do not realise it, but talking to someone about how things are going help me to stop and reflect. Also given that my bipolar I disorder was triggered during the perinatal period, it is important for me to stay on top of how I am feeling.
I called PANDSI a few months ago when I first found out that I was pregnant so that I could access a letter of support to help my admission into the continuity midwife program at the Canberra Hospital (CATCH program). They asked me if I wanted to be readmitted into the program but at the time, feeling quite okay due to the mania building, I politely refused. I recall feeling quite pleased with myself at this time, thinking that I won’t be ‘weak’ enough to need a service like PANDSI. Weak. It was a weak decision to think that I had everything under control, but invisibility is the nature of the mania for me. Thinking back now to how I was I can see that I was already falling into the manic state with racing thoughts and overinflated ego. I can say that I do not feel that way now, although coming off the antidepressant medication Sertraline has resulted in some mood swings and less stability. Not too bad considering where I was a couple of weeks ago, and certainly better then the last time I came off antidepressants.
PANDSI playgroup was established to respond to a need for mothers to learn how to play with their kids in a perinatal depression and anxiety safe environment. They have a variety of activities for children up to the age of five, so that second and third time etc. mothers can bring older children along although the service only offers support until your youngest child turns two years old. I found the PANDSI playground a great thing to do with Master X when I was misdiagnosed with postnatal depression and then through my journey into the postpartum onset bipolar I disorder diagnosis. Although I am yet to meet another mum with a similar story, it is helpful for the conscious parenting because it forces me to talk about how I am going and connect with support workers and other mums.
I hate meeting new people, and would be happiest sitting at home on the couch writing. Even when I get the chance I opt to work from home. My doctor does not agree with this work environment choice because she thinks that it exacerbates my mania as there are no external barriers to guide my behaviours. In part I agree, which is why I work four days a week in the office, but then my husband and I both preference our home time to being immersed in our hobbies (or obsession if I’m manic and staying up all night to write like I was a few weeks ago).
So Master X and I are both dressed, fed and ready to go out for the morning. I am excited to connect with the support workers, meeting new mums and seeing all the babies. I am not clucky much, unless those cheeks are bursting with milk!