Being a Mom with Bipolar Disorder

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My name is Chelsea, I am 30 years old, mother to three little girls. As I write this I am watching my oldest play on the porch. It's a warm, spring day. She's singing and playing with sticks in the sunshine. It's a beautiful moment. 

Yet I feel only emptiness and pain. 

I'm not always like this. Sometimes I am incredibly happy. Like, crying happy. And extremely productive. Fun. Engaging to my children. Everything you would want a mother to be. Except...

It won't last. 

I have bipolar disorder. My head is an ocean of intense, peaking waves and low, lonely valleys. You might think that it would be difficult for a Catholic woman with bipolar disorder to find answers and community within a religion over 2,000 years old. And yet I cling to my faith, clutching the hand of my Lord like a child. I look to the saints for companionship and guidance. 

My life is like Groundhog Day- I relive the same thing again and again. Up and then down, up and then down. There is no stopping it. All I can do is try to do it better next time- over and over without end. Whatever it is He is trying to teach me, my lesson is an ongoing one. 

It "begins" with a manic episode. Happiness and energy abound. This time is good for me. It's easy to feel God's presence and see His blessings everywhere.

Then it slides into a depressive episode, marked by emptiness and despair. It's hard not to feel abandoned, foresaken during this time. There is no solace in this place, no convincing, no rest from the pain. During this dark time I must rely purely and what I remember being sure of before. 

I often fail. I do despair. Especially with three young ones who look to me for love and care. But the cycles continue. I will always have another chance to trust again. 

Sometimes my diagnoses makes me feel isolated. Something about having a label can make a person feel "filed away." But I'm not alone. The truth is we all experience, to some degree, what I'm living. We, as Catholic women, all are put to the test. And not just once, but again and again. 

But it is when we feel alone that we see our littleness so vividly. And being little, we have the opportunity to be truly brave. In the face of hardship we can stand, trembling, reaching for a God we aren't sure is there anymore and say, "I believe." 

I believe in hope. I believe in love. Even without feeling them. Even when my life seems damned and full to the brim with sorrow. Faith is a choice, ya know? 

Even if I feel nothing but pain in my heart of hearts, my daughter is still singing in the sunshine. And even if we are to endure a great pain, either from loss or illness or the exhaustion that this hard life brings, God is still there loving us. Because although our feelings may be able to change our perceptions, they can't change the truth. And the truth is we are deeply, deeply loved. Loved enough that He allows us to feel such pain, that we may offer Him the gift of our faith in spite of it. 

With love,

A Catholic Woman

Get to know Chelsea haynes 

Tell us a little bit about yourself! 

I'm a stay at home mom to three girls: Amy 3, Hideko 1, and Mei 6 weeks. Also wifey to my rock of a husband, Bo. 

Describe your favorite part of being a mother

The best part of being a mom is the constant "stretching of the heart." These creatures are so beautiful and perfect... but they are demanding! Being a mom is like perfecting the art of being interrupted at all times, and it is exercise for the soul! I have never had such wonderful reasons to give of myself. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve not only my children, but God through them. 

Tell us about the first time you experienced a strong sense of belonging in the Catholic Church.

The first time I felt a strong sense of belonging to the Catholic Church was Right after my conversion. I had been living a dishonest life for a very long time and it was the first time that I was able to belong somewhere without having to hide who I was. 

Chelsea Haynes Portrait