Bipolar UK service user Viv with her two children
Bipolar UK service user Viv reflects on the ups and downs of parental living

It’s about 4am as I pen this. As a busy ‘bipolar’ mum I love this time of days for getting stuff done. My good friend Susie (we had a couple of teenage years at boarding school together) and I have a word for what we do at these times. We call it ‘buffing’. It’s pretty similar to pottering. We just prefer to say ‘buffing’.

I have to watch out for sleep disruption of course – too much equals an early warning sign – but my condition thankfully is well managed, my insight is good and this really is quite an optimum time to write if I do wake up. Do others experience the 4am phenomenon? The amount of times I wake in the middle of the night and it’s bang on 4am – well it’s verging on spooky!

Firing on all cylinders

Erring on the side of manic as opposed to depressed, I do generally fire on all cylinders. It’s just in my nature. One friend told me this week, ‘You are the busiest person I know.’ I am pretty busy. Thankfully my relationship with God means I have to have quiet time with Him, daily if I can possibly manage it, reading my bible, reflecting on His work and just sitting quietly, acting on Psalm 46’s verse 10, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’

I whizzed up to Scotland last weekend. I stayed with friends in the Borders and popped up to Edinburgh for the day on Saturday for a fabulous Mind and Soul conference. I came back on Sunday and this was my to do list this week:

‘Write articles of bipolar magazine, have my first Usborne event (I have just started selling Usborne books for children, my first such business venture), take two story club sessions at a local primary school, go over To Bradford from Halifax for a bible study one morning, shop for my son’s birthday, walk the dogs every day, do the usual shopping, cooking and a little light dusting, collect the children from school, go to my slimming world class, and prepare for friends coming for lunch on Saturday.’

Being a bipolar mum

Being a bipolar mum of teenagers – well one is 13, one nearly 12 – has its challenges. Thus far not so different. Most mums can give chapter and verse on the issues we face as mothers of these beings. Actually my two are pretty damn great – even if I am a wee bit biased. We have our moments of course. Let’s call them D and G. D (nearly 12) is male and G (13) female.

I battle with D over limited computer time. He is skilled, gifted I would say, in this area and is into technology, creating programmes and doing things far beyond my ken and his years. I do allow him to play the war type games with an age guide above his, that are so prevalent. With every computer store packed to the gills with such fare it’s hard to persuade my son that anything else is of interest.

My daughter G is very organised. She comes home from school and gets her homework out of the way. She loves to read and she also likes a bit of telly – our tastes are often quite similar and I love chilling with her and watching something together. Most of the time we get on really well although we have been known to clash and there has been a small amount of door slamming. G and D get on incredibly well, although they too, like most siblings, have their spats.

When D was nine months old and G eighteen months, I was at the worst point of my illness and taken into hospital for three months. It was quite simply the most horrendous time of my life.

Seriously tough

Fortunately for the children, their dad, my husband, (let’s call him DC) did the most amazing job of looking after them when I was so very ill. We are still together. It’s been seriously tough, and now what either of us expected when we fell in love and got married, although I did already have my diagnosis.

I think the knock-on effect for me has been finding it hard to be tough/strict, and consistent with stuff like limiting screen time. It may be in my nature anyway, although I tend to link it back on some residual level to the fact that I abandoned them for three months when they were so little.

Put simply, in a very affectionate way my kids think I’m ‘mad as a hatter’. Not very politically correct but coming from them and knowing as I do that they love me and my foibles I don’t mind. I like to be able to laugh at myself. The adjectives I would use are perhaps colourful and flamboyant. My children would, however, be very protective over me, if anyone said anything rude about me.

Losing the plot

Like any parent I lose the plot at times. When I shout beyond what may be necessary I don’t think it’s necessarily related to bipolar. I do find it easy to hold my hands up and apologise when I’ve done that. When I am a bit stressed, and thankfully my wobbles are small these days on the whole, I know I do have a tendency to lose my rag more easily.

I have the usual sorts of issues with D, and find myself having torepeat myseld over and over: do your homework, brush your teeth, have a shower. I am waiting with anticipation, friends assure me it’s due any time, for the transition into struggling to get D out of the shower as opposed to in it.

Having been through such a lot, and remembering with pain that feeling when they were so small and I was so ill, that I was totally incapacitated as a parent, I am so thankful now for the generally good state of my health and more than that for the good state of my relationship with my children.