5 Things I’ve Learned Being a New Parent with Bipolar Disorder
I often wondered what parenting with bipolar would be like, but nothing could prepare me for the reality of having a new baby to love and to care for.
Photography By: Shannon K. Dougherty
On March 2, 2017, I became a new parent to our first living child, Pablo Phoenix Wise. It’s been a whole new adjustment ever since. Being a new parent is difficult and challenging for anyone, but especially if you have bipolar disorder. I often wondered what parenting with bipolar would be like, but nothing could prepare me for the reality of having a new baby to love and to care for. It is full of stress, challenges, and joy. But I am succeeding as a new parent with bipolar disorder. I have found being a new parent to a newborn baby has been manageable when I keep the following 5 tips in mind:
1) Keep following your medication regimen:
When you become a new parent is not the time to stop taking your medication. Often times your medication can keep you stable and help you manage the stresses of being a new parent when life seems challenging. If your medications aren’t working for you or you think you need an adjustment during the early months of being a new parent, talk to your doctor. Ask for help. Don’t stop taking your medications without consulting your doctor.
2) Sleep when you can:
Having a newborn baby makes getting regular sleep very challenging. If you have a partner, take turns sleeping. Nap when the baby naps. Practice good sleep hygiene as much as possible. Lack of sleep could cause mania, so make sure you’re getting as much sleep as you can. If you’re like me and have bipolar disorder as well as a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, ask family or friends for support. It may be possible for others to feed or change the new baby so that you can get some much needed rest. Ask for help. Sleep when you can.
3) Practice mindfulness or meditation:
Centering your thoughts and mind is key to eliminating stress. Remaining in the moment and being non-judgmental about situations will be helpful when you feel overwhelmed or stressed as a new parent. Meditate and practice deep breathing. This can also help you with sleep. These techniques can help you cope when you’ve changed your third diaper in a row in a 20 minute period and your baby is still fussy or crying. Remember, this too shall pass.
4) Eat regular meals:
Be sure to eat, so your body has the physical and mental energy it needs. Try to eat healthy balanced meals if possible. Don’t skip meals. Your baby is depending on you to be able to function and take care of him or her. Having the fuel for your body from eating regular meals is necessary for that care.
5) Look for support:
Ask for help from others. If you go to a bipolar support group such as DBSA, try to continue going as much as possible. Reach out to family or friends or neighbors for encouragement, advice, or help as you need it. Read blogs, books, and listen to podcasts on the topics of parenting with bipolar or a mental illness. Ask other parents who have recently had a newborn what worked for them. You don’t have to do it alone.
Whether or not you feel ready to be a new parent with bipolar, you can make it by remembering the tips above that help you practice self-care and take care of your baby. No one is ever really prepared for the challenges of being a new parent, but taking care of yourself is the key to doing your best at it. I’m managing with the help of my family and friends, and practicing good self-care. You can be a great parent with bipolar disorder. You can thrive as a new parent with bipolar disorder. But in order to take care of your little one, you have to take care of yourself