After changes to my medication resulted in a depression requiring hospitalization, I am learning to accept uncertainty and grief with strength—and strengthening my body and mindset in the process.
Grief, Bipolar Depression, & My Running Routine
My running playlist is a pretty cheesy collection of tunes—anything to amp me up and get me down the street to the next mailbox. It features ’80s hair bands and such hits as Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”
But, lately, I have loved lacing up and pounding the pavement to “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John. Maybe because, after a spring in which I was hospitalized for bipolar depression and a summer spent recovering, this song seems very apt.
I’m doing much better today, I’m happy to say. This was a long process, though—of adjusting medications, but also of grieving, grieving that will go on for a long time.
Psychiatric Decisions for Childbearing Considerations
In December 2019, my husband and I consulted specialists in OB-GYN and psychiatry, who told us that in order for us to safely have a pregnancy, I would have to wean off certain medications that I take to treat my bipolar disorder.
At first, I simply thought there was no way we could make the changes recommended—they seemed far too drastic, and this combination of medications had kept me stable for so long. And, so, I grieved throughout the winter.
Then, in March 2020, I raised the issue with my own psychiatrist, who believed that, because I was doubled up on medications in the same classes—more than one antidepressant, for instance—there was room for reductions.
That month, we began the process of slowly weaning me off one medication.
The result was extreme lethargy and depression that only got worse. Eventually, it spiraled into the need for hospitalization. In early May, I asked my husband to drive me to the local hospital to stay for a few days, and I took two weeks off work.
Life after Hospitalization for Bipolar Depression
Now, I’m back to work and have been working since my hospitalization in May, and my doctors have gotten my medications straightened out. This was a lengthy process, which involved a lot of oversight in the beginning. I had biweekly sessions with my therapist, checking in every other week. We still maintain this schedule, even now that I’m doing better.
I’m back on the medication I’d previously tried to wean off of, and at an increased dose. I realize that I really do need this medication. Yes, admitting that I needed this medication was extremely hard. Doing so seemed to rule out pregnancy, and I experienced deep grief. I had so longed to have my husband’s child, to have our baby. My psychiatrist increased the dose of my antidepressant. At first, I wasn’t sure he should do this because I felt unsure whether grief was something to be “medicated.” But I needed help. So, I proceeded with this plan.
A Realization That Gave Me Hope
Then, there came a day when I was outside running, just feeling my feet rhythmically pound the pavement, sensing the strength in my thighs, inhaling, exhaling, whoosh, whoosh, when it occurred to me, “Meg, everything’s going to be all right. You’re going to be all right. No matter what.”
I held on tight to that realization. It didn’t immediately change my life for the better. But, as summer waxed and then faded, I grew healthier, more stable.
Familial Support & Training for a Healthy Life
On my days off of work, my mom would invite me to cook with her, and, together, we would knock out a couple recipes at a time, concocting lasagna and chicken casseroles, and vegetable curries that I would bring home to feed my husband. Sometimes, I would have to drag myself, crying, off the couch to drive to her house. But I always came away feeling encouraged.
In August, I added weightlifting to my exercise routine, and soon, I began to feel stronger, healthier. I began to go to bed every night by at least 10:30 p.m., and I started to cut back on my caffeine intake and drink more water. Along with exercise, these simple lifestyle changes, as much as medication, worked wonders. Making these changes was difficult at first, but it was my mom who told me it was like I was an athlete in training for a healthy life, a good marriage—and what else? Motherhood? My mom believed it could be so.
Calmly Accepting the Uncertainty of Our Future
For now, my husband and I have decided that we will take one or two years and simply give ourselves time. We have decided not to make any further decisions about pregnancy—or adoption, fostering, or childlessness—but also not to rule anything out. I need time to stabilize and work on health, and we both want to work on our marriage.
At first, after the hospitalization, I felt hopeless, like there was no choice for us but to have a childless marriage, but now I see that reality is more nuanced. Yes, my husband and I might well be childless in the future, but we will be happy, nonetheless. Or we might have a child. We really don’t know at this point. And holding this uncertainty with calmness and strength is part of the present challenge.
Wisdom from My Therapist
My therapist reminds me that life is a narrow bridge in which we only see the next few steps ahead of us. He also reminds me that, in life, we don’t get everything we want—in fact, we typically get a fraction of what we want. Yet he points out that I have many things to be grateful for.
Today, I registered for a 5K that takes place immediately before my birthday. I know that on that day, my husband will be waiting for me at the finish line. And, as I train over these next couple of months, I am soaking up through my soles, from the very earth, the knowledge that I’m blessed—now.
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