You know those times when some realization hits you like a quarterback from the side, completely out of nowhere? It takes the wind out of your lungs and if it’s good it makes you light headed, if it’s bad, it makes you heavy-hearted.
After the past weekend I’ve had the wind knocked out of me really hard. Like, “big deal life-changing” hard and it has left me very heavy-hearted.
I’m a woman. I have bipolar brain chemistry (neurodiversity is my word of choice). I have been suicidal before and I have lived without medication. I am currently, and have been, medicated and I’m terrified (TERRIFIED) to go off of medications. I absolutely love the feeling of control that I have when I’m successfully medicated. When you’ve been unmedicated with bipolar for a large portion of your life and you finally exist for a full year as a relatively happy and productive person – with only “normal” hiccups like other “normal” people – I imagine it feels like someone who’s been struggling against a rip tide for that whole time finally being free of it and into calm waters – you DO NOT want to give that up.
I have a personal habit of pretending I’m fine with things. I actually convince MYSELF I’m ok. When my dad died five years ago I did zero processing for the first 3 years afterward and instead covered all of those feelings with what I call “hyper-appreciation”. I still do this, seeing as how I’ve only really talked about his death once. (side note, I really ought to find a therapist to call me out on this ish) Another tactic I like to use is that I build walls to keep others out. It took my best friend many years to actually get to KNOW me. That entire time I was sarcastic, mean at times, distant, and would only talk about surface things. I remember when I realized that I had to convince her I was being genuine when I said nice things to her, because I had been so damn sarcastic all the time she thought I was just joking when I was being sincerely kind. I act tough, but I’m really not – the weird thing is that I have lied to myself enough that most of the time, I believe the hard exterior is the true one.
All of this builds to perhaps the biggest lie that I have been telling myself. I’ve never really been around little kids much. I have a very small family, I never did the baby sitting thing, and I’m not really sure – it’s just not been a thing in my life. My friends have had kids. The oldest child is 3 now. I held her once as a baby – it was awkward and scary. I don’t know how to change diapers. I’ve acted as though babies were completely foreign objects that I had no interest in learning about. If I’m being honest now, babies DO scare me – they make me so nervous because they’re so fragile and tiny and they squirm and puke and poop and I have no idea what their needs are. I’ve been acting too cool for kids because I’m scared of them. When my friends talk about having kids I’m the one saying “I don’t even think I HAVE a biological clock! Hahahah!”
Which brings me to. . .
This. . . is my lie: I have been convincing myself that I do not want to have (actually birth) children because of several reasons that I’ve created as a list in no particular order:
- They ruin a marriage
- They ruin your social life/happiness
- I wouldn’t even know what to do with a baby
- My partner wouldn’t be supportive enough to raise it successfully together
- I would ruin its life
- Just like the animal activists view of “adopt, don’t shop” – people should be adopting babies and not making them because there are kids already out there who don’t have homes and need them
- It’s a shitty world out there, why would I bring a tiny life into that?
- And other reasons I’ve spouted out that have apparently been just the “tip of the iceberg” with the real reason hidden deep below
I very recently dated a guy very briefly but I’ve had a crush on him from a distance for like 3 years now. That probably sounds creepy/high school-ish, but I promise it’s not (ok, high school-ish probably). I didn’t actually talk to him much in those three years, because you know, I can talk to anyone EXCEPT the person I ACTUALLY like, but I ran into him all the time thanks to mutual friends and his place of employment. Everyone who knows him, EVERYONE, when they hear his name says “Oh! He’s such a good guy!” That’s why I liked him. The point of all of that is just to set up so you can try to understand how excited I was to finally be getting to know this dude. I was super excited and it was fun and adorable and you know what? He really IS such a GOOD GUY! But. . . he wants to have biological kids. This conversation came up randomly early on but then became a discussion because, well, we’re not in our 20’s anymore and why date someone if your endgame goals don’t align (unless it’s just for funsies, but I didn’t want that with him)? My first response was the “adopt don’t shop” answer – I really, really do want to foster kids, having worked with kids from that system I know that I can do some good in that world. But the more we talked I finally said “it”. I said the truth.
I don’t feel safe actually birthing a baby while I have fucked up brain chemistry. I don’t think I can handle the terror of the potential birth defects or miscarriages if I stay on medication. I don’t think I can handle the awful, awful mood swings if I stop taking them. I don’t think I could find a partner who would stay with me during that potential shit show. Ugh, if you saw me in previous relationships while I wasn’t medicated – without factoring in the insane roller coaster that a woman’s bodily chemistry goes through with a tiny, unborn human in it – you would be telling any potential partner of mine to run for the hills.
I realized that this lie was something I was covering up during our discussion and it started a little rip in a seam of my heart. I know that analogy sounds super-duper cheesy, but you just deal with it. I pulled my typical “toughen up, buttercup” routine and decided to just break things off ASAP so that I didn’t develop further feelings for the guy. That SUCKED. Three years of crushing, one month of dating, and you know that feeling you get when you just start a relationship that you think is going to be around for a bit? Yeah, I had all of that and rather than waiting it out (sounds like I could’ve used some Wu Wei, huh? Hindsight’s 20/20, and even then I need glasses) I panicked and called it off – because that’s what I could handle. All of the warm fuzzies got squashed down by my need to save emotional face with myself. I didn’t want to confront myself on anything.
Now, I said I have friends with kids – I don’t actually see them that much. It just so happens that this last weekend I went to a baby shower for one of the friends. This will be her second baby, a girl, and it was a zombie princess theme (because I have awesome friends). Later that same day I had dinner with another friend, her super awesome husband, and their two kids (ages 3 years and < 6 months). The tiny baby slept the entire time and the 3-year-old was completely ridiculous and funny. My mom was with me and the three year old liked my mom better, probably because I’m just awkward around kids – but I was still a little sad when she gave my mom a hug goodbye and not me. I was ok after these two events – I pushed them back in the vaults to be suppressed with the rest.
Monday I texted the guy I broke things off with to clarify that the only reason I ended it was because I couldn’t give him what he wanted. That sucks.
Later on Monday I went to dinner with my family at a restaurant where we were next to a table full of kids. Some weird combination of overhearing the large family next to us and talking to my mom about when I was a kid and how she raised me, it just hit me. I want that.
Today I am admitting that I am terrified of having children because I also have bipolar. And fuck. Today I am admitting that I think I might actually want to have one someday. And shit. That’s really fucking sad.
This whole time I’ve been running around, tough as nails, acting like I’m too cool for this. And actually, I want all of it.
And there goes the quarterback, running away after he’s completely annihilated me, knocked me head-first onto the ground, any sign of air gone from my lungs.