A child isn’t going to save me. So, what’s going to save me? What’s the plan? The short answer is, I’ve got lots of plans! And I’ve got no plan…
The plan was to be a mom. That was how I intended to give my life structure, meaning, and a lot of its joy.
That’s how I intended to save myself.
My child was going to save me
Now, you’re going to roll your eyes. You’re going to say, “Being a mom is tough!” And the “Early years of motherhood can ruin a marriage, at least temporarily!” At least, that’s what my mom said to me. She was trying to bring me back down to Planet Earth.
But I had this pie-in-the-sky dream that being a mother would bring me the greatest joy I had ever known. That a child would fill this emptiness inside me that nothing seems to touch, not even marriage. That, with a child in my life, I would never, ever have those dark feelings, those feelings of despair and pain that brought me to the brink.
I would live for my child. I would try for my child.
My child would save me.
Now, you can tell me that’s no reason to be a mom. I know it. I know it deep down. It didn’t prevent me from feeling that way. From wanting to be saved. From wanting to be saved from my mental illness.
So what’s the plan? What’s going to save me from my mental illness?
The answer is me.
Do I have the resources to save myself?
The truth is, I’ve got plenty of resources. I have a loving husband, parents and extended family, including nine nephews and niece. My fur baby, Zooey, our
rescue cat, brings me a lot of joy. I love to write, cook and run, and I find these activities take me out of myself and help me find “flow.”
Not least of all, I’m a woman of faith. I firmly believe God is watching over me, guiding me, working out all that happens in my life for my own good. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”
He will bring something truly amazing out of this childlessness-by-circumstance. Out of this grief.
But the answer is not necessarily that God is going to save me. Instead, he will strengthen me, develop in me tenacity and grit that I didn’t realize I had.
Can I truly save myself?
I didn’t realize I could run a 5K until I actually did it, until I trained for six months using the C25K (Couch to 5K) method. I ran 60 seconds alternating with two minutes walking that first day, repeated, for a total of twenty minutes.
Then I did it again.
And I competed in that 5K race, running a pretty respectable finishing time. I found, when thrown back on myself, thrown on my own resources, I had grit.
As my therapist likes to remind me, I’m in the drivers seat of my own life. You are, too. This means our choices are in our control. Choices for happiness or for pain.
As Agnes Repplier, an essayist and biographer with a 65-year writing career, said, “It is not easy to find happiness within ourselves. And it is not possible to find it elsewhere.” She had such difficulty learning to read from her mother that, at age ten, she taught herself.
Think about that: Happiness is not found within a child. Or a partner.
Or even a house or a job.
It’s found within ourselves.
In other words, we have to dig deep, find our grit, and create our own happiness.
This is a huge responsibility. It also means that no one can steal our happiness away from us. Oh, circumstances can take it for a time. But we always have the power to regain it. We can make a series of choices for health and well-being, to right ourselves and the ships of our world.
We can steal our happiness back.
So, right now, when I’m grieving my unborn child, I’m going to remember this, this fact that I’m in the drivers seat.
The bottom line is, no one can manage my bipolar disorder for me. A child can’t save me from my mental illness. It’s my responsibility to take care of myself, to take my medication, to exercise, to eat in a healthy way, to do all the things I know how to do to stay well.
I’m going to remind myself of that. And I’m going to set about stealing my happiness back.