Single parenting is one of the most difficult things a person can do. Not only are you responsible for maintaining a home, paying bills and balancing a budget, you have to do it while raising another person who looks at you like you are the world. You have to set an example, be strong, help them learn and grow and put their needs first.
Having bipolar disorder is also one of the most difficult things a person can suffer from. You wake up every day with a fight between good and evil inside of you. Some days aren’t so bad, you find yourself smiling, happy, and at peace; other days however, finding the strength to get out of bed is your biggest accomplishment. The depression days can be crippling. You feel helpless, worthless, and pointless. The darkness seems everlasting and you can’t find a single highlight to make life seem worth living.
Now combine the two. Being a single parent who suffers from bipolar disorder is something I have personally struggled with for the past 8 years. There are days so dark I barely have the will to live, but I have to. There I days I just want to lay in bed and cry, but I can’t. I have to get out of bed, fight the monsters, choke back the tears and get to work so I can afford to pay for my daughter’s music lessons and school lunches. I can’t show her my suffering.
Finding the balance has never been easy. She is my reason for getting up every day. There are days I feel like the world around me has crumbled. I feel like I am under attack and I am so stressed that I can’t sleep and walk around in a zombie state. Those are normally the days she won’t get out of bed without a fight then decide to take a 45 minute shower and has me rushing out the door so I can get her to school and me to work on time. There have been nights where she goes to cheerleading practice after school and I take that hour or two to sit in my car alone and just cry so she can’t see me fall apart. I never want her to see me suffer with this disorder. It is important to me that she has a strong female role model and that person has to be me.
I have reached out to friends and family, sought professional therapy, taken medications, but nothing ever really helps. The waves still come in everyday. Some days, the good days, those waves are small and tolerable. I feel happy and balanced and have energy. I feel on top of the world, mom of the year,and I am at peace; other days, it’s a tsunami and I am drowning.
People who don’t suffer from this have a hard time grasping and understanding the feelings. I have been told so many times that life is just hard and to simply deal with it. Everyone has troubles and problems. What they don’t understand is that when you are a single parent, you don’t have the down time to process your feelings. You don’t have someone to help you alleviate the stress or do some of the errands or help with some of the bills. It all falls on you. The world is on your shoulders and some days it crushes you. In addition to the stresses of everyday life, your own brain is telling you that you’re worthless.
The struggle is a never ending battle. If you know someone in this situation, reach out. Be the light that you never knew they needed. Your kind word could be the only reason they smiled today. It could mean the difference between life and death. There have been many times that I have had those dark thoughts and feelings, but knowing my daughter needs me keeps any actions at bay. She is my light, my beacon and so I need to be her strength. There have been days that were it not for my friends talking me off the proverbial ledge I don’t know that I could have found the strength to get through the days. Be strong and fight, people are depending on you and you will get through it no matter how bleak the outlook seems, things do not stay dark forever.
Melissa Hughes is a 30-year-old single mother of one. Girl Talk started as a telltale horror story of the city’s most epic dating disasters and evolved into a column about love, life experiences and growing up. Melissa has a weekly TV segment on PA Live, WBRE, discussing activities in Weekender and a Girl Talk radio segment every Wednesday on 98.5 KRZ.