So definitely not fake. More like...edited.
What I don't ever talk about on Facebook (nor will I ever) is the mental illness that almost destroyed us.
Mr. Hope has bipolar disorder. Technically, it's bipolar disorder with psychotic features, but I tend to leave that last part off since the psychosis has been in check for years. But it's there. He takes a small dose of a scary little pill every night that keeps the olfactory and auditory hallucinations away. He takes a lot of medicine to keep his brain functioning in a way that's conducive to so-called normal life.
Today, I consider us lucky. Mr. Hope is so "normal" now that sometimes I forget he even has this disorder. He's been working steadily for more than two years and just got a new position at his company that came with a nearly 50% pay increase. He went from twice-weekly therapy sessions to one every other week. When bad things happen, he is better equipped to handle them. I am confident that he's going to be a great dad to Jellybean.
But if you'd asked me even four years ago, I would've had a very different take on our relationship.
The quick and dirty version is this: when Mr. Hope and I got together I soon realized he was a binge drinker. Not every day, mind you. But, like, out of the blue he'd get blackout drunk. Sometimes he'd be verbally abusive. There was an incident that pushed me over the edge about six months in. I told him to get sober or get gone.
He chose sober, and has been sober ever since.
The bipolar was diagnosed in the wake of this. The drinking was a way to self-medicate the mania. This is common in mental illness. Not just drinking but dependence on any substance.
Mr. Hope also has ADHD. It's pretty bad. His psychiatrist tried him on a non-habit-forming ADHD med. Things got better...until they got worse. Here's the fun thing: symptoms of ADHD and symptoms of mania look an awful lot alike. So as the shrink upped the ADHD medicine, the symptoms got worse. More medicine. More symptoms.
Eventually, the medicine broke his brain.
That marked the first time Mr. Hope logged time in a mental hospital, but not the last. After he recovered from that episode and returned to work, the shrink put him back on the same ADHD medicine. Once again, it broke his brain - only this time, it did it a lot quicker. And also a lot worse.
More hospitalizations. More leaves from work. In a three-year stretch, Mr. Hope only logged about 8 months on the job. He was actually on SSI for a couple of years. Fortunately, his company has really good short- and long-term disability. He never lost his benefits. In fact, he never went below 50% of his salary.
Taking an extended leave from work gave us a lot of time to find the right med combo. This took more than a year. No joke. When we eventually went for a consult at a world-renowned hospital, the doctors we met with said they'd never seen anyone on as many medications as Mr. Hope and still be functional. They dried him out and started fresh, and that's what got us where we are today.
When Mr. Hope returned to work, we weren't sure he was going to make it. But he did. Not only that, he excelled. He got picked for training jobs. He got assigned to special task forces. He was accepted into a prestigious leadership development program. And just this week, he was hired into the new position, jumping up two job grades in the process.
I honestly could not be more proud.
Why am I telling you all of this? This is a blog about infertility, not mental illness, right?
Because I wasn't entirely honest in yesterday's post. I wrote something about being afraid of the test not telling me that our kid had a damaged heart. But what I'm really afraid of - the thing I've always been afraid of - is having a kid with special needs. Not your garden variety special needs, but like the kind that keeps your kid a kid forever, even when they're 40.
This makes me a horrible person, I know. Before anyone else says it, let me: YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TRIED TO MAKE A BABY IF YOU WEREN'T OKAY WITH A BABY THAT NEEDED MORE LOVE AND CARE. Okay, fine. I'm awful. I'm the worst. Nothing you say can make me hate myself more than I already do.
But I know what I can handle. I know what I am capable of. I have glossed over Mr. Hope's breakdowns here but let me be clear: those were some of the worst days of my life. They were scary and dark and nearly broke me. Bouncing back - putting not only his brain back together but also our relationship - took years of hard work on both our parts. And there were times I thought we'd never get to where we are today.
This is one of the reasons I've always been more in favor of having one child, not two. If I have one and Mr. Hope's meds stop working, or if something triggers another break, I'll be okay. I can handle being a single mom of one while he is in the hospital. I can handle taking care of one kid by myself while he is healing. But two? Two seems like it might be too much. Throw in a child that requires an extreme level of care? I don't know that I could do it.
But what about autism? you ask. They can't see that on a test. This is true. We could have a kid that requires a high level of care that no diagnostic test would ever pick up. It's a gamble. I get it.
It's a gamble we were willing to take.
Anyway, there it is. The whole truth and nothing but the truth. Skewer me if you desire, but like I said: I have enough self-loathing for all of us.