I thought I was an old-fashioned kind of girl when I first got married. I thought I wanted to be the one to take care of my man. I wanted to do the cooking, the cleaning, and all the shopping. I wanted to make his doctor appointments and be a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to do all the things I thought women in the 1950s did. Only I wasn’t living in the 1950s.
When I married my husband in 1997, I had just graduated cosmetology school and become a stylist at the most upscale salon in our town. I had become a mother at the young age of 17, and I did not want to marry his biological father because I knew I would never have anything I needed. My husband quickly filled his shoes after we met and my oldest son Colton had begun calling him Daddy after only a month of dating. Colton was 2 when we married and we bought our first home and began our lives together. Like most people in our area, it would take two incomes to keep up our lifestyle. However, after delivering my second son in 1999, I wanted to return to work quickly, only I would try a new job.
I soon after would quit several jobs, claiming they just weren’t the right fit. I became pregnant again that same year and after losing that baby to miscarriage I quit yet another job and started at Hair Club for Men as a stylist. I got pregnant again quickly in 2000. Right after buying our second home we were told we were having twins — something we had joked about but never really considered would happen to us. I had two more sons in March 2001. The only probably was being a stylist and working on commission wasn’t steady enough for me to pay daycare for four children.
I quickly became irritable and sometimes downright mean to my children and husband. Even though I had the life I had always wanted as a mom and mother, I was mad that I was stuck in a house all the time with my children. I was a social person and not being able to work meant that I didn’t talk to many people most days.
I started to get depressed and started to gain weight. I was the smallest I had ever been when I met my husband in 1996. A year earlier in 1995 when I graduated high school, I walked across the stage to get my diploma at 252 pounds. I had lost almost 85 pounds when I met my husband. Quickly the weight started to come back on, and by the time the twins were two I weighed in at 310 pounds. I decided that weight-loss surgery was the only way I was ever going to lose the weight. My husband and I decided that we were ready to do the surgery.
I was seeing a psychiatrist because at the same time I began thinking of surgery I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Bipolar I. I was mentally ill. I had known for most of my life that I had mental illness to some extreme or another. The ADHD was told to me as a child, and I remember all the testing the school would do to me each year. My mother was often told I was very smart, I just couldn’t sit still. I had seen self-tests for bipolar on the computer and when I took them it was very clear that I was bipolar. I took the test to the doctor who was treating me for the ADHD and with some conversation I began on my first medications for the disorder. I quickly gained weight with the medications we tried, and soon I was tipping the scale at 355. By the time I was okay for the surgery my husband would hardly look at me.
The surgery was in 2006. After many years and lots of medications later, I adjusted to my new way of living and eating. My husband became my lover again and supported me in most things. Learning that two incomes were needed, I went to work for the school district. After a few members of our community learned I was bipolar, I was all but forced to quit my job.
I was trying to get better. I thought the way to reinvent myself was to attend school full-time at a community college about 40 minutes from my home. I was doing well getting grades I never thought possible for me with my ADHD ways. I excelled in the theatre portion of my studies.
I was asked to be a stage manager for a spring show and that is when life began to truly fall apart. I was never home and spent money all the time. I would leave for school at 8 in the morning and not leave till 10 or 10:30 at night. While my husband was supportive at first about me returning to school now that our boys were all in middle school, he was perplexed about my choice to study theater, something that wouldn’t be profitable in the area we lived in. I was stressed out and finally one night it all came to a head.
Crashing My Car and The DUI
I was traveling home from school. Normally it took 45 minutes to an hour for my medications to kick in at night in order for me to sleep. I had only been on them a short while and didn’t really understand how they worked. That night, however, I crashed my car while on my medications. I was arrested for a DUI. It took eight months to finalize that DUI and the entire time my husband did not speak with me. I went to work knowing he was paying for everything and I needed to contribute. I was working retail and the DUI was finished and we started to repair our relationship when mental illness stuck its ugly head in again and bit us.
I had done my plan for the driver risk evaluation. I never took my medicine and got in the car again. I had no idea that taking the medicine the night before and getting up early I could still be drowsy and swerve and get another DUI, but that is just what happened. I received 30 days in county jail for the second DUI. Something changed, though. Where during the first DUI my husband was so mad he wouldn’t speak to me, during the second one he stood behind me. He was able to see that it was the bipolar causing my problems. He began to rally me each day and tell me how much I meant to him. I spoke with him two to three times every day while I was doing my jail time. Even though my teenagers were probably asked many questions by their peers, they never stopped supporting me.
Throughout the whole ordeal I was loved and spoken of with respect from my family. Most people were in awe when I would tell them my story. How I spent 30 days in jail for DUIs that only had to do with medication I was prescribed to take. People couldn’t believe such a thing could truly happen. It can happen. I know because I lived it.
My husband and I now have started a project called “Closing the Gap” talking about how to bring better programs to those who are mentally ill and in the jail system. We hold monthly meetings with others in our community who are also fighting to make a difference.
We both have joined our local NAMI affiliate and help others by our experience. We attend bi-weekly support groups and attend fundraisers regularly and have become more involved in the community. Our sons fallow our example. One wants to go to college to be a psychiatrist and another just wrote a grant for NAMIs program called “Ending the Silence” in order to bring it to his school next fall.
The boys are all compassionate, caring and respectful. We have had a huge ordeal over the last few years, but I would not change it. They have truly shown me that we can rise above the bad things that happen, that we are more than just an illness. They have shown me how love can overcome so many things. I am glad I can show my children how helping others can help you grow.
I wanted to be the one to take care of my husband and children like women did in the 1950s, only my husband and children are the ones taking care of me.