My husband came home from work one afternoon to find me buck-naked, sitting in our front yard’s flower bed with our two-year-old son, and having a casual conversation with our gardener.

Note: I’m not opposed to naturism, as we live in Santa Cruz—the land o’ the hippies.  But for me, this was NOT normal.

My manic episode devastated our family.

In retrospect, I’d had signs of bipolar forever.  And the handful of years that led up to that manic day were inordinately stressful.  We’d moved to a new area and lived rurally for the very first time.  Then, I’d had a difficult pregnancy with our youngest, followed by a complicated, traumatic birth.  My husband’s job demanded long hours.

On top of that, we’d Zoomschooled six kids—five of our six kids by birth, plus a foster daughter—through the Covid lockdowns.  Our toddler ran around the house all that school year, screeching and repeating my frustrated swear words.

How did that ClassDojo thingamafucker work, anyway?

Things got worse.  Our foster daughter had also run away, engaged in gang- and drug-related offenses, and ended up in Juvenile Hall.  She’d begun to accuse us of bad stuff.  Eventually, we’d had to disrupt her placement.  We were crushed.

No extended family lived nearby through any of this.  Even more sadly, the new friendships we’d been planting were quickly clipped off at the root by the lockdowns, just as I’d emerged from the postpartum cocoon.

This. Had. All. Sucked. Fat. Donkey. Scrotum.

And so, when at 38 years old I had a manic episode that descended into psychosis, I knew I’d failed at life.  There’s nothing like waking up in the hospital on your birthday and wondering why your wrists are restrained to the bed.

Bipolar I doesn’t usually emerge when you’re middle-aged; the late teen years and early twenties are more typical times.  But when it does, it’s a beast and a half.

After the mania, I crashed. It took six months of sobbing in my own bed for me to stabilize on medication.  I’m still trying to repair my relationships with my family members.  My irritability, random flight of mania, and debilitating depression were deeply upsetting to my husband and kids.  We’ve all been to lots of therapy and will continue to do so for god knows how long.

I’m grateful, though.

I’m thankful for medical professionals who have cared for me and treated me with dignity, especially when I felt like not a shred of me was left.  And the people my husband had to hire to help with our children.  And the brand-new friends who, despite not even knowing us for a year, showed up to lend normalcy.

When I think of my kids’ confusion and pain, I feel incredible shame.  I am lucky they have forgiven a lot of what I did when I broke every bone in my brain.

Most of all, I’m grateful for my husband’s fortitude. He never gave up on the hope that the “real” me would be back.  It takes guts of steel to be married to somebody with bipolar I.

In 2022, I started to write on Medium about my experience.  I’m an editor now, too.  My publication, Sweary Mommy: Wiping Ass First and Taking Names Later, is a parenting-humor site that celebrates those who share the gory shit.  With personal essays, satire, and memoir, it’s got a bit of everything.  And it’s a spotlight on imperfect mental health.

Never did I imagine I’d be a content entrepreneur.  But like motherhood, it’s a calling.  Nobody, nobody, acknowledges bipolar in the wild—unless it’s to disparage somebody.  No one seems to understand it.  I share my stories so that someone who Googles “psychosis,” or “mania,” or “bipolar parent” in desperation for solidarity might know that parenting, being in a committed adult relationship, and living with a serious mental illness is doable.

Had it not been for Dyane Harwood’s story, Birth of a New Brain, I’d have felt hopeless.  So I’m writing a memoir of my own—tentatively called The Sweary Mommy.  Links will be posted to my Instagram and Facebook once it’s published.

Sometimes, I wonder what our gardener thought about the chatty, randomly-nude lady he used to trim the trees for.  The next time I see him I’ll mention that—while I like him as a person—my clothes are staying on this time.