I am incredibly excited to announce the debut of a new support group which I will co-facilitating called Bipolar Support for Perinatal Moms & Birthing People hosted by Postpartum Support International (PSI). Since not all people with wombs identify as women or mothers, this group welcomes all birthing people (parents who have carried and birthed their own children) regardless of their gender identity. This group is designed “to help pregnant and postpartum people navigating symptoms of bipolar, like depression “lows” and mania “highs.” The first group will meet on January 12th, 2022 and then biweekly on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at 5pm PT/8pm ET. You can register to attend this free groups here through PSI’s website. PSI offers several other support groups, including those for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, pregnancy and infant loss, fertility challenges, termination, support for family members, and many more. There are groups specifically catered for marginalized populations, including Black and South Asian birthing people as well as LGBTQ+ parents. All these groups can be found through the same link.
Preparing to co-facilitate this new PSI group is a full circle moment for me. November 2022 marks my 10 year anniversary of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 18 and it is only in the later part of this decade that I found bipolar support groups. In 2019 during the earlier months of my pregnancy, I experienced the most severe manic episode of my life. When I came out of the mania in the later stages of my pregnancy, I felt utterly alone and overcome by guilt and shame for how my moods wrecked havoc on my life and the relationships I cherished most.
Towards the end of my second trimester, I found an organization called the Mood Disorder Support Group (MDSG) in New York where I started attending my first support groups. Prior to then, I had no idea that support groups for bipolar disorder even existed. They introduced me to a community of peers who speak my language of madness and can truly empathize with the challenges I have faced. Finding MDSG was bittersweet. On the one hand, it was an affirming and transformative experience. I made friends with people who share my lived experience who are close comrades to this day. I found other individuals who shared personality quirks I thought were strange and unique to me. For the first time, I realized I actually wasn’t alone. On the other hand, I mourned the fact that I didn’t find this organization sooner. As I navigated my new diagnosis during four discombobulating years of college at Columbia University, I was ignorant of the fact that MDSG held their meetings only two blocks away!
I try not to dwell on the past and mourn what could have been, but sometimes I wonder how my life would have been different if I had peer support all throughout undergrad. My story is definitely that of the Wounded Healer. While it might have helped me avoid some devastating mishaps, I am proud that I have made it this far and have a wealth of wisdom from having traveled this road alone for so long.
It’s ironic how the resources show up just as we are progressing on our wellness journeys and not when we are at rock bottom and need them most. In my current season of stability, I have more information, resources, and support than I ever did when I was unwell. This probably is not everyone’s experience, in fact, I hope it’s not. If I can help it, I want to ensure that no person has to go through this journey without adequate support. That’s why I am pursuing work as a mental health doula, beginning with my role as a co-facilitator of this new support group for perinatal bipolar.
The Universe has been doing this weird thing where I get confirmations that help me integrate the experiences I had in altered states, such as mania and psychosis. Facilitating this new group is no different. I have two first names — Nadia and Naomi. I go by Nadia most of the time, but when I’m manic I become Naomi. She’s the part of me that I am constantly working to integrate. She’s my shadow side and my blinding light. She challenges me to be the best version of myself and tortures me with vivid reminders of my triggers, traumas, deepest fears, and past mistakes. She’s my id and my superego, the worst and the best of me. She comes out in full force during acute mania, demanding to be called by her name. After the wreckage of an episode and I am euthymic (neither manic nor depressed), I have put together the pieces Naomi left me.
So believe it or not, this perinatal bipolar group is being led by Nadia Naomi. When I found out that my co-facilitator’s name is also Nadia, I sensed this was part of the Universe’s uncanny integration process. I immediately knew that since Nadia was already in the game, it was time for Naomi to get a seat at the table while I am stable and on this new path of wellness, stability, and self-mastery. So for that sake of simplicity, the participants of the group will call me Naomi and my co-facilitator gets dibs on Nadia. This inside joke with the Universe really tickles me inside and gives me a sense of satisfaction that cannot be measured it words. I’m looking forward to the healing and growth that comes from this experience.
Image Description of Blog Banner: A white birthing person with blonde hair wearing a white turtle neck, white nail polish lying down in a bed with white sheets covers her eyes with one hand and holds up a positive pregnancy test in the other.