Mothering with Mental Illness: The Natural Addition to my Treatment Plan

Guest Post By: Jennifer Marshall



One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past eight years since my bipolar disorder first emerged is that my number one trigger is lack of sleep. I had barely slept in the weeks leading up to each of my four manic episodes. Those episodes all required stays in the psych ward for a few days to a whole week at a time, and a boatload of psychiatric medication before I came back down to Earth.

I can’t tell you what a relief it is to nail down the one thing I needed to protect in order to stay well.

But just because I know what my main trigger is, doesn’t mean things are automatically fine and dandy. No way.

I instead have a much better handle on my mental health because I know how to take care of what keeps me mentally stable: quality ZZZ’s.

To understand Type 1 bipolar disorder, one only needs to imagine a 10-point scale to illustrate the condition. Severe depression is a 1 on the scale, with psychosis being a 10, both requiring hospitalization to bring a person back to a functioning level.

It’s like a see-saw at the playground and the goal is to always keep it perfectly balanced. In the middle, as my dad likes to refer to it.

Hypomania for me is usually the result of being off my sleep schedule for a significant number of days in a row — three or four days of staying up late and not getting enough consecutive hours of deep sleep will send me shifting up on the see-saw. Hypomania feels good, and this is what makes stability so hard for so many people who live with bipolar. If I’m not careful, hypomania can slide from an 8 or a 9 to a 10 within a day or less, it’s that risky.

I’ve been very fortunate in that I haven’t had an episode for three and a half years, and I attribute my sustained recovery to the fact that I’ve been vigilant about protecting my sleep in addition to taking my mood stabilizer religiously. When I found out about essential oils – Lavender in particular and its sleep-enhancing qualities – I had to try it.

I use Lavender essential oil every night before bed now as part of my nighttime routine. If I have time and want to unwind after a particularly stressful day, I’ll soak in a bath with a few drops of Lavender and then will rub a few drops on the soles of my feet and back of my neck before heading to bed. What I love about Lavender is that it helps me enjoy a deep, relaxing sleep and I wake completely rested.

A friend of mine likes to dab Lavender on her wrists for a mood-lifter whenever she’s feeling down. And there are many other essential oils that I’ve found to be soothing to my moods when used throughout the day, like Bergamot and Vetiver, among others.

I feel very lucky to have found a natural addition to my wellness plan in essential oils. I recommend them to anyone interested in trying a homeopathic product as a supplement to your treatment plan. They’ve certainly been my secret weapons in helping me to maintain a calmness and balance in my life which I am committed to, for my family and for myself.




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About Jennifer Marshall

Jennifer Killi Marshall is a 34-year-old wife and mother of two young children. Her blog, is her way of documenting her progress, keeping herself accountable and healthy for her family. She is also currently producing a show, This Is My Brave, which will debut in May of 2014, in Washington, DC. This performance-driven event will serve as a platform for individuals with something positive to say about living with mental illness. It will include readings of personal essays, poetry and original music. Jennifer is also an Independent Product Consultant for doTERRA.




One thought on “Mothering with Mental Illness: The Natural Addition to my Treatment Plan”

  1. Thanks Jennifer! I don’t like prescribed sleeping pills either – very few of them work for me and they can get addictive. Something that has worked for me is a few drops of skunk cabbage orally, though I don’t know about its effects on an unborn baby or a nursing baby yet.

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