by: Anonymous author
I was 8 years old when my mom first sat me down and told me she had bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. It’s when a person experiences grandiose delusions, restlessness, hallucinations, fits of rage and paranoia. i didn’t fully understand everything she said but over time I experienced it all. I was 10 when I started helping my dad take care of her when she had her episodes and needed to stay in a mental hospital because she kept throwing away her medicine and running away from home. I was fifteen the first time she had to stay in the hospital for over two months while they tried to balance out her meds and protect her from committing suicide. My mom became her illness for so long, so I was quite literally living with bipolar disorder.
Today I’m a 29 year old woman and I still feel like I have so much more to learn about mental illness, despite having so much first hand experience with my mom’s severe case.
She missed my high school graduation, was sick during my sweet sixteen, was heavily medicated when my fiancé organized his proposal to me, and got sick when I went into labor with my first child. So many milestones in my life have been ruined because of this disorder and I grew up resentful. I hated bipolar disorder. I hated my mom.
And then there are the rumors. The secrets. The lies. The threats of divorce and separation when I was a teenager because their marriage was falling apart. The whispers as my mom walks by at a family function. There is so much ignorance about the illness that I’ve had to stop myself from getting into fights with relatives who were talking poorly about my mom, even though I hated living with bipolar disorder, aka my mom.
The thing about her illness, is that most of the time she is perfectly fine. In fact, a lot of people don’t even know she’s sick because we’ve done such a good job of covering it up, as if we are ashamed of it or something. Even now I know I can’t say her name, or even my name within the context of this article because “they’re not ready” to talk about it. That makes me sick. I’m not ready to talk about it either but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t. This is a release for me to open up and share my personal story about mental illness- the topic no one wants to talk about unless it’s behind someone’s back.
It’s in the news all the time whenever a celebrity “goes crazy” or commits suicide. Those are the stories that hit way too close to home for me. It’s headlining news when it happens and the world stops in shock because they didn’t see it coming. Family and friends will cry about how they had no idea he or she was suffering in that way because they seemed so happy on the outside.
Makes me think of my mom. To the people who have no idea of her chemical imbalance, my mom seems 100% “normal” – whatever that means. She smiles, interacts with others, has a full time job, does normal mom things. But when she starts to slip into an episode every few years, she becomes an entirely different human being. She secretly spends money, talks about things that make absolutely no sense, slips into her depression, disappears and even talks about suicide.
It’s scary as shit. And we’re expected to keep it between us. We don’t want “the wrong people to find out and cause us more problems.” Because that’s what’s happened before. Mom almost lost her job because her “friend” at work started talking about how weird my mom was.
But thats the world we live in. Shame, gossip, fear, illness, stereotypes. Where is the kindness we should be pouring out instead? I’m guilty of not being as kind and compassionate as I should’ve been to my mom all those years. The bitterness and resentment took over my life for so long. The only thing that made it better was talking about it more instead of keeping it inside. There is so much power in opening up and not pretending like everything is ok. I hate the filters people put over their lives these days. Perfection is not relatable. There are so many people who try to portray perfection and happiness to the world when in reality they are in pain and suffering. Fuck filters! Be real! You’d be surprised with how many people can actually relate to the truth.
I don’t know why some people are born with mental illnesses but I do know we need to talk about it more often. There are way too many silent sufferers in the world and I’m so tired of seeing the topic go ignored. I used to feel like I could snap at any moment with how alone and afraid I felt. But once I stopped pretending everything was okay, I began finding friends who could relate to me. And I began to heal.
My mom can’t help what she was born with but we as a society can help by showing more compassion and kindness to perfect strangers. You just never know what can trigger someone to hurt themselves or slip deeper into their illness. “We should always be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.”