How My Mom's Bipolar Disorder Ripped Our Relationship Apart

And how my own diagnosis brought healing to our broken bond

Photo by Ilya lix on Unsplash

MY MOM

The first time I was introduced to Bipolar Personality Disorder was at the age of 11 when I was coming home from school on a Friday afternoon. As I was looking forward to some relaxed quality time with my family, I was surprised to find my mom home earlier than usual. In excitement, she announced that she had just given up her well-paying job, was about to send my dad and little brother to live in Ghana, have me stay with my grandparents from now on, and travel the world preaching her very important new epiphanies.

After barely sleeping for a whole week, she had unraveled reality’s secrets! A great conspiracy was going on and the world needed to know immediately. She told me to turn on the tv and waited for the news reporter to give her a secret hint that only she could decode.
Soon”, she said, “you will see me on the news too. Everyone has to know!”
She seemed confused and restless. As she was announcing her future plans, she was crying. Yet her determination was set in stone. She was going on her mission no matter what!

I started crying too and asked if I’ll ever see her again?
She replied: “I might not come back, but I’ll always love you and I’ll always be there in your heart”. She told my dad that she was about to leave him, as she had fallen in love with her boss and wanted him to accompany her mission. When her boss called to ask if she was fine, he disclosed that she had tried to jump out the window earlier that morning and that he had sent her home to get rest and seek professional help.

The atmosphere was on fire, my dad listened to all she had to say and decided it was time to call her parents. She was running around the house in a frenzy — like she was on the run. Packing stuff and loading the car — getting ready to drop me off at my grandparents' place and embark on her big journey. When my dad refused to hand her the car keys — as she was obviously not capable of taking part in traffic — it led to them wrestling over the keys on the floor. I had never seen my parents physically fight before. Both kept screaming at me to not hand the keys to the other one. It was absurd.

TRAGEDY

See, my mom was the rock of the family. She was this rational and goal-driven, badass career-woman, supporting all of us on her own. She was intelligent and insightful, and as I was growing up, I was convinced: my mom knew everything! She always had an answer to any problem. She was superwoman! Seeing her snap like that, felt like my whole reality was a shallow lie. My life-structure imploded in front of my eyes and left nothing but ashes.

What followed was years of being admitted in and out of mental facilities plus on and off medication treatments — the effects of which felt like my mom was transformed into a living dead. As soon as she tried getting off the medication, she started hallucinating again — each time a different storyline. Getting her on the right medication took years. She kept falling back and I kept losing more and more of what my mom had used to be — my rock. She was lost in confusion and pain. More and more of that woman who once had been my superhero, simply gone. Unavailable. Out of reach.

It was during those years, that I promised myself, to never let anything like that happen to me. Well aware of our family history of schizoaffective disorders, I simply refused to acknowledge it might hit me too at some point. I was going to do things differently!

ME

Halfway through law school, I experienced the first severe depression that tied me to the bedroom for weeks. Seemingly paralyzed, I lost all interest in taking part in the world or even getting up to take a shower. I would spend my days in bed crying, without even knowing what I was crying about. Sometimes without even feeling sad. I had carried my pain silently, unable to find closure, as I hadn’t talked to my mom in years. She was busy getting herself together, and I was on my own.

Her condition ripped a huge split into our relationship. Her marriage didn’t survive, my brother and I ended up in foster homes after a long process of going back and forth. For many years I thought I had lost her completely. I struggled to accept what had happened to my family. The pain of that tragedy was buried deep underneath the surface of my ambition to build a successful career as a lawyer and prove to the world:
I was not ‘crazy’ as my heritage suggested.

During my first major episode, I became convinced I had to become a great philosopher, as I started looking behind the curtain of life. In an impulse of inspiration, I dropped out of university, ended my stable 3-year relationship, and moved to a city 5 hours from home to start a new life, as a new me. What I was really moving into was months of severe depression & despair, which peaked in a finale of a 3-month long manic crisis that got me convinced I could make objects appear through my freshly discovered telekinetic powers. I knew the world wouldn’t understand, so sure, I kept this secret to myself.

I would start new jobs, then dramatically quit them on the spot. I would sign up to study philosophy, then drop out again. I would find my one and only soulmate, again and again, then ghost them because I got scared they might be psychopaths. If I wasn’t busy crushing my life to dust, I spend my time working on those exciting new superpowers. I had hacked the matrix.
Life made so much sense. I loved the world, and the world loved me back!
I was a queen!

Then I crashed...

HEALING

The moment I was alone and lost in delusion, there was only one person to call — my mom. I remember one night laying on my bathroom floor, sobbing. I was still living alone, 5 hours from home, and I had cried for two days straight. I couldn’t stop, though I had to leave for work soon. My shift started in two hours. But this flood of despair was unbothered by my responsibilities, it demanded to be released now. Panic shackled my lungs. I just couldn’t get myself together.

She picked up the phone and she knew. I didn’t have to say much, she just recognized. With a soothing voice, she started to calm me down, told me to sit and draw something. ‘Tell me what you would like to draw. What colors would you like to see right now? Orange maybe? Is there something orange in your room you want to draw?’

I didn’t make it to work that night. But I made it to the psychiatrist one week later. And it was that moment of comfort and deep understanding that made me remember how it felt like to have a mom.

Nowadays I can say that it was my own battle with bipolar that might have saved our relationship after all. Walking in those bipolar shoes myself helped me understand her situation from a different perspective. I see how life becomes overwhelming when you’re in a psychological crisis and the despair that results from not knowing what is going on with your mind.
I might have lost my mom at that time, but my mom lost everything.

Ever since my diagnosis, she has become my greatest support system — because she understands! All those ups and downs, all the confusion. She understands the deep desire to fly and abandon all rules, and she has felt the pain of picking oneself up again — after going for it recklessly. I can talk to her without fear of being judged.

I didn’t understand for so long, how someone who loves you can change like that. But reuniting with my mom taught me the sweet taste of forgiveness and the comforting warmth of healing old wounds.

VULNERABILITY

Whenever people get to know about my being bipolar, if they’ve heard of it at all, the first thing they’ll ask is “what crazy shit did you do while being manic?”. And though I can’t deny that the manic state does create quite entertaining situations sometimes, we shouldn’t forget the tragedy behind it. Throwing your life against a wall while everyone is watching in disbelief — just to then start realizing that you messed up everything, and might have lost some people that really belonged in your life — is heartbreaking.
You wake up and feel like being in a nightmare.

Bipolar makes us vulnerable. Vulnerable to crush under stress and pressure, vulnerable to fall for the wrong people, vulnerable to get in trouble over impulsive questionable behavior, and vulnerable to get swept away by a flood of emotion that consumes it all.

Losing control of your mind means losing control of everything and that is fucking scary. It’s like floating endlessly, and we need to have something to hold onto in case we drown. Someone who pulls us back softly when we swim too far out. I hope anyone who’s experiencing symptoms as such, has a person with whom they can be 100% honest about their feelings.

Too often we beat ourselves up for again feeling low energy, and think we’d have to pretend. If we can be honest with our closest surroundings about how things are today, they can help us notice imbalances early on. Having such support can make a crucial difference in how we are able to manage our extremes.

It is hard to reconnect to people after recovering from an episode of grandiosity or severe isolation — I know. The shame and guilt made me want to vanish sometimes. But standing up in humility & admitting your situation gives your loved ones the chance to support you in your most vulnerable state. It creates a bond even stronger than that one mania might have burned down.

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Yoga Teacher. Meditator. Lover. Dancing Witch. Philosopher. Storyteller & Explorer — Penetrating the depths of reality. Talking about womb healing & shadow work

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Jasmin's Dharma

Jasmin's Dharma

Yoga Teacher. Meditator. Lover. Dancing Witch. Philosopher. Storyteller & Explorer — Penetrating the depths of reality. Talking about womb healing & shadow work

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