To the Sons Who Embrace Every Version of Their Bipolar Mama
If I could explain my bipolar disorder as an alternate universe residing within each fiber of DNA, or the aliens that abduct mothers to find the answers, the light, the path to the center of an uninhabited world, ultimately in decay. Explorers, escaping a Jurassic kingdom, digging deep into the earth, only to discover an inevitable death at the hands of an unexpected volcanic eruption. Or the pirates searching for gold in the belly of a shark, ironically the most beloved creature in all the land. Or a lone human survivor joining the ranks of an evil army, headed by a robotic god, in search of a new species to reign terror upon…
I could make this an adventure.
Dinosaurs, aliens, robots: they can replace the monster that truly lives in our home. I could speak your language, fantasizing the fits of rage, the bedridden days and loud sobs. I could be the hero in the story, the good that always prevails, flying high and lifting you up when you know the monsters will find me again; and I shall prevail once more, over and over and over again, until one day, there are no such things as monsters. There is only me, ill.
So, to my sons, the heroes that gave my ever changing mood swings a mystical glow, so we could observe in awe like a story that had us on the edge of our seats; I thank you. The truth is, my disease is not a science fiction thriller. It is a real struggle, moment to moment, trying to maintain. It is the life of a mom, seeming completely “normal” at your soccer practice, only to have gotten out of bed just for that reason alone.
I built an identity around striving to be “normal and worthy of kindness and connection.” I always struggled showing who I really was because I never actually knew between the ups and downs. I became a chameleon, blending into whatever environment I stumbled upon over the years. Depleted energy from being someone I wasn’t, along with inevitably burning bridges. Weeks and sometimes even months of depression became an ongoing pattern, a cursed way of life. I hated it, me, how I operated, all of it. Suicidal thoughts were always comforting, just as an absolute out.
I accepted that I was mentally ill, that I am mentally ill, only after you were born. Learning to take responsibility for who I am and still be aware of the “abnormal functioning of brain circuits” is confusing. Am I sensing euphoria or am I just having a good day? Am I tired or am I sensing the onset of apathy and fatigue? Are these goals actually realistic or am I a bit too grandiose? Is it stress or is it reoccurring post-traumatic stress? I start to lose steam. Awareness is key, but I get tired. I just want to be “normal.” And then I see you. Your faces; so alive, so eager. You have never questioned my sanity. If anything, I can always feel your respect for my tenacity to keep going. “Mama has her sad days and happy days.” You understand that it’s OK to feel sad and have bad days. If it’s a part of mama, then it has to just be a part of life. It’s as if the universe enlightened you just for me.
Remember, my boys, my greatest adventures, to know you is how I found myself. Every inch, every detail, every perfection, every flaw, every second you have been with me, I grow more accepting of who I am. I embrace every version of me — scared, dying, high, complete, ecstatic, belligerent, starving, drunk. Those young women, versions of myself I can physically breathe in, hold and comfort. Especially that very little girl I have avoided for so long. All because I know, without a doubt, I would go through it all over again, word for word, pain and poor decision making I fell victim to undiagnosed, for you. I would willingly accept my disease, all it has manifested and relive it repeatedly, just to know you will be exactly you; every detail taken into consideration, just to ensure your arrival into my life. Everyday, I am exactly where I need to be.
You relish in my weirdness of ups and downs, and all-arounds.
I’m bipolar II (high risk to depressive episodic relapse). But you just call me mom.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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Unsplash photo via Jordan Whitt