I wrote this with my mom to be useful particularly for moms who are struggling with acceptance for their child struggling with bipolar disorder.
My Mother’s Story
Witnessing my child experience Bipolar Disorder
I never saw Bipolar Disorder coming into my daughter’s life. I believed I was seeing adolescence finally kick in as she began to be more moody, distant, and stay up late. She had the typical problems with boys, friends, and the freedoms that come with turning sixteen.
“Bipolar Disorder? What’s that?”
Robin was such a happy child. She was a very good student. She wasn’t angry. She wasn’t even rebellious. She never kept secrets from me. But in early adolescence she was wounded deeply by her peers and her relationship with her sister, watching me struggle with cancer, and her grandma’s death. She shut down and held everything in. There was nothing I could do to help her, except watch. We sent her to a therapist, but she impressed them with her self-awareness and maturity. She trusted no one with her pain.
I didn’t know that she wasn’t sleeping at night. Once in a while I’d hear something or see her light on, but it wasn’t a big deal to me because I had difficulty sleeping at night, too.
I once walked into her room and caught her with chemistry and physics books. I told her to go to sleep, but I was proud of her for studying. So I left her alone.
A while after the diagnosis, she showed me what she was doing at night. She showed me her teaching bible. She had strategically highlighted it in four colors. She said each color represented a different voice in the bible. Each color had several meanings. If I remember right, in one case blue was acceptance, pink was love, green was responsibility, and purple was forgiveness. I thought nothing of it. It turns out she was doing this with Buddhist texts, the Koran, the Tanakh, any religious texts she could get her hands on. It was then that she shared with me that while she was manic she believed she was a prophet and was to be the mother of the messiah. I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time because I would never have known how to respond.
One day, I looked through her school notebooks. She had taken notes and done work, yet the pages were covered with intricate and complex drawings that she had never drawn before. They were beautiful, yet strange. I didn’t want to comment on them since I felt it would hurt her. She said they help her focus in school for school was moving too slow. But I left it alone because she’s very bright and was doing well in school. Now I know that the work I saw was not school work at all. She was devising a plan to save the world. During that time period she wasn’t doing well in school at all. Her teachers thought something was wrong in her life and let her slide.
I did know how badly she wanted to have sex. I even offered to take her to a sex toy store to keep her from acting on her urges, perhaps I should have left it alone a little and let her explore online stores, such as lovegasm or similar. She openly talked about masturbation at the kitchen table. This was alien to our family. She spoke about porn and how she visited https://www.tubev.sex/. But I didn’t know she was calling all the boys she knew to try to have sex. It was interesting that they all turned her down. They were either scared of how straight forward she was, or knew something was wrong because that just wasn’t her.
I really started seeing the changes in my daughter when we went for a vacation. I was stuck in the car with her for nine hours. Right away I could see something was wrong. So I started a journal. She would go from so happy and fun, to attacking me verbally in the car, to crying about her pain. When we were pulled over for speeding, she yelled and cursed at the highway patrolman.
When we got to our destination, I was walking on eggshells. She reacted to everything I said or did with intense emotion – intense joy, intense pain, intense rage, and intense guilt. I knew my daughter was sensitive, but this was beyond any level of emotion I had ever seen her experience. Her mood changed within the blink of an eye.
I thought I knew her, but my child was a stranger to me and I didn’t like her. In fact, while she was manic, I couldn’t stand her. We’ve joked about this now. When she was manic I wanted to, as she puts it, “kick her ass”. I never laid my hands on her because I was afraid of her. She may have thought she was a prophet, but at times she acted like she was possessed by evil. I must admit, she did seem to possess certain super human qualities. But it is hard to see the good in the same behavior that is attacking you.
One of the best things that happened to us is that I accidentally hit her with the phone. In response, she called the police to report child abuse while I was at the market. When authorities arrived, I told them about what had been going on and they wanted to arrest her for her own safety. But they didn’t because the sheriff knew her and decided to keep her safe and isolated at home.
She calmed down, but then became more and more violent. She felt trapped and attacked a door with a hammer even though the door wasn’t locked. I was horrified by her behavior. She threatened to beat up a little boy for splashing water at her friend. She got into a fistfight with her friend who was with us. I must admit that I was rooting for the friend. She called her best guy friend and told him that they needed to have sex because she’d get pregnant and their child would be the messiah. She had visions of being raped earlier in her life. I didn’t know what to believe, but she needed help.
I’d had it. I’d written down everything I knew at the time.
So we drove for another nine hours being tortured by her until she fell asleep.
It felt as though she didn’t wake up from that sleep. When we arrived at home she was a different person. There was an absence of emotion. She could hardly move or communicate. She’d get this look in her eyes of terror. She knew something was wrong with her. Sometimes she’d mumble, “I’m crazy.”
When we had her diagnosed, she was unable to speak for herself. My journal told her story.
When I looked into Robin’s eyes, I did not see her. Her eyes were vacant. There was nothing I could do to help her but pray that the medications work and that they work fast.
The medications worked slowly. It was hard for me to be there for her after all the torture she put me through. But I found a way because I knew that everything I’d witnessed wasn’t really my daughter. I could clearly see the Bipolar Disorder. I was determined to be by her side and help her reclaim her life.
I can’t tell anyone how to be a mother of a person living with Bipolar Disorder. I know I wasn’t perfect. But I can say that your child needs to know that you accept them and that you see them for who they are, and not define them by the disorder.