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Illness or Feud

*A excerpt I am writing for a chapter in my memoir highlighting the illness she faced before the aneurisms*

Bipolar is an illness that robs your loved ones of their lives and sends you into battle with one another. I watched my mom fall victim to the illness for many years. I didn't understand much of what she was going through and truly believed that my mother hated me or controlled me, but in reality she was ill.

To provide perspective on what someone living with Bipolar is like, let me provide a brief overview of characteristics and examples.

Bipolar was once known as a manic depressive disorder, meaning that someone would experience very rapid mood swings of sadness and "happiness". The lows are known as the depressed phase, which is a constant. And the highs are known as "mania". These high's can appear as if the person is experience a burst of energy, someone unaware of Bipolar might see this is a healthy new leaf for someone that has been experiencing a very long "low" phase. In reality, this is a very scary place for someone with Bipolar. These highs can be characterized as: rapid speech, excessive spending, inflated self image, inability to sleep, poor judgement, and disorganized energy. Let's put this in perspective.

My mother would spend a lot of her time in bed playing candy crush, this was a daily occurrence for us to spend time together. This could be categorized under the "lows". To me she was relaxing, to her it was the inability to leave bed and find an interest to do anything else. A burning emptiness was occurring. And if anyone asked to do something otherwise it provoked an outburst. It turned into no longer cooking, no grocery shopping, barely doing much else besides going to work and sleeping. We made peace with this, she needed space and time.5\

Until mania hit. It normally began with the inflated self image. What this means is she had an inflated sense of her own importance, she needed excessive attention and lacked empathy for others. Now, you can image that having someone who looked at themselves like this may disturb the relationships they have in their lives. This is exactly what happened. I was getting older and needed space to become independent, she did not like this. She needed her little girl to spend every moment at home with her, even if that meant doing nothing, at least I was under her watch. And if I did not, it became a manipulation game to make me feel bad for whatever was going on in her life at work. She did not care if I had plans or wanted to meet new people, it became a very toxic relationship. After many years of this behaviour I had enough and stopped feeding into her 'games'. At this time I was 19 years old, had separated from my ex-boyfriend that she was attached to and I was with someone new. A grave war between her and I ensued. Her inflated self became very god-like, pulling strings in my life so align with the narrative she wished to see. She did everything in her power to tear down my new relationship and make me return to my old one. This added fuel to the fire and inevitably pushed us apart.

I was on lunch with my best friend when I received the most cunning text message from my mother, I knew her words could cut deep but her words became tsunamis and washed over every good memory I had. I no longer saw the light at the end of the tunnel and collapsed at work. I was placed on medical leave for a few days and found myself in therapy twice a week.

I found myself in a bright room, fish tank to my right, a man in a chair to my left. I already knew I was manic depressive and managing anxiety on my own, no need for another PhD to tell me I was. Four hours a week I sat in a chair, watching fish blow bubbles. Reaching the edge of the cliff, I was holding on by a sliver of hope scrounge up to unpack my life ending thoughts. Inevitable sadness overcoming my mind puppeteered by my mother. Trapped in my mother's one woman show as a ventriloquist. The relationship between my mother and I was non-existent, we lived in the same four walls but rarely exchanged words. It was an odd relationship to have, especially with someone you once spent every waking moment with.

This is where the lack of empathy kicks in. I told her I was unwell and had broken down in sadness at work due to her words and actions towards me. Her response was to be more professional at work and get over myself because I was inflating the situation.

Next in mania we have disorganized energy. When she was in this phase my mother would start about 5 different projects at a time, all of which were never quite complete. My mother would get these ideas in her head and my father would support her because he knew it made her happy. One minute she is laying in bed, the next she is washing the floors, oh wait the bed looks better on this side of the room lets move it, wait is there laundry in the dryer? Now she's sweeping the balcony. Again, someone may find this normal as if that person is keeping busy, but it is a tell tale sign that they are experiencing a manic episode.

And the biggie, excessive spending and poor judgement. In my mind these go hand and hand. A few months before my mother passed we had a water leak in our house, the bathroom upstairs leaked into the hallway near our kitchen. My parents were told the ceiling could be repaired and the ceiling will just ever so slightly will be unmatched, barely noticeable. My mother took this as rip it all out and renovate the kitchen. Of course we always spoke about renovating the kitchen, but there wasn't a need to it was perfectly fine. Thousands of dollars later and judgement that might have been just slightly off-par.

Of course there is a way to live your life normally where no one would notice this illness. Lord, I mean my mother did it quite seamlessly that I barely noticed it was the Bipolar making her act out. She was placed on mood stabilizers and a plethora of medications. That doesn't mean this manic episodes stop occurring, they just become more manageable. These manic episodes typically occur at the same time of the year and increase in the onset of spring and fall.

I always knew my mother was ill and I understood from a very young age that my mother was diagnosed Bipolar. I did not understand for a very long time what that meant. In my fantasy world that meant she had mood swings, I barely understood the intricacies of it. Because of this I blamed myself for many disputes in my adolescent years when she was still alive.

When she first passed away I beat myself up for months believing that I was the main contributor in our feud. The more I matured and the more I reflected on the totality of the situation I discovered that the illness ruled her mind like a dictatorship. A didn't equal B in her mind, A subtracted B which multiplied C and equalled D. The plans in her mind were scattered and only made sense to herself. I'm not sure what narrative my mother believed in her head and I never will, but I no longer hold the grief that it was my fault.

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