Crossposted at realmental.org
I am not my mother’s daughter.
My mother has been Bipolar since puberty. She’s allowed to say that in certain company. I am not.
I know that I’m not even allowed to say that Mommy reads the National Enquirer.
My mother got up one morning, having not woken up from her drunken nightmare state. She called her step mother and told her what she thought of her. My mommy would never do that. She doesn’t have the back bone for it.
My mommy came flying down the hall to my room to tell me that it was my responsibility to get my brother ready for school. And my brother’s best friend Isaac. I knew it was easier for my mommy to think that way, that my brother was my son too. Mommy couldn’t tell her husband from her brother. But why did my mother think that Isaac was my responsibility too?
“You had better be sweet to him, Daughter! Or he’s going to leave me and it will all be your fault.” My mommy was so desperate. My mother was so apathetic.
My mother has been Bipolar since puberty. She’s allowed to join a book group and write about it in her memoir. She’ll publish it when she retires, so she won’t be fired for what she’s written. I am not allowed to tell this story on the blog that has my name attached. I know that my space on my blog is not really my own. Mommy’s friends might read it.
The Truths I know will get us by. If the front yard is well manicured, then no one will see the Crazy barely contained just behind the front door. If we smile for every picture, then we have happy memories. Expensive straight teeth are the same as a smile. Do not ever let yourself go, self-control is beautiful. If I start to gain weight, then the world will know things are not ok at home.
If I plunge myself under water when I scream, then it’s ok to scream: “Things are not ok at home!” I can swim away, I can run away, but a lap just brings me back to who I am.
Who am I? A string of psychologists and psychiatrists have given me many labels and many pills. Some of them have made their determination of me based solely on my mother’s history. I am my mother’s daughter, I am obviously depressed, I must be bipolar too. Some of them will listen to me for an hour, mumble something about anxiety and push me out the door with a prescription sedative. “It’s for sleeping at night,” he says as he looks at me a little too gently “but you can take one any time you feel you need to.”
I do not feel that I need to take it during the day. I can get through the day just fine, just like my mother. It’s behind closed doors, when I try to slow down for a minute. I can’t slow down. I’m either moving or I’m sleeping. It’s that slowing down in between awake and asleep that frightens me so much. That is the place where I am overrun by guilt, shame, rage, self-doubt, panic, binge eating, and loneliness. Oh, The Loneliness.
Am I ok? I don’t know. I guess that’s why there are psychiatrists and psychologists. I’m in this new town, with this new husband, in a new hospital in a different city and a doctor. We have decided to create a new child of our own. My new doctor, who has met me once, believes that the sedative (which is Category C), is unnecessary while I’m trying to have a baby.
If I don’t need it during the day, then why am I so scared about not having it at night? Will I sound addicted, if I call up and beg for it? God forbid, I would sound crazy!
Do I get to say? Do I get to self-diagnose? I’ve lived with me a lot longer than any shrink who’s spent an hour looking at a file. Can I write down “PTSD/Anxiety/Prone to mild depression” in my file and call it that?
Am I more than who I am at my worst? Is my mother? Is my mommy?
I lived with my mother for years, so I could never explain to anyone why I missed my mommy. The sight of me always made my mother look tired, bored, disinterested. Everything I said was met with my mother’s sigh, or a jealous scream. My mommy was always happy to see me. My mommy was imperfect, needy, and a little bit spacey, but I never doubted that she loved me. Not for a minute.
I will never recover from the sadness of knowing that my mommy is gone, but in many ways, I can breath now because my mother is gone too. My mom is alive and well. Divorce looks good on her, so does a horse’s dose of Tegretol. Still, I can only say that out loud if I’m screaming under water. She is shining in the brightest years of her life. She can not contain her excitement at the thought of her first grandchild.
I am my mom’s daughter. I can’t wait for my first child either.