Today, 30 March 2021, is World Bipolar Day. I’m Lysiane, a 31 year old French volunteer over at Euro Youth Mental Health who cares very much about understanding bipolar disorder. I know you might now expect me to tell you about how I was diagnosed, however this is about me and it isn’t. Don’t misunderstand me, I have my own truck load of mental health problems (that are a topic for another day) but this one is not mine – it’s my mom’s. Being now close to 72 years old, my mom has lived with undiagnosed bipolar disorder and not knowing that it was even a condition for most of her life. As you can imagine, being born in 1950 in a very small village in south of France where “don’t talk about it, just deal with it” is pretty much the motto did not set her up for the best support she could receive.
I entered the equation in 1989 and quickly realized that growing up in this house wasn’t going to be a piece of cake. My mom and I had a very complicated relationship based on a “I wish you were like me and I wish you weren’t” dynamic. She was struggling and so was I but none of us could understand why.
She was at times very enthusiastic but also in what seemed to be a race to get anything done, to get anything accomplished and that included me. So I had to be perfect and do better than what she did but it also was wrong because the way I was did not match her idea of how I was supposed to be. Then there was the period of deep depression where I did not know how to behave, did not understand her reactions or lack there of. I was absolutely desperate for approval, doing anything I could think of to be acknowledged but it was never what I actually wanted or needed. I couldn’t understand how my mom could be so different from one time to another, how her expectations of me could change so much, how she could say terrible things to me but also rush in to interrupt my class to tell me how sorry she was and asking for forgiveness.
Not having real mental health resources or education available at the time was absolutely critical in how our lives and in how our relationship shaped. All that was available to us was biased pre-made ideas on how this “was just her personality”, “that I should just let it go and it’ll pass” and complete dismissal of her pain and mine. It took over 50 years for my mom to see different therapists and endless push to get a diagnose. After decades of arguing and struggle, of running away, begging for her to stay in care it one day happened. She was explained by someone completely neutral, who had proved experience and knowledge of dealing with struggles she faced why she needed this, how therapy and treatment could drastically improve her quality of life. She was told that no it was not something she could “just get over” and that yes she already was making efforts but not all depended on that. This is the day where things started changing and if I’m being honest, I never thought they could. After all this time and pain, I just pushed her towards care with no belief she would ever go through it. I grew up getting used to being let down. And even as I gained knowledge on the topic of mental health, letting go of that feeling is something that I am still struggling with.
Treatment allowed me to get to know my mom instead of the bipolar disorder in her, to accept that it was a part of her but far from being all of it. To understand that her trauma and mine can collide in a million of harmful ways and that protecting myself is also protecting her. To understand that she needed and still needs guidance, resources, that she doesn’t do things out of intent but out of not feeling like she has any other solutions. So here’s to building bridges, no matter how long it takes to build them, no matter how frail they might seem. They still give us a way through and we just need to go through it at our own pace mindfully.
Take care of yourselves and yours. There is and will always be a way.
Until my next ramblings and with love,