My daughter suffers from bipolar disorder. This illness has an impact on all family members (and some close friends) of a person with this disorder. Each family member would experience the impact differently. This is how her illness has affected me.
She was diagnosed about ten years ago at the age of 41. At first there was shock and a lack of understanding. Where did this come from? What caused it? Should I have recognized it long ago? Did I do, or not do, anything that caused it? These are just a few of the questions that went through my mind.
As a mother, I immediately felt the need to fix it. I couldn’t! I could, however, learn everything I could about the illness in general, and her case in particular. I talked to her a lot. I went with her to one of her psychiatrist’s appointments. I read books and searched the internet.
I wanted to be there for her, but what should I do to help? I supported her as best I could by encouraging her and not judging her or her behaviours. When she was overwhelmed by dirty dishes, I washed them. When she couldn’t drive places I took her. I listened to her fears and hopes.
Was I helping too much? Should I do less, or more? I tried hard not to over react to mood swings. I did not want to enable behaviours that were not helping her but it was not easy to know what was appropriate and what was counter productive.
As difficult as this experience has been for my daughter and her family, I am so proud of her. She has climbed out of a dark hole and works diligently to stay on top of her symptoms. The silver lining (I believe) is that our relationship, which was always good, has grown and developed enormously. We are more than mother and daughter, we are friends!