So yesterday i spoke to my mum. This was the first phone chat we’ve had since she got well again at beginning of last week. It was the first chat but we’ve been attempting to talk since Thursday. That’s 4 days it took between our first acknowledgment that a chat would be good and actually making it happen. It doesn’t sound like a big deal does it? But the more i think about it, the more i think its such a great metaphor for this whole Bipolar life we all share in.
So first i think i should admit the part my thoughts and feelings play in this metaphor. I want my mum. I always have and always will. This means that as soon as she’s well i have an urgency to touch base, to check in with one another, to hear my mum’s voice (however chaotic and annoying). I now liken my love for my mum with an addiction; its so often not present (her ability to show love to me) that i crave it and as soon as i know its available i need a fix. And so last Tuesday i receive the standard text from my dad “She’s well” and that’s it, i become pre-occupied with the need to speak to her. I have got better over the years. As I’ve learnt more about Mum’s Bipolar so i have learnt that in that first day or 2 of happiness Mum isn’t very clear and is often completely deprived of sleep (another side effect of the transition from sad to happy) so i can wait, i will bide my time.
The next component in this metaphor of Mum and Bipolar is my dad’s role in it all. I think perhaps there is much more to say about my dad and his relationship with my mum’s mental health and all of us but that will be another blog. Needless to say Dad’s key role is that of gatekeeper. He is mum’s protector and last week his protective duties were in full flow. So, dad didn’t think mum should chat right now, or mum is having some quite time upstairs so dad will get her to ring me etc etc. Now while i appreciate dad’s role here (he must try to limit mum’s activities and sociability initially to try and prevent her getting too high too quickly) it often feels misplaced when its me. I think I’m one of the few people mum should speak too – more on this in a minute. So what actually happens, as it did from Thursday last week through to yesterday is that Dad and i speak a lot, often more than once a day, as a i ring to try to catch mum or to reply to her missed calls and he answers. This isn’t a bad thing; dad and i get on well, we speak a lot especially while Mum’s sad. But at these points in time it f eels that he is standing in the way of me getting my mum time, or that he’s keeping things from me.
Then, in this metaphor, we have my mum herself. Like i said, in those first few days of feeling happy again mum doesn’t sleep and is often feeling all sorts of emotions and she can’t chat. However this phase ends within 48 hours and she is soon happy, excited to be back in the world, getting busy with tasks around the house and garden, and making all sorts of social engagements. So often the time elapses before my first conversation with mum because she’s too busy and then when she does make contact, she is oblivious to my routined life (work, school run etc) and calls when i can’t be available. When this phase goes on longer, because it can, i feel my resentment building up. How can my mum go from one extreme (talking too me to tell me how low she is, to tell me she’s worthless and that she can’t cope) to not talking too me at all because she’s so happy that she’s too busy?
The final component to this metaphor of last week’s returning happiness and my subsequent phone call is this; my parents lifestyle. I know I’m there daughter and they are obviously grown adults who take responsibility for their lives BUT mum has Bipolar. And not only that but they have recently been told that there’s no further place to go with drugs, that currently they’ve tried all that’s available and this (4 weeks sad, 4 weeks happy) is as good as it gets. What went with this sentence was the idea that mum needs to focus now on herself, her way of living, her decision making skills. As their child i know how much this needs to include dad too. Partly because although mum has always been a person interested in her self discovery, her ability to help her self, and hugely in support of natural and age-old remedies and processes, it is the very nature of the Bipolar that means she can not keep this on track, not alone. But also this new focus should include my dad because dad is not like that, he has believed the drugs would find a solution that such a chemically based condition must be treated by chemical inducing or changing drugs and not relaxation or healthy eating. And lets face it, its a lot easier to base wellness on drugs than it is on your way of life.
Mum got well on the Tuesday. On the Wednesday my parents had old friends come and stay the night and the whole of Thursday. They’ve been out dancing, and had another old friend down for the day. All in the space of 5 days. For someone who knows (sometimes) that she needs stability, routine, sleep this doesn’t seem like a great idea. And this is how my parents live. Now my mum when she’s low talks too me urgently about her need to focus on what she needs and that once she’s well i/everyone must make her stick to it. This is a well-versed script that i have heard for years. Now the doctors/psychiatrists are saying it too. Dad will say he agrees. But it never happens. I get it. I get the need for fun and friends and freedom after weeks of hell (for both of them) but there’s no self control on either of their parts. So yesterday on the phone to mum, i listened to her fabulous few days of fun, of being busy, of spending money frivolously, of not having any sleep and i say at the end that I’m so glad she feels well but that she told me to be strict with her and with dad, that they’ve already done too much. Currently she can hear that without getting very angry and she agrees. She tells me they are doing nothing the next day. I wish i could believe her good intentions.