Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Have you ever watched someone on the Uneven Bars? Its breathtaking how they maneuver so delicately between the bars. Just when you think they are going to crash into the bar, they are back up in the air soaring around, twisting and turning.  There is so much grace in the chaos that is this gymnastic event.

Much like those bars, my life had become a balancing act between my mom's personalities.  It wasn't until I 16 that a scientific label was put on the chaos that she was.  Manic Depressive Disorder, aka Bipolar disorder.

My mom could be the most graceful, giving person you would ever meet.  She could also be the most selfish, self-centered, egotistical, maniacal individual you ever met.  You never knew who you were going to meet that day.  Some days you didn't know if all 7 of her personalities would show up at once. I don't mean she was schizophrenic or suffering from multiple personalities.  She just could quite possibly have 7 different versions of herself.

The Helper.  
The Helper would make sure my sister Angie and I had all of our homework done and would help us with our various extra curricular activities.  She was quick to come to friends' rescue, "giving" of her self time and again. 

The Activist.   
The Activist could leap small building and defeat evil with both hands behind her back. At least she thought she could. She would fight the cause of the day with so much fervor and energy that she would wear you out just listening to her.  It didn't matter if it was political slants, environmental woes or humanitarian efforts. If it was a battle, she wanted to fight it. 

The Liar
The Liar was my least favorite. The amount of relationships she went through, and people she burned the days the Liar showed up are two many to count.  The lies that were told dipped just enough into the perceived reality to be believed by the innocent bistanderds but to those who knew better, they were simply lies.  They were intended to mame, kill and destroy, often with much success.

The Homemaker
She was my favorite.  She would clean until the house was spotless, cook until you gained 100 pounds, and created more fun and cool projects then you knew what to do with.  I loved when she showed up because, though a true manic episode, the house would finally feel like a normal home.

The Ravager
This one was known by the shear anger and hostility she held.  She made the Joker, the Abominator, Dr. Doom and Lex Luther look like bumbling idiots. She could eat you for breakfast, lunch and dinner and still want more.  It usually accompanied one of the others, but it was a force to be reckoned with.  The days that Ravager was around, Angie, Dad and I conveniently had other places to be.

The Victim
The Victim was the one we saw the most.  She was always somewhere around. She might have been quiet on some days but if you listened hard enough, you'd hear her whispers.  She found blame in everything and in everyone.  All of her problems were the direct result of someone else's stupidity.  Nothing she did was ever her fault.  

The Genius
Lastly, we had the genius.  This one got us into the most trouble.  She showed up with her well-timed, well-executed words that disarmed the most knowledgeable of opponents.  She was the master manipulator.  She could take out a single school system in one flick of her sward yielding hand.  Even experts walked away from the Genius feeling unqualified and stupid.

I am sure there were more then those seven but these were the ones that Angie and I named for our own sanity and protection.  We often used them as warning signals, allowing the others to know who they were getting that day and how they could prepare themselves.  

Angie was 3 years older then me and took the larger brunt of my mom's mania.  The expectations put on her at the age of 6 and 7 were beyond what any parent should put on their kid.  She was friend, confidant, punching bag, and dream catcher.  Being the baby, I was spared much of that until I turned 15 and Angie left for college.   Then all of those expectations fell on me.  Angie became the enemy, the abandoner, and the traitor to my mom's Victim.  

Before Angie left, i played the role of disapointer.  Much like my dad, i was the one who could never measure up. I never said the right thing and definitely couldn't do the right thing. Angie was the only one in the house who could do no wrong, until the day she left.

Where is my dad in all of this?  I think I was 12 when he finally had enough.  Angie and I begged him to leave.  Mom's anger seemed to intensify the longer they were together.  He seemed to be the bubling source of most of her wrath. For some reason, his calm demeanor, pleasant charm, and handsome good looks fed the Ravager, the victim and the liar, creating a perfect storm of chaos.  He could do nothing right in her eyes.  The first lie I remember her telling concerning my dad was a minor one. I heard her on the phone with his mother one day, telling her that he had stolen $100 from their account to buy porn.  Yes, she went there.  My grandma had been alone for almost 5 years after my granddad had been killed in a car accident.  She didn't have much left other then her children. They were her lifeblood.  My mom, playing the victim, was jealous of the relationship my grandma had with her 3 children.  Unintentionally, she set out to destroy it, one lie at a time.  

The biggest lie was the one that broke my dad and sent him packing, leaving my mom with an excuse to play the victim to its highest most dangerous level.  I was 12, my sister was 15.  We loved our dad. We had watched him take the abuse for our entire lives with so much grace and peace.  He never fought back verbally or physically. He wasn't a pushover. He was just soft spoken, kind, gentle and peaceful. He fought for his marriage, he fought for his children, but he did not play abuser to her victim. He did not play antagonist to her protagonist.  

I remember coming home from school one day to see 3 cop cars and a fire truck outside of our house.  When I walked in I saw my mom sitting on the couch, holding an ice pack to her shoulder.  Dad was against the wall in handcuffs, dried blood at the corners of his mouth.  I had seen the violence before but I never saw the cops involved.  

Before you think the wrong thing. My dad never laid a finger on my mom that wasn't filled with love and compassion.  His anger only manifested itself through his writing.  He was a talented and gifted writer.  He often published under an alias, not wanting his real name to get the publicity it would so deserve.  I knew as soon as I walked in the door, that this fight was hers. He was just an innocent bystander.

As the police interviewed him, my mom started hurling more accusations at him. She accused him of not only abusing her daily, but of abusing us.  She even hinted of sexual abuse, never quite going there.  Once the police pressed into the subtle insinuation, she backed down. 

I watched as they took my dad away, wondering if I would ever see him again.  The accusations flown his way in front of 6 cops and 2 EMTs was not going to go away easily.  I remember the fear that hung out in the pit of my stomach, knowing life had just been changed, destroyed forever. 

My mother withdrew the charges, but not before Dad spent 2 weeks in jail.  In that time, my sister and I had been interviewed by a dozen social workers and government officials.  It wasn't long before they all realized what they were really dealing with but when you are dealing with a potential abusive situation, you can't take anything for granted.  After the social workers and lawyers interviewed my mom for the hundredth time, she finally realized the holes in her stories and she dropped the charges.  The damage had already been done. My dad was already destroyed.  

My dad came home for about 2 weeks but only to get his bearings and to figure things out. He moved into his own 3-bedroom apartment about 15 miles away.  Far enough away that he thought she couldn't get to him but close enough to us that we were all happy.  

Playing the victim, my mom put all of the blame on my dad for his leaving.  She refused to or simply couldn't see the damage she had done all on her own.  To my mom, my dad gave up.  To us, he played the hero.

My mom had no idea how often we talked to and saw our dad.  To her, we only spent every other weekend with him. To her, he was just a bi-monthly paycheck.  To us, he was our confidant, our provider, our refuge, and mostly, he was our father.  We spoke to him one to two times a day.  We spent our afternoons there instead of at the after school tutoring sessions my mom thought we were at.  

At 18, Angie went off to school and cut off all communication with my mom.  She had tried her hardest in her high school years to be all that Mom needed her to be, but the freedom she faced being a thousand miles away, gave her room to slowly and completely detach herself from my mom.

Soon after, I became Mom's crutch and reason for living.  The burden I carried for her was on most days tough, but others, impossible.  My dad tried several times to talk me into fighting for custody.  I hated who my mom could be but she was still my mom. If I left her, that would be the true end to all that she was.

At 16, Mom finally sought the help she needed and was finally officially diagnosed, though for years we all knew the truth.  She started on a treatment plan that became our new roller coaster.  The one involving meds and the side effects they produce.  She was a softer version of herself.  If she was on the meds, the Ravager and the Liar stayed at bay.  The second she felt like she could self medicate, they came back, stronger and meaner then ever.
*** Subtle disclaimer and reminder.  The story above is just that, a story. It is not based on anyone i personally know.

Let me know what you think. I welcome feedback.

1 comment:

  1. Well...since you have a disclaimer stating you this isn't based on someone you can read some of my posts based on reality. I was horrified reading this, as I usually am when I read stories about people w bipolar. I can honestly say I have never been more relieved to find out something was a work of fiction!!! You wrote very well and I could see it playing out in my head. But that description fits less than 10% of people who actually suffer from it;) while it is the ugliest of ugly...I am actually struggling with infertility and as I was reading it all I could think is this is classic example of why people say bipolar people shouldn't have kids and I was almost tearing up. So you definitely get to the reader. Glad to have found you through the bloghop.