Hells Bells

Hells Bells
Heart of the Heart of the Country
February 01
Book editor, parent, MFA in poetry from a land far, far, away--and a long, long time ago . . . I'm not a psychologist, but I play one on TV.


Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 11, 2010 2:03PM

About My Bipolar Daughter (Part 2)

Rate: 46 Flag


Read Part 1 of this post.  

Jane's expenses are next to nothing--she lives in a one-room apartment on the college campus--but even so, I know she’ll run out of money by the middle of next month, and I wonder what will happen then.  Her father and I divorced many years ago but have agreed not to finance her life anymore, the way things are.  I wrote a script to follow before I called to tell her we were cutting her off.

Dear Jane:Your dad and I talked. We love you, but because you have continued to drink alcohol and have stopped taking your medicine, we won’t be paying for school or any living expenses. We are both very worried about your alcohol abuse and think you need to get into treatment to get better. Right now, neither of us is willing to have you stay in our homes. We have agreed to pay your first month’s rent at the new place and will continue to pay your medical expenses for a while longer. This is a very hard decision for us both, but we think it’s the best thing we can do to help you become the responsible adult we know you can be. Love, Mom

The raising of Jane has fallen to me. This is what you’re supposed to do, right? Tough love?

It’s about a half an hour until I’m called back to the curtained area where they’ve taken Jane to get her ready for the endoscopy and colonoscopy.  As it turns out, she is dehydrated, and the nurse has blown one vein before getting the IV in another, and it’s obvious Jane has been crying.  In the hospital gown, she looks so small . . . about 12. I stroke her head, once, smoothing her hair, but I pull my hand away quickly, not knowing if my touch will make her lash out at me again. I just want to get through this.

The nurse asks Jane if she knows why she’s having the procedure and at first, she says, “I don’t know.” She does, though, but it takes her a minute to marshal her thoughts. She’s had stomach problems for over a year. She’s been taking Prilosec, but everything she eats still makes her feel sick. Lately, there’s been bleeding from the rectum. 

After a time, they take her out on the gurney to the procedure room. I wait with the curtains drawn around me, the bed no longer there, nothing left but the blank expanse of shiny tile floor. I see myself from above, the middle-aged woman in the chair, child gone. I breathe. I think, if Jane were a normal child, I would be worrying about the possibility of stomach ulcers, even cancer, but I admit to myself what I am really worrying about is how she will be when she comes back. Will she wake up calm or fighting? Will she let me take her back to my house, even if I decide I can stand to have her there? Will she go back to her one-room apartment, where she tells me a friend has agreed to baby-sit her until the sedation wears off?

Finally, they wheel her back in. She’s out and so for a while at least I feel we are both safe. The nurse comes and goes, checking her blood pressure.  Then the doctor comes in, dressed in a lavender shirt and tie, no white coat. He tells me the procedures went well and shows me  pictures of the open throat, the GI tract.  Jane said his teeth are bad, the kind of detail she would notice, but I concentrate instead on his calm, melodic voice, his vaguely British accent. He tells me everything is normal.

So now she’s awake, still groggy but ready to go home, and the nurse is helping her to get dressed and will bring her down in a wheelchair, as is protocol. I make my way to the parking garage, confused by the bright sunshine but feeling good that it’s over. We’ve made it this far. I find my car on the fourth level and head for the main hospital entrance to pick Jane up.  But she's not there.

Where did they tell me to go? They told me here, but as I wait, the thought begins to circle in my head that maybe I’ve gotten it wrong, that I should be at the GI procedures patient drop-off and not at the main entrance. Soon the thought becomes a certain knowledge that I’m at the wrong door, so I drive to the other drop-off location and get out, but I find the door locked. 

With my hand on that locked door, even though I know that if she’s not here, Jane must be somewhere in the hospital, I feel a sudden terror that I've lost her.  It’s  the same frantic feeling, that instant you turn down an aisle in a store and suddenly your child is gone. Heart pounding, I get in the car again and go back where I came from, and there she is in the main circle drive, smiling.

The volunteer pushing her wheelchair puts her in the car. She's woozy, unsteady, and I help her fasten her seat belt.  "I’m starving," she says.  She coaxes me into buying her Subway, a meatball sandwich, even though the nurse has said to just drink some juice and eat some crackers and see how that stays down.  I want to give her what she wants, but I’m afraid she’ll make herself sick.  Now she’s tearing into the sandwich, and I tell her, "Slow down. Just eat a little, or you’ll throw up."

She looks up at me, smiling again, and says, "Even if I did puke in your car, you’d still love me, right, Mom?" 

The Original Bipolar Child Series

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HB. This is so heartwrenching to read. What do we do? What is the right thing? Are we making things better or worse by our actions and reactions????? Tough Love = Who has it tougher? We or them? Sorry, my friend, no answers - just more questions.
articulately and beautifully written Hells Bells.
I read Part One too. Besides being beautifully written, this is so tearing at the heart as a mother. The juxtaposition of love, and wanting to do what's right, even if it means holding back one's emotions... I wish you all the strength and patience to cope with this horrible monster called bipolar disorder. Rated with sympathy.
That last sentence grabs one by the throat and gives a big high-five to the hardship of parenting a child with a mental illness. We love them and they know it. This was heart wrenching in the simple way you presented it, the mute emotion and then the frantic feelings, thinking you had lost her. I hope you are able to publish this: I can think of many families who need to know they are not alone.
Reality bites - the love of a mother for a child is unfathomable when we see it at work like this. I've given up in the moments when its gotten too tough, then regrouped, and talked myself back into the ring. I admire your stamina HB. And your love.
Ohhhh, the new avatar... is it you dear girl?
Yup . . . it's me at 17. Thanks to you all for commenting. I hope others will as well.
This shines a light on both mental illness, and what it means to "be there" for someone suffering with bi-polar disorder. All the more so because it's from a parent's perspective. Your writing does it justice, HB . . . to the degree that writing can. There's always so much more . . .
never knowing what to expect from her one moment to the next, walking on eggshells, trying to do the right thing...all poignantly expressed here, hb.
All the best going forward, HB. I feel so for you.
My sister is bi-polar and my mother was always there for her. I tried for years but it became overwhelming. Now I help her daughters, we share the care when things break down and remind each other of how much we love.
Rated with love
This is beautifully written. And so difficult to read. You and your daughter are in my prayers.
You really nail how this feels, the constant ache for your daughter, the worry that if you reach out to stroke her hair she might lash out at you, the panic when you go to the wrong place & fear that maybe you've lost her, or maybe not being right there at the exact moment will set her off. This is beautifully written & spot on.
nothing to say. tough love/tough life/well-wrought

at the end of her life my alzheimer's mother became my child. Had to tell her she couldn't have her brownie until she'd finished the rest of her dinner on the plastic assisted living tray.
I am glad that for now, things are OK. I deeply wish they could stay that way.
Does her GI doc know about her drinking? Recommended with hugs. I hope you are trying Al-Anon and considering involuntary commitment, if possible. Sometimes, getting into the system is the best possible outcome.
This is so beautifully written I find myself looking for part 3. I also find myself hoping for the chapter called "happy ending."
She is right. We love them no matter what. It is inescapable. ~r
From one mother to another, sending thoughts and love. Beautifully rendered piece feels shallow to write after the reading of this, however, you have to know that it is powerful and affecting.
You have me gulping to swallow tears. Just the everyday potholes, speedbumps and wrong turns -- I know it must be exhausting and so disappointing to see your beloved child going in every disastrous direction and being unable and too worn to stop her from running into traffic. That's not what you wanted for her, what you want for her now, or how you imagined it would be so many years ago. I so wish I had some words of advice. Just...be good to yourself.
All of this is so powerful but the feeling of having lost her somewhere inside the hospital feels so threatening until you see her finally smiling. Smiling but not responding in a way that offers you relief. How difficult this is even to watch from a distance.
As a mother, I just bowed my head. Aptly told.
Thank you for sharing your story. It is painful to realise that solutions for others we love are beyond our reach. You're doing the most difficult thing - loving and supporting your daughter without letting her pull you under with her. Drawing strength from others in the face of such a heartbreaking situation will sustain you. You are so strong.
sadly i am all too familiar with sitting on the edge of uncertainty over a bi-polar child....wanting soo much to call and have a nice, normal conversation, but also too afraid to dial the number, fearing the anger that i will most likely encounter. i observe my friends with their healthy adult children and am saddened that my experience is nothing like theirs. sometimes i even feel a bit jealous.
This is so quietly terrifying; so familiar. Rated.
you write so well about something so close and raw; it is a gift to give insight to what is so often judged instead of understood. may peace be with you.
Bipolar disease is tragic. I'm sorry. The lack of self-awareness, colored by hallucinations and paranoia, is so hard for family. Do you know about NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)?
You amaze me with this writing, which has all of the hurried sense of emergency that someone with bipolar experiences. You drive yourself into your daughters experiences, and you give a voice to everyone who suffers from mental illness.
All I could think about was YOU throughout this account. What about you? I hope someone is loving and caring for you as much, or more. Excellent writing.
The lines become so blurry, don't they, when the love is so great and we must decide between what we want to do for them and what we should do or not. My thoughts float out to you.
Hi HB, been thinking about you and wondering what was up...perhaps it is because of the silly season beginning here and of course, Tall Girl (TG) is out there teetering on the edge. My heart goes out to you as always. I've had some disconcerting news about my health of late and it is heartbreaking to know that I cannot count on her for longer than 3 minutes at a time. Thank goodness for Baby Girl (BG) who is just now beginning to understand what I had been going thru when we lived up North. I've decided, here in the twilight, that we strategize and take steps as we are able to. And I applaud you and your ex husband for doing that. TG has been ranting about her sister not being added as representative payee for her and being the executrix of my will....yah yah yah....that' won't change even if pigs do fly.
Hang on my dear friend and I'll hang on with you.
BTW for those who would like to read more of HB's wonderful writing, just check out her lists on the left. If you'd like an 'inside out' perspective of this illness and what it does to families feel free to check out some of my writings at http://www.opensalon.com/patie001
Good luck to you and your girl.
As the mother of a bipolar child and the sister of a dual diagnosis adult, I can so relate to you here. I am so glad you were brave enough to post your experience. There will always be people giving you 10,000 reasons to shut up about it, but the rest of us need to know we are not alone. Please keep writing.
HB, We've "talked" before about our daughters. It is very painful and very difficult to know what to do. I pray. I still love her. But can I live with this? I keep trying...never give up...according to the Dali Lama. Never give up. We doing the best we can, and that has to be good enough. Hugs and love, and blessings on you.
These two pieces are so terrific that I find myself wordless, or almost wordless, rare for me. I identify with you as mom, of course, and also because I'm the daughter of a bipolar mother who still can't take care of herself. No easy answers here. Rated.
You are skillfully conveying what it feels like to watch one's child in the throes of mental illness. I feel myself getting angry at your daughter for putting you through this; then I correct myself. I'll bet you have to do the same thing, day in and day out. I'm looking forward to the next installment, almost with a little dread.

My heart hurts for you. Life with Jane sounds like an exercise in wrenching ambiguity. Please write more if you can.
i wanna give her what she wants, you say..
but i think it'll make her sick.
Only metaphorically or megalomaniacally does she know
what is good for her....what she wants is
a mere shadow of that.

You were scared shitless when you momentarily lost her.
She is constantly scared,
then her delusions or her depression comforts her.
All societal doors seem locked to her Uber-observant eyes.

Bipolar is uber/sensitivity/thought/will.\
No cure except self esteem.
No self esteem without the knowledge that
\you are loved.

ha.if she puked of course you would love her.
Notice: her words are the perfect ending for your piece.
She is archetypal, atypical, and just plain out of reach, often.

she needs...support.from near or afar.doesnt matter
ive been reading your blogs about your daughter and i swear these stories couldve been pulled straight from my life. im the crazy kid that torments her mother. ive been through the same procedure with my mom waiting in the wings...its amazing how much i resemble your daughter. it helps to know im not the only one and that when it looks like my mom has given up on me, shes still there, somewhere, with love.
Ty for sharing - some members of my family are undiagnosed bipolars
...this I know for sure
my own mental illness manifests itself in depression and adult ADD ...which is why I am on the pc too often (avoidance - hyperfocusing)
I understand exactly what you feel about fighting the urge to explain the actions to other people....My youngest brother is dramatic and self medicates with drugs and alchohol...I love him so, and have had to separate from him to the point I rarely see him - because he can cause too much unnecessary commotion or even be dangerous. Although I was always more a parent to him than a sister, and have nursed him through AIDS related struggles for 25 yrs...I could not imagine what it would be like for one of my own little ones were afflicted...
You are very brave!
hang in!
sorry that was meant to be -
In late June of 2007 my daughter, Kelly, died in a single car accident. She too was struggling with bi-polar. As a parent I know the isolation, terror and confusion. I am always devastated by her death but at times, am grateful that she is free of such torment.
Her younger sister wrote and read this piece for her funeral. It captures the spirit of those who are victims of this disease. Please HB know that you are not alone.

"True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, and waits to be transformed."
Tom Robbins

I believe this is an impact in which Kelly had upon all of us.
The truly and utterly unexpected she continually aroused.
She made the stable,inconsistent,
The stolid,passionate,
The composed, distraught,
The rigid, flexible,
The reasonable, pretentious,
The sensible, foolish,
The enemy soon became cherished,
The discouraged, was suddenly euphoric,
And the staid, fell nothing short of eccentric.

Being in such close proximity to her, it seemed to me, we lived in chaotic limbo. As the world turned, she continued to counter the spin. Not for destruction, but to keep us, the ones catching a ride on the merry-go-round of life, from falling out of our daze of dizziness, from slipping into a conventional and boring pre-destined style of living.

Kelly's unorthodox way of living, her passionate dysfuncional actions were executed to transform the dull scenery of the world into a beautiful blurred image . An image to keep us excited for what may be next. Not able to always make out the blurry edges of our topsy-turvy lives, so that tomorrow we will wake up and wonder what will be different and more beautiful then it was yesterday, the day before, and in the past. She kept things in whirl for us to see the beauty in it, not once, but may times over.

I also believe that love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as it's accomplice.
Instead of vowing to honor an obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words 'make' and 'stay' become inappropriate.
Kelly's love had no stings attached.
She loved you for free.
And always will.
I know it is tough, but you are doing the best thing for her. Sometimes the best thing you can do as parents to provoke the needed steps to recovery is to "precipitate a crisis" by not funding her anymore. Provoke her bottom-line, and you have a shot of getting her out of her dysfunctional homeostasis. All the best to you.
HB, I can feel it so clearly - all the tension wondering which will emerge from that hospital door: the calm or the explosive daughter. I haven't been on OS for months, but had the time this afternoon and wanted to check in. Last I read from you, things were somewhat better, and I'm so sorry that you now find yourself back in the hellish circle of worry.

All together, this series is a book in waiting, a really powerful one. Certainly it has affected me to the point that all these months later, I still think about you and your daughter and wonder how you are. Your writing is amazing, as is your poetry; add your daughter's enthralling art works and I really believe you would have a piece that would not only be brilliant, but would also help people. I know during my difficult months, I reached for every personal account I could find. I admire your writing, your courage, and your honesty.
Wishing you a calm December. Peace, K
This series and most of the posts are exactly what my daughter and I have been living for 15 years--she's now 32. I can't seem to find any way to help and I am depressed and exhausted. Has anyone had to stop trying to help? Has anyone felt you couldn't go on living with the pain of everything? Does anyone have any suggestions on understanding, helping or how to go on living when I can't find a way to help her?