Posted November 6, 2011

My daughter and I both live with bipolar disorder, though her diagnoses continue to change, depending on the doctor or therapist. I’ve dealt with uncontrolled anger for all my life and was horribly verbally abusive to Marina as a child. I continue to wonder how much of what she has gone through (13 psychiatric placements, cutting, running away, overdosing, etc.) is tied to my onslaught of outbursts.

I tried for years to be a better mom, a better person. I saw seven or eight therapists, psychiatrist, done a couple dozen mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety drugs. I journaled, and I’d replay in my mind the look on her face when I’d scream and call her names. I’d relive the sickness in my stomach that I could feel even as the words were leaving my mouth hoping these mind games would help me change. It was always one step forward, one back, just as was my daughter’s journey with her own mental illness.

Then, two years after her last hospitalization, as we were starting to mend, I was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. The diagnosis was one more tool to help me in our relationship, at least to a degree. You hear some people say cancer changed their whole life – let them be the person they always wanted. I wish I could say that it had that much power. Staring my mortality in the face definitely helped me to take a step back, because it made me see I don’t know for sure how much time we have together. It has helped some in our relationship. But with Marina and me, it hasn’t been any one thing that I can chalk up to getting us less stuck. Not my diagnosis, no one hard-hitting realization, no one pill. It’s been a series of evolutions and life events as we’ve both gotten older.

Her moving in with her boyfriend a year and a half ago has helped. I’d always been afraid that once she moved out it would be to get away from me, and actually that was a large part of it. But the one thing I was most afraid of – losing her – never really happened. Marina and I are closer now than we’ve ever been. She still struggles, but does so much better – not just in “our Mom-Daughter world” but in her own.

I wrote a memoir about Marina and me (and of course, cancer). It’s called Hopping Roller Coasters. If you want to read a couple of excerpts you’ll find them at Rachel’s Memoir.

Best in health to everyone who comes here.