The Mom I Once Knew by K.C.
When I think of the word mother, I think of unconditional love and support—someone who is biologically programmed to love you. My unfilled space is the mom I used to know. One morning when I was 12, I woke up, and my mom was gone.
My mom was the perfect mom when we were little. We enjoyed weekend sleepovers with friends, dinner at the table every night, bedtime stories, and so on. I have an older sister and two younger brothers. We were such a close family.
However, when I was 12, my mom left my dad and us kids for another man. This behavior was her first manic state. Since then, she has struggled in relationships, battled depression, including multiple suicide attempts, and fought for some semblance of normalcy.
In her thirties, my mother was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. Bipolar Disorder is when an individual experiences both manic states and depressive episodes. When someone is in a manic state, they tend to have inflated self-esteem decreased need for sleep, and often put themselves in high-risk situations and think they will not get hurt. The other phase they experience is a depressive state, where they experience depressed mood, tearfulness, appetite and sleep changes, and potentially suicidal thoughts. My mother experienced all of these things. It was challenging for our family, and I’m sure it was tough for her as well.
Someone who is living with Borderline Personality Disorder often experiences trouble in relationships because they alternate between idealizing others and devaluing others. There is often a fear of being abandoned by others and usually numerous suicide attempts. Again, my mom experienced all of these symptoms. It is difficult to have a relationship with someone who seemingly loves you one minute and hates you the next.
Despite being a Licensed Professional Counselor trained in working with individuals living with a mental illness, it took the support of NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) for me to realize how to cope, and yet, sometimes, I still struggle. With the relationships I gained through NAMI, I’ve learned to respond to my mom and myself differently. I’ve gained understanding and empathy for my mom, slowly improving our relationship. However, the battle will always remain since there is no cure for mental illness. How we respond to and cope with the struggles shows our growth and strength.
I’ve had to grieve the loving, caring, supportive mom I once knew. I had to understand that she would likely not be that way again. I had to accept that this is who my mom was now, and I could either choose to have a relationship with who she is now or cut ties. This decision took years to decide. I am currently choosing to have a relationship with the person my mom is now. I am choosing to accept who she is and formulate a new relationship with this person.
My mom and I are growing our relationship by actively spending time together. My mom seems to be in a stable place right now. She is newly, happily married, and her husband is very nice. I try to include her in my life, but I also keep my boundaries up to protect myself. I still find myself being careful with how much I tell her about my life for fear of it being used against me or causing a fight. However, my once rigid boundaries are slowly coming down.
The following things help me stay mentally strong and emotionally aware of interacting with my mom appropriately and affectionately: Respond calmly, be patient, and practice daily self-care activities to help keep me mentally healthy. I would encourage you to do the same. Exercise, get a pet, read a book—take care of yourself!
I ask you to ask yourself---how are you responding to your loved one? Are you calm and patient or harsh and hurtful? How are you responding to yourself? Are you caring and forgiving, or do you feel guilt and deprive yourself of things you enjoy? Take care of yourself so that you will be better prepared to take care of others.