Tuesday 5 April 2016

Nature, nurture and the power of Mums – growing up with Bipolar Disorder

Rachael writes about how she overcame her own Bipolar Disorder with the bond of her mother.

- Rachael Howe

Come on, we’re going to the sea!”

Mum woke me up at 4am. If it wasn’t the sea, it was the zoo, or the lakes. I adored the passion and excitement in her when we had our impromptu trips away. They made me glad to be hers, glad to go on adventures whilst the rest of the world was sleeping in their beds. She took me in her arms and carried me to an all-enveloping world of new things, sights, sounds, smells that we didn’t get in our dreary little home town in the North of England.

I didn’t know at that age, but my mum had Bipolar Disorder. Her gorgeous, flighty highs took us to far off places and let me live in a way that dreams are made of. Her lows took her away from me. To duvets and long baths and sleep. Where I’d tunnel into her duvet nest and breathe her stale air, asking her if she was going to be ok, whether she still loved me.

Nothing from my childhood was awful, I wasn’t neglected and I was never unloved. My parents were utterly selfless when it came to my wellbeing. I thought every mum was like mine, and I love her absolutely and unconditionally to this day. I wish only to say, that mums aren’t perfect and that’s ok. 

I am my mum’s greatest gift. She did all she could by me, even in the darkest hours when I was starting to show symptoms of Bipolar, too. A mother-daughter relationship is not an easy one to maintain. Some days you can’t stand the sound of the other person’s voice, others you wish for nothing else but to be five years old again, curled up in her arms listening to her read you Beatrix Potter stories. But there is always love. That love that bonds you and keeps you close, even after months of being apart. 

Our healing process began when I left home for the second time. Without the eager rose-tinted ignorance of my early teens, which were fuelled by hormones and a belief that I knew best. My mum kept me on the straight and narrow from afar. We still speak every day. Supporting each other, recognising each other’s difficulties when our brains just won’t play fair and problem solving. Always problem solving. 

I used to be terrified of the thought of being a mum. I still am, to a certain extent. But seeing how we function together as adults is starting to change my mind. My mum didn’t mess me up. She kept me as safe as she could. Growing up around mental illness didn’t break me, it taught me more about the world than I would have learned without it. I had my eyes opened to painful things, sure, but I also saw the bright and the beautiful and learned to appreciate the little things in life that really matter. 

Life is a bittersweet experience. Whether you have a mental health issue or not, your life experience will shape you and help you to grow. Mums are a big part of that. They teach you that being vulnerable is ok. And they teach you how to be stronger than you’d ever think possible. 

Here’s to mums!

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