Just before her 40th birthday, my mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. At the time, I would have just been born. Now at 91, she has lived with her mental illness for more than half her life. As I grew up, I saw my mother’s illness progress from bad to worse. Every five years she’d slip into a manic phase which would last four to five months.
Together, my parents owned a cleaning company. During her manic phases, mom wouldn’t sleep well. When she stopped sleeping, her delusions became grander and her paranoia worsened. She’d stay up nights obsessively cleaning to a point where one could eat off the floors of our house. When her manic episodes ended, she would slide into depression for six to eight months. We could never predict how long her depression would last. Eventually, her bouts of depression would be treated with Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
Yet, my mother would go to work every day. Even through her protracted periods of mental illness,...
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