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One mom’s journey with her bipolar daughter

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September is National Suicide Prevention & Awareness Month, and this week was World Suicide Prevention Day.

My 19-year-old daughter has had a fairly uneventful year. Held down her first job. Began feeling more independent. Made some solid friendships and was socializing more. We are so proud of her.

As is the case with bipolar disorder however, what goes up must come down. A few red flags popped up. She became extra irritable, anxious and paranoid, made some very out of character decisions… so she returned to an all-day, six-day-a-week program. We have watched an uphill battle with this insidious disease over the past month, certainly slowed down a bit by the extra support and care, but still relentless in its attack on her whole body.

And this past week it seemed as if she lost.

Full-time hospitalization was recommended, and I found myself sucked back into a familiar vortex of helplessness and hopelessness. I don’t know how to explain the utter despair I feel when I cannot help my child. I am her mother. I’m supposed to be the answer. But when she is in this place, she doesn’t want to be touched. She doesn’t want to talk. She doesn’t even want to be looked at. She is angry and violent. It’s like sitting behind shatterproof glass, watching her break. It literally kills me inside to know that I can’t reach her.

I’m not sharing this for sympathy so much as to help people better understand this disease and how severely mental illness impacts your life and the life of those closest to you. We are at its mercy. And it is extremely isolating.

If not for the symptoms themselves, then for the stigma and lack of understanding from others. It’s an unpredictable life, to say the least. My daughter wasn’t able to get into a bed last week, as the hospital was full (what does that tell you?)

But this actually turned into a blessing. Somehow she was able to get a grip on the situation on her own. Through sheer will power and digging deep, real deep, for that last bit of strength she had. I am in awe of this beautiful strong soul. She is unstoppable. It’s like watching on Olympic medalist cross the finish line. People who struggle with mental illness need our validation. They don’t need pity. They need love and acceptance. They need encouragement. I am constantly learning new ways to cope and help my girl.

Those of you who are parenting these inspiring kiddos or struggling yourself. We are much stronger when we are talking about it, rather than hiding it.

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September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—a time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic. We use this month to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services. It is also important to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention. NAMI is here to help.

Informational Resources

Crisis Resources

  • If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.
  • If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)
  • If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.
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