But memories don’t fade – memories of having to care for ourselves, being ashamed to bring friends home, and trying to save Mother from her mania. “Why can’t I have a normal family?” Those were the roots of my anger and detachment.
There’s certainly no framework for understanding her erratic behaviour. We developed coping skills over the years and adapting to routine is second nature to us now, as her episodes are repetitive in nature. And we try to be very patient with my mother when she talks really fast about the same topic over and over again. My sister would always tell me, “Mother can’t help it, Dina, you must be more patient”. Today, my mother lives in another state under professional supervision.
When my mother was at her worst and had to undergo shock treatment, it was a pivotal point in my life. It became clear to me then that our situation wasn’t going to improve. Mother wasn’t getting better, and my sister and I weren’t at our best either. I told myself that if I wanted to make it through this tough time in our lives, I needed to make peace with our circumstances. I had to throw away all the lingering anguish, resentment and confusion that I was holding on to. I learnt to seek refuge and steadiness in friends, and immersed myself in my studies – all these allowed the adult-child in me to break free.
It’s sad that I will never have the kind of relationship that I wish to have with my mother. We’re never going to bond over common experiences that other mothers and daughter share. Getting married and having children just wouldn’t be the same without her maternal affection. However, dwelling on that won’t take me anywhere. I’ve learnt to just accept this reality, and I do feel blessed for being able to live and learn.
Mental illness isn’t a choice. Victims are weighed down by emotional blocks without the basis to process them. I believe it’s one of the cruellest illnesses to surface on earth, being that there is no cure, just management.
*Name has been changed.