My mother was bipolar. I don’t have the paper trail to prove this, but know in my heart she was. My educational background is in psychology and I started my career and continued to work with the mentally ill before resigning to stay home with my young children. I share that not as if to say I know what I know because of my educational or work history. It’s relevant because I’m starting to understand that my focus on furthering my education and understanding of mental illness was really a quest to love my mother, not a career choice.
I can’t tell you how many times I saw my Mom in the tired lines imprinted on the female patient’s faces I worked with, both on a mental health unit and of those I worked with in their homes. It’s like they were all pieces to the puzzle that was my Mom. She was in and out of my life so much through out her life that all I really have is pieces. I became a motherless daughter in 1997, when I was 15 years old. The stories from my older siblings, all of whom are at least 10 years older than me, are a part of figuring it all out. Understanding where she came from, what she went through and the decisions she made is another.
It’s both a beautiful and some times disparaging thing when a daughter idolizes her Mom. Especially when, despite the mother’s best efforts, she could not be the kind of Mom that she needed to be. It’s so conflicting to want to be like your mother both because of and despite her faults.
I have had my own bouts with clinically diagnosed depression. At times, I have questioned whether it is actually the uncompromising pulls of high and low that strangle me and not just the low. Either way, the force that is my entangled brain has, at times, left me fighting the urge to run away. To escape and embark on an anonymous life. A life free of my current self. In a sense, a life void of authenticity that allows more choice in how I can be perceived. My mother did this.
According to my sister, Mom would sometimes be gone for weeks at a time only to return wearing a waitress uniform adorned with a name tag that read Alice. My mom’s name was Connie.
A few years ago, I googled my Mom’s name because I was that desperate to find clues about who she was. I surprisingly stumbled upon an arrest record in North Carolina from January of 1985. At that time, Mom lived in Florida and my oldest sister was due to give birth to her first child. My Mom had been arrested for larceny, impersonating someone else and somehow ensued a police car chase.
I was conflicted with anger and jealousy. Her choices hurt her family. Still somehow I craved to go on my own “adventure”. That is the problem with glorifying someone. Their actions are excused. Especially when that person is your Mom and part of you is her. I know that it was her untreated illness that helped fuel her disappearances. I just wish I knew where she was on that polar line that ran through her mind, when she would choose to leave. And just how much of it was a choice.
When I first considered starting a blog, I thought about using an alias. I finally decided it would defeat my purpose. Writing is a cathartic experience for me and I no longer want to experience that in hiding or alone or in search of answers I have no real way of knowing. I can’t keep chasing the missing pieces of the puzzle. It’s best left unfinished but placed in a frame and hung to be honored anyway. The whole picture isn’t really necessary to me anymore. The love is in the pieces that are connected.
I am finally seeing Connie for who she was – the un-romanticized version of her life as a child, a daughter, a sister, a woman, my Mom.