Twice a year–May/June and November/December–my mother goes through a manic phase. She gets excited and really enjoys being able to communicate. She talks a lot. She sends long emails. And she reports to me about having communicated with multiple people. She feels great. She spends money. She needs very little sleep and she feels really productive.
But sometimes she doesn’t make sense when she is talking. She speaks frequently in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way that is difficult to follow. She lacks a filter and says things that embarrass me. And when I ask a question she frequently takes an hour to get from the beginning of her response to the end. 

And when I am on Facebook and I see that she’s commented on a post, I get pre-embarrassed. Then I click on it and read what she wrote. So far in this particular manic phase she hasn’t posted long comments about my childhood, so that’s good. 

I’m fortunate that my mom stays on her meds. I’m fortunate that she isn’t a drug addict and that her manic phases don’t include promiscuous behavior.  We’re fortunate that she was able to keep a good job until she retired in a satisfactory financial position. 

But when I pull back some of the layers in my mind, I wonder if I would be a more whole person if she had not been mentally ill while I was growing up. 

  • Would I be more emotionally attached to her, and, in turn, could I be more emotionally involved with my daughters? 
  • Would I value the concept of FAMILY more? I feel cynical about the concept of family. 
  • If my mom had been more present (emotionally involved and opinionated) would I have finished college? (Would she have had the wherewithal to advise me not to get married until I finished college and would I have listened?)
  • If she and I had been closer when I was in high school, would I have had a better sense of my identity and not gotten caught up in the weird evangelical movement? In my late teens and early 20s the message I was told by the churches I was most involved in centered around the idea that “reaching the lost is too urgent to allow you to really pursue higher education. Jesus is probably coming back before you graduate.” WTF? 
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