“Reverse Engineering Bipolar Disorder” by Artist in Institutional Residence

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A short, bedtime story for lonely or confused women:

I’m not sure how old I was when I first heard my mother whisper that I was Bipolar, although she no doubt believed it pre-conceptually. She feared the child who most took after her side of the family would be crazy. She knew the sins of the father visit children down to the fourth generation. But she forgot to mention, until I was 42, that his blessings also extend to the fourth generation.

She never told me what the blessings from her father were. Maybe he died too young for her to know. She did tell me that her mother, whom I take after, was insane. OCD for all the years I knew her. Clinically, abusively depressed for 3 years when my mom was a child. Lying in bed, day after night after day, sobbing because the Love of Her Life died when barely older than 50 years from a brain tumor.

My mom will tell you she was a fortunate product of benign neglect. She turned out well because her insane mother was dead to her from the time she was 8. Sweet, little Beth raised herself. And Beth was a mortally wounded little girl whose Daddy wasn’t there for the rest of her living days.

It’s funny how we can’t put our anxieties to rest until what we fear most comes to life. Because mothers dread that their children will manifest the family mental chaos, they are ever vigilant. They watch without ceasing, until they see sight of it. Then moms let go of that oppressive pain and worry. They know they were right all along. In that there is comfort. In fact, episodes of mental illness are less upsetting to mothers than never seeing them actualized. Mental illness is an old friend. Moms know what it looks like, what to expect. It’s the absence of mental illness in the family that rubs their nerves raw.

Asylums are meant to be safe havens gifted to the greatest sufferers. Mental institutions are punishments inflicted on these. I’m crying “Sanctuary.” I am seeking asylum, to be set free from the chains of my past. From the cruelty of my home country. I know my country’s worst travesties, but I am old enough to know its greatest blessings, too, in balance. And I love it still. Leaving it tears at my core. No one wants exile. But I need to escape or die.

What I thought for 14 years, though, was that I needed to be punished. Punished for acting psychotically. Punished for becoming my mother and father’s worst nightmare. They may be more at peace seeing their parents’ insanities manifested in me. But once it happens? The realization of why we must be careful what we wish for hits them. Hard.

~ Peace dear Souls. This will be continued…

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