Have you seen the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”? Every year, our family settles in to watch it at least once between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. It’s a huge tradition with us. We’ve been quoting it for years. “Save the neck for me, Clark,” is a classic in our home. As is, the holiday grace beginning with, “I pledge allegiance to the flag…”
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Still Hopeful Mom
Parenting isn’t easy. Anyone who’s ever parented, or has even just been parented well knows that. Don’t they say, “It takes a village to raise a child”? As if to say raising children well takes more than just one person, it takes a community, right?
I’ve been blogging as Still Hopeful Mom for more than two years now. Using this pseudonym has enabled me to express myself completely without reservation. I’ve told the story of my son’s spiral into mental illness. I’ve documented the ups and downs of our turbulent relationship. And I’ve even revealed my own diagnosis of Bipolar II. But hiding behind the name Still Hopeful Mom has also continued to perpetuate the stigma that got me here in the first place. The stigma that led my son to make the choices that landed him in prison.
I recently directed a high school production of Fiddler on the Roof. For those of you who may not know it, this is the story of a simple milkman in 1905 Russia who tries to keep the traditions of his Jewish culture and the desires of his contemporary daughters in balance. In the opening song, he sings, “Life is as shaky as a fiddler on the roof!” In various times throughout the show, the fiddler appears as a symbol of this yearning for balance in an ever-changing world.
It's about balance, isn't it? It's about exertion and then rest, it's about give and then take, it's about yes and then no. But the problem is I don't have the "balance" button. I have bipolar 2.
Of course, it's difficult to draw the line between the symptoms of this condition and my own unique personality traits. I don't know where that line is actually. It's just so fuzzy. I do know, however, that most people aren't like me. Most people have that ability to self-regulate. I don't. Do you?
If my twenty year old son knew I was writing this, I'm not sure what he'd do. Bipolar disorder can be a dangerous thing when it goes untreated. I am a mother who is afraid of her son, but I am speaking out for all the other parents out there who fear their own children.