Author: Melinda Goedeke
I remember when my daughter was 22, and she started talking about wanting children some day. This was cause for celebration as Laura often didn’t believe she had a future; her bipolar disorder caused her to live fast, talk fast and simply be fast as if her actions somehow needed to keep up with her brain – always racing. It seemed as if she were living her life in dog years. When she got an idea, she put it into action immediately, such as the time she decided to quit her engineering job so she could scoot on over to Paris and live a different life altogether. Without weighing the pros and cons, she packed her bags and said, “Au revoir. À bientôt.” Even Laura, however, could not put into motion her idea of being a parent in super sonic speed leaving her with time for more thought.
To me, considering a life with children meant that Laura was choosing a future, choosing to live. She was planning; thinking about later. Laura excelled at now and was remedial at later. Unlike her other fast-moving, little thinking ideas, this one caused her some angst. She didn’t want all the weight gain and discomfort that would likely come with pregnancy (nevermind childbirth), nor was she a big fan of bringing new life into a world she felt was destined to implode, so she landed on adoption – don’t make one, take one. She wanted to adopt a child from any place, of any color and of any age. She did think, however, having her own biological child (a small piece of her) would be pretty cool especially when she dressed him or her in little denim bib overalls and tiny Converse tennis shoes. I’m not gonna lie, toddlers in overalls and little shoes are darn cute. She held onto this idea for several weeks or dog years, and then it hit her – she could not birth nor adopt children. Her reasoning was this: if she adopted a child, she would likely put that child in harm’s way by sleeping all day or disassociating or losing her job or buying a motorcycle (yep, another idea that came and thankfully was swiftly squashed). Alternatively, if she had her own biological child, she might pass on her bipolar disorder – an unbearable thought to her and so not an option. Check off another consequence of this cruel disease. Laura didn’t believe that her future could include children, but I did.
It seems we believe in people and/or have beliefs about people, but maybe the answer is sometimes believing for people. Laura couldn’t or wouldn’t believe in a future full of toddlers whipping around on playgrounds in their little overalls. She simply or actually quite sadly could not believe in her future self. I truly believed in her and that she could keep her demons trapped, as she grabbed on to laughter and eased up on the gripping hold of bipolar. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, I didn’t fully understand what it was like inside Laura’s mind. I knew she had episodes that destroyed her day to day life, and I knew her mind screamed at her to end her life because she wasn’t worth anything. I knew it, but I didn’t feel it. Most days she could not fathom the possibility of pain free days, hours or even minutes so how could she possibly believe in a future? Maybe what would’ve been better was to have given all the believing in a break. I could have painlessly (somewhat) held her future dreams alive in my heart, releasing them with fervor and flair when she was ready to hold onto them herself, able to believe in them. I absolutely believed in her, but it may have made a difference if I believed for her just for a while.
If she were here today, I would tell her to buy some overalls and get ready to have a future with children regardless of her bipolar disorder because her dreams do not have to be deferred. She would have said I was absolutely wrong (more colorfully and dramatically), but I know that I would have been right because Laura loved and loved fiercely despite or maybe because of bipolar disorder. Had I held onto the belief that she could have a future with children for her, she may have been able to feel as if bipolar disorder didn’t present yet another impossibility. And then at just the right time, I could’ve taken her shopping for overalls making her impossible seem possible.
Believe in, believe about, believe for – maybe they’re all the same. I just know that if I had held onto more for Laura, maybe she would have felt her dreams were in safe keeping with me rather than running a 15k midnight trail race in her mind. Laura never had the chance to hold hands with her possible future toddler wearing cute little overalls and tiny hightop Converse shoes because her diseased mind took her down a deadly path.
I now do have a granddaughter and when she one day wears overalls and Converse tennies, I will too, and we will smile. We will really smile thinking of Laura.