Jessica: Just my mom

“When you’re a teenager and it’s your mom, she’s supposed to take care of me.”

At age 15, Jessica discovered her mother, Diane, lived with mental illness.

She had an episode. I remember coming home from work and she had stopped going to work and she was acting very bizarre. My father was out of town and my sister had left for college so it was just her and I. She was buying me all these things. . . She was usually very, very tight with her money.

Jessica spent several days feeling bewildered by her mother’s behavior until she realized she needed her father's help.

She had dressed up these teddy bears in some outfits that she had found that were hers when she was a child. She had renamed them. I was like okay—what’s going on? Then a couple of days later I realized she hadn’t gone to work. She had packed a lunch for me. It was the size of a grocery bag, not like a lunch sack but a grocery bag. She said, “You just feed your friends.” That’s a little bizarre. Then at one point she told me, “You know, you’re just really selfish. You’re kind of a bitch.” Then I called my dad.

Her mother, now 66 years old, received a bipolar diagnosis before Jessica was born. Jessica learned about her mother’s early experience with mental illness through conversations with her parents. Diane explained that she had a “nervous breakdown” during her senior year in high school at age 17. After a three-month hospitalization, she went through a number of different medications before finding that a seizure medication worked well for her. Diane was hospitalized one additional time, following the loss of a son, born prematurely between the births of Jessica and her older sister.

When Jessica called her dad about her mother’s strange behavior, he came home and reported her mother had stopped taking her medication, explaining that Diane had bipolar disorder. After Diane started taking her medication again, Jessica concluded, “Then everything was back to normal, and that was it.”