Jessica: Life Adjustments

Although Jessica greatly admires how her mother manages bipolar disorder, she acknowledged past frustrations.

When you’re a young person and your mom can’t go out past 8:30, that’s frustrating. And not knowing why Mom can’t go out past 8:30. What the heck. But my dad was pretty good about taking us out or doing things or I would find rides. Once I drove, it wasn’t an issue.

There are times that Jessica wants her mother to come over to help when her husband is gone; however, Diane couldn’t come over after taking her medication in the evening. Jessica was frustrated until she realized the medication made her mother too drowsy to feel safe out of her home. Jessica’s children are also sometimes disappointed when they are having fun with their grandmother and want her to spend the night, but she does not have her medication. Diane now keeps some of her medication at Jessica’s house for those occasions.

Jessica explained the role reversal that took place as she supported her mother in living with bipolar disorder.

It’s hard when it’s your mom. Because when you’re a teenager and it’s your mom, she’s supposed to take care of me. I’m not supposed to be figuring her out. She’s supposed to be taking care of me, so you kind of figure that out.”

As an adult, Jessica reflected on her growing awareness of changes in her parents’ lives.

I was so involved in myself. I was just very selfish in my behavior and as I got older and having lost a parent, knowing that you need to pay more attention to what’s going on with your parents, because at a certain point, you don’t have anybody.

Jessica’s experience with her mother has also impacted her desire to protect her mother’s privacy as well as the privacy of her family.

I think it’s really important to protect people’s privacy and what’s going on with them, whether they’re struggling with a mental disorder or a physical disorder or disability or cognitive disability. I think I always want to be respectful and mindful of her privacy and what she would want people to know and not know. . . I don’t want people to hear that my mom is bipolar so they maybe try to see tendencies like that in me, because people are like, oh, it’s genetic. Because people do that. They say their mother’s crazy; the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. That’s an outsider’s view. I don’t think my mother’s crazy, but that’s the label that people put on people.

She identified her concern about the potential effects of Diane’s long-term use of medication for bipolar disorder on her aging and quality of life. Because of her background in health education, Jessica wondered about the mediation effects on organ systems and lifespan. She is hopeful that her mother medication continues to be effective and that “she continues to live with this disorder successfully and healthy and happy.” She concluded that many concerns about her mother’s aging are probably typical for any adult with an aging parent.

More of the Story: New Knowledge and Skills