While I was on my honeymoon in St. Thomas, I remember being so happy and excited. Mark (my first husband) and I were so thrilled to be in our tropical paradise, even the iguanas loved living on island time. Unbeknownst to me, my parents did not fare so well at home. In ’99, I was twenty-one and carefree. Yet, my dad found himself struggling with bipolar depression at forty-four, and he felt that his only way out was to end it all. My mentally stable and long-suffering mother took him to get help the day our plane left for the Caribbean. When we returned from our honeymoon, my daddy had spent a week in a hospital with a diagnosis and a gaggle of pills. I remember visiting him and going to therapy with him the Monday I returned.
He looked forlorn, yet happy to see me. He toted a yellow legal pad with him everywhere, and he randomly took down notes as therapists and doctors informed us of coping skills and symptoms we could expect to face in the upcoming months. I learned that the strongest man I ever knew had lived trapped inside a panic stricken brain for years. He had been striving to hold back the chaos inside his mind since I was a little girl. There was a seriously startling statistic that I remember vividly since Daddy’s great depression of ’99: a child of a bipolar parent could face a seventy five percent chance of also having the disorder. My grandmother had bipolar disorder as well, and her mother before her, and her mother, and so forth. My father had lost the genetic roll of the dice. In just two years, I would learn that I lost statistically as well. How would our genetic loss affect the future of my own children?
When my oldest was in sixth grade, I began to notice serious changes in her moods, and her depression and anxiety negatively influenced her school work and relationships. Additionally, by eighth grade, my middle child also developed depression and anxiety. I learned many facts and factors relating to adolescence and depression while helping Anya, my oldest, deal with depression. I thought I “knew it all.” Certainly, with a family history like mine, I would be an expert. UM…NO!!
Sophia’s symptoms and behaviors stumped me, and I have to admit that I had to rely on the professionals to help with her issues. Her depression was there, yet I noticed risky behaviors and odd decisions that did not seem to fit my previous experiences. We saw two different psychiatrists before the medication affected the depression. Her negative self-esteem and self-worth concerned me the most. How could such a beautiful, talented young woman feel so negative about herself?
In fact, on most days if I felt a little less of myself, I might just fit in better with my peers. A negative self-image has not really been a problem for me. My parents told me that I could do whatever I wanted in life, and obviously, I bought into that mentality hook, line, and sinker. Once Sophia’s new doctor adjusted her meds, I can see the smiles on her face again. Yesterday, I heard her cackle. She cackled for several minutes. She hugged me last night—twice. I believe in my soul that one day she will feel happy and loved. I know the coping skills will come. I understand that this is the beginning of a life-long struggle.
However, I am forty, and I have never been stronger. My daddy made it to sixty two, and not even cancer nor pain could unhinge him emotionally and psychologically. My grandmother made it eighty five years—a fighter. Bipolar disorder may have won a few battles, but not the war. Sophia will overcome. She comes from a long line of overcomers.
“Endure to Persevere” James Douglas Greene 1/14/54 -12/3/16
This post is dedicated to my father. The man who made me. Time passes yet my love for you remains.
Jimmy Mac, that’s what I am teaching my girls to do: endure to persevere. Every week I take them by the old home place, and I know one day the Lord will rescue the perishing by taking us to our heavenly home. I love you, Daddy.