Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What am I doing?

I have moments of panic in the middle of the night thinking about "going public" with the story of my youngest daughter's illness. We are finishing a book together that is a very candid account of two years of hell. Linea's writing was honest from the beginning. Mine became so as I continued to write, rewrite and edit. Each layer exposed more of my truth (and my tears) as the process ever so slowly began to heal both of us in ways that are still somewhat of a mystery. I am sure that there are people who will wonder why we would ever do this. Linea’s dad (husband Curt) asked those questions. When we started putting our writing together and the idea of a book started to form he worried that this work would bring up painful memories best laid to rest. He questioned why we would want to revisit events that were very frightening to all of us. He wondered if by going public we would portray Linea as “the-girl-with-bipolar”. Through all of this he continuously said that he would support us in whatever we decided to do but he was very concerned. And, in the middle of the night, so was I.

The initial purpose of writing a book together was to offer an inside look at bipolar from our very personal experiences; a story of a young woman struggling through all the frightening symptoms (symptoms seems like much too benign of a word!) and her mother’s and families support, worry, love and anguish. The goal was to give voice to the many, many patients and families we met who were unable or unwilling to share their own story. We wanted to reduce stigma and increase compassion and care. But in the process of writing together, something unexpected happened for both of us and our family. We became stronger. I became stronger revisiting this story, thinking and writing about it from a deeper level. In my most terrifying moments I had held the pain at bay so that I could get through the day. By telling the story I faced this fear and pain and in many ways accepted it. I am not quite there yet when Linea says, “I wouldn’t want to change what happened to me.” I would give anything for her not to have gone through the pain that she did but I do know that our family is at a place of deeper relationships, trust and love after what we have been through. We hear from so many people who tell us, “…thanks to you and your daughter for your courage, thoughtfulness about helping others, and willingness to reduce stigma. You give the rest of us the courage to do the same.” But it is I and my family that has benefitted from telling our story. The truth will set you (me) free. And, as per Linea's blog, bipolar is an added wisdom. I want all my life experiences to add to my wisdom.

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