port of harlem magazine
aviva travel
On A Bipolar Journey with Mom, Part 2
Nov 18 – Dec 1, 2021
greg wright

Tuesday was a rollercoaster day with Mom as the medications gradually brought her back from a bipolar high - fractious and irritable one minute, loving the next. “I’m going to take you off of my will,” she announced as she walked in the kitchen, where I sat at the dining table, eating oatmeal and blueberries and busy catching up with work emails.

I have been counseled to not argue with people who are bipolar and manic. I won’t win the argument. They won’t win the argument. And it will make nothing better.

“Ma, it is your house and property so you can do what you want with it. I have no control over that,” I answer as calmly as I can. I put my head down and bury myself in work.

Not 15 minutes later she walked back, her eyes brimming with tears. “I’m not taking you off my will. Son, thanks so much for coming down to look after me. You are the only one who has stood by me. I’m going to be alright.”

I look up at her. I have tried to be strong. But I break down into tears, too.
I laugh, the first real laugh I have had with her in five days. She smiles. Part of her is coming back.
My mother was never very demonstrative when my brother and I were growing up. My father never paid child support and moved back to his hometown of Atlanta, far from us in Maryland.  My proud mother gave up trying to make dad do right.

“You picked that man and laid down and had babies by him,” I remember my grandmother telling her when Ma would go to her in tears. “You are young and strong honey. If you have to work three jobs to support your boys, do it. And I will always be here for you.”

So, my mother focused on keeping a roof on our heads, food in our bellies, and coming up with ways to keep on the lights.  However, she managed t0 afford Jordache jeans, Izod shirts, Nike Bruins, and other luxuries teens in the early 80s craved.

I can remember her working at the post office and taking part-time jobs at Dunkin Donuts, record stores, and other places to make ends meet. However, no matter how tired or depressed she was, Ma was always there to listen when we had problems. But on Tuesday morning I needed more. “Ma, can I hug you?”

At six feet two inches, I am more than two heads taller than her. She opened her arms and let me hug her but after a few seconds pulled back. “You are too tall,” she said in a mock gruff way. It’s making my back hurt reaching up to you.”

I laugh, the first real laugh I have had with her in five days. She smiles. Part of her is coming back.

On Tuesday, we met with her counselor and social worker. I have done communications for the National Association of Social Workers for more than a decade – extolling the amazing services social workers provide to the media, policymakers, and members of the entertainment industry.

It’s weird to be on the other side of the table, the one needing their help.

Ma’s team are concerned – my mother seems more scattered than she was in late May during her last manic attack. So, she will be back at the doctor on Friday, to see if her medications need adjustments  .

Later that evening, when I was in a Zoom call support group meeting with folks at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, they tell me to relax and be patient – it could take more than a week for the meds to balance Ma’s scales again.

More importantly, her social worker and counselor are trying to arrange for a mental health professional to visit Ma’s home each day to ensure she is complying with her medication regimen. This will also give me respite so I can go home and plan what to do next.

“I promise to take my medicine, baby,” Ma said. I hope she does.

I have learned this past week that I cannot solve this problem for her. I can’t fix her. What I can do is support her and always keep hope.

Read Part 1: On A Bipolar Journey With Mom, Part 1

See Also: National Alliance on Mental Illness

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