Confessions of a Bipolar’s Daughter.



After five brutal months, I was at dinner with friends and there was a general consensus. “You really should go to therapy,” they said.

“We don’t know if you noticed, but the way you talked, the aggressiveness that takes over you while you’re describing things from such a long time ago… it just shows that you’re clearly not over them, and maybe that is why you’re having an even worse time now, overcoming what just happened.”

Everything stopped.

I answered the best way I could, I argued with not wanting to spend that money, not being ready, not really feeling like getting out of the house just to go complain about my life on somebody else’s couch.

And even though I said they were right, even admitted I would consider it, the truth is, I feel as if I am still in that precise moment, sitting on that chair, going through the food we ordered, drinking that sangria, and just thinking: how the hell did I let it come to this?

What happened along the way that I ended up exactly where I was afraid I would, right smack in the middle of her drama, dragged into having to take care of her, still, as I begin my thirties and all I can think is, I am never getting out?

And if there’s one thing I am prepared to tell you today is that no one can really know what it’s like until they go through it themselves. It’s a universal truth, quite plainly, but it’s the most honest thing I can tell you. When you have a mother who is so far detached from what she should mean to you, that’s how you feel. Stuck, unable to be free of her, in spite of her.

So, don’t come trying to empathize and say why we should look past this or that, and let go of whatever that is holding you back. If you have a functional family, please don’t.

Special focus on the actual parent level of mother. I am not referring to having a bipolar parent. I have the best father in the world, he saved us from becoming ever more damaged than what we are, and I am sure if the tables were turned and he had been bipolar, things would have been extremely difficult too.

Nonetheless, a mother is particularly aggravating, especially in our western culture. Our culture tells us that mothers rule. Mothers should be hailed as heroes because that is just what they are: unsung heroes who turn into beasts when it comes to saving their cubs.

Well, I prefer to leave all that to women. Women are awesome, women are the future. Being a mother is something utterly different, and those of us who are deprived of that so well-propagated ideal of a kind, loving mother are here to tell you that no, sometimes we children are simply not enough for mothers to pick themselves up and fight for us. Apparently, we’re not.

And you know what? Because of that absurd generalized idea that they should and will absolutely move mountains for us, we’re left thinking we are not enough. That somehow, we are the ones who lack something and, due to that only, they didn’t become our very own slayer of dragons.

Maybe, just once, I would love to read about a mother and her suffering and her pain as a bipolar, who didn’t persevere in the end and never achieved that bright, successful future as an old woman. Then maybe I could relate to someone and feel appeased when I am so angry at her, at our entire situation.

When it comes to learning about mental illness, we are not only looking for books on success. We just want to know the reality of it, and I would just love to pick up a book that didn’t have a happy ending. That would be okay, that would be real, and would make me feel real as well. Because that’s just it, how can I ever stop wishing for a happy ending, if that’s all people ever feed me into believing?


Paula Beatriz Ribeiro is a Portuguese woman, more specifically, a northern Portuguese woman. She was born into an incredibly strong family where matriarchs are celebrated, and had a happy childhood until her 11th birthday. On a stormy Saturday, her mother’s father died struck by lightning and, two years later, her mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Nowadays, she is a 31-year-old freelance translator grasping to come to terms with everything that changed that stormy Saturday.


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