Before my mom was diagnosed schizophrenic, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which is extremely common. In fact, people with a mental health condition are misdiagnosed an average of 7 times before they receive the correct diagnosis. This just goes to show you how little we actually know about the mind, and (as a result) how patient we must be for those who are struggling with conditions of the mind.
When my mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I certainty believed it. I believed it to be more true after she sat me down and gave me her advice for college.
I had just packed my last suitcase, preparing for my big move to my SEC school, when mom came into my room. I was thrilled mom wanted to give me advice but as it unraveled I was quickly brought back to reality that this responsible, level-headed version of a mother I craved, was not the mom I had.
My Mother's College Advice
Mom - "Now first,” she said raising her pointer finger in the air. “Remember to drink lots of beer.”
“Me - "I’m 18, Mom." Mom - “So? Good time to find your drinking habits. Never pass up a free beer." Me -“And if I get caught?”
Mom - “You won’t. Knoxville is full of beer drinkers, and police love party girls."
Me - "Mom, that is ridiculous."
Mom - “And if you get hungry go tailgate. You’ll get lots of free food that way. Drunk people love to share.”
Me - "Good grief."
Mom -“Go to live music every chance you get. You’ll probably never get to do it again,” she informed me. “Oh! And never pass up on a keg. You’ll never get free beer again after college.”
Me -“You sound like life will suck after college?" Mom - “It will. College is the only time you can have fun in your life." Me -"I disagree," I said.
Mom - “Sarah, I’m talking. Now if people steal from you, let them have it. Probably didn’t need it anyway,” she said.
Me - “What?” Mom - “You heard me and always have a drink in hand. It keeps the creeps away.”
Me - "Anything else Mom?”
Mom - “And wear sneakers everywhere, even with dresses. Your feet matter most in life.”
Me - "Mooooom."
Mom - "Nope, your feet are your main priority. Treat them well."
Me - "Sure." Mom - "Wear lots of layers too."
Mom - "Keeps the weirdos away."
Me - "Oh my."
Mom -“Never leave the house without perfume in your purse,” she giggled.
Me - "Why are you laughing?”
Mom - “Because you never know where you’ll end up sleeping after a game day,” she said with a playful wink.
Me - "Mom!” Mom - “It’s true, but most of all, you must never forget the unspoken rule of college.”
Me - “What’s that?” I asked. Mom - “Find a rich husband,” mom said proudly. Me -“Good grief."
Mom - “If you don’t come home with a husband after college you will never get married."
Me -“Well aren’t you encouraging," I said flatly. Mom -“It’s true. Nobody will want you then, and make sure to take lots of political science courses. You will find a lot of good lawyer in there.”
Me - I rubbed my temples and moaned.
Mom - “I’m serious Sarah, and don’t study so much like you do. Remember men don’t like smart women.”
Me - “Then I guess men won’t like me,” I slouched.
Mom -“Sarah, sit up. and start acting like a lady. Men like ladies.”
Me -“Are we done, mom?” I asked.
Mom -“We are for today,” she smirked.
If I had set out to fulfill mom’s advice like the good daughter I should have been I would have been a dumb, fat, married drunk by now. Being the bad daughter, I was, I decided not to follow through with her advice. Yet, I did learn a great deal about my mother that day. The most important lesson I gained was at one point in her life mom was so far from depressed that she remembered how to have fun. Even if it was a wild sort of fun with a keg, free beer, and live music.
She never forgot the delightful feeling that came when you walked
out of the house with one intention: to enjoy life.
I wanted to share this exert from my memoir to remind all those children of parent's with a metal illness that when we look past the ridiculous things our mentally ill parent's say to us, there is a truth to be found. It was within my mother's college advice that day that I learned there was a time in my mom's life when she wasn't so afraid of life. This college advice was a bit outlandish, but it gave me hope that one day mom could learn how to live again.
Do you have a parent with a mental health condition? How has you journey been? I would love to hear your thoughts below!