When I was a small child, there were times when my mother didn’t get out of bed in the mornings. I didn’t know why at the time. I understand now.
My mother was diagnosed with manic depression, which we call bi-polar today. I don’t know when I learned those words. I can vaguely remember thinking about them at some point and trying to figure out what they meant. I can remember the vague sense of something being wrong. It was a vague sense of being abandoned and alone.
I suppose I was about 4 or 5 years old in the images I recall. I had two younger sisters, about 3 and about 1. My father would be gone to work and we were at home with Mother. And I felt all alone. In a lot of ways, I’ve never gotten over that feeling of being all alone and abandoned. In a way, I’ve been replaying that script over and over and over.
All of the discussion about depression in the past two days — in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide — has been really emotional for me, because it’s brought up disturbing experiences that I’ve gone through with people who I’ve loved.
My mother was diagnosed when I was about 5. That was about the time when she started trying to leave my father. It’s also the time when she went into a mental hospital for awhile. (I seem to recall it as about six weeks, but I might be wrong.) I saw her struggle for years to be stable and to be the smart, artistic and happy person she was at her best. I wrote more about her last year.