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A daughter’s story: my number one mum – mental illness and all…

29 March 2019

A daughter shares her experience of having a bipolar mum who is still her number one

It’s a funny thing, when the mother-daughter roles reverse, but sometimes that’s the bipolar way. There’s no script when it comes to mental health, but whoever plays ‘mum’, we’re facing our Family Monsters together.

Let me introduce you to my mum. My brave, chaotic and fiercely loving mum. She’s like many mums you might know – warm, friendly, loves to dance, very house proud. Good at eating cake. Always wanting what’s best for her kids, but at times having absolutely no idea what that means.

It’s the simple things you end up missing, even though looking back, you don’t know if you ever really had them at all.

Talking to her about boys or confiding about periods when growing up. Making her proud for a reason that she understands, rather than by default because you’re her daughter and you ‘did well’ at school or work. Enjoying a spa day or shopping trip together, or just having a long and meaningful conversation without her concentration breaking and mind wandering.

The things I’ve longed for with my mum have changed over the years. When I was younger, I wanted her to stop ‘succumbing’ to her bipolar, and to be ‘normal’. Why, when everything was fine and she was on the right meds, did she have to stop taking them and get ill again? I was embarrassed when kids made fun of me at school because of her mental illness and just wanted our family to be like everyone else’s.

Talking about mental health didn’t happen 20 years ago. No one else I knew was in the same situation. There was no social media, no hashtag to follow, no campaigns on the TV, no services that we knew of – we had little outside support. Mental illness was a taboo, and the people who suffered with it were labelled ‘mad’ or ‘nutters’, kept behind closed doors.

But the conversation is changing, and so are my expectations. As I’ve grown into an adult and our roles have reversed, I no longer want my mum to change who she is. I take on the role of carer with love and (crucially) patience.

“To be a mum means different things for different people, and I’m letting her be the mum she can be to me while she figures herself out again”

“To be a mum means different things for different people, and I’m letting her be the mum she can be to me while she figures herself out again”.

Mental health is a complex beast. Recovery is rarely linear. The therapy and medication that works so well for one person won’t for another – and sometimes it feels like nothing will work at all. But she’s still my mum. My number one.

She’s the self-proclaimed ‘best mum in the world’ (and she’s not wrong).

We will face our Family Monster together, today, on Mother’s Day, and every day.


Every family has its monsters, watch & share our film so we can all talk about & face our monsters together #MyFamilyMonsters