Posts Tagged ‘manic depression’

Mommy Day

In Bipolar, Children, Miss Helena, mother, Parents, School, Uncategorized on May 6, 2011 at 1:31 am

My Mummy

“My mum has very funny moods…”

(Marissa Charles, aged nine, June 1985)

My essay about my mother.

Anyone who knows my mum knows that she is a hoarder. It’s not just that she is untidy. (She is. As am I. Life is too short to obsess about everything being in its place. There are far more important things to do – like read.) It’s that she is sentimental and it’s that sentimentality that leads her to save the smallest of items, things that to you and I may seem insignificant.

Mummy still has the cot I used to sleep in when I was a baby. (I’m 35 years old. President Jimmy Carter was in the White House when she bought that thing.) She saves the messages that I leave on her answer machine. (She played about seven of them back to me the other day.) She even saved a kitchen towel from her local pub. (Last month I cut my arm and needed first aid. A kind stranger in the pub where I sought help used it as a tourniquet.  Thankfully Mum washed the kitchen towel before she saved it.)

So it should come as no surprise that my mother has a collection of my old school books. I’ve tried to encourage her to throw them away but all my attempts have failed and Mum has a library of my compilations – from the days when I could barely write “see Jane run” to the present day when I have had exclusive features published in the Daily Mirror.

Every now and then, under the pretence of clearing her “rubbish” – her word, not mine – she will leaf through my greatest works, cry, laugh or both and put them into a pile of things to keep.

It was while doing this that she discovered an essay I wrote when I was nine. I was at primary school at the time. My teacher must have asked us to write about our mothers because I composed a piece describing Miss Helena (Mum). But I didn’t just describe what she looked like. I also wrote in detail about her moods and what life was like for my dad and I when she was manic and when she was depressed.

It is an insightful look into a child’s mind and how a little girl views her life with a bipolar parent. You can tell that I am aware that my mother has manic depression but what is interesting is that I don’t seem to fear her moods. By the mid-Eighties bipolar was a normal part of my life. Mummy had her breakdown and was hospitalised when I was five. I was sent to live with my grandparents in New Jersey and returned to the UK after a year. I was a precocious child so there is no way the adults in my life hid my mother’s illness from me.

The second part of my essay about my mother.

Below is a typed version of my essay. I have corrected the childish spelling mistakes. (If you want to see the unedited original have a look at the accompanying pictures.)

As Mother’s Day is celebrated in the West Indies and the US I want to remind all bipolar parents that their children are resilient. Talk to them. Be honest about your condition. (Make it age appropriate of course.) But rest assured that once they understand why Mummy or Daddy has “funny moods” they will learn to cope with it and they won’t love you any less.

That is not to say that when my mother was in the midst of her nervous breakdown in 1981 I wasn’t afraid of the disorder that surrounded me. No little child will feel secure with his or her mother ranting, raving and swearing, especially when that mother is usually so kind and gentle. What it means is that children are smarter than you think and clearly at nine-years-old I was smart enough to know that, yes, Mummy can be moody, but she is my mummy and I love her whether she is high, low or in between.

M x

Factual Description of My Mummy

My mummy is beautiful so first of all I will describe her beauty.

My mummy looks half-caste but she is not. My mummy has red, black, brown, gold and grey hair. (I have the red and black, brown and grey hair bit.)

My mummy has brown eyes and a flat nose, with lovely, lovely soft lips. My mummy is between slim and fat. My mummy is beautiful in my eyes because beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Secondly, I will describe my mum’s kindness. My mum is very kind because she loves me, buys me clothes every day and has sent me to such a nice school with such nice teachers. My mum’s kindness has made me feel happy even if it has not to you [sic] because kindness is in the heart of the beholder.

Now I will describe my mummy’s moods. My mum has very funny moods. When my mummy is happy she will either cry or dance and sing. When my mummy is sad she either cries or reads her Bible or prays. When my mummy is angry she cries and sometimes goes to sleep.

When my mummy is all these things my daddy and I join in with my mummy and now you can guess her name – Helena L Charles.


The latest celebrity trend?

In Bipolar, Celebrities on April 24, 2011 at 4:12 am

When Catherine Zeta-Jones recently announced that she had bipolar disorder I was worried. Not about her, for me. While I admire her bravery and honesty in confronting this issue publicly – from a totally selfish perspective – it was the classic case of bad timing.

The last thing I want anyone to think is that I’m jumping on the bandwagon, that I’ve launched The Moody Cow because a series of celebrities have either announced that they have bipolar or have been diagnosed as such by armchair psychiatrists and gossip columnists alike.

Let’s make things clear: I don’t do trends. Never have. And I’m not going to start now at the age of 35. If I were so inclined I’d sooner buy myself a Louis Vuitton bag than tell the world I have a mental illness. This blog was conceived weeks before Zeta-Jones’s health problems came to light.

On the surface, however, the “bipolar” label seems to be THE latest thing to have in the world of celebrity. Like adopting black babies from Africa and getting a colonic before the Academy Awards it seems that everyone has to have a touch of madness to be cool. (I’m being facetious, of course.)

Nevertheless, for the past few years “bipolar” has become the latest buzzword in showbiz media. Celebrities who have publicly admitted to having the disorder include the actors Stephen Fry and Mel Gibson, singer Sinead O’Connor as well as Brit pop star Kerry Katona. Let’s not forget Disney actress Demi Lovato whose revelation came on the heels of the Zeta-Jones announcement.

Then there are those celebrities who are going through a personal or professional crisis and are acting erratically. They could just be behaving badly or purposefully trying to break free of the cookie-cutter image managers and agents want them to fit into. But we have to label them with something. So Britney Spears and Charlie Sheen have both been shoved under the bipolar umbrella.

I’m not belittling any of the celebrities that I have mentioned. (In fact I admire all of them for being so upfront.) But I am concerned that some members of the public will become cynical. I don’t want the term “bipolar” to be likened to “sex addiction” where just the mere mention of the term makes people roll their eyes and think it is just an excuse for bad behaviour. It is not.

Bipolar disorder is a real illness that affects millions of people worldwide. According to an 11-nation study published by the Archives of General Psychiatry in March 2011, 2.4 percent of people around the world have been diagnosed as having bipolar at some point in their lifetime. The US has the highest lifetime rate of the disorder at 4.4 percent. Meanwhile the National Health Service (NHS) website reports that in the UK, one person in 100 is diagnosed with the condition. So there are many people with this condition walking among us.

There is nothing sexy about bipolar. There is nothing trendy about being immobilised by your moods. Depression for me is like Mike Tyson – it can knock me out with one punch. It leaves me groggy and listless. There have been mornings when I’ve had to negotiate with myself to brush my teeth let alone have a shower. At my worst there have been weekends where I haven’t had a wash, combed my hair or left my house I’ve been so depressed. I don’t go out and see friends. If the phone rings I don’t answer it preferring to roll over in my bed and bury my head beneath the sheets.

Conversely being manic is an exhilarating experience of having fire running through my veins. I’ve never snorted cocaine but I don’t think I could work longer, talk faster or have more powerful orgasms if I took that drug such is the intensity of my natural highs. Then I crash and more often than not cringe when I realise how I’ve run amok over the last x amount of days.

For 80 percent of the time I’m stable and the only thing that reminds me that I have bipolar is the medication I have to take every morning and every night. Other than that if I get enough sleep, exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet and don’t drink in excess, I’m fine.

But it’s that remaining 20 percent that makes me want to warn those who read about bipolar in the news and rush to dismiss it as a celebrity fad. It’s not like hair extensions or Botox, fake boobs or the latest diet. You can’t be bipolar one day or suddenly decide you’re not the next. It’s serious. It’s real. And if you’re suicidal it can be deadly.

Bipolar is no respecter of persons – whether you’re an Oscar-winning actress or a shopkeeper. It’s a great leveller.

So, while I’m glad that more celebrities are opening up about their private battle with the disorder and attempting to divorce it from shame, I don’t want anyone to think people who say they have it are slavishly trying to follow the latest trend. Trust me, if they had a choice, they’d invest in a designer handbag instead. It’s a hell of a lot more fun.

M x

Coming out…

In Bipolar, Uncategorized on April 18, 2011 at 1:04 am


My name is Marissa Charles and I have bipolar disorder.

There. I’ve said it. After much worry and anxiety. After thinking, and rethinking, overanalysing and losing many jobs that I have yet to apply for and sending men that I have yet to date running for the hills, I, Marissa Charles, am coming out.

Hello world. I have bipolar.

Back in the bad old days – before bipolar became a sexy term tainted with celebrity – back when it was known as manic depression, it was my family secret.

My mum has manic depression. But, not only was it an unspoken reality that we didn’t really discuss in public, at home it was referred to as being “sick.” My mum would say: “When I was sick” or “before I was sick.” If she were manic or angry, it would become: “When I was mad.”

My mum was diagnosed in 1981 when I was five. So I have lived with this illness for 30 years, although I only became an official club member in the last days of my 20s. And now, five years on, I’m declaring it to the world.

Why has it taken me so long? Because deep down I know that madness scares people. It is the plight that dare not speak its name.

Tell people you have diabetes and they might say: “Oh really?” Tell them you have cancer and they may throw their arms around you and say: “I’m so sorry,” before reassuring you that cancer can be beaten and that their aunt, dad or mum beat it and survived.

But tell them you have a mental illness and…silence. Crickets chirp. They shift uncomfortably. Then, finally, they say: “I didn’t know… But you seem so…OK.” (They mean “normal” but can’t bring themselves to say it.) One fears that they start seeing you in a different way, as though you have the word “bipolar” tattooed on your forehead.

Little did they know there was someone mad walking among them. She wasn’t walking the streets with matted hair, talking to herself, smelling like garbage and wearing holey clothes. She was holding down a job, paying her bills, driving a car and well – you can say it, go on – she was, is, normal.

So, just to clarify, to make absolutely clear that I am finally stripped of all fear and shame: I, Marissa Charles, have bipolar.

And? And I’m doing just fine. Thank you.

M x