October 27, 2018
Chloe pressed two fresh tissues to her eyes, pushing on the corners to try to stop the tears. But she couldn’t no matter how hard, or how many times, she tried. Doctor Bosworth patiently waited for the moment to pass and for Chloe to straighten, take some deep breaths, and compose herself.
“I hate how I care what she thinks of me,” Chloe muttered. “All she’s ever done is yell at me, humiliate me, make me feel insignificant…but there was always a part of me that wanted her approval.”
“Do you feel that way now?”
“Sometimes. I’m still having a hard time buying things because I want them and not because it might make her happy.”
“Mm.” Sylvia nodded. “When was the last time you talked with your mother?”
“End of July.”
“So it’s been a couple months. Regaining your independence will take time, but it sounds like you’re already off to a good start.” Sylvia shifted slightly in her chair, from the Duchess Slant to crossing one leg over the other. “I’d like to talk a little bit about your relationship with your mother during these depressive cycles. You mentioned she’s bipolar.”
“Do you know about how often she was going through the manic episodes and the depressive episodes? Or was it more subtle?”
Chloe thought for a moment, recalling all those days her mother made her feel loved one moment and despised the next. They were tumultuous, unsteady days.
“I don’t really know. When I look back on it, it feels like she would be happy for only short times, and then angry for a long time. But I don’t know if that was real, or if my memory is wrong.”
“That’s okay. There are times when someone with bipolar disorder could be in a subdued manic state, and there are times when a bipolar person is in a manic state, but it increases their anger.”
Chloe sat in silence for several moments, thinking about that idea. “For a long time, I thought that’s what normal people were like. All through high school, I thought adults just screamed at each other for weeks on end, and then showered people with love and affection like nothing happened. I didn’t know that wasn’t normal.”
“When did you find out about the bipolar disorder?”
“I was seventeen. We were talking about various disorders in my psychology class. And I remembered thinking, ‘this is what my mom’s like’. So I asked her about it as nicely as I could. She was in a depressive time then, so she didn’t mind talking about it. When her mood changed, though, I got grounded for a month.”
“She told you about it, though?”
Those were dark days in their home. Chloe wanted to desperately understand why her mother didn’t love her like her friends’ mother’s did. Just remembering the obsessive all-nights brought back the ache in her throat urging her to cry; to let it all out. Even now, with the full story of her mother’s mental illness, she wasn’t sure she could ever understand it.
“Most people with mental disorders aren’t too keen on talking about their conditions.” Sylvia said softly. There was something in the tone that felt like she was trying to shine a light on something significant.
“Because of Nathaniel. He was the one who made her see through the fog, as it were. Without him…” Chloe’s voice trailed off. She wasn’t sure how to finish that thought.
“Were they married at the time? Or was this before that?”
“It was just a few months before their engagement.”
“Would you say your relationship with Nathaniel changed when he became—for lack of a better term—a liaison between you and your mother?”
“Maybe. I know that, in the beginning, I didn’t want to be close to him. I didn’t want to know him. Mom had so many guys in her life that were all terrible, so I thought he was going to leave like they all did. When they passed their first year together, I started opening up a little more because she’d never dated anyone that long before. And when they got married, we finally became friends. I think it was less about him being the communicator between my mother and I, and more about knowing that he was going to stay, so it was okay to be friends. It was okay because it wasn’t going to hurt later.”
“That’s perfectly understandable. Now, let me ask this: after you changed your hair for her, how long did that manic episode last? How long after did things take a turn?”
“Her moods leveled out after that. There were some spikes, especially around the holidays, but she was pretty consistent for a long time. Things didn’t really turn until this past April. I did fine in my first term of college; it was surprisingly drama-free.”
“So what happened in April?”
“I got engaged.”