January 15, 2013

Ben and Denise | Time to ChangeDenise is proud of her son, because he gave her the time and space to share and talk.

Denise's story:

New year always brings, for me, contemplation and inspires dreams for my future.

Giving kindness to people has its rewards and I try to surround myself with positive people who love me. My zest for life goes up and down as do my hopes and fears in tandem with bipolar. One thing that has always remained strong in my life is my son, Ben.

We spent many years together as a single parent family. Ben experienced my mental illness at a very young age and became adept at reading my moods, often seeing how I felt before I even did. He always makes me laugh and we share very fond memories. One time especially, during a severe bout of crippling depression, he again came to my rescue with laughter.

After teaching himself to play acoustic guitar over many months he proceeded to sing a favourite song to me with his guitar. It gave me such joy and happiness during a really bleak time and it shows that helping someone with mental illness just needs the offer of time and a chance to share and talk.

Ben's story:

Living with someone who had a mental illness seemed hard and confusing at first. I was only little when I first found out, around the age of 9 or 10. My mum had sat me down and explained as simply as she could to this young child about what she had finally plucked up the courage to share with me: her bipolar.

From that point, it was time to grow up, way before the other kids I was around. I had to switch roles with mum; it was my turn to look after her: to make sure she took her tablets on time, to make sure she ate throughout the day, to make sure she had what she needed and, of course, to make her smile.

This beautiful, strong women who had looked after me all my life had slowly fallen into depression and it felt like there was nothing I could do to help her. Over time I learnt that living with someone who has bipolar didn't have to be hard. In fact it was rather the opposite, I learnt it wasn't hard to see the signs of a 'down' patch of her life and I didn't need help seeing when she was happy!

To be honest, helping someone with bipolar is just a fine tuned normal day. Keeping an eye out on how my mum was acting both physically and emotionally became second nature and I could tell straight away how she was feeling, usually before she even knew herself.

I decided that the way I would look after her was to make her laugh. Every opportunity to act a fool in front of my mum, I took it, within reason of course! When she was really down, the easiest thing to do (and simplest) was to straight up ask her how she was feeling in herself. It seemed silly at first but this really was the best way to help her, and myself, get through the hard times...together.

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