Catherine Zeta-Jones Seeks Treatment for Bipolar Disorder Once Again
Catherine Zeta-Jones is once again seeking treatment for her bipolar II disorder. She first announced the disorder back in 2011. She has expressed concern for keeping her health in check, and therefore has reached out again for treatment.
In this post, one of our Lifetime Moms shares her experience growing up with a bipolar mother. Hopefully Zeta-Jones' kids are dealing with their mother's illness in the best way possible for their situation.
I had a pretty great childhood. At least, that’s what my mother will tell you. For a long time I believed her - her truth was my truth because as she always said “If I tell you the sky is purple then you had better damn well say the sky is purple” - so I grew accustomed to agreeing with her and seeing things in whatever way she told me to. Frankly, it was much easier to be happy that way.
When you are raised by a bipolar mother, as I was, you learn to roll with the punches and find happiness anywhere you can. Happiness was fleeting. One second I was told that I was the most beautiful and perfect little girl in the world and the next my mother was screaming at me to “get out of her face” and telling me she “couldn’t stand to look at me”. Honestly, for a long time I thought this was normal -- I assumed it was how all mothers acted and reacted to their children. I was a teenager before I realized that most mothers were very different than my own.
I was around 8 when it first occurred to me that my mom was “sick” a lot. She was always “changing medicines” to find the “right” ones - and it seemed like all the “right ones” did was make her tired. She was too tired to play, too tired to cook, too tired to do much else besides gossip on the phone for hours with a girlfriend. Then suddenly she would go from tired to overdrive - she would come home with bags and bags of Christmas decorations and declare that we were going to make it the ‘best Christmas ever’. It usually ended badly with me crying and her cursing while puffing on a cigarette in the corner because truthfully my mom hated the Christmas season -- she said it made her feel so “down”.
Her favorite thing to do was cry then apologize after an outburst. She called me names that hurt too much to type and would routinely throw pots and pans at the walls in the kitchen when she couldn’t find the right one (it was never at me, thankfully - there was never any physical abuse) She would refuse to get out of bed some days and just ask us to leave her alone - leaving my father to get us out of the house any way that he knew how. And after all of these things she would eventually sob through an apology and swear she would never do it again.
At an early age I learned a life saving trick. I like to call it “Are you OK? Are you mad at me?” Constantly asking if my mother was OK was the key to not having her explode. Heaven forbid I not ask and she not be OK because then when she let it all out - it was like a freight train coming at me. Her anger was terrifying. If my mom was OK, then I could allow myself to breathe and go about my day. If she wasn’t ok - she never had a problem telling me - she was usually waiting for me to ask her about it. And usually whatever it was, was all my fault - even when it wasn’t.
This is where my own personal issues begin. I consider myself a people pleaser. As an adult I ask my husband almost daily if he is OK and if he is mad at me (really all he needs to do is take a longer than normal pause while he’s talking to me to trigger it). He finds this puzzling and downright frustrating, but I cannot relax until I know he is OK and not angry - even though he rarely has any reason to truly be angry at me. I tend to do this with close friends and other family members as well. I later learned in therapy that this very unhealthy habit is part of a larger issue called “co-dependency” and it frequently manifests itself in children of alcoholics. It’s the idea that if the alcoholic is OK, then everyone else can be OK.
I also apologize a lot, for everything. I have a tendency to say something in a conversation and then while the conversation continues I'll start thinking about what I said - wondering if it was dumb or offensive. Then I'll break back in, drag the conversation back to where I made the statement, and apologize and make sure the person is OK. I like to call this 'dwelling' - but really it harkens back to carefully watching every single word that came out of my mouth and then contemplating if it would make my mother explode. Apologizing for it before it could make her angry was the key to avoiding the explosion.
Now as a woman with children of my own, my biggest fear is raising them to feel like I did - vulnerable, helpless, and meek. Mercifully, I don’t suffer from the same symptoms of depression that my mother did so I feel like on most days I have control of my emotions. However after I had my first child I suffered greatly from postpartum depression. Until then I never had a glimpse into the way that my mother felt on a daily basis - and my view of her was forever changed. Some damage is too great to ever be undone, but now I understand how miserable it feels to be trapped in the darkest of places. I was briefly on medication and only dealt with these feelings for about 3 weeks - I can’t imagine feeling that way every day as my mother does.
All things considered life is better now. New medications specifically for those who are bipolar have really mellowed my mother out. Not much angers her anymore. Sadly, not much excites her anymore either - so she sort of floats along like a jellyfish. Sometimes I wish she showed more interest in our lives - but then I remember that it’s a cause of the medication and that sadly, there are very real tradeoffs. As for me, I’m still in therapy - trying to relearn how to deal with people in my life in a healthy way and how to discern what problems are actually my problems to take on and solve. It’s a slow process - old habits die hard - but it’s one that I feel is so important to make sure that this unhealthy cycle doesn’t continue for my children. And really when I look back at my life I can say this - my mom and dad did a great job of helping me to make some really wonderful memories - so I choose to focus on that part of my childhood. It’s better for us all that way.
Don't miss the premiere of Lifetime's latest "Five" movie, "Call Me Crazy". Premiering Saturday, April 20 at 8/7c.