Ask Amy

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Amy Dick­in­son

Dear Amy: When I was 31, I was di­ag­nosed with bipo­lar dis­or­der. I started hav­ing symp­toms when I was 11. It took me years to seek help, even af­ter my dad was di­ag­nosed when I was in my mid-20s.

I told my mom a few times that I thought that I had the ill­ness. I was hop­ing she would help me seek treat­ment, since I was so afraid of the stigma, but also af­ter hav­ing an acute episode, I would feel bet­ter and con­vince my­self that noth­ing was wrong.

Ev­ery time, my mother told me that she didn’t think any­thing was wrong with me, even when I con­fessed that I was con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide. Fi­nally, I sought help on my own. Med­i­ca­tion and ther­apy has helped me tremen­dously, and my mom has been sup­port­ive now that she has wit­nessed one of my manic episodes and re­al­ized that I re­ally do need help.

I still har­bor re­sent­ment to­ward her for not en­cour­ag­ing me to seek treat­ment ear­lier. I re­al­ize that I am an adult and ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for my­self. I want to for­give her, but I want her to apol­o­gize.

Am I wrong for want­ing that? — Wait­ing for Sorry

Dear Wait­ing: Your nar­ra­tive brings to mind the fa­mous quote from Maya An­gelou: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know bet­ter, I do bet­ter.”

Par­ent­ing some­times seems like a long string of op­por­tu­ni­ties to fail, and your mother failed you. I can think of sev­eral rea­sons why she didn’t seek help for you ear­lier, in­clud­ing ig­no­rance, de­nial, stigma, or flat-out fear. All of these rea­sons will seem like ex­cuses at this point, how­ever, and now you are owed an ac­knowl­edg­ment and apol­ogy.

Rather than bring­ing up your ill­ness and be­ing con­tin­u­ally dis­ap­pointed when she doesn’t take the bait, I hope you will ask your mother for what you want: “Mom, it would help me a lot if you would ex­plain to me why you didn’t help me seek treat­ment ear­lier. I need an ac­knowl­edg­ment.”

If you don’t get what you seek, you will have to do the hard work of ac­cept­ing your mother, de­spite her own fail­ings. For­give­ness should fol­low.

Dear Amy: My hus­band passed away last fall. Be­cause grand­chil­dren were in col­lege, we buried him just af­ter Christ­mas.

Our daugh­ter and her hus­band came from Texas. Other sib­lings brought their fam­i­lies from other parts of the coun­try.

This sum­mer we had a me­mo­rial brunch and cel­e­bra­tion of their father’s life. Our Texas daugh­ter re­fused to come to this event be­cause she was work­ing 60 to 70 hours a week at a new job.

I wrote her a let­ter say­ing she owed it to the fam­ily to ap­pear. She says I’m not be­ing com­pas­sion­ate to­ward her for ex­pect­ing this.

It has now been al­most three months that she has not an­swered my phone calls or emails. I need sugges­tions on how to deal with this. — Griev­ing

Dear Griev­ing: I’m sorry for this loss to your fam­ily. I as­sume that your daugh­ter is griev­ing, too. Many peo­ple don’t re­spond well when some­one is­sues a ba­sic de­mand that they “owe” it to oth­ers to ap­pear.

You don’t say why you didn’t hold a life cel­e­bra­tion when the en­tire fam­ily was gath­ered at Christ­mas­time, but I won­der if there are rea­sons your daugh­ter feels you ac­com­mo­dated oth­ers, but not her.

The tone of your com­mu­ni­ca­tion at this point should shift from blame to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. It is vi­tal af­ter a death in the fam­ily that ev­ery­one should do their best to be gen­tle with one an­other. Gen­tle­ness from you should in­spire the same from her.

Dear Amy: Let me add my voice to oth­ers who ob­jected to your re­sponse to “There’s No Place Like (the Beach) Home,” whose sis­ter had pur­chased the fam­ily’s va­ca­tion house and now wanted to charge rent for vis­its. You thought this re­quest for rent was a bit much. I dis­agree. — Dis­sat­is­fied

Dear Dis­sat­isf ied: Many fam­i­lies find ways to suc­cess­fully share ex­penses for a fam­ily va­ca­tion house. This house was not shared, but had been pur­chased by an in­di­vid­ual. I think wel­com­ing fam­ily back for a short sum­mer­time visit should be an act of gen­eros­ity — many read­ers dis­agree.

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