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Monday, July 28, 2014

Why Did She Jump? My Daughter's Battle with Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder affects a great number of Americans, and the family and friends hurt as well. Joan E. Childs, LCSW explores the pain of those caregivers in a book dedicated to her daughter's struggles, Why Did She Jump? My Daughter's Battle with Bipolar Disorder.

Joan received the worst news a mother ever could after a two-day drive cross-country--her oldest daughter, Pam, jumped from her father's high-rise apartment to her death. This suicide was devastating but not a terrible surprise; Pam had been wrestling with bipolar disorder for most of her adult life. It ended a marriage and broke apart friendships, but her ultimate act left a family reeling and so many who loved her wondering why. In this memoir, Childs digs deep to express her anguish over her daughter's final moments, the circumstances leading to them, and the aftermath of one woman's devastating illness. 

It's difficult to imagine or even explain what it's like to love someone who struggles with Bipolar I disorder, and those left behind in the wake of the choppy waves of such disease have a hard time describing what it's like to move through the days on eggshells. This is ultimately what I think is the most important part of Childs' memoir. She tells Pam's pain, and her own, with such pathos and love that it's easy to understand why she is so broken-hearted even when you want to take Pam to get on medication herself. Watching someone you love spiral down into paranoia, pain, and self-destruction is the most helpless feeling that may exist, and Childs uses her position to try to express what that feels like. It's impactful.

Childs opens the memoir with a letter she wrote to Oprah. She was angry, so angry, at the lack of care she could offer her daughter. Our current mental health system is flawed as I'm sure many are aware; it is near impossible to help those who suffer unless they self-commit or pose an actual harm to others (a worry about harm doesn't count). A great article from the Washington Post explains in more detail why this is the case. You watch this throughout Childs' story running as a constant theme and it's flabbergasting as an outsider that someone who needs help so badly is so unable to get it. It's a startling read, and heartbreaking.

Hard copy for purchase below.

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