I remember a lot about my childhood. Surprisingly, my memories are pretty clear. I especially remember summers. When I was young, I never went to camp and we rarely traveled during summer vacation, so I enjoyed my break from school in the idyllic setting of a small town. I grew up in northern New England and recall riding my bike to my best friend’s house by the lake almost daily and floating with her in the cool water for hours, doing cannonballs off her dock. I never wore sunscreen, I drank Coke out of glass bottles, sang along to the radio, made s’mores and pretended to be Princess Leia. I remember picking red clover from the field near my house, plucking the purple spikes from the stem and chewing on their ends. I fished for tiny perch with my brothers, and caught fireflies in a mason jar with holes poked in the lid, hoping they’d live through the night. I remember the chirping of crickets as I lazily rocked in a hammock.
I don’t remember being bipolar.
But my 10-year old daughter will spend her summer suffering from the disease I unwittingly passed down to her. She will know too well the symptoms I didn’t experience until my twenties. Her summer will be full of therapy, and medications and their side effects. She will continue to lose friendships and not understand why. She will cry herself to sleep, asking why she has to be “like this”. And I will have no answers for her. I can give her cool lakes and hammocks and Coca-Cola, but the joy she might get from those experiences will be only temporary.
I wish I could have my youthful summers back. Because I would give them to her. Instead, I gave her bipolar disorder.