Bipolar Disorder – Letter To Francine

Doreen Frandi during WWll. Photo: afcoory

Dear *Francine

I finished reading your PhD thesis *Virginia’s Story last night.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read it in the first place – I feel it was meant to be, like a chance encounter!

While taking in Virginia’s words, I had a little cry, because so much of what she is crying out for – dignity, personhood – is what I so wanted for my mother, Doreen.  She never did receive much of that respect in her life; not from hospitals, men, or from family.  This was my chief motivation for writing Whatever Happened To Ishtar? – A Passionate Quest To Find Answers For Generations of Defeated Mothers’.

By the time I had the chance to really know my mother, it was too late; the drugs and ECT had taken their toll.  Much of what she had experienced in psychiatric wards and throughout the manic, psychotic,  and depressive phases of her life, was passed on to me by my brother, Kevin, who lived with her until he was married.  After that, he spent time with her either at his home or at her council flat in Wellington, otherwise he spoke to her daily by phone.  I tried to obtain her records from Porirua Psychiatric Hospital, but they would not release them to me because I was not listed as her next of kin.  However, as I reveal in Whatever Happened To Ishtar?, Doreen’s psychiatrist did phone me and answered most of the questions I asked of her regarding Doreen’s psychiatric history.  Obviously, she did not volunteer information, so I only have knowledge of a small section of my mother’s official records of the times she was confined at the hospital.

Even though I was never admitted to a psychiatric ward, I came close to a mental breakdown when I was a young woman and my marriage was failing.  I can well understand, therefore, Virginia’s desire to leave her marriage, which was draining her physical and mental strength.   I also experienced what it was like to be denied personhood and dignity, when I was a child and teenager. I was branded and often humiliated by my Lebanese extended family because of who my mother was; her bipolar disorder and her Italian descent.  What I hated most was the way they branded her a “sharmuta” (prostitute) when she was nothing of the sort and could not defend herself.  There are many parallels in my, Doreen’s,  and Virginia’s stories.  I regret so much that Doreen only took Kevin with her when she left Dunedin for Wellington,  and abandoned me.  I believe that as her daughter, I may have been able to empathise more with her, and given support to my brother.  Sadly, I will never know for sure what the outcome would have been in that scenario.  Thank goodness Virginia at least had a loving daughter to look after her welfare.

I was very interested in what you had to say in your thesis about biographies vs autobiographies; about creativity and whether or not bipolar disorder is actually a mental illness.  Many brilliant artists as you know, exhibit facets of the disorder.  I read a medical paper recently which suggested that bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are symptoms brought about through the brain evolving, which of course it has been doing for thousands of years.  An interesting theory.

I intend to contact Bipolar networks in Australia, and perhaps give talks about my and my brother’s experiences with Doreen and her disorder.  If you have any contacts here, I would be grateful if you could pass their name or names on to me.  Alternatively, members of bipolar networks can contact me via this blog and request a copy of the book .

At your suggestion, I called at the  office of the  Bipolar Network after our meeting and donated a copy of ‘Ishtar?‘ which they were very pleased to receive. I told them they could purchase more copies at  University Book Shops. Although the Public Library acquisitions officer requested to buy copies directly from me when I met with her to promote my book, I told her the normal process was that the library purchase copies through  University Book Shops.

Thank you once again for taking the time to meet with me, and for buying copies of my book for the Dunedin University Book Shop.

Kind regards

Anne Frandi-Coory

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Bipolar Disorder Blog   (The Crazy Rambler)

Bipolar Disorder; The Little We Know

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*Names have been changed for privacy reasons

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4 comments
  1. Fenny said:

    Anne ~ you have quite a story to tell and you do so eloquently! For your mother to be ill with bipolar was a nightmare in those times, which in its nature caused a lot of suffering in those days, more so than now, with the new developments in treatment. The stigma she endured must have been horrendous.
    Your own trauma’s have eventually made you stronger ~ you are a very special lady to have overcome what life has thrown at you! Hats off for you!!
    How awesome that you have been able to turn it into a research resulting in a wonderful book that will aid many a person on their own journey.
    Honored to be on your blog roll!
    Fenny

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    • frandi said:

      Thank you for your heartfelt comments Fenny – I believe only a bipolar sufferer truly knows what the disorder brings upon a person and his or her family. My mother’s extended family and that of my father, had no understanding of her mental illness and so treated her as a “fallen woman” and a nonperson. Her suffering continues within me, but I fight it everyday. Anne.

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      • Fenny said:

        So sorry, Anne, that you are struggling as well. It is true that the good ánd bad things are passed on from our (grand)parents. You are couragous to deal with it as it is not an easy battle. Heck, it’s horrible!
        Hope you have a good support network!

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  2. frandi said:

    I wish I had had a good support network when I was a young mum – so many broken memories kept surfacing but I didn’t understand what it was all about. I didn’t know anything about my mother’s life then, not until I researched ‘Ishtar?’. My blogging is a great help because I love to write – am writing another book, fiction this time – and I have made contact with many lovely people. I just find it difficult to come to terms with the suffering my mother endured, it was too much for one person. The biggest tragedy of all to my mind is that she was a devout Catholic all of her life, and yet the Church let her down agsin and again when she most needed help. Needless to say I am now an atheist.

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