My Grandmother's Illness

May 22, 2012
By Carter Chapman GOLD, Cannon Falls, Minnesota
Carter Chapman GOLD, Cannon Falls, Minnesota
13 articles 0 photos 0 comments

My grandmother had a stroke when she was 48 years old, and has been in the nursing home since. Half her life left, practically taken away from her because of a blood clot. This happened about 4 months before I was born, so I never had the chance to see what she looked like before the stroke, except for pictures.

When we were visiting her in the nursing home when I was about 8, she had an odd look in her eyes, like she was angry. After my father and I talked with her for a little while, and then she told my father and I to go away. We left, without even saying goodbye. I was confused by this, because she always seemed happy to see us before. As we were driving home, I asked my dad what was going on. “Grandma has bipolar.” He explained to me. “What’s bipolar?” I replied, the word, new to my 8 year old mind. Most of the memories from this are a blur to me now, given that it’s been about 7 years since. But I remember him telling me that you feel like you want to kill someone. Not figuratively either. As I grew older I learned more and more things about it.

My dad’s parents were married for 25 years; they divorced when my dad was 27, a few months after my parents wed. My dad feels uncomfortable talking about my grandmas bipolar, and why his parents divorced, so usually I ask my mom when I have questions about it. My grandpa is a really nice guy, one of the best people I know. I was told that my grandmas bipolar showed some symptoms while my dad was still living at home, like getting angry if a chair was angled an odd way, calling my grandpa or my dad stupid for not putting the chair back the proper way. My grandmas bipolar grew more severe as my dad left home to go to college. However, somehow my grandpa hid what was going on from my father.

Last fall when my grandpa was staying with me while my parents when out of state on vacation with their friends, I learned more things about my grandmas bipolar. I was surprised when he asked me how my grandma was doing, given the fact I’d never heard him bring up her name before. “Is her illness being managed well?” He asked me. ‘Her illness?’, I thought to myself. “Her bipolar?” I asked. “Yes” he responded. After discussing how it was being treated well by her medication, I started to learn more and more about my grandmas past.
When my dad was in college, my grandma would sometimes up and leave the house and not return for days. When my grandpa finally decided something was wrong, mentally, he and my grandma went to the doctor. She was diagnosed with Manic Depression (Bipolar). After that everything was going well, my dad came home on the weekends to hang out with his friends and see his parents, and thought everything was going good. Until, my grandpa reveled to me, she decided she didn’t want to take her medication anymore. When my grandpa started getting suspicious, he confronted her about it. After that he started watching her take her medication every morning before he left for work. Little did he know, she was hiding her pills under her tongue. The symptoms grew worse, my dad graduated college and moved back home.

Despite how mentally ill my grandma was, she wanted to be on her best behavior around my dad, her only child. A couple of years later my dad started dating my mom, they bought a house and soon were married. That’s when everything seemed to turn to chaos. My grandma stopped taking her medication, after taking it for about a year or two. She started taking a knife to bed, holding it up against my grandpas back. The little my dad feels comfortable talking about what happened between my grandparents, he did tell me my grandpa had many nights where he had to sleep with one eye open. When my grandpa decided he couldn’t take it anymore, and was sick of my grandma not taking her pills and having relapses, he divorced her. Things seemed to escalate from there. My grandpa moved up to the cities, and my grandmas bipolar got worse. My mom told me that she would come home from work and my grandma would be sitting on the kitchen table, smoking a cigarette, and would start calling my mom swear words. My mom told me she could tell that my grandma had “evil eyes.” And after distracting my grandma, would call my dad for help. One time when my dad was driving my grandma to the mental hospital she pulled a knife on him and threatened him. Somehow, he got her there and things seemed to be manageable again. However, my grandma suffered many more relapses. My dad was eating lunch with her one day when she said she had to go to the bathroom. My dad turned around and caught her trying to hit him in the head with a rolling pin. Another relapse she tried pushing my pregnant mom down stairs, luckily that failed. After that she continued to take her pills, on and off. Hearing this I felt like I was hearing a horror story. This is my grandma, she’s one of the nicest people I know!

Until one day my dad was going to her apartment to pick her up for lunch, as he walked inside my grandma fell into his arms. She had a stroke. My dad claims the stroke saved her life, because she was a heavy alcoholic and smoker during the time of her bipolar relapses. However the stroke virtually took away my grandmas life.

She has trouble communicating, is unrecognizable from the way she looked before her stroke, and is paralyzed on her right side. She has to move around in a wheelchair or using a cane. Although seldom, she has had a few bipolar relapses since her stroke, but the nursing home does a pretty good job of administering her medication. Now despite all of the things my grandma has done, and even though I have trouble communicating with her, she is a truly remarkable person. She is one of the kindest, most loving people I know, and everything she’s been through makes her one of the neatest people I’ve ever known.

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