"In a mania my mother was unstoppable"

Even many adults do not know what bipolar disorder is. Naema Gabriel was confronted with it at an early age because she and her older sister grew up with her manic-depressive mother. She has processed her experiences in the picture book "Sinus". A conversation about spaghetti in the bathtub and the fear of the orphanage.

"Mom was sad because the love between mom and dad was gone, and the love between mom and dad was over because mom was always sad, so they broke her table and her bed, first for a year and then forever. Franka and I, we are inseparable, daddy said I want to have the children with me, Mama said: I'd rather be dead than separated from the children, that's how she loved us, that's why we're with Mama, with the furniture Mama's apartment is full to the ceiling and way too small for us, Papa's apartment is empty and too big for us, today is the year over, today starts forever. " (Excerpt from Naema Gabriel's book "Sinus")

Mrs. Gabriel, how did you notice that your mother is different?

Naema Gabriel: There was a key moment on my sixth birthday. I knew from other children's birthday parties that mothers usually keep in the background, suggest games, sausages and cakes. My mother has attracted all attention like a party animal, was unstoppable in her euphoria and has completely forgotten me. It really bothered me the first time. In her manic phases, my mother also always had a wanderlust, she went on impulse-like traveling. She also took me a lot. It always had something very adventurous, like Pippi Longstocking.

What moments do you think about?

Driving a car with music turned up. Loudly singing, to take the momentum from a hill to fly one's neighbor up. My mother has a very strong imagination, she told my sister and me, for example, that this is the ski jump to heaven. She also has a real acting talent and was able to play us the greatest Charlie Chaplin scenes. We were allowed to do a lot: ride in the apartment with roller skates, climb over tables and benches or eat spaghetti in the bathtub. But in a mania, it could happen to her that she forgets to pack up at a motorway rest stop. My sister then made her aware of my absence. Then she turned off, of course.

That was not the only critical situation.

Much had to do with driving. In her manic phases, my mother was too turned up to sleep. We have stayed several times at a rest stop or petrol station in the car when the fatigue had robbed them. Once we landed in the ditch, because she has dozed off at the wheel. In a mania my mother was also overly sociable. She lacked the sense of limits. It often happened that she tied up with men and brought them home with us - sometimes she also barked up homeless people. When the wanderlust awoke early in the morning, she just drove off and left us alone with her acquaintances.

The manic phases were thus more dangerous than the depressive ones.

Yes - that's why I was kind of relieved, despite everything, when my mother was depressed. Although I noticed that she was very sad and unpowered. But I knew she was there when I came home from school. She used to take her meds during depression, which is supposed to prevent the worst.

"I am a teenager, but I do not cause any problems for my family, I have other worries, the fear that my mother could more or less purposely catapult me ​​out of life is a daily routine for me ... Read the whole excerpt

© Naema Gabriel

Her mother was a single parent, her father lived in another city. Why did not your relatives or the attending physician seek help? I also asked my aunts. They found that we children no longer belong to their area of ​​responsibility. They felt responsible for my mother and had their hands full with her: managing the household, paying bills - things she hatched, straightening again. We children were also very unobtrusive. A typical behavior, as I know by now. There is this phenomenon of parentification as in children of addicted parents: the children unconsciously slip into the parent role. They seem overly sensible, they retreat a lot. This is often misinterpreted. The aunts, my father, teachers and doctors thought we were mature and reasonable, with the motto: "They can take care of themselves." I'll throw that back to you in retrospect.On the other hand, even a willing helper would first have to overcome a high wall of silence in order to make a child talk about his worries at home. Children are extremely solidary with their parents. That requires a lot of stamina and sensitivity.

A sensitivity that nobody in your environment evidently possessed.

Because everyone thought someone was going to take care of it. The doctor thinks: "They get regularly visit from the aunts." The aunts think, "They get regular visit from the father." The father does not enter the apartment. Or the teachers say, "The neighbors would catch something." And the neighbors say, "The teachers need to remember something." Everyone sees only the tip of the iceberg - but that's no excuse. In my childhood, the tips pointed to such a large iceberg, there was simply failure to help, nothing to do. My aunts once took my sister and me from a hotel where our mother had left us alone. We had a fever and hunger, fed us from the minibar. It's not okay to say that the problem is solved when the children go back to school the next day. Adults should ask. If they do not dare to take responsibility themselves, there are finally enough points of contact to turn to.

Would you as a child wish to be separated from your mother?

Of course not. Of course in the truest sense of the word. It is in the nature of the child that it wants to stay with Mom - even if it is beaten or abused. If I had been told that I can live somewhere else in bad times * (see end credits), but otherwise still lives with my mother, I would certainly have accepted. My horror idea was that you will be caught once and for all, come to the orphanage and your mother will be put into the madhouse until the end of her life.

"The Franka tightens first her hair and then mine eyes closed, air hold, head down, full in the hair lacquer cloud. Super: we have hair like brown cotton candy ... Read whole excerpt.

© Naema Gabriel

This never happened. You had problems anyway.

We were socially excluded. My mother sometimes flirted with the fathers of other children. On a carnival a child called my sister and me as hookers because the father of the child told him so. I did not even know the word until then. My sister has reacted to such things with an over-fitting, she was always very stylish. We left our neglected apartment in the morning and on the way to school my sister looked like we were coming from one of the better households. We tried to build a facade - which did not work well.

In what way?

When the other children have told their parents what our home looks like, they were not allowed to come anymore. Teenagers later found it rather cool to be offered a cigarette by my mother - in an apartment that is a mess - pure anarchy. On the other hand, I rather long for order and rules, because they did not exist for me. I had to think for myself when to come home in the evening.

How long did you stay with your mother?

My sister was away when she was 16 years old. From the age of 17, she had a friend she could live with and almost came in for a laundry. As a last child at home I felt even more responsible for my mother. For a long time I had the illusion that the disease was something that could be healed or at least improved. At the age of 18 I started my art studies in Karlsruhe. That was a liberation strike. Geographically, but also internally. Shortly thereafter, it broke my mother. After complaining to her on the phone for a long time and expressing her thoughts of suicide, it shot out of me: "Then kill you."

After that, radio silence was for a year.

I thought that was forever. But when we talked again after a year, we both wanted to change our relationship. I tried to remind her of her role as a mother and to free me from parentalization. Simply saying, "I am your daughter and now tell you my worries." She did a good job, because otherwise she was treated as a patient and not taken for full. Today she is helped by a legal counselor, not just on health issues.

As a young woman, you developed anorexia and hurt yourself. A reaction to your experiences?

Through therapy I have understood what an anorexia is - that has a lot to do with the need to set limits and have control. This is a total legitimate need that can not be well satisfied only by the physical, because then it quickly becomes self-destructive. In foothills, this lack of sense of healthy boundaries accompanies me until today. I may be too capable of suffering: I do not realize for a long time, when someone tramples on my limits, because I'm used to it.

Was your sister the same or did she handle it differently?

She took a different path, went early outward, went home with friends.Through her curiosity and self-confidence, she has come to know other family models. The contrast with her own home has led to conflicts. She knew and demanded her rights as a child.

Did you both get along well?

Yes, our childhood welded us together. However, we could not afford to fight a lot. We only had each other. She also slipped into a mother role for me.

What made you write down and record your experiences in a book? I had the need for a long time, because these stories just go beyond the conversation. My own son made this need stronger. When he's big, let him know why I'm ticking and why his grandma is like that. I also wanted to tell my husband in the form of this book. I have not written a guide, but apparently the book also fulfills this function. During my readings and the subsequent discussion, I leave my comfort zone, which is very personal. But if people with sharpened antennas go home for such children and I can encourage other people, everything has been worth it.

Sponsorship projects can be a meaningful interim solution in times of crisis: A godfather lives in the same place, maintains contact with the child even in good times and accompanies it with the consent of the sick parent, even in bad times. Information about this and offers can be found, for example, on the pages of Amsoc, Netz und Boden or Help! for Families.


© Naema Gabriel

"I'm a teenager, but I do not bother my family, I have other worries, the fear that my mother could more or less purposely catapult me ​​out of life is her everyday life, her own tides, which she regularly sky-high Each time, the metamorphosis from manic to depressive is fully accomplished, different facets of my two mothers reunite to create an implosive mix.

The doctor makes a line, that's the zero line, zack. Then he paints a sine wave, with red pen for "mania" above the zero line and blue pen for "depression" below the zero line. "The drugs," he says, "should do the following." He leans his head askew and paints horizontal lines in green with which he chops off the hills and the valleys of the sinus curve. "It gets difficult here", he paints Kringel around the places where the sine curve crosses the zero line unmoved from top to bottom. "Here the patient still has the euphoric drive of mania, but already the mood of depression or here:" (Kringel at the next intersection further to the right) "nor the thoughts of depression, even the power of mania One should think, here: "(Kringel at the low point of the Talkurve)" because the patient is indeed the most depressive, but no, the highest is the suicidal probability here: nor the ... "? "YES, YES, YES, I already got it!" I understood it before, even without a chart. "

My world is alright when I know: Mom has certainly landed in her depression. Finally, rest for the next few weeks. The tsunami she unleashed at the beginning of her last mania has flooded over us. The dates of the concerts, which she has instigated, have passed away without a sound and sanguine. The lovers, who had come to fetch what they had been promised, have left the closed door of the apartment without any real accomplishments. The unpaid bills have divided the aunts sisterly and mercifully paid. "


© Naema Gabriel

"The Franka tightens first her hair and then mine eyes, hold your breath, head down, full in the hair-lacquer cloud." Super: we have hair like brown cotton candy.So now in the hundred lace petticoats, the mom times antiquarian All the belts we find criss-cross around the hips Cut off at least fifty men's vests at navel level and put them on top of each other - weird, sometimes, then, the main thing, shoulders look out Franka sees the lipstick as great I look like I ate spaghetti with tomato sauce.

We dance like Madonna. Two Madonnas in the room, two in the mirror. Okay, let's go now. I slip my bare arms in the cool down jacket, that feels weird and new. In the garage we parked the brooms. We ride on our witches broom through the dark village to the party cellar of the YMCA. All the Catholic children are standing around, holding pretzel sticks and soda cans in their hands and talking, always in threes. Thriller is quite loud, but all are like this: I have more important things to do than dancing. The Franka knows someone, but he comes later. I also know someone, from seeing that in the corner, from the bus stop. "Hello, well?" Maybe he does not recognize me. "We are witches!" ? "You are hookers." ? "But ..." I hold out my broom. "Because your mother is a hooker, my dad said!" ? I tell Franka everything: "... his father said!".She puts her arm around me, pushing me in front of her, to the entrance, out of the YMCA again. On the way back we do not ride, we walk and pull the brooms behind us. At home we turn on the TV. Kölle allaf? we can do that too. We march with our knees bent, wave like sparks-marching robots and show all our teeth? clench firmly! We bend forward with giggles, march on, fold again. Tä-täää, Tä-täää, Tä-täää! "

EP075: How A Manic Depressive, Anxious Fat Guy Transformed His Body, Business & Saved His Marriage (August 2020).

Disturbance, Pippi Longstocking, car, gas station, manic depressive, bipolar disorder, sinus, naema gabriel, mother is depressed, psychiatry