By Laura Lee Huttenbach, Psychology Today
Growing up, Naureen Ahmed never felt comfortable inviting her friends from school over to play. Some days, her mother, Seema, would be happy—dressed in an elegant sari, wearing bright red lipstick, painting or sculpting or dancing or singing. On other days, Seema paced the house, ranting. She flicked the lights on and off. She sometimes became aggressive, on occasion slapping, hitting, or choking her children.
As a child, Naureen didn’t understand her mother’s erratic behavior. Her grandparents, who lived with the family, told Naureen that Seema was just “depressed” with a “chemical imbalance.” That was as far as their explanation went, even though her grandparents knew Seema’s actual psychiatric diagnosis was bipolar disorder with schizoaffective disorder. But Naureen wouldn’t find that out until she was 25. “If we had had that knowledge before, we would’ve been empowered to understand what she was going through,” Naureen, now 36, says, speaking on the phone from her home in Chicago.