Mom, Mania, and Me:
Surviving and Changing a Volatile Relationship

by Diane Dweller

Writing Ink L.L.C., 2017. ISBN 978-0-944-74902-9.
Reviewed by Ann McCauley
Posted on 01/25/2017

Nonfiction: Memoir

Mom, Mania, and Me: Surviving and Changing a Volatile Relationship, by Diane Dweller is a powerful memoir epitomizing the devastating effect of her mother's bipolar episodes on her family, especially the author. Most of us realize life is hard for those who suffer with mental illness. This is a much needed book to help us understand the effects of mentally ill behaviors and other symptoms on their families as they try to accommodate the special needs of a mentally ill member. Dweller's first-person account is written like a fast-paced novel, with riveting prologue. She becomes the scapegoat for her mother's many frustrations.

Chapter One begins thirty years after the prologue episode, at her father's funeral. It is the unanticipated event that forces Dweller and her sister to return to their family home. Their mother, Dixie, is in denial and oblivious; she acts like everything is the same as always. She refuses to wear black and demands her daughters not wear black to the funeral. Her rapid speech and manic behaviors worry the sisters; they had always believed their mother would die first. Her doctor-father provides well for her mother, but Dixie decides she wants an airplane and a pilot to take her wherever she decides to go. Dad did well, but not that well. Dixie starts another manic roll.

Dweller's story slowly unfolds with each chapter. Against her parent's wishes, she forgoes college and marries an Air Force pilot at seventeen. She follows him to England to escape her mother's constant criticism and cruelty. Her handsome young husband forgets his charming courtship manners and becomes even crueler than her mother, with constant criticism and philandering. They have a baby boy. Dweller is young, lonely, and scared, with no self-esteem and living in foreign country. She does not tell her parents how bad things are.

Dweller ends up back in Texas with two small children, alone, trying to go to night school and work to support her children. Her father offers to support her and the children while she finishes college as well as paying her tuition. Dixie becomes angry since that decreases the money she has for shopping. Dweller finally helps her mother find a psychiatrist, who helps Dixie with the right medication. But as with many other bipolars, every time she begins to stabilize, Dixie convinces herself she is well and stops the medicine. Dweller calls the doctor, and he reaches out to Dixie, who likes and respects him. On these occasions it seems the doctor's widow receives a bit more compassionate care from a busy psychiatrist than an ordinary patient might receive.

Dweller is treated for hypothyroidism since she was ten, but it flares out of control after the birth of her youngest daughter, including mood swings and painful physical symptoms. Finding the right treatment proves to be a long and difficult journey. An unsympathetic doctor refuses to listen to her concerns; this experience helps Dweller understand what her mom has been going through year after year.

At the end of the book Dweller lists contact information for eight national organizations that offer support to the mentally ill and their families. She believes that a change is needed in the HIPAA privacy policy to allow family members to contact the doctor of their loved ones, because the needs of their children should be paramount or at least equal to the needs of the mentally ill. As a former long-time psychiatric nurse, I completely agree.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Diane Dweller has been a successful Simon and Schuster author, a columnist for the New York Daily News, and appeared on "CBS This Morning," CNBC, NBC, FOX, and QVC shows. She is a graduate of Texas Tech and Stanford University. She is married, has three adult children and lives in Pennsylvania. Visit her website.

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