Grace is not the only child in our family with mental health needs although her special needs do seem to eclipse everyone else’s. My 14-year old daughter Eadaoin was recently diagnosed with cyclothymia which is on the bipolar spectrum. We, of course, have to observe her for progress up that spectrum. Her psychiatrist is taking special care with her because of Grace’s diagnosis. Eadaoin spends a lot of her time in a hypomanic state, and she is ridiculously creative when she’s riding the high. She does, however, come crashing down, and the deep melancholy is hard on her so her doctor has put her on Lamictal. If this drug works for her, then she may be able to discontinue the SSRI that she’s been taking for two years which has been prescribed to treat a rather severe anxiety disorder which is possibly linked to her bipolar spectrum disorder.
Yesterday, Eadaoin and I had an errand to run. She very matter-of-factly brought it to my attention that she needed a new bra. Doireann chimed in with a “Me, too!” My husband is on a three-week business trip so I can’t very well take both of them. Plus, I really didn’t want to try to manage a bra fitting with these two very different young ladies at the same time. Doireann is extremely modest but pragmatic at the same time. She wears skinny jeans, army boots, and camo all the time but wept when Doctor Who and Rose were separated by a different dimension never to see each other again. Eadaoin, on the other hand, loves Hello Kitty, sculpts tiny chibi creations, and loves babies, kittens, and all things “Kawaii“. Eadaoin would oooh and aaaah over the lace, and Doireann would roll her eyes and say something insensitive because she’s uncomfortable with the fact that she has breasts at all although I think she’s starting to get it.
So, Eadaoin and I started out on our journey to procure better fitting undergarments which every woman needs. We found our way into the undergarments section, and Eadaoin began to look about suspiciously. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I don’t want what happened to you when Nana took you bra shopping to happen to me. I’m looking for people I know….” she declared. I laughed out loud.
When my mother took me bra shopping in high school, we were standing in the bra section of a well-known department store. It was the beginning of my freshman year, and I was, of course, typically self-conscious and terribly insecure. My mother had a handful of very boring looking white bras. She shouted out, “What do you think of these? Are you still a size A? I think you are. You look pretty small to me.” Just as she said this aloud, Jackson the Theatre God and a SENIOR walked by with Natasha the Theatre Goddess. They, of course, heard the whole thing and saw me standing there, blushing red. They both burst into peals of laughter and carried on, snorting and guffawing as they made their way past the women’s lingerie section. It was social death. I wanted to curl into the fetal position and die right there next to the Maidenform bras. Of course, that caught Jackson’s attention, and he ended up being my first kiss so it turned out alright in the end. Alas, that moment still haunts me, and my daughters still make me recount the tale just so they can laugh and relive the horror. Apparently, Eadaoin remembered it a little too well…standing next to the Maidenforms.
Sizing a 14 year-old is not easy so we ended up with ten bras of various sizes. Initially, when we arrived at the fitting room Eadaoin wanted me to stay outside which I expected. I wouldn’t want my mother helping me try on a bra, but she needed help. In the end, I was in there with her helping her with the clasps and the straps. Then came the “shimmy”. I had to show her how to lean forward, put all her breast tissue into the cup, and then stand up. Then, you have to put your hand into the cup and make sure that you’ve got your entire boob in there! It’s almost like working out for crying out loud, but there’s really no other way to know if you have the right fit. We did find some excellent bras for her, and she stunned me by saying as we were leaving the fitting room, “Mom, I think you missed your calling as a bra fitter. You’re really good at it.” I didn’t know what to say. I had succeeded in doing it differently than how it was done before me. “You didn’t feel weird about it? I wouldn’t want you to feel weird about this. This is part of life for we ladies. You have to have a good bra. It makes you stand up straighter, and it helps you feel good about yourself.” She patted me on the back and said, “Nope. I didn’t feel weird at all. It’s important to support my girls. Thanks for helping me.” I was relieved. She would have a good memory.
It is a very strange feeling to watch your kids get older. Eadaoin is calling her breasts her “girls”, and she is now wearing the same bra size that I wear! A good friend has volunteered to be there for her for the “What it’s like to be stacked” conversation because she might need that kind of support. (Pun!) It won’t come from me because I have no idea.
The beauty of these kinds of things is that they are a normal part of life. Even though Eadaoin is on the bipolar spectrum she’s still her. It hasn’t changed the essence of who she is. Her hypomania amplifies parts of her personality, and that drives Doireann crazy because they share a room. Life, however, still goes on, and that is a very, very good thing. It serves as a reminder that mental illness doesn’t have to change everything.
As we were leaving the bra section last night Eadaoin pointed at a pair of panties and said, “Hey Mom, you need to buy those. Those are totally for you.” They were Wonder Woman underwear! I take Doireann bra shopping tonight, and I imagine it will be a very different experience. She has a flair for the dramatic. I think I’ll pick up those Wonder Woman panties while I’m out. I’m already standing at an Amazonian height. I may as well have the panties to match…