My mother - Vilma Helfer - was a talented artist. She held an MA in Fine Art, and created a wide variety of artworks, including mandalas on papyrus, watercolour self portraits, and oil paintings of India & Egypt. She died in 2013 from cancer. She left me with hundreds of her paintings, almost all unframed.
Until I was about 10, I didn't notice my mother was any different from other mums. Then, when she divorced my father, things seemed to change dramatically. She had already been diagnosed with Manic Depression - now known as Bipolar disorder. But during the divorce - I was only 12 - her symptoms became very much more pronounced.
Below: Three generations, myself, my mother and my grandmother, in 1971. My mother 'was at her happiest' at this time, according to my father.
She became very depressed, for months at a time, not getting out of bed except sometimes at night. Then she would go into a 'high' for weeks at a time, painting day & night, not eating, becoming 'manic'. She did not function as a normal mother at all, and most of the time I would be looking after her.
Her dark side affected everyone around her. She would phone people she hardly knew and tell them destructive things about my father, making his life hell. She would persecute her children as well - I have 3 brothers - demonising our partners, getting people we knew fired from their jobs, manipulating our personal lives in very destructive ways. She did not see that what she did was wrong.
Here is a photo of my mother in 1985, and a rather contrasting self portrait.
All people with bipolar are different, and some function very well, as there are some effective treatments available. However, living with someone with bipolar in the family is very hard. And my mother refused all treatment. Because of this she was never able to really be part of her own family. She was always on the outside, destroying those she loved.
I have since learned that my grandfather - her father - was also bipolar. As was my youngest brother Chris. They both committed suicide, my brother when he was 45.
So, given all my experiences, if I had known about any help available, and had the chance then to talk with caring people about her condition, I would have done so. Talking with someone who really knows what bipolar is like, and receiving any advice on ways to cope, would have been incredible for me at that time.
Supporting the families of people with Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar UK runs a helpline which supports people like myself, who need advice and a listening ear. You can ring it to talk about what you can do, and what you are yourself going through. It is a great resource to help cope with the huge difficulties of loving someone with this disorder.
The Project - and the Exhibition
My mother left behind many paintings. I am asking for your help to raise enough money to frame her best work, and pay for a photographer to take quality images of her work as well as turning them into prints.
I will then be showing her work at a joint exhibition of our work that I am organising. I am an artist myself, making my living by creating and teaching willow sculpture and basketry from willow I grow myself in West Wales. You can find out more about me on www.plas-helyg.co.uk
My work for this exhibition is inspired by my relationship with my mother. The exhibition will run for a month this November at the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven. I am hoping it may also then move on to other venues.
Through the sales of my mothers paintings, I will help raise money to support people who are struggling to understand and cope with someone they love who has bipolar disorder.
My mother worked in a wide variety of media - watercolour, pen & ink, acrylic. I aim to show a broad selection of the work I have. I very much hope people will support this project not only through this crowdfunding campaign, but also through purchasing her work.
90% of the profits from sales of my mothers work will go to support Bipolar UK's helpline
At my exhibition, and online, I will sell both her prints & originals - and 90% of profits from sales of my mothers work will go to Bipolar UK. In particular, the money will go to help fund the support line run by Bipolar UK which advises those who are affected by people with bipolar. People like myself.
In this way I hope to help others with their ability to cope with the someone they love who has this illness. Bipolar UK needs ongoing funds to keep offering specialist advice via their helpline, helping family & friends to cope with the social and emotional impacts of this very severe mental illness.
I am really looking forward to helping support others in their understanding and coping with this illness. My own journey is ongoing, I learn more about the effects she has had on my life all the time.
She was inspiring and creative, as well as destructive and draining. It has taken me 5 years since her death to develop this project, and I want to make it really successful.
Please donate to fund professional photography, framing and printing of my mothers work to raise money for this important cause.
You can find out more about Bipolar UK here https://www.bipolaruk.org
This project is fundraising with the knowledge and support of Bipolar UK.