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Why Did She Jump? My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder

Why Did She Jump? My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder

Why Did She Jump? conveys the heartbreaking tale of author Joan E. Childs’ experience of losing a daughter to suicide—suicide that was a direct result of bipolar I disorder. Childs takes readers through her family’s experiences of terror and chronic illness, loss and abyssal grief, and finally peace and acceptance. 


Childs’ first realized that her daughter Pamela was seriously ill when Pam was twenty-four years old, in October 1989. At that time, Pam was a clinical therapist working in Los Angeles, California, for The John Bradshaw Center. Childs writes that “because of her youth and her inexperience, combined with her predisposition to bipolar disorder, Pam was vulnerable and susceptible to receiving the patients’ negative energy” despite the success she had with her patients. Pam suddenly began to have hallucinations and exhibit signs of paranoia, eventually becoming so disoriented that Childs and Pam’s father rushed her home to South Florida not realizing that this would be the beginning of a very long, very arduous journey. 


Through exceptional storytelling, both in the present and in flashbacks, Childs shares the turmoil that surrounded her family after the discovery of what would then become Pam’s many years of struggles against bipolar I disorder. Shocking her friends, her siblings, and her parents, Pam’s disorder was a daily battle against hallucinations, paranoia, and complete terror. She had explosive fits, became verbally abusive, and had to be constantly reminded to take care of her hygiene. Pam saw demons surrounding her mother and had grandiose fantasies about being chosen as a mediator between God and Lucifer. Throughout these desultory shifts in her nature, she would be depressed or prone to panic while her medications did nothing to alleviate her symptoms. Childs presents Pam’s illness in a glaring spotlight, allowing readers to fully understand the distressing and unpredictable workings of bipolar I disorder.  


After Pam’s suicide, Childs’ passage through grief came in stages every therapist and counselor knows—shock, anger, and guilt ruled her life for the months following her loss. Pam had been able to conceal the worst from her family up until the few months before her death, but still the questions remained: How was Childs, as a clinical therapist, unable to save her own daughter? How was Pam’s father, a licensed physician, unable to recognize the signs that she was dangerously ill? After months of numbness, tears, and unsuccessful attempts to attend support groups, Childs finally learned to grieve, accept Pam’s death, and let go.


Why Did She Jump? is a narrative of healing, the strength of family, and the power of love. In this book, Childs relives the most horrific part of her life to show readers that grief can be overcome and that no matter how bleak the world might seem after a tragedy, there is always hope and life after loss.  


“This is what I have learned: to live each day as if it were my last, because one day it will be.” – Joan E. Childs


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