"I don't think it is possible for anyone to read about mental illness and not be sure that they have at least some of the symptoms. Can you read the word "YAWN" without yawning?
But I also think that for most of us in this kind of situation, it is impossible to truly separate out all the pieces (the parent, the child, the illness . . .) In some ways that's what defines mental illness is this deep lack of clarity. [Which is probably why you keep wanting to put things in boxes.] There's something to be said for really good boundaries (boxes). There's a time and a place for deep order.
What we (relatively) mentally healthy folks need to remember is that we are capable of adapting and responding appropriately moment-to-moment. We can weep, we can laugh, we can be furiously mad, we can be calm and sensible. The emotions themselves are not the crazy part. I have to remind myself of this every day:
I am my mother's daughter, I see her in myself every where I look. I am my identical twin's sister. But I am not them. When I feel on top of the world, it doesn't mean I have borderline personality disorder, when I can't make a decision, I'm not schizophrenia, and when I'm sad, I don't have chronic untreatable depression. I am not them, and the more I free myself from them, the better I feel. ahhhhh.
OK now I'm rambling about me, and I sound like an armchair therapist.
I hope that time and distance help. I'm not sure we can ever fully cut the thread with our mothers, but we can move forward and build beauty and joy in our own families, the way that you already do."
Thanks, WR--this is awesome. Just what I needed to hear.