FARGO-When Cynthia Nyflot was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1983, little was understood about the illness.
Almost a decade later, determined to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, Nyflot and her mother, LaVerne, published a book chronicling the year Cynthia's disorder was identified.
Her brother, Jeff Nyflot, believes it was the illness she'd battled for more than three decades that led to the discovery of the 52-year-old Fargo woman's body earlier this month in the Red River.
"July was always Cindy's worst month," he said.
The book Cynthia wrote with her mother-"I Made it Back"-details, day by day, the year she was diagnosed from the perspectives of Cynthia and her mother.
In the book, LaVerne describes her daughter as an "athletic and energetic" child.
"Her brothers made a little tomboy of her, swinging her by the feet, and challenging her to do whatever they did. And she loved it," she wrote.
As she got older, though, Cynthia became lethargic. Doctors initially passed off her behavior as a symptom of being young.
But in 1983, Cynthia went to see her psychiatrist and he instantly diagnosed her, according to her account.
The book tells of euphoric emotional highs and desperate lows that are often associated with bipolar disorder.
In one instance, Cynthia took off for New York and her brothers, Jeff and Lonnie, were charged with going to find her.
"I didn't even recognize her," Jeff recalled of seeing her in New York.
Jeff is the only one of his family members left, he said. He believes his sister's ailment cut short the lives of his mother and brother.
Their mother spent the last 35 years of her life educating people about mental illness. She died in 2006.
A kayaker near Memorial Park in Moorhead spotted Nyflot's body in the river the night of July 7. She had been reported missing three days earlier.
Jeanne Anderson was a family friend who briefly knew Cynthia and sold the book at her Fargo shop, Catherine's Collectibles.
She described Cynthia as strikingly beautiful, with brown eyes and "incredible poise."
Anderson said Cynthia and LaVerne were advocates for the mentally ill and the book helped many people.
"She was proud of making it back and that's how she named her book," Anderson recalled.
Jeff struggles to characterize his sister beyond her illness. He said the disorder left her a shell of herself.
The Christian family looked to God for answers about Cynthia's disease, but Jeff said he will get his answers when he dies.
"I just take comfort in the fact that she's home with the rest of my family, and I'll be there someday and be with them again," he said.
LaVerne wrote a prayer at the end of their book asking God why her daughter was affected by the disorder.
She calls her daughter's affliction "an illness that robbed Your child and ours of the ability to have the love, joy, peace, patience, goodness and mercy You promised."