In rare cases do we publish articles anonymously; to protect the author and the identity of their family, we have made an exception in this case. ~ ed.
As I have gotten older I have been more willing to utter the words, “My parent is bipolar.”
It is usually the answer after someone is questioning why I am not in contact with them anymore.
Manic depression, or bipolar disorder, is very commonly diagnosed these days but it is also something that is rarely talked about.
Especially when it comes to manic depressive parents.
Many of us hear stories of being brought up in a home with an alcoholic parent or a parent who tore their family apart by cheating, it is rare that a family with a parent that has a mental disorder is recognized.
The more I hear from people who were brought up in a household like mine, which consisted of constant ups and downs, emotional abuse, and broken promises, the more I notice that we all have a couple of things in common.
When the parents personality keeps changing it’s hard to get a grasp on who they really are, therefore we feel like we don’t know them at all. Even as young adults we often see them as children, unable to be the support system that we (the child) needs. We’re usually hurt (but we don’t show or talk about it) and are strong but we don’t necessarily have the advice and support we need.
As a sensitive child and teenager I didn’t really understand my bipolar parent for a long time. I thought they were mean, unpredictable and scary. As I got older that fear turned to anger. They seemed to live in another world than I did and I often would (unsuccessfully) try to bring them back to planet Earth.
I wanted them to change, which only led me to more anguish and disappointment.
As the years passed, I seemed to also surpass them in maturity. But still I wanted to understand them so throughout college I took as many psychology courses that I could.
It was through these teachers that I began to understand their illness, how to approach them, and begin to heal myself.
The first thing to always remember about your bipolar parent is that they do not live in the same reality as you and me. They are tormented by a chemical imbalance in their brain that they cannot control. They cannot control whether they are happy, sad, confident, or depleted. And no, this is not your fault.
This one idea has gotten me through a lot of the turmoil from the past. They honestly don’t know any better. They will feel remorse but it will only make them feel even worse, which then causes them to project these feelings onto you.
Projecting their feelings onto you is the number one line of defense for a person with bipolar disorder. One minute they’re telling you they love you and want you to see them. The next they are telling you that you are selfish, a hypocrite, and not good enough.
You aren’t those things and this isn’t your fault. Those hurtful things they are saying are actually how they feel about themselves.
Remember that, take a deep breath, tell yourself how amazing you are and block it out.
Don’t react to these insults, instead act to not react. The more you react negatively to them, the more you will fuel their fire. Which no good can come from.
My last recommendation is a controversial one. But sometimes too much has been done and you need to take certain measures to love and respect yourself.
With that said, remember that you can always love them from afar. Keep them at arms length. Depending on what your situation is this could be at any length you choose.
This could be by speaking to them on the phone for only a certain amount of time, keeping in touch through e-mail or setting specific dates that you will see them.
Sometimes people drain us far more than we can handle. As an adult you have that choice, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but find your happy place. Find where you can be at peace with the situation you have been dealt.
Having a bipolar parent, sibling, or friend is hard. There’s no denying that. But there are ways to soften that blow.
If you are the child of a bipolar parent remember that you are not alone. We are out here and we know how you feel.
Like elephant journal on Facebook.
Asst. Ed.: Kathleen O’Hagan/Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photo: via Pinterest