Shhh, My Parent is Bipolar. ~ Anonymous

Via elephant journal
on Jul 17, 2013
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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.

It’s very important to remember that this is them projecting onto you.

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.



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Asst. Ed.: Kathleen O’Hagan/Ed: Bryonie Wise


Photo: via Pinterest


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51 Responses to “Shhh, My Parent is Bipolar. ~ Anonymous”

  1. Molly Kiely says:

    I tell my young daughter all of these things about her father; but I'm saving this article for her so she can "hear" it from someone else. Thank you.

  2. Karen says:

    I grew up with an alcoholic parent and it isn't much different. This parent now has some dementia and doesn't act much different. He pretty much fits your article. thanks for the validation and support. I have to do the blocking out thing a lot. Unfortunately, I am now his guardian, but it is very hard and I go for long periods of time with phone calls as my means of contact.

  3. Jen says:

    I feel your pain and struggle, as I have a bipolar son. I disagree, however, that they are projecting their feelings about themselves. When manic, hypomanic, depressive, or some combination of both- a bipolar person will say plenty of things they don’t mean, feel, or wouldn’t say (let alone think) if properly medicated or in a mentally stable place. It is a part of their illness, but doesn’t mean anything other than the fact that they are mentally ill- it’s nonsense, essentially- brain clutter. The things they say, feel, and how they behave does lead to shame. Though this shame can cause them to feel bad about themselves, it’s simply part of that cycling. It’s hard to not be centered and go up and down. We can’t assume that they are projecting, simply because they have no filter or calm. They are, regardless, still a person navigating the pain of being tumultuous, (often unreliable), impulsive, and likely to say whatever their mind happens to spew at them. It might be something vastly different a day later.

  4. arlene says:

    thank you…this reflects truth about my parent who suffered from depression…

  5. Jen says:

    I feel your pain and struggle, as I have a bipolar son. I disagree, however,
    that they are projecting their feelings about themselves. What they say, however colorful, might be completely unrelated to anything concrete. When manic, hypomanic, depressive, or some combination of both- a bipolar person will say plenty of things they don’t mean, feel, or wouldn’t say (let alone think) if properly medicated or in a mentally stable place. It is a part of their illness, but doesn’t mean anything other than the fact that they are mentally ill- it’s nonsense, essentially- brain clutter. The things they say, feel, and how they behave does lead to shame. Though this shame can cause them to feel bad about themselves, it’s simply part of that cycling. It’s hard to not be centered and go up and down. We can’t assume that they are projecting, simply because they have no filter or calm. They are, regardless, still a person navigating the pain of being tumultuous, (often unreliable), impulsive, and likely to say whatever their mind happens to spew at them. It might be something vastly different a day later… even an hour later. If we interpret negative comments as how they feel about themselves, we might feel temporarily better (our own mind tricking us), but that doesn't make it true.

  6. Bi-polar parent says:

    It isn’t easy being the parent who is bi-polar either. You feel helpless and wretched for not being able to care properly for yourself, much less your child(ren).

  7. Michelle says:

    Thanks for sharing, it's so hard to not take their projection personally – not to mention, having to deal with not having the parent you want and deserve.

  8. Rebecca says:

    I hope that everyone understands that parents who have bipolar do not want to be out of control or crazy. As a parent who has bipolar, I use every power in my being to provide a safe and loving environment for my child. This includes many doctors visits, medications (that I despise from time to time) and physically working out 5-6 times a week. All of this is for my child (or so I tell myself) but it actually benefits me as well.

    BTW…I was diagnosed 2 weeks after the birth of my child. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a mom, but if I had known that I had this disorder, I would choose to not be a mom. The risks of being off medication during pregnancy are too great, in my opinion.

  9. peach says:

    my mother, who was a single mother, is bi-polar.
    i have done years of soul-searching, therapy, yoga – work, to work through the issues my unique upbringing wrought.
    in a back-handed way, i'm even grateful for my trauma that allows me to relate to others who have had the same experiences. i forgive her, and recognize she worked in the face of severe limitations to raise kids.
    however, she has the unique ability to pierce my gaping raw heart with her chronic viciousness, and so i choose to not speak with her, as i cannot shut off my heart at will.
    however, though i think i'm better without her, i STILL have a large pool of grief over my lack of parents. i have grieved for the little girl i was, and i'm cognizant of recognizing it wasn't my fault etc. and yet still there it is. everyone constantly says i'm beautiful/cool, but they don't know how i suffer, what i'm terrified will eat me alive if i let it. i meditate to still my mind, but my heart aches. i yoga it out, run miles. i can run mental circles around my mentors and therapists. nothing is alleviating this pain aside from drugs which thus far i'm controlling.
    what concept am i missing to bring complete peace / healing?

  10. kimberlylowriter says:

    This is such a brave piece. I have friends with bi-polar parents. I wish more people realised this is a real illness and not something a person chooses or can control on their own.

  11. Actually most people, about 95% when their mind speaks, it is self referential*. Bipolar, or not… it's just a matter of the degree and intensity/density of it. It is up to discretion, respect and maturity (and mostly balanced/neutral perspective) that truth can be discerned.

  12. Can you imagine bipolar and menopausal? …. and not only parent but recently found out boyfriend is bipolar and depressive… no need to say more :'( going to therapy though… piecing myself together…

  13. Jen says:

    95%? Again, I disagree. I don't know if you have close contact with someone who is mentally ill with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but when someone is in a state of mania, severe depression, or chronic hyponmania, their entire personality is disrupted. It doesn't represent them oftentimes, at all. I've seen someone with quick cycling bipolar disorder say dreadful things when in a peak, then be totally loving and regretful ten minutes after they came down from that moment. One might not see that regret in someone who has a slower cycling version of bipolar, but it doesn't mean they always feel what they say. Also, I don't define people by their worst thoughts, or what they might say when they are upset. Often what we think when we are upset isn't the whole truth. To quiz a group of people who suffered while in a manic or depressed state, once they are calm and centered? And they will likely be the first to talk about how ludicrous any outbursts were and how they don't feel that way. I don't think that when someone is suffering from mental illness and not adequately treated with medicine, that it represents much about their true feelings, enough to call it projection. Still, untreated or under-treated mental illness will leave scars and damage relationships. Education is key…

  14. @gmcheeseman says:

    I have a grandparent on each side of the family, plus cousins, that are bipolar. My grandfather never went on medication, but my grandmother has been on medication for over 35 years. Because she has always stayed on her medication, I can handle being around her. That really is the key when it comes to how much time you choose to spend with bipolar relatives. There are also, for some, certain times of the year when they are prone to experience manic episodes. This includes Christmas. I loved my grandfather and he was a wonderful man. Since his bipolar was so mild, I could handle being around him, except for Christmas time or when it started to get hot in the summer. Those times of year he experienced manic episodes, and was unbearable.

  15. Julie says:

    I agree with you. I lived my whole life with a mother who was bipolar. I always separated the illness from the person which is the best advice I can give. If you personalize the illness it leads to great pain. There is so little known by most people and it is a term thrown around lightly (manic). Every case is a little different and to generalize with percentages is absurd (no disrespect meant).

  16. Sympathetic says:

    My mother has borderline personality disorder with schizoaffective tendencies, and this describes her very well. This could probably be applied to most parents who have a personality/severe mood disorder, and/or substance abuse issue (mother is also an alcoholic).

    I have bipolar disorder and am a parent. I am also medicated and strive conscientiously never to project my own issues onto my children. I know that sometimes I can't help it and my struggles affect them, but it is always indirectly. Not ideal, I know, but better than the alternative.

    Interesting piece. And yes, it is comforting to know you're not alone when you have an ill, toxic parent that you can't help.

  17. a loving daughter says:

    My mum has bipolar, she was diagnosed when I was 11, I found her in her room with empty pill bottles beside her and a empty bottle of vodka my parents were still together then and i have 3 older sisters when she first went in to hospital it was all so so confusing, I was too young to understand what was going on but also everyone kept it all hush hush like it was something that shouldn't be spoken about and something she should be ashamed of.
    From the age of 11 to 13 mum was in and out of hospital with 8 suicide attempts by now my dad and older sisters had wiped their hands from her they were so angry and over her they just gave up – thats their emotions and thats fine but me being the youngest I was made to just go along with how they were feeling but I couldnt, she was my loving fun mum for the first 11 years of my life she cant just change and there not be answers as to why. I tried to voice my thoughts to my dad but by now he had had enough and just had so much hate for her she put him in 50 grand debt from her gambling addiction he knew nothing about until she became ill. He told me and my sisters it was him or her we couldnt be in both thier lives so he kept her from us for ages making us believe she had gotten ill and no longer wanted to be a mother, mum being so weak at the time couldnt fight for us so she got worse as we were her world but she just didnt have the energy to believe she was worthy still to be our mum.Dad blocked her phones calls we had no idea she was trying to hard we were led to believe she had given up on us. Dad even moved us so mum couldnt find us….. Oh it still breaks my heart thinking what my poor mum must have been going through not knowing where we were and thinking maybe she wasnt good enough to be in our lives.
    As I got older though I just couldnt accept that mum didnt love me so I finally stood up to my dad and told him I wanted to find her and see if she is ok, he said no way and told me to get over it, I was finally able to convince my uncle to let me see her and that was it I knew i had to go live with her and look after her she had no one.
    So I decided to leave dad and my sisters one being my bestfriend because we were so close in age and go live with my mum that needed me at age 14. I dont regret the decision at all I am glad even though being 14 and having to look after my mum seeing her not leave her bed for weeks was the hardest thing I knew it was right and it gave me the insight of this mental illness. My sisters still think she is an attention seeker and that there is nothing wrong with her sometimes I just want to shake them and say "She is still our loving mum just with a few ups and downs now".
    I am now 29 years old and I can say mum has obviously had her moments but she has been doing great…….until I came back from an overseas trip for a year and came back to her in the biggest depressive state I have ever seen her in, her house was horrible she had spent the whole year hoarding and I dont mean just op shops or garage sales there was rubbish everywhere piles built up to the ceiling the smell was horrendous and mould was everywhere from the carpet to the kitchen to the laundry.
    I was shocked I guess for years because her medication was helping her stay balanced I got my hopes up that she was getting better.
    I blame myself for leaving her, if I hadnt of left she wouldnt of been able to live like this, and feel the shame and embarressment she feels now that her daughter has seen how she has been living. I hired a skip and cleaned it all up but it hurts so much to think she got that depressed to think that living like that was acceptable.
    And I guess reality has hit me after admitting her in to hospital last week that my mum needs continuing love and support from me, Im all she has but it is so draining at times…. Am I a bad person for thinking that? I am a strong person from what I have had to grow up with but sometimes I just wish this illness never found my mum and the mum I had up until I was 10 years old was still here.
    She is now trying to push me away though saying she is a burdon on me and that I should go live my life without her and that im better of with out her, this hurts me so much as I could never ever do this she is suffering as well with this illness its not just me trying to deal with it. I just have to keep being strong its just so so hard….
    Ok sorry everyone I really needed to get all that out, I have no one to talk to about it.

  18. Lizzy says:

    My mother is bipolar. I saw a comment on bipolar disorder from NAMI which stated something to the effect that those with bipolar disorder are constantly battling their illness and no one will ever see who they were truly meant to be and they never get to be who they were truly meant to be. I still suffer because she wasn't the mother I needed, but grateful that she never took her own life and that she tried so hard to survive. Now, she is dying of cancer and I'll never really know the person she was meant to be although I think I have seem glimpses and I cherish those. If she had a choice she would never have chosen to be a bipolar mother. She didn't have a choice. I have pain still, but I love her no matter what. She is the only mother I have. With medication she was 'better' but medication isn't a cure. It can only do so much. There is always pain when your mother is bipolar. She will never be able to heal my pain and she will never become normal. The best way I know to heal is to become an adult and know that I can't heal her. Acceptance of what is, is key. More pain is caused when we can't accept who they are and we expect them to change or be cured. It's not going to happen. When we get glimpses of normalcy, we can't latch on to those and think that recovery is coming. It's not coming.

  19. Judy says:

    Dear Sweet Child,
    You are in an extraordinarily difficult situation. I cannot give you advice, because I do not know enough to, but I will tell you that my heart goes out to you. And I don't see how you could be bad for thinking the truth about how draining it is! I can imagine you might be in a better position to help her get professional help if you focus on your own health and life, and just check that she is getting help from those trained to do so, while you recuperate at a bit of a distance, as the article suggests. I wish you the very best, and will keep you in my heart and wish you yet more strength.

  20. Anonymous says:

    OMG Thank U for this article. I've been struggling with severe feelings of guilt since I cut ties with my mother. I just couldn't take it anymore – with a deeply unhappy and emotionally and physically abused childhood that has turned into an emotionaly drained adulthood. The longer I stayed away from her the easier it became clear for me to start putting the pieces together and finally realising something wasn't quite right about my mother's behaviour. All my life I thought her behaviour was perfectly normal bcos she always seems to love us in a matyr kind of way. But then she would lie, put herself first, scream and shout if you don't agree with her, physically attack and then start crying all at the same time. Even after my brother commited suicide, Bipolar didn't register. I've now come to realise, perhaps a little too late, that my mother is bipolar. And sadly, There's a chance my little sister is too as she is very similar in behaviour to both my mother and my bipolar brother. I'm now very worried – I don't know what to do or how to help without being emotionally drained by either of them.

  21. Katy says:

    What do you do if the parent will not seek help, denies all accountability, and the relationship between the mother and her children is unhealthy?

  22. Susan Nelson says:

    Sadly, there isn't anything you can do after you've done all you can. Those with bipolar (or whatever mental diagnosis) cannot control their compulsions. Even with treatment and medication, some of them will forever drain you and embarrass you. Nobody wants to come out and tell you that there is no cure and that it will not get better. So, you keep beating yourself up thinking that it's something you're not doing right and if maybe this or maybe if you do that, it will fix it. Probably not — maybe for a little while and the episodes will begin again. I'm not saying they all have the same degree of illness…..some may be manageable. It's not an exact science but trial and error. I had the perfect child until symptoms began to manifest in their 20's. I swore I would never give up and would fight to protect them to the end with the best professional care and treatment. But after some years, I could not take it any more. This illness totally took over my life. It doesn't help when relatives and others judge and criticize because, unless you actually experience this, you cannot understand. Do the best you can until you are satisfied that you can't do do any more and then don't feel guilty if you have to step away to survive and maintain your own sanity. Living with mental illness is horrible for the patient and their closest loved ones. Never judge how much another can handle.

  23. Coco says:

    I wish more people who have no idea how it is to be living with such parents and sibling, realized it is horrible and terribly hard. You have no idea. I've been living my life in a slow hell.

  24. Ali says:

    Thank you Lizzy for speaking the truth that I needed to hear. She will never be the mother I need her to be again. She will never heal my pain. And by expecting her to return to the strong woman she once was, who I could tell anything to, I will only be disappointed. Thankfully I know who she 'meant to be' – she was that woman for the first 20 years of my life. But now that woman is gone.

    Last summer my mum was sectioned and hospitalised for the second time with severe mania. I moved back home to support her and my Dad for a couple of months. Time has passed since then and she has become relatively stable. She takes medication and goes to a bi-polar support group. I am fortunate in that she is not someone who refuses to take medication or who lashes out at her family (*apart from when she is manic of course!*) However I feel like I cannot confide in her. I cannot tell her what is really going on with me, how scared I am, how much the past haunts me and how I cannot move on from it (previous abusive relationship). I need her now and I needed her then, but she was not there, she was absent, she was manic. And the woman I knew when I was a teenager, the person she is truly meant to be, was nowhere to be found.

    Now I sometimes see what I think is my old mother returning to me and I think okay she is back, I can maybe talk to her now, but every time I do she reacts poorly / get depressed/ become manic/ or withdraw from me. Basically she needs me to be there for her now – she can no longer be there for me. I need to accept that, and accept who she is now. She is not going to make a miraculous recovery. She is going go around and around on this hellish roller-coaster of mania/ crippling depression.

    I do seperate the illness from the person. That is great advice Julie. You must do that. Do not take what they say to you in their darkest/vilest moments to heart – it will only destroy you. It is the illness talking to you.

    Another piece of advice is to look after yourself first. That is not the same as putting yourself first. Do what you need to do to keep your sanity before you try to look after them. Even if that just means tiny things for yourself when everything has turned to hell and they are in hospital – phone a friend/ have a bath/ watch you favourite TV show. Do those tiny things for yourself.

  25. Toni says:

    It is so comforting to know I am not alone. As I lay my head down I say a special prayer for all of us living with a mentally ill parent. Also a prayer for the family member effected by this illness. I hope one day I will have a healthy relationship with my mother. I fear something will happen to her before we are able to form the relationship I’ve longed for my entire life. This has been a missing piece of my life that has always made me different from my everyone else. It’s difficult to buy a mothers say card for someone that has never been there to depend on for anything. None of my friends know the pain of visiting a parent in a mental ward for the holidays. Her paranoia at one point landed my sister and I in foster care, mom thought our grandparents were out to get her. We were just babies, who does that? She was sick and having a breakdown. I love her but at this point in her life she is now getting older, her health is failing and she is becoming harder to handle daily. Although she lives in an assisted living home it’s a dive. People don’t understand how I can leave her there. It’s like a place for the unwanted, cast outs of society. The residents are like zombies, half drugged, very dirty, no quality of life. This is more than I have ever shared with most, appreciate your parents if they are healthy…I envy you!

  26. Toni B. says:

    I am in a relationship with a man who's son's mother suffers from bipolar disorder. Words cannot describe the emotional turmoil she has cause both my family and step son. For years she has displayed strange behavior and has projected her mental health issues onto my husband. She planted into my step sons head that her absence and intermittent behavior was due to my husband. To make matters worst her family for years refused to acknowledge that she was sick and often rallied around her when she was clearly manic. She has brain washed my step son and when he spends time with her I can always tell if she is depressed or manic through his mood. Her illness has also affected the relationship my husband has with his son. Sadly his son is unable to identify with him and see's him as the enemy. He refuses to accept lunch money, advice or any other things that he can give to benefit him. I feel so sorry for my husband because his son lives with us and really appears to hate and resent him. He wants to go to the military and learn how to be a man from a perfect stranger. This is so sad because he has a dad that truly loves him and is there everyday with him. This illness is no joke and is especially difficult when the person with the illness is diagnosed but refuses to follow doctor's orders. It's sad because I see the little boy that just wants his mother to love him. and when she is unable to do so appropriately he takes it out on us. I also see a hurt little boy that was son traumatized by his mother abandoning him for two years. Sadly my step son believes that my husband is the reason why his mother dropped him off and disappeared. He was so traumatized that he does not remember the facts or experience. We tried to get him therapy by the unfortunately the therapist was not trained in dealing with abandonment and emotional trauma. I hope one day will realize that he can love his mother but also acknowledge that she is ill. I also hope that he will one day openly receive the love my husband has extended to him for years.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I am going through that now with my parent.. will not seek help and denies everything and puts all blame on me…

  28. Kara says:

    I understand you had a painful experience, and it's good that you got to air it here and I hope you are also seeking counseling to help you deal with your upbringing. But I sense a lot of discrimination in the comments that are being posted here. It's so important to realize that just like any other parent, people with BP can choose to love their kids through hard times and want the best for them Also, there are some really shitty parents who aren't mentally ill but "merely" neglectful, abusive, or messed up in some other way. Just because you're not mentally ill doesn't mean you're not messed up; and conversely, just because you have BP does not mean you are "out of control" and delusional and mean–and all the other things being said here. There are plenty of BP individuals out there, not to mention people suffering from other types of mental illness, who take their meds, go to therapy, exercise, eat right, etc–to keep their illness under control. I'm sorry that your parent was mean to you, but this is not necessarily because they were BP. Even with BP, there are choices: the choice to work at therapy and meds. The choice to withdraw from present company when agitated or upset. The choice to battle through a crippling depression and learn to call for help. The choice to hospitalize oneself if necessary.

    Speaking to some of the comments out there, please replace "bipolar disorder" with "fat" or "woman" or "black" or "hispanic." Would it be right, or proper, or allowable in this society to say something like "those who are female cannot control their compulsions." Or, "Those who are black are constantly battling their blackness and nobody will ever get to see who they were truly meant to be." It sounds a little different, doesn't it? It sounds like prejudice, fear, discrimination. It doesn't sound at all like compassion, understanding, optimism, hope.

    People with BP are fully capable of realizing their true potential. Many people who have this illness are brilliant, creative, compassionate and connected to the world around them. They are not all cruel, disabled people who are hateful one moment and loving the next. Just because you've had a bad experience with one foreigner, are you going to categorically judge all non-American individuals? I hope not. Just because you've had a negative experience with one person who is bipolar, are you going to sweep them all aside? I hope not, for all our sakes. Show me one person out there who hasn't suffered at least a little from something their parents inadvertently did, whether the parent was BP or not.

    Conversely, many people who do not have BP or another mental illness, who are "normal" and whose moods and mental capacities fall in the normal range, live lives that are small, mean, uncreative and judgmental. It seems to me there is a trend in these comments of exclusion, of prejudice and a level of misunderstanding that belongs in the 19th century. Let's get beyond that. Let's learn how to love ourselves, and others, regardless of their labels. That means setting good boundaries, as has been mentioned above, but it also means reserving judgment on a person who may be suffering more than you can imagine.

  29. julie says:

    Hi — The difference is you knew that person drank. In another scenario, you might have known s/he did drugs (or not; I know that happens too). With a parent (or two, in my case, as I've recognized from reading this article), there are no substances or clear cut causes that can help identify anything. It's just a hurricane or a brewing storm or exhaustion at any time, and you never know which direction it's coming from or how it's going to manifest. And there's no name for it. It's just a big, confusing mystery. That's the difference.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for a raw and realistic view about living as a child with a bipolar parent. I am the spouse, trying to figure out the right way to talk with our children about their father's behavior. It is a roller coaster which affects us emotionally and socially. It's time for "the talk." I'll save your article and others' postings for them to read as teens/young adults. You are brave and have a wonderful life ahead of you. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Child of Bipolar says:

    I wish I read this article a long time ago. Thank you for sharing, it's truly inspirational. I too have a parent suffering from Bipolar and I struggle with explaining why I don't have contact with them. I don't like explaining because I don't like it when they don't understand. I'm contently haunted by a feeling that I live in a world where no one can understand, making me feel excluded and alone. This article hit me and inspires me to share my own experience. Thank you so much!

  32. jane says:

    I am a daughter living with a BiPolar father and have been since before i can really remeber i know how hard it must be for you and fro your daughter and i respect that. The best thing my mum did for me and is still doing is encouraging me to get away and out of the house doing sports and being with friends this helps alot with keeping you and your daughter sane and alleviatng some of the pressure. i hope things are going well for you.

  33. Helen says:

    Kara, you have missed the point. There is a huge pain being bought up by a bipolar parent that does not dismiss the pain of bp people themselves. This brave article was an attempt to release some of this pain by sharing the experience. I don't think the points you pick up on were conscious. This was a cry from the heart.

  34. ambs says:

    Thank you for this article. One of my parents is bipolar and does not take medication for it, so the lows are very low. Not the 'stay in bed' lows but the name-calling, lashing out lows and they are very frequent. I've known since I was a teenager that my mom was bipolar, she told me herself but I never really understood what that meant. They briefly describe it in school but not in detail or how to handle being the child of someone who is bipolar.
    I know most of the time she doesn't mean the things she's saying, isn't intentionally lashing out over nothing but when you're 21 and spent you're entire life angry that someone you love says things like that to you it's hard not to hate them a little for it. Reading this is the extra little push I need to try and be more understanding, be better at ignoring the comments and not be so affected. Thank you

  35. adriana says:

    im only 14, everything you said is right but how the hell am I sopposed to keep on going my mother has absolutely no family all dead or crazy and for ten year I had the best father and by best I mean THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME FATHER. am I just stupid or is it that everything good in life has to have an ending that ruins it all. you wrote this after going to collage living the life so many people dream of in a third world country exactly were I am. I have years ahead of fighting to get to where you are to succeed in what I want to be, but let me tell you its not as easy as you just wrote it.

  36. katrina says:

    I am the mum of two kids whose dad has bipolar. he has only recently been diagnosed and I am struggling with how to help my kids through this. any help would be greatly appreciated and this article will help

  37. Marc says:

    Thank you for sharing this post. I've struggled with having a bipolar parent since 2003. I feel like I've seen and heard just about all of it. I've been to countless facilities and have seen some of the most despicable places. As I write this, my mom is being hospitalized for her 30+ manic episode. I've had so many waves of emotions battling this illness with her over the last several years. From denial, shame, and anger, it just doesn't seem like there's ever closure to it. While I don't think I could cut all ties, I'm trying to answer the question if I should continue to let my mother live with us given the disruptive and draining episodes she has. One commenter, said that they cherish the memories of when that parent wasn't bipolar. Fortunately, I do have very fond memories when I was a very young child and some great memories when she's been stable. I wish I knew God's purpose and plan for these tortured individuals. It's one of the hardest things I've seen someone go through.

  38. Mary Jane says:

    This is your child, you do not feel our pain or struggle, at all. Unless your parent(s) bi polar, you could NEVER know. You made him, you nurture him, parents make children, bi polar parents aren't all exactly nurturing. You might understand what bi polar is, but to struggle a lifetime of parental bipolarism is an experience all itself Also, the episode are exactly their projecting their feelings, ALL aggression in the world is caused by people projecting their own angery and inner feelings, usually of insecurity and not feeling control, onto others, from bullies to predators in the jungle.

  39. Please contact me if you really want to put this behind you. I am a Faster EFT practitioner who specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics or those who were raised in emotionally unstable/abusive environments, heal. You can absolutely change this, but it must be done at the unconscious level of you. When I am done working with my clients (in a very short term model), they are free of all the pain, and especially, the grief. My website is, and my contact info is there. 🙂

  40. Really?/? says:

    i feel as an adult now. i agree with the writer however blunt they were. not everyone who is bp tells you to go to hell on a daily bases but the mental pain they cause is real. being a child who grew up the painful and hurtful words my mother told me on a daily bases yes she's sick but as an individual you must realize you have to take of you too a lesson which takes most kids a long time to get to. the writer dealt with pain and didn't sugar code that i commend them for that. the judgement is on both sides the one who is suffering and the ones who have to deal with it. no one wins. the writer wasn't saying all bp are bad they giving their experience. have you ever dealt with the TRUE pain of someone who was BP?

  41. learning every day says:

    I am living with bipolar and a single mum of an 11 yr old boy . My condition is not as debilitating as your mothers, and I feel complete empathy for you both. I have only recently commenced bipolar treatment as opposed to depression meds, as them alone increased hypomanic episodes leading to the diagnosis of bipolar ii disorder.
    Thank you for opening up and sharing, as I am currently struggling with keeping the house in order and feel it slipping away. I am experiencing the back end of a depressive state in which I have not worked in my own business for days and yesterday chose to hide and do nothing. Today I was planning to go to work, but still have this massive pull to stay hidden and I dont want to leave this mess and resume work, or the mess will continue to accumulate.
    I am so thankful for finding you and your story, for it has reinforced my instincts to take yet another day to recover and show my son the best materialistical love i can produce for him, by him walking into a neater, tidier home. Thank you. xxx You are a sweet, beautiful daughter, sister and woman. Please continue to look after yourself, you have the inner strength and wisdom to prosper xxx

  42. learning every day says:

    Adriana, Please, please draw strength and courage from your GREATEST OF ALL TIME FATHER.
    Remember that everything happens for a reason – Your father has shown you that life can be as good as you want it to be. He has obviously filled you with the love you have rightfully been craving. Continue breathing long fresh breaths.
    Your life is what you make of it. xxx

  43. Mon says:

    what you did for your mum is really great and you can be really proud of yourself. I hope one day your sisters will help you with all these struggles.. I am 29 years old too, and I have a bipolar dad who never was on medication and an older sister who is on medication constantly – she is fine.

    I just yelled to my dad today, again, when he said again that he does not need medication because he wont be maniac again… and i just started to yell at him and told him that this is not true and you will have it again, and I will be the one who has to listen all the shouting and has to worry all the time.. then I left and cried and he told 'I am sorry' twice loudly.. it was very heart-breaking in many different ways..

    during the recent years – thanks also for a good therapist – I learned that I have to have my own boundaries and live my own life… otherwise this situation will lead my whole life and i will never be in love, have a kid etc… what for other people is so easy.. so well I started this long processand it got better..

    so the only thing I can advise, just go for theraphy and try to find the way to help your mum and a way which also gives you the chance to have a joyful life.

    Good luck with it!! xxx

  44. Mon says:

    MY DAD WENT TO A DOCTOR AND STARTED MEDICATION! This is an unbeliavble Feeling, realizing that there is hope.. That Everything Can be better.

  45. Helpless says:

    Reading this article gives me a bit of hope to cope up with my other who is bipolar. Since childhood I’ve been facing her taunts and nags. Sometimes she loves me a LOT and regrets for the hard times she gives me and my dad. My dad is a super dad. It’s been 23 years that he has been tolerating my mother with patience without leaving or mistreating her. He is a strong man and her accusations of him having affairs with random women doesn’t even bother him as he is always sure that after sometime she would come back to her normal self and would apologise. She mocks his entire family. Says ill things about his sisters and mistreats them too sometimes. Although sometimes he snaps and loses it. But has never done anything drastic. As I said he is a strong man, but I’m not. It has been 5 years that I’m staying outside, in different places even after being the only daughter, the only child. When I’m away my mother calls me up every hour and talks to me. I love her so much. And at that moment it seems like even she loves me. But when I come back home for my holidays it’s all the same again. She starts saying mean things to me again like she’ll die and it will be my fault, in the worst daughter in this world, if my dad dies she will also commit suicide (without even thinking about me), reminds me of my awful memories, compares me with other people making me feel like I’m the worst daughter ever. On Mother’s Day, I made lunch for her and she pushed the plate away saying she can’t eat the food coz seeing it it makes her wanna vomit. I was so hurt that day. Sometimes I just feel like running away back to my college. I cry most of the times when I’m at home. Mostly coz of the harsh things she says to me. I’m sentimental and short tempered as well. I often talk back to her. Now I’ll try not to. But I don’t think I can stop the tears from coming out. She knows about her illness and visits the psychiatrist and takes medications. But I don’t think it’s been of any use. This article and the comments have made me feel a lot better. Thank you so much. I just hope nod day my mother gets better and realised how much I love her.

  46. Melissa says:

    Thank you for trying to be a good parent. My mother has bi-plar and refuses to take medication or stops taking it after a while. Sometimes I feel she enjoys the drama of being off her meds. It always feels like she just thinks about her self and doesn't really care for us. So thank you for trying and doing your best to be there for child. Having bi-polar is very difficult and choosing to put your child's needs above your own is even more difficult so, from a child of bipolar parent who seems not to want to try and be there, thank you.

  47. CJ Johnson says:

    I am 17, and living with my single mom. After taking Advance Placement Psychology class this year, I’ve began to finally realize all the signs that my mother has displayed of bipolar disorder. My parents are not the type to admit weakness (which a large amount of society considers bipolar disorder). Niether of my parents have told me about any psychiatric condition they have, but I know that my mother is prescribed Xanax (Alprazolam) and I believe Zoloft (Setraline). She mentions having anxiety, but has never told me of an official GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) Diagnosis Just so you guys don’t think I’m just some typical teenager who thinks their parent is “crazy,” here are the reasons why I think she may be bipolar.
    -What seems to be manic episodes (cleaning the house at 10pm, including bathrooms, entire fridge, entire pantry, pressure cleaning patio)
    -Intense anger over minute things (Not good enough job cleaning shower).
    -She seems to almost try to push people to insanity. For instance, my brother and I both accept and talk about our anger problems. Mine is generally controlled, with very few outbreaks wheras his is severe. My brother tries to avoid conflict at all costs, but cannot hold himself back when someone insults his ego, intelligence, or most of all, work ethic. My mom seems to target this, by calling him a lazy slob, saying all he does is play video games, he’s not going anywhere in life, to get a “real job”, and insults and discredits his self-made tech business. Even when my brother is taking his anger out by punching wall in her house, she continues the onslaught of insults! On many occasions, I have to pick my mom up and carry her into another room to prevent her from intentionally escalating the situation. My brother will try to run away from the argument, but she will chase after, even banging on his door while screaming insults when he locks himself in to control his anger!
    -Less often depressive episodes, in which she will typically write long letters detailing how we don’t love her, she doesn’t want to live etc…In a way they feel like a cry for attention, and she gets angered when we do not giver her sympathy. These depressive episodes normally appear after a manic peak in which me and my brother cannot take her anger and hatred any longer.
    -While helping my dad (mom’s ex husband, divorced when I was around 9) I found many, many books about living with someone with bipolar disorder. Although my dad will never slander my mother, it is apparent that he could no longer deal with her behavior that is currently torturing us.
    -Substance abuse. Although she will vehmently deny it, she drinks very often. The most alarming incident was when after my dual foot surgery, my mother took my oxycodone 5/325 painkillers to make sure they “stayed safe.” When I found the bottle in her purse after she came home from work, my suspicions were raised. Later, when she left, I searched her room to find the bottle(With full cast on one leg, boot on other, still on cruches). When I found it, it was laying next to several airline sized liquor bottles in her clothes drawer. What I found inside was shocking. A half eaten oxycodone pill. I had never taken nor split a pill, and the very first day after my surgery my mom said to me, “Do you want just a half, because these are very strong.” She also takes half of her xanax, and they are small dose as well. They are not the xanax that are meant to be split lol. I confronted her about it, and attempted to dump all the pills in the toilet. It was the 2nd day after my surgery, and I stopped taking them after the first day so I would test clean, and my mother would test postive. I also wanted to be the role model by rejecting the very dangerous medication, even though it was prescribed. She quickly made up excuses as to why we should keep then for “emergency” but after thinking it over for a while, let me throw them down the toilet. I have never experienced so much pain when I had not pain medicine a day after surgery. She did not seem to feel guilty about this. In addition to the pitiful incident of stealing her son’s pain meds, she seems to have constant bronchitis from smoking, in which she regularly obtains codeine cough syrup.( she has at least 5 bottles from the past year). As a kid, I remember seeing strange pills, some I now know as painkillers, that she kept in her advil bottle.
    -My mom creates so much misery for us, I do not think it could possibly be normal. It isn’t the typical, “I hate my parents,” but more along the lines of “I cannot honestly say I love her because of the emotional torture she provides, and would rather her be commited to a mental institution than live another day with her.”
    – She bit a chunk of skin out of my brother when he was trying to run away from her, than manipulated the cops to arrest him instead after being handcuffed. She had to have a psych evaluation after though. She has tried to hit me on several occasions, but I being much stronger and knowing defensive ju jitsu, I block all her swings with ease lol.
    -She is a catholic religous fanatic, many times calling me and my brother demons, taking away privlidges if we don’t go to church, pray, etc…

    My hypothesis is that she was once diagnosed with bipolar disorder; however, she more readily accepts the diagnosis of what I assume is GAD by her new psychiatrist. I believe my father knows about this, but niether of them have told use because it would show weakness in her authoritarian parental position.

    I really need to know the truth. It could change the perspective I have of her from a horrible, hateful, sociopath to a person with a legitamate mental illness, who just needs help. If she doesn’t have an actual mental illness, it is very hard to convice myself that I genuinly “love” her.

    Please reply with your thoughts of how this compares to your experiences, or how much this resembles bipolar disorder. If you think so, please advise me on how to deal with her, or anything you think is helpful!!!

    Sorry about the misspellings and bad grammar, I’m typing very fast on a phone!

  48. CJ Johnson says:

    Thank you for the article, very intelligently written!!

  49. Maddie says:

    Kara, I don't think anyone who as a child or parent of a person with BP sets out to discriminate, I think, as this author did, that they try to express their feelings. We've been taught in this society that mental illness is a thing to be hidden, and this author, others making comments, and myself included, are merely expressing their feelings and processing their experiences. By forcing everyone to be politically correct and not be allowed to say what those feelings and experiences are / were, it's just reverse discrimination, only reinforcing that BP is something to be hidden and not discussed. These things happened to us. We need to be able to talk about it. Knowledge and information may not take away the pain, but maybe our experiences shared with others might help someone? I'd prefer honesty to political correctness and labels any day. It's been lacking from my family's life for a long time. This forum and others like it give people a place, in a world where mental illness has so many negative connotations, to process, learn, and heal. Let us do that in peace without judgement, without having to choose our words to appease others. We do enough of that already in our world.

  50. lala says:

    While this situation is not exactly like mine, my mother still has what I assume to be a mild version of bipolar. I’m not sure what version the diagnosis says though.

    The mere knowledge that his wife has a mental illness is enough for my dad to see her as the source of all his woes, and they are currently in danger of splitting.

    In her case it possible for me to separate the person and the illness into two separate entities, and I refer only to the illness if I what to quickly explain what the situation is. For me it’s more “she acts like this” rather than “she has an illness which is why she acts like this”.

    To all others who have it worse than I, I hope that you can push through this ordeal.