So being a parent is one thing. Doing it with a mental illness? Well that’s just downright adventurous. Not bad, mind you, just different and while occasionally it’s choppy waters, frankly sometimes it can even be awesome. Why? Because I know I’m willing to take the leap. Most of the time at least, which means my kids live the excitement right along with me, for better or worse.
Manic? Let’s take a day and to go to the zoo? No problem! Need help with that project you’ve put off until the last minute? Easy-peasy for the bipolar mom. Bored? Want to head out somewhere, anywhere? I’m your mom! Yep, let’s drive hours to the coast, just because we can. Heck, we have gas money right? Who needs money for anything else, you know, like snacks and such? Just hop on in and let’s go!
Depressed? Well I tend to sit on the sofa and watch shows with them. I’ll still ask about their days, look at their homework, respond with a general sense of normalcy. The most they tend to see is that I’m not moving around a lot. I tend to need more help with the housework and I will be more irritable. Nowadays I know this about myself and can warn them. I tell them, “Hey, I’m having a down day and could really use your help. Please keep the bickering to a minimum and help out a bit more than usual.” Mostly, this works. Other days I think it’s just too much and they can’t, so I let them do the normal kid thing and try not to take it personally.
In fact, one of my biggest parenting struggles as a bipolar mom is taking things to heart that are in fact typical kiddo behavior. My mind will know some behavior is irrational and most of the time I respond typically but sometimes my bipolar brain responds, even knowing that I’m being completely off. Why is this? Well folks, THIS is bipolar. The rational mind and the bipolar brain often disagree. Like when the teen comes home and disappears upstairs even though he hasn’t seen me all day and only gets me every other week. That one’s hard. My real mind knows that he’s just been normal and doing the whole teen thing but the bipolar brain says, “He doesn’t need you anymore, your extraneous, you should just leave him alone, he doesn’t want you.” Now, my mind mostly knows this is BS and I manage to deal with it normally but occasionally I just take a moment out to cry a bit and then get over it. Life has to go on right? Even with a slightly (however irrationally) broken mama heart.
As for the kids themselves? Well mine are well trained to alert me if they think I’m wonky. They’ll say, “Mom, um…bipolar moment?”, which usually results in me taking a time out for myself to think and center so I can come back to some sort of normalcy. Sometimes I’ll debate the point and assure them it’s just typical mom stuff but occasionally they’re right and I’m learning to listen. Mostly I’m just praying it doesn’t scar them for life. Really, I’m only going to have so much to help them pay for therapy in my old age!
Truth be told though, In some ways I think my bipolar has made me a better parent. Why? Because I am highly sensitive to their behavior and rapidly responsive to their feelings and actions (again for better or worse) than I think I would have been without it. Besides, I can pretty damn fun when I’m manic and when I’m not, well I’m still “on” just not quite the same. That said, I honestly don’t know if the kids would agree with me. They don’t know any different so there’s really nothing for them to compare me to. My oldest remembers me before and after meds came into the picture. Maybe I’ll see if he’ll do a guest post so you can get a first-hand insight into what it’s like to be a kiddo of this particular bipolar mama.