This Bipolar Life: Bipolar Parenting Pitfalls

In my house we talk about my bipolar openly. My children, for better or worse, are part of the care circle that surrounds me. Now that they are older will ask me if I’m having a “bipolar moment” or am really just upset or over-excited about something. I have always been open about my bipolar with those closest to me but it’s only in the last few months that I’ve become outspoken about it. In fact it was my son who suggested I should be, saying that people needed to know that someone can live with and through this condition.

Some days my kids will wake up and find a kitchen full of pots and pans with a full breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon. Others they are offered cereal and we have to wash bowls from still undone dishes in order to eat it. They’ll often come home to find me immersed in yet another project and rally behind me with praise and encouragement. On another day they might find me resting in bed, trying to get the gray of the day to lift its ugly veil. Sometimes they’ll walk in and discover they have piles of new clothes from Goodwill because of another “I just had to have it and really they need it” hypomanic spending episode. Really their lives are occasionally just turned upside down and they bounce right along with my moods trying their best to keep up. We usually get through it with laughter and understanding, if not in the moment then at least in retrospect.

All of that said, parenting while bipolar has been challenging for me in ways that I think are both normal and less so. My kids get all the day-to-day discipline of a mom who is there and making sure they clean their nuclear-bomb-went-off-in-here rooms. They get the compulsive-must-be-at-every-game/show/concert/etc. They get the go-be-independent mom who encourages them to seek out every new opportunity. They also get the please-stay-don’t-leave mom. The insecure mom. The one who seeks external validation to make sure I’m actually valued, and yes I need this, even from my children. They are quick to hug me when I am looking sad and right there next to me cheering me on when I get excited about something new or accomplish a goal.

I know my bipolar disorder has colored my children’s lives in ways I cannot even comprehend but I hope that some of it has been positive. I believe they are and will be empathetic in ways others may not be toward those with invisible illnesses. I also think they will be more willing than most to explore new things and try knowing there is as much a chance of failure as success. I have faith they will be open and honest about their own shortcomings, both with others and hopefully as they start families themselves, with their spouses and children.

I know it is my issue to deal with and shouldn’t be their problem but I can’t shield them from all of my bipolarisms. I understand that bipolar disorder is not an excuse so much as it is an explanation. I still have to apologize for choices I make just as anyone else but I hope I provide them an excellent example of the human capacity for pushing through tough moments and coming out the other side all the better for it.

2 Comments

  1. Your children are lucky that they can discuss bipolar disorder openly with you. They are lucky, too, in that they have each other. I worry about my son being an only child. He has no one except my husband with whom to commiserate.

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