Having a bipolar mother – what life is like.
Having a bipolar mother makes life…interesting, to say the least. I guess everyone’s experience is different, but mine is the only one I know.
If you’ve read my post on causes of anxiety and depression, I give some details of what it was like having a bipolar mother as a child. But I want to take the time to describe in more detail what it was like through my teenage years.
First, let me start by saying that my mom self-diagnosed herself back when I was a child. She knew something was wrong, and because of the lack of knowledge about mental health disorders, no one could really tell her what was causing her moods and behavior.
Doing her own research, she went to a psychiatrist and basically told them that she had bipolar disorder. I don’t know all the details, as I wasn’t present for her visits, but apparently they agreed, and started treating her with antidepressants.
I use antidepressants in the plural form, because she would start one, and it would seem to help somewhat for awhile, and then it’s effects would sort of…wear off.
She would go back, and they would give her another to try. And another, and another. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many different antidepressants she has been on over the years.
Unfortunately, at the time, no one recommended any kind of counseling or therapy to go along with these meds.
She didn’t pursue it either, and I don’t know if this was because of a lack of knowledge and resources, or because it just wasn’t recommended.
As a kid, I didn’t understand any of it. It was only once I became an adult that I understood more.
Additional Diagnoses –
At some point, she was also diagnosed with having PTSD, and an anxiety disorder. Again, I’m not sure why she either wasn’t referred for therapy, or chose not to attend. These are all very serious and very intense mental health disorders.
Then her personality itself has to be taken into consideration, along with these different diagnoses. Looking back, I can’t imagine what it was like for her. But I do know what it was like for me.
Growing up, having a bipolar mother was like…
It was like getting on a roller coaster ride for the first time, and realizing halfway through that you are terrified, but it’s too late to get off. So you’re stuck, and all you can do is pray that it’ll be over soon.
And as you’re riding, you don’t know what’s going to come next. So you’re waiting in nervous anticipation – will there be a huge drop, or will it spin you upside down? How much longer will it last?
That may not be the best analogy, but that’s the best way I know how to describe it.
She could be in a good mood, and be enjoyable to be around. Or, she could be angry, and all you could do was try to avoid her. Then there were times when she was sad, and she would cry and cry, and didn’t even know why.
Then there were times when I don’t really know what she was. Sometimes her behavior was so volatile and unpredictable, it was just plain frightening.
There were many times I thought she was going to hurt herself. It was very upsetting and disturbing to watch her when she would become extremely self destructive.
I remember her hatefulness and anger the most.
I think the hardest part of having a bipolar mother is that you don’t really have a mother. At least, not in the traditional sense of the word.
I do believe she tried, for the most part. But I also believe that the older we got, the less she tried. (As far as trying to be a “mom”.)
She was just so angry. I felt like she really didn’t like us. She made me feel like it was my fault that she was so angry and mean. When she was in this mood, there was no talking to her.
Just screaming and yelling and name calling. I’ll never forget the look on her face…this one time she was screaming at me. Her face was literally within an inch of mine, and she was so angry (I can’t remember why).
I really only remember her saying the words, “You little bitch”, the tone of her voice, and that look she had.
I’m pretty sure this was the beginning of when she started to feel comfortable screaming at me directly, calling me names, and blaming me for how she felt.
She would never apologize. She would just act like it never happened. The next day, she would be calm, like nothing was wrong. Talk to me like everything was perfectly normal. It was so strange.
To this day, when I hear that tone in her voice, even if it’s not directed at me, it still has an affect on me.
As I hit my teen years, it only seemed to get worse. Between her unstable mental health and my newfound hormones, there were less and less peaceful moments.
I became an angry and bitter teen. I was angry with her, and I was angry with the world. And I was tired, tired of the constant chaos and instability.
I was tired of not having a “normal” mom. And the older we got, the more she talked about things.
Things my dad did in the past, how much she hated him. Things that just weren’t necessary for her to tell us, over and over again.
She would also tell me and my brothers that she regretted having kids, and if she could go back, she wouldn’t have had any.
She also ‘disowned’ me a lot. If I did anything to make her angry or set her off, she’d drop me off at my dad’s, and say that he and my step mom could have me. That I was no longer her daughter.
And then after a day or two, she’d want me to come back home. Having a bipolar mother was difficult on everyone. She did not make things easy for anyone around her.
She would also occasionally go into these catatonic states. She would just lay in the bed for days, without talking, moving or any type of reaction. Her eyes would even be open – but nobody would be home.
Honestly, I could go on and on, but this is a basic idea of what my life was like growing up as a kid, and having a bipolar mother. I’ll talk more about what it’s been like as an adult in another post.
It’s taken a lot out of me to write this, and to think back on the memories of my childhood. Time to take a break, and focus on something positive.
I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable; I am an original. I’m not falling behind or running late. I’m not standing still: I am lying in wait.
I hope this will help others to understand the consequences of improperly treated mental illnesses. I believe she wouldn’t have had such severe symptoms if she had been properly treated.
Did you grow up with a bipolar mother? Or a bipolar father? If so, what was your experience like? How does your Bipolar parent continue to affect your life? I’d like to hear the perspective and experiences of others. I’ve often wondered how many others grew up the way I did.