My Honest Thoughts, Other Mental Illnesses and Disorders

How My Bipolar Mother Continues To Affect My Life

Bipolar mother
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When you have a Bipolar mother, your life will never be smooth sailing. Ever.

I have a Bipolar mother. I have already written about what it’s like growing up with a bipolar mother, so I’m not going to go back over that hot mess. Instead, I want to talk about what it’s like as an adult to have a mother with Bipolar disorder.

I’m going to be completely honest in this post, and I’m going to talk about my personal experiences and feelings. I am aware that everyone is different, and everyone affected by any type of mental illness has varying degrees of symptoms and severity. I say this because this is a very emotional and triggering topic for me, as I’m sure it is for others as well.

I’m writing this post for several reasons. The first reason is to let anyone else who is going through the same experience know that someone out there gets it. I know what you’re going through, and I empathize with you and your situation. The second reason is to spread knowledge and awareness about the effects of Bipolar disorder on the adult children of a Bipolar parent.

Finally, to be completely honest, I need to vent a little and get this out and off of my chest. I know what it’s like, not having anyone to talk to about this, no one who understands what you’re going through. But what I do have, is myself and my blog.

With that being said, let’s talk about some of the things I continue to experience with my Bipolar mother, now that I’m an adult. I would also like to say, she can be pleasant at times, and has done a lot of things for me, I do not want to take away from that.

Unfortunately the negative aspects of my Bipolar mother heavily overshadow the positives.


The unpredictable moods

Obviously this is a well known symptom of Bipolar disorder. I don’t know if everyone goes through these moods as often as my mother does, or if they change as quickly as hers does, but it can be stressful when you don’t know what kind of mood she’ll be in. Even when she seems ok, it can change in a matter of seconds.

Her moods are also very extreme. When they hit, she gets very unstable, and very volatile. She might lash out in anger with her words, behave recklessly, or even break down and start crying uncontrollably. If you’re able to prevent the situation from escalating, she will let her anger simmer, and then dish it out in passive aggressive doses to punish you for whatever she feels you did to wrong her.

Sometimes her moods can create dangerous situations for herself, and anyone with her. When driving, she’s been known to just stop suddenly in the middle of the street, or if she’s a passenger, sometimes she has complete meltdowns. My mom will start screaming, throwing things, beating the windows and the dashboard, try to get out of the vehicle while it’s still moving, and make a complete scene.


Bipolar mother


It doesn’t always take much to trigger this type of behavior. It can be something minor, like a disagreement or a difference in opinion. Depending on how much I allow it to affect me, and how much I engage, will depend on the level of vindictive behavior I will receive, and for how long.

If it’s more of a minor event, usually after a couple of hours, she’ll call me up like nothing ever happened. It can be very emotionally draining and confusing. Sometimes I don’t know what to do or how to react. It requires a lot of energy to try to be careful of what I do, what I say, or even talk about when I’m with her. It’s a constant state of walking on eggshells.


The constant negativity

My Bipolar mother is one of the most negative people I know. All she wants to talk about are her aches and pains, or her problems. She volunteers herself out to do things for others, and then complains about how stressed she is because she has so much to do. It’s like she puts herself into these situations on purpose, so she’ll have something to bitch about.

Pity parties are something she does quite well, she thoroughly enjoys dwelling on the past and talking about how difficult her life was. All of her choices and behaviors are a result of things she’s been through, or her mental illnesses. She has a victim mentality and requires you to participate in feeling sorry for her. If you don’t, she’ll accuse you of being hateful, not understanding, not caring, and then punish you emotionally and verbally for it.

She enjoys drama, and if things are too calm and peaceful, she will reach out and push everyone’s buttons until someone gives her the reaction she seems to be seeking. Once she gets her desired reaction, she blows it up completely out of proportion, accuses you of being a horrible person, and proceeds to go into victim mode.

If I have something really exciting happening, and decide to share it with her, she reacts with negative comments. For example: When I told her I was getting a kitten (this was 9 months ago), I was so excited about it. Well, she can’t have me being excited or happy, so she decides to react with, “Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re getting a cat. I can’t stand cats. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be able to come over to your house anymore if you get a cat.”

Like, wow. How cruel and unnecessary.

It completely destroyed my excitement in that moment, and hurt my feelings that she chose to purposefully say the ugliest possible thing she could think of. I honestly believe she gets some sort of sick enjoyment out of hurting me. This is a regular thing, she does it to me all the time. She turns her nose up at just about anything I do.

Don’t worry, I got my kitten anyway. She doesn’t come by much anymore, and when she does, she usually requests I come outside to her vehicle. Fine with me. These are more examples of how my Bipolar mother uses passive agressive behaviors.


My Bipolar mother is very self centered

I suppose this is the right term to describe it. Everything seems to be all about her, all the time. Her stress, her aches and pains, her problems…most of our conversations are about her. When I try to talk to my Bipolar mother about a problem I’m having, she dismisses it and immediately takes over the entire conversation. Which of course, is all about her.

If I tell her I’ve had a lot going on, she gets irritated, and complains about how much she has going on. It’s like it angers her that I could possibly have more going on than she does. She has to one-up everything I tell her, and I don’t understand. I’m not trying to compete with her on who has more to do. I’m a daughter, trying to find an outlet in my mother. Instead, I get hostility, a “get over it, it’s life”, followed by a rant that revolves around her.

Most of the time I just don’t tell her anything anymore. There’s no point, it will fall on deaf ears. She will only listen long enough to find a way to turn the conversation around to make it all about her.


Bipolar mother



The manipulation and guilt trips

My Bipolar mother is the master of manipulation and guilt trips. She’s been doing it to me for so long, it’s been programmed in me. She knows just what to say to make me feel bad. If she wants me to do something for her, she will use both guilt and manipulation, because she knows it will work. I take some responsibility, after all, I allow it.

I just hate the guilt I get stuck with. Not only that, if I tell her no to something, or I can’t, she’ll act like she’s fine with it, and then days later she’ll suddenly go off on me. I’ll get accused of trying to avoid her, or abandoning her. She’s very paranoid about things. She overthinks everything, and finds a way to make something out of nothing.


The hurt, anger and frustration

Yeah, these emotions belong to me. Most days I handle it pretty well, but after a lifetime of this very emotional roller coaster, it has taken its toll. Lately it seems to be much more difficult to tolerate and ignore. I don’t have much left for her to drain, my fountain is slowly becoming emptier and emptier.


I have worked very hard to get to where I am today, and I can’t afford to have her try and sabotage all of my hard work. I admit, now that I’m doing so much better with my depression and anxiety, I have much less tolerance and patience for her behavior and moods.

My step-dad passed away almost a year ago, and that has also made the situation more difficult. She is even needier than she used to be, and has always had a codependent relationship with me, which started at an extremely young age.

I have tried sitting down and letting her know how I feel. I’ve let her know how she makes me feel. I’ve tried to set healthy boundaries – she mows them over within weeks of agreeing to get better. Not only have I done all of this, I have learned as much as I can about her mental illnesses. I have done my best to try and be patient and understanding.

Nothing seems to help, and it’s now gotten to the point where I feel tense and uncomfortable anytime I’m around her. I have to be careful not to try and avoid her too much, so I won’t be accused of plotting against her. But no matter how hard I try, or what I do, it ends up blowing up eventually.

She criticizes everything I do, from my life choices, to how I raise my kids. She disagrees with most of my feelings and beliefs, and is constantly trying to tell me what she thinks I should do.


The unanswered questions

Why is she like this, after all these years? After years of trying so many different medications, combinations, counseling? Why does treatment not seem to help my Bipolar mother? Where are these professionals going wrong here?

I don’t understand. I know of others who have Bipolar disorder, and they don’t act this way. Not to this extreme, or at least not that I’m aware. Is this really Bipolar, or has she been misdiagnosed? Maybe there is another underlying illness that is not being treated. She was also diagnosed with PTSD, that apparently went untreated for years.

Even with this additional diagnosis, it still doesn’t add up. I have done so much research trying to figure it out, trying to understand. So far, I’m just not sure. I’m hoping one day to have these answers.

She’s up, she’s down, she’s nice, then mean. She loves me, she hates me. It’s a literal emotional roller coaster with no off switch.

I was hoping time, age, and less stress in her life would make her better. And I guess in some ways she is less extreme than she used to be, but I thought there would be a bigger change. With every new medicine she’s put on, I’m hopeful it will work better. I’m always disappointed, as it makes no significant difference.

She is now even starting to try and treat my kids the way she has always treated me. That is where I draw the line. I will not allow it. I’m used to it, but my kids will not be tortured by her behavior or her moods.


Additional thoughts

I’m at a loss at this point, as I just don’t know what to do. I cannot keep going like this, I do know that. I’m worn down, and worn out. It has become more and more difficult to be around her. I have begun to resent her, and I don’t want to do that. Having a Bipolar mother with these extreme mood swings has taken its toll.

Honestly, between her cruel and ugly words when she is in one of her moods, and her extreme behavior, I now associate these things with Bipolar disorder. This has caused me to hold an unfounded resentment towards the diagnosis  in general.


Bipolar mother


In my research, I found a site that was talking about the hurtful and angry side of Bipolar, and someone made a comment on the post. The comment was basically telling the person (who felt they couldn’t deal with their family member’s mood swings anymore) not to give up, and it would be horrible to abandon them. This person continued on to say they just need patience and understanding, and to have someone they can lean on when they’re having a difficult time.

When I read this, it made me both upset and angry. I wanted to respond with this – “How much is a person supposed to sacrifice themselves, and subject themselves to such extreme emotional abuse? Until they are no longer healthy? Until they are so beaten down, so emotionally exhausted that they end up in the hospital? Are you just supposed to push through it, because this other person ‘just can’t help it’?”

I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to respectfully disagree. Obviously this person who thinks you should ‘be there no matter what’, has never had to ‘be there no matter what’.

I’ve been trying to do that for over thirty years now. Here’s a little truth – If a person is toxic and incapable of change, the only thing you’ll end up getting out of being there no matter what is a slow, agonizing death of self.

And yet, here I am. It makes me very sad. I wish there was something that could make a significant improvement, but I do believe someone has to want to truly be willing to put in the work to accomplish this.

Maybe that’s my answer. I may never know.

~ Jess


Bipolar mother



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25 thoughts on “How My Bipolar Mother Continues To Affect My Life

  1. Wow. That’s a lot to have to put up with — especially when you’re dealing with your own depression and anxiety. You’re a trouper for being supportive and understanding for so long.

    It was interesting how you were talking about how she volunteers herself into situations and then complains about it. I notice that in a lot of people — it’s definitely a need to indulge in drama — which is kind of amusing.

    Also, there is fine line between being a supportive and understanding person — and being someone who allows the other person to be verbally and emotionally toxic. A person with a mood disorder should be able to vent to a listening ear, but that does not give them permission to be toxic to another person. I totally agree that the commenter was naive in his or her assessment. It’s easy for person to say you should be this or that when they’ve never been on the receiving end of a person’s unstable moods. It’s possible to be understanding and yet — firm on not enabling toxic behavior.

    As far as diagnoses go, I wonder if they’ve explored Borderline Personality Disorder — or noticed at least some of the traits — mood swings, fear of abandonment, unstable interpersonal relationships — but one would need quite a few symptoms that are present at a strong level before being diagnosed.

    Overall, hope your relationship with your mom improves and that you’re able to just be yourself without having to walk on eggshells. Thanks for sharing such a personal story. I think a lot of people who have loved ones with mood disorders can relate.

    1. Thank you. I’m lucky, I feel like even though I don’t always feel it, I’m pretty tough. I can’t give up on her, she’s my mom. This is why I continue to try. This is why I can’t let go. This is what makes it so hard, and why it makes me so sad. I’m sad for her, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be her. It makes me feel guilty to feel this way, but sometimes I just need time to breathe. She is so codependent it makes it almost impossible. If she has the slightest feeling that I’m trying to pull away just a little – to take a breather – she becomes much worse, and will suddenly find reasons to call me, text me, or need me in some way. It can be so exhausting. I just wish I knew what to do to make it better. I just wish she wasn’t quite so extreme. 🙁

      1. My Mom has never been diagnosed with a mental illness per se, but has been an active addict for most of my life. My life living at home with my parents was a living hell. Coming home from work to clean the house when my parents are not working was too much for me. Now I have distance between us and I try to call as I love my mom (my dad is an active addict). I can choose when to call her or to answer her. The tricky part for me is my mom pays my phone bill.

        1. I’m so sorry, that’s a really difficult situation! I’m sorry you’ve had to go through that. Distancing yourself is the only thing you can really do, and even that can be very hard.

  2. Jess,

    I just read your blog, it basically explained my life. My mom, not so much cruel toward us individually but mostly herself. I’ve always been her “go to”, punching bag. But when it comes down to it she’ll say I’ve never taken care of her or her problems. “She doesn’t need my help.” Right. The manipulation, is heavy. I’m almost 31 and I’m ready to tap out but I know I’m all she has. I have an almost 4 year old and I have become a lot stronger bc I refuse to allow my daughter to see her moods swings, her ups and downs. I let it ruin my marriage to a man who would of never left me. But I left him because looking back now, I no longer had the option to take care of her. She lived with us off and in, off and on. He never fully complained but I wish he put his foot down and said no! We were together half our lives, 15 years. My mom grew very comfortable with using us as her fall back. Always came running back to me bc I had a bed for her to lay in, a clean house, a comfortable home and reliability. She back stabbed me so many times. But she would never admit it. She actually doesn’t SEE it, that’s how sick she is. Sick in a mentally ill way. They don’t even realize what they’re doing when they do it or say it. They don’t realize as our pmotbers they are suppose to be bias and keep our secrets and not slander us when they feel like it. She had an issue with alcohol and prescription drugs, all my life. But I considered her “functional” I wish I knew better. 2-3 months after my husband and I separated, I moved out. Which forced my mother to move to GA with her brother. 2 months later she tried committing suicide with pills. After having multiple issues and arguments with loved ones, amongst myself . The last 11 months of my life have been utter hell. She had major complications with scar tissue build up from the life support she was put on back and January. She’s “homeless” but technically has been for years. I no longer have a place for her to live, I feel helpless but I cannot give in bc I cannot live with her. We have no family left, her friend list has run dry now that she doesnt party.. and no one can offer her anything. Her options are so very limited now. I have structure and routine, which I never had growing up. It feels good. Having her in my household gives me anxiety. She’s so disfunctional. I love my mother to death, but she’s her own worst enemy. I feel she suffers from PTSD, she was sexually abused as a child and also grew up with a manic depressed mother and surrounded by drinkers. But she cannot blame them for her issues, everyone tells her to let go. But she is not strong enough mentally or emotionally. All my life she called her issue depressions, she wasn’t diagnosed correctly but she never seemed the right help. After her attempted suicide she was diagnosed with bipolar. Some days she goes with it, other days she denies it. She basically thinks trained professionals are idiots when she’s “in a mood”. My mother has the biggest heart, she wouldn’t hurt a fly and would take the shirt off her back for you. But she battles herself and not treating herself correctly. I am also a 31 year old adult who suffers a bipolar mother.

    Thanks for sharing. 😘♥️

    1. I understand your struggle and your pain. No one should ever have to go through this with their mother. It’s so painful, both to deal with and watch them struggle. You’re right though, she is the only one who can help herself. It took me until my 30’s to finally realize my mom was not my responsibility. I still feel guilty, but I try really hard to set and keep boundaries with her. If I don’t, then my own mental health suffers. I so wish I could help everyone, but I know I can’t. It doesn’t always keep me from trying. Just know you’re doing the best you can, and you’re doing the right thing for yourself and your child. I hope things will get better for you, I’m so sorry you’re having to go through this. <3

  3. Hi Jess. Am nas from Malaysia. I have a mother EXACTLY SAME LIKE YOU. What scares me now is that I think I inherited the bipolar doubled from her and I keep doing the same yelling cursing and all to my kids. I swear to God I don’t want to but I can’t stop it. Please please reply me with some words and help me to stop all these. Am begging you. Thank you so much Jess. I wish we can be friends in WhatsApp so that I can discuss and share with you more.

    Naseeba, Malaysia.

    1. You are actually a step ahead just by being aware of your behavior and wanting to change it!! There’s something called cognitive behavioral therapy, and it can really help a lot with teaching you better coping skills! I would definitely check into it, everyone is different, so the first step is to start there, and they can also help you with deciding what other steps you should take to help. You can always check in here, or visit my page on fb, where you can get in touch with me there as well, at

  4. Thank you so much for sharing. My mother is sitting in my livingroom right now waiting for the cops to show up and bring her to the mental hospital. Shes been through this my entire life and I cabt seen to let go. Shes upset because I left her out of my wedding planning. Truth is I want her there more tha. anything, yet every venue we have been to ages had all negative things to say. Abd she doesn’t do it in a normal tone. Oh no! Its screaming and telling. Everything has to be about her.

    1. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this. I think the worst part about it is exactly what you said…all we really want is a mother. Someone to love & care for us, a soft place to land, someone there to celebrate our accomplishments. Just know that her behavior is not your fault. You haven’t done anything wrong. I hope things will get better for you.

  5. OMG! Amazing post! I have a mentally Ill mother, I not a doctor but I would bet any amount of money she is bipolar. Your mother sounds just like mine that it is unbelievable!!! A few of the other things is she is a hoarder and has a gambling addiction. Her addiction is so bad that she doesn’t buy food, she goes to the food pantry and gets the food that is meant for people that really needs it and just hoards it I can’t begin to tell you all the junk she has, I have seen old can goods in her cuppboard that are so old they are rusting!!! I am 47 years old and I can’t stand to even hear her voice because .she lies all the time. She has torn our family to shreads. She drove my father to his death. My father was on dialysis and 2 occasions his port in his arm broke and he was bleeding to death and she wouldn’t call 911 because she didn’t want them people in her house. So put pressure on it and called 911. The paramedics said I save his life! So she has shown how callus and vile she can be. She is still alive but when she passes away I won’t be there because of all the hell she has caused in my life.

    1. I am so sorry you had to go through that. I know how awful it can be. I think the hardest part is not understanding why they are the way they are. I hope things get better for you.

  6. Hello Jess! I have a mother with mental illness i don’t know what it is but just to start off my mother is a hoarder, gambling addiction, a lier and very manipulative. I cant even begin to get into the manipulation the lies, the game and all the other things she does but no believes it because she plays the victim like a fiddle. What ever u do is wrong. If you say morning mom its a why u didn’t say good morning. And i can go on and on about stuff like that. I didn’t think it was humanly possible for a person to be so negative. You cant tell her anything because she knows it all. And the funny thing is so many people think she is soo sweet old lady. But she is really a evil manipulative person drama is her life. She is the worlds biggest victim. Being gratefully is not in her vocabulary. And the crazy thing is she goes to to church and talks the bible but is evil ass hell.

  7. Hi Jessica, I’m in my late 30’s and my mother has been diagnosed with bipolar since before I was born. I can relate to many things in your post, in my life, and I’ve been pondering the same thought that you wrote in your post regarding, “sacrifice” and how much of one’s life it requires. I’m unmarried with no kids and sometimes feel it’s for the best, so that no one else has to make the same sacrifices I have. I think one of the hardest things dealing with a parent that has bipolar is knowing that you can’t reason with the person that has it and anyone else who hasn’t had the same experience can only tell you to “tough it out” because, as you mentioned, they “just can’t help it.” I completely agree with what you said, it’s easy for people to say that because they haven’t had to experience it. It can feel torturous at times and the resentment feels inevitable. I’m sorry for the experiences you’ve had with your mother, but I’m very thankful that you shared them because I feel that I’m not alone and someone understands how I feel. Good luck with everything and I wish you the best.

    1. Thank you. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this as well. It’s never easy, and unfortunately there’s just not much anyone can do. I feel like the main thing to remember is that her behavior is not your fault.

  8. I was looking for an answer to my situation online and I came across your blog. This post sounds like I wrote it. I’m so exhausted…. when do you draw the line. My children are now witnessing these episodes and I’m in the middle of not knowing what to do. Do I cut her off or do I just continue letting my children witness grandma being awesome to being so hurtful with her words and mood swings. I pray everyday for a solution to this. Unfortunately there is no cure for this mental illness.

    1. I drew the line when I began to understand just how toxic my mother had become to my own well being. I drew the line when my kids witnessed my mother spit in my face, screaming like a maniac. Over a difference in opinion…

  9. I to have a mentally ill mother and i just cant stand her. All the things you describe about your mother is the same as mine I never thought that it was possible for someone to be soo negative! The really hard part is that she has people really thinking she is this sweet old lady but she is really a monster! I really think that the only thing my mom cares about is gambling and hoarding. Its sad that god would put such a miserable person on this earth. She literally ran my dad to his grave. None of my family is close because she runs us away with her constant negative attitude. To even think about her gets me upset.

  10. Jess, thank you for writing this piece. My mother was recently diagnosed as Bipolar however I’ve been dealing with her mental illness my entire life (30 years). I related to everything you said. Your article explained my mother to a “t.” I have been working so hard on my own healing and trying to find some middle ground between completely cutting her off from my life and having close contact, but nothing seems to help. I really want to rip my hair out. At 53 years of age she seems like she will never change and is unwilling to help yourself. I deeply understand what you are went through/ are going through. Thank you for sharing

    1. I’m sorry you’re having to go through that. It’s extremely difficult, because there are no boundaries. I had to ultimately decide whether I was going to have my mother in my life, or save myself and cut her out completely. I chose to save my own life for once. My mother will never change. Ever.

  11. After my Mother’s last manic episode we haven’t spoke.
    We tried to get her help and she told people we were brainwashed by my narcissistic father and gaslighted her. My kids were effected by it.
    Now she seems to be crashing , I’m not ready to attempt a relationship. We were close before this, I understand the phone calls and all that.
    We use to go there weekly.
    She is not attempting to contact me so I haven’t made an attempt to contact her either.
    I’m not sure I want to.
    I love my Mom, but the emotional roller coaster, personality shifts and the blaming me for her issues is exhausting and it’s vertigo hard on my kids seeing their Grandma like that.

  12. My mother was the same, loved me, hated me, and everything else you described. She was diagnosed eventually but by then I was in my fifties and too much damage had been done to the whole family to forgive her and she still had fits of temper, her behaviour never changed because she wouldn’t take Prozac. I was terrified of her my whole life, she has passed away, but the hurt and fear is still there, my brother passed away a few months ago and right up until he died he he kept saying he would never forgive her and hated her, three yerars after my mother passed my sister passed away from alcohol abuse and at her funeral there were comments about how my mother had a lot to answer for from friends of mine and my sister’s.
    My mother can’t hurt me anymore, I keep telling myself this, it doesn’t help.

    1. I’m very sorry you’ve had to go through what you did. I have learned a lot in the past few years since cutting my mom out of my life. The most important lesson is the hardest, and that is forgiveness. Forgive her. Not for her, but for yourself. Work on yourself, and put the past behind you. It’s not easy, but it is the only way to move forward with your own life. It has taken me a long time to get to this point, but I now no longer think about what she’s done. I now instead hold myself accountable for my own choices. I had to realize the only control she has is the control I allow her to have. I hope things will get better for you, and you can begin to heal.

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