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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.