I have been dealing with bipolar disorder for as long as I can remember. Of course, I didn’t fully come into understanding what it meant having a mental illness until I was in my early twenties, after being diagnosed by my doctor. Back then, the idea of having children hadn’t even crossed my mind.
Here I am twenty years later, and I’m still struggling. You would think I would have this down pat by now, how to deal with what it means to have bipolar disorder while trying to be a mom, but unfortunately, I don’t. Sometimes as a mom, I wish I didn’t have bipolar disorder.
Yesterday was not a good day. I woke my son up early so he could jump into the shower. He seemed to be in a great mood, which was a nice change from his normal funk. Not only do I deal with bipolar disorder, but so does my son. He’s only twelve, but he handles things much better than I did when I was his age.
So, there we were heading down to the underground parking, joking and teasing one another. When we got closer to the car, I asked him to stop so I could get my keys out. Like all kids having fun, he didn’t hear my words. I said STOP again but unfortunately, he didn’t. He went to tickle me and knocked my hand. I watched as my phone flew through the air and on to the cement face first.
Now, I’m not going to tell you I handled the situation the way a good mother should. I didn’t. I should’ve turned to my son, told him it’s no biggie, accidents happen.
Instead, I freaked out, cried and yelled and made him feel bad for breaking my phone when it really was an accident. I felt so awful. I made him cry. All the way to school, we didn’t speak.
Parenting With Bipolar Disorder Is Never Easy
There is so much guilt that comes when you have bipolar disorder as a parent. It wasn’t that I just got upset with Trace for breaking my phone. It was that I plummeted. The tiniest things can sometimes set me off. Then, I spiral downwards into a deep dark hole that I have to claw my way back out of. It’s not fun. It’s not something I enjoy feeling. I wish to god, I didn’t have this, and I could just feel normal when coping with bad situations.
It’s hard, I always stop to think, what is he (my son) going to remember about my parenting. The love I have for him, or the manic (freaking out) moments where I yelled and screamed at him? I don’t even want to know the answer. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for him to be dealing with his own depression and then have to deal with mine, on top of it all.
Parenting with Bipolar Disorder Is Like Staring Out At the Ocean
I’ve always tried as a mother to keep my illness as much out of my kid’s lives as I could, but in all honesty that just isn’t reality. So my next step was, to be honest with what I feel. Both of my boys know that I have heavy bouts of depression and sometimes manic moments. How could they not?
Having bipolar disorder is like staring out at the ocean, far and wide, a great big body of water set before you that can carry you away. Sometimes, I wish it would. Having bipolar disorder as a parent is not something you can just tuck away neatly into a little box. Believe me, there is nothing neat about bipolar disorder.
It makes me sad inside. No child should have to learn to cope with their parent’s disability. My boys are strong for it, I know this. And they truly make my life worth living, a better place for me to be in. They have seen me freak out. Seen me lose my shit for no reason and they have learned (each of them) their own unique way of dealing with having a mom who has the (crazies) as I call it.
Laughter is key.
We laugh a lot about (mom being nuts) and I can take the jokes. It’s their way of coping, teasing and poking fun at me. The end result though, is I have boys who have no issues wrapping their arms around me to console me when those nasty moments creep in. They hug me so tight. Tell me to breathe. They handle each situation with love and confidence.
Being a bipolar parent means letting your children in. Letting them see you at your worst. Letting them know that none of us are perfect, we just aren’t. Life is ugly. It’s nasty. It’s complicated, and sometimes it’s unfair. As unfair as having a bipolar disorder as a parent is.
Do I regret having children?
How could I? My boys make me a better mother. They make me try harder, for them. To show them that no matter what we face in life, we can battle through it. As long as we’re being honest about what we are dealing with, and how we feel.
Besides, bipolar disorder doesn’t define me as a parent. It’s a struggle I go through, and it’s something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. But it does not make me a bad parent. In fact, I think it makes me stronger. It lets me know that my imperfections are a part of who I am, but they don’t dictate how I choose to live my life. And I live my life for them because that’s what being a parent is all about.