Dear Daddy, I'm Crazy: Confessions From a New Bipolar
During my senior year at Yale, I had what I now consider a manic episode. I'd gotten 2-4 hours of sleep for nights in a row and I was still flying high. I was in a terrific mood and got lots of work done on my senior thesis and a play I was producing. I felt invigorated! Then, one night, I crashed. I couldn't sleep. One night, I was so tired I cried and spent a few weeks just feeling "off". I never mentioned it to anyone, least of all my Dad, still reeling from my Mom’s death a year before.
Depressive Episodes Continued in My Early 20's
After college, I had a depressive episode. It started with typical symptoms: social withdrawal, sadness, lack of motivation. One day, I couldn't get out of bed. I told my job that I was taking some time off and I spent a few months watching TV in bed and doing crossword puzzles – the only thing that made me happy. Though I lived with my Dad at the time, my family never knew what happened to me. Eventually, I “cheered up” and Dad convinced me that my job had made me miserable. Obediently, I got a new one and everything was fine. Until the next time. Instead of crosswords, Dad bought me a bowling ball and took me bowling to cheer me up.
For years, I believed my “episodes” were situational: my mother died; I went through a bad break-up; I gained 40 pounds. My excuses made sense until I began therapy and was diagnosed with dysthymia during business school. Antidepressants helped everything. I had energy, I could concentrate on my work, and I was just happy. But I still didn’t tell my Dad. I kept my “secret” for a few more years, until crippling anxiety and depression forced me into an outpatient mental facility. Then I had to come clean.
An Adult Child's Mental Illness is Difficult for Parents
The thing is, even after an outpatient program, an inpatient stay, various medications, and a few conversations with my therapist, my Dad still doesn’t really understand that I have a mental illness. I think he feels guilty, like something he did made me this way but he can’t fix it; he always wants to fix things that are bad for me. Also, my Dad knew me for more than 35 years before I found the best definition – and the best treatment – for my mental illness. That’s 35 years of being “good daughter”, “smart”, and “successful”. None of those labels peacefully coexist with “bipolar”, at least for most people. And I believe squaring a lifelong image of me - wrapped up in hopes and dreams and some selfish wishes - is what's most difficult for my father to comprehend. Somehow, the life he hoped I'd have, an easy one filled with happiness and joy, has been permanently derailed because of my disease.
I don't see it that way. I see the strength it takes to strive for a great life in spite of living with bipolar. And I feel relief at finally finding a way to manage my disease and stay healthy and happy for 3 years amidst periods of turmoil. Someday, I believe that Papa Lloyd will really get it.
Lloyd, T. (2011, August 4). Dear Daddy, I'm Crazy: Confessions From a New Bipolar, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, March 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2011/08/dear-daddy-im-crazy-confessions-from-a-new-bipolar
Author: Tracey Lloyd
My parents are the same way about my Bipolar I diagnosis. My mom was in denial for a long time - about 4 years. My dad still doesn't believe I have a mental illness - he calls it a "deficiency in my brain chemistry" since all I seem to need to stay stable is a small amount of Lithium (a naturally occurring salt, he explains).
I do agree with you that it must be so difficult for parents to deal with a child having a mental illness since they can't do anything to cure us from it, they can only support us. If they only knew that their support is all we need to get through it.
The issue of parent child relationship present an interminable coexistence that include different and contradictory complicity as well. Meanwhile, if it is in question mentally ill child the situation become more difficult and sensible in the same time. In this direction , bipolar disorder of any child didn't made exception, such is Your case, which is overloaded with stressogen, event such is death of your mother, respectively the wife's death of your Dad. In order to soften the misunderstandings in family bosom it should to grow up an honesty and goodwill milieu amidst mentally ill child and parents. The fact that Your protector father didn't know long time your bipolar disease has complicate the relationship between You and him, that provoking your undiscovered disease, in itself side. This furthermore, such it is well known bipolar disorder has got the phase of full recovery along these it should to take medication in purpose to stabilize the course of disease. Beside this, it ought to be careful in dealing with daily problems along remission phase of bipolar disease.
My father and mother are the same way but it's worse on my father. He wants to fix me and he blames himself for me having bipolar and anxiety disorder. He doesn't talk about it, at all. I know he thinks about it though. I think if he would talk to me about it he might get it a little more and realize that it's not his fault.
Michele - I imagine being unable to help your child go through something really difficult is about the worst thing a parent can experience. Like you, I don't blame my Dad too much, especially since he hasn't really had too long to acclimate to my "status" and he's mostly worried about me, which I suppose is normal. And men in general are "strong and silent"...we just have to keep trying. - Deltra