Wait, what’s this? Two AnonyBlogger posts in a row? Isn’t that, like, cheating?
Yes. Yes, it is. But honestly, with Carter’s psychotic symptoms increasing by the day, and being without Brian last week while he worked in Japan, plus all the ordinary tasks of life, I’m pretty relieved to have something to post that doesn’t contain any of my blood, sweat, and tears.
Make no mistake, though: there is an abundance of blood, sweat, and tears here. While I think that having a mentally ill child is one of the most painful things that can happen to a person, having a mentally ill parent is one of the most damaging. I’m privileged to bring you another story from a blogger who loves someone with a mental illness.
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My mom is Bipolar. It nearly destroyed my parents’ marriage when I was younger; she was reckless with the little money my father made, placing our family in a scary amount of debt. She had affairs that carried on for months, even years, giving birth to another man’s baby two years prior to my birth. I don’t know this brother; he grew up with his father and his father’s family.
When my mom wasn’t off spending money, meeting men and taking me and my siblings out of school for no reason other than to be with her, she was locked in her room, in her bed. There would be weeks, sometimes, where she disappeared into the cave that was her mind, her children didn’t exist, let alone matter to her. My father was stressed due to the illness, the illness which had no name to us at that point. He worked constantly, and when he wasn’t working, he drank. The two oldest siblings took care of the three younger, we tip-toed around them both, not daring to go to them if there was a problem.
It wasn’t until years later did we learn about what was happening to my mom. She didn’t share many of the darker details, but we learned she was sick and needed medication and she would be “mom” again. And she was for the most part. The severe manic episodes stopped, although she still liked to have fun, but only with her husband. Money was being spent on her children, but bills were being paid. The crippling depression stopped unless something happened; my grandmother dying, my brother being sent to Iraq. We still tip-toed, but we had our mom back.
One of the hardest parts of being the child of someone with Bipolar is not loving them or forgiving them throughout, that part comes easy once you learn about the disorder. The hardest part about being the child of someone with Bipolar is understanding you are genetically probable to have it as well, and wondering if and when it will take a hold of you.
I was 15 when I was diagnosed with Bipolar. I grew up relatively normal, regardless of our home situation. I didn’t let it define me. I didn’t have a very reliable mother role; my dad was an alcoholic and abusive, and my sister’s boyfriend molested me and beat and raped her for three years. But I didn’t let it define who I was. I was as happy as I could be with the hand I was given. I went to teenager-hood as stable as anyone would be. I was 15 when I was diagnosed, after a brutal rape and a trial that ended up labeling me a whore.
As part of the “healing process”, I went to a therapist for many years. After only a couple of weeks however, the therapist determined there was something more going on in my mind than I had let on to anyone else before. My parents always thought there was something wrong but were always too afraid and frustrated to see about getting me help. They told me to be honest, so I was honest. I told him about the voices I heard, and shadows I saw. The things that lived under my bed and my paralyzing fear of the dark. The monsters that told me I was worthless and should kill myself. I told him about cutting and starving myself as punishment because the Shadows told me to. I didn’t sleep because I was afraid of what they would do.
I told him about sometimes feeling like I could fly and describing the way my heart would jump up into my throat, the way you feel when you’re going down a big hill on a rollercoaster, because I really thought I could. I told him about kissing boys I didn’t know because they winked at me and getting drunk with my friends because I was too cute to get into trouble. I told him about sometimes I felt so high on it I had to cut myself just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I didn’t sleep because there was still so much left to do.
There was more than just the Bipolar that crippled my life that went undiagnosed until then. I have severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well; I always just thought I was particular, quirky. So many of my habits began to make sense to me, I would go through sheets of paper trying to keep my handwriting a certain way, I can’t touch or use a mop, I check things constantly, whether it’s lights or ovens or even just cell phones and emails. I never really thought anything strange about the amount of anxiety I would feel when I was unable to perform certain tasks. I thought everyone had something similar.
I spent years on medications and in therapy, but nothing seemed to fully help. There was never a good enough balance, the Shadows and voices would disappear, but I was so numb I would cut to make sure I was still alive. I drank and did drugs to connect with my peers. I always felt alone. The therapy became repetitive, I no longer had anything to share that they hadn’t already been told. There were no shadows to talk about, no voices. I didn’t eat because I wanted to feel normal, and skinny was normal. I didn’t want to live anymore because I wasn’t normal, and now everyone knew it.
I attempted suicide twice before my high school graduation. The first by slitting my wrists, I was found before enough time had passed. The second time I swallowed a bottle of pills and slit my wrists. I still don’t know how I survived that one, but I finally came out of a blood-loss and aspirin (I’m highly allergic) induced coma three days later that my parents assumed was drunkenness or the flu. There was blood on my sheets that they assumed was from cutting, and vomit, they let me sleep it off. When I awoke, the next day was my birthday and all I really wanted was Cocoa Pebbles. I felt like I was never going to feel normal again.
I finished high school, started college and stopped going to counseling and taking the medication. I wanted to be as normal as I could be and all those were doing was making it more difficult. My mom had been off her medication for years at this point, she had learned to recognize the signs of pending episodes. I wanted to learn this as well, and the only way to do this was to stop and start clean. To remember how I felt when I felt normal.
It took a long time to get to the point I am today, I take no medications, but am considering going back to counseling. I’m married and my husband is aware of everything. However, I do not discuss the voices or Shadows if I can help it. Those are my burden to bear; I don’t want to scare or worry him, although I know he’d stand by my side and try to protect me. I often wonder how he would protect me from myself, but I don’t question it. The amazing strength he lends to me and love he gives to me helps me sometimes to face fears, to stand up to the Shadows and demand my freedom from their terror.
Every day is a battle; I’m not going to lie. I have to remember there are others relying on me to be healthy, to be normal. There are days where I have to walk out of favorite stores before opening a credit card, others where it takes every fiber of my being to pull myself out of a dark hole I’m in. But I know, I have my family wanting me to be healthy, my husband who wants his wife to be okay, and two babies that I never want to be exposed to the bad mommy I could potentially be. I may never be normal, but I’m me, and I’m taking the little steps necessary to lead a normal life. I’m on a constant watch of where my heart feels like it is, that’s how I can tell what kind of episode I’m about to have. I force myself to face my fears, even if sometimes it’s just a little bit. I force myself to listen to my daughter’s laughter and voice to remind me of why I have to be better. To remind me that it’s not just me that matters, it’s the smiling little girl and growing boy that are the most important.
The hardest part about having Bipolar and children is not wondering if they’ll continue to love and forgive you throughout it, you know that part will come easier once they are old enough to understand. The hardest part about having Bipolar and children is understanding they have hit the genetic jack pot and wondering if and when it will take hold of them too.