Dear kids of bipolar parents,

If you would have told me 10 years ago that at some point I would be writing about bipolar on the internet, I would have not believed you. I know that having lived my childhood and coming out the other side as delightfully suburban average, is nothing short of amazing.

So I opened the door to the topic.

And then again.

Then I get a comment from a 15 year old and it’s like I’m back there. I feel compelled to say something to those kids who want direction. Who feel lost, unloved, and uncared for. This is for them.


Dear kids of bipolar parents,

Dear Kids of Bipolar Parents (1)

If you’re googling this topic at all, I’m going to assume that you’re old enough to start realizing that things aren’t adding up.  Maybe you’re around 10 like I was.  Maybe you’re older.  Either way, you’re questioning what the hell is going on with your parent.

Maybe one day they’re nice as pumpkin pie only to turn on a dime into something that scares you.

You just don’t understand.

I came up with this saying that I say to myself to this day:

“If I understood it, then I would be it.”

Say it. Say it out loud.  Repeat it.

Mental illness like bipolar is barely understood by professionals.  You may never understand why your parent is the way they are.

Why are they irrational.

Why are they so uncaring.

Why are they so unattached.

Listen to me, it’s not about you. Their brain does not and will not work the way that yours does. And it’s sad. I know.

So what can you do to survive?

Decide to survive.

Decide that you are worth saving. You are worth living a life filled with whatever you want.

When you are young, you may feel like you are caring for yourself.  And you may be. Make the best choices you can. Feel your decisions with every cell of your being. If you feel like you’re making a wrong turn in life, immediately turn back. You have to have your own back.

Stay in school. Do well in school.

I took a job in high school just so I was out of the house more. Do what you have to do to survive.

Look for good role models. Maybe you have a friend who has a stable family. What makes that family work, look for those examples.

Learn to love. Growing up without love makes one very hard and cold.

Open up to people who will listen without judgment. Even though you have your own back, look for those in your life that can offer even a little emotional support.

Learn to trust. Growing up with parents that you can’t trust becomes ingrained in who you are. I personally had a hard time with this one.  Trust those who have your best interests in mind. This might take a while, even years to do.

Don’t stop believing that you can do it. Because you can.

If you understood it, then you would be it.

But you’re not. You’re you.


Note: Please seek out professional help if you can.

The time I didn’t know my mom’s name.

The thing about having a mentally ill mom is that it’s not always sad.  At times it can be outrageous, and sometimes it can be hilarious.

Like that time she ran down the street after a group of kids with a World War 2 sword waved above her head.  Or that time when she dressed up for Halloween and almost got arrested for looking like an ACTUAL homeless person.

Or that time when I didn’t know my mom’s name.

It happened a few years back when I went to visit my mother, who lives in a nursing home, for mother’s day.  We showed up as a family, the husband, kids and I.  As I waked in, I carried a large hanging basket that seemed to bring a normalcy to the day.

We walk in to the front desk with flower basket in hand.  The man behind the desk asks who we were there to see.

“Mary Stott*”

The man grabs the clipboard and scans down the patient list.  He flips to the next page, scans more and then says

“I’m sorry, there’s no one here by that name.”

Oh.  I adjust the flower basket to the other hand.

I stood there for a moment and thought.  I had given the name my mom went by when she was married to my dad.   I then remembered she had talked about changing it back to her maiden name after they divorced.  I should try that name.

“Oh, I think it’s actually Mary Goodwin.”

Man grabs clipboard, scans the 2 pages and again says

“No, there’s no one here by that name either.  Are you sure she lives here, what’s your relation to her?”

I think I let out a nervous laugh because awkward, party of 10.

“Yes, I know she lives here.”

I put the flower basket down.

I look at my husband who looks at me because neither of us even know what to do.

For a brief moment I was horrified, how could I not know her name?  I mean, have I lost my mind?

I look to my husband for some sort of resolution since the man at the desk surely was not going to let 4 people wander the halls with a flower basket calling out random names;

“Mary Smith… you in there? “

“Mary Churchill…can you hear me?”

The man behind the desk sees our state of bewilderment hands me the clipboard and says

“Here, if you can find her name on here, let me know.”

For a brief moment I thought about what this man must be thinking.  But then I thought, hell, this is a facility for mentally ill, the fact that I’m standing here with a flower basket has got to be the least interesting thing he saw all day.

I take the clipboard and search for all “Mary’s” on the list because surely her first name is the same no matter how many personalities are going on currently right?


I quickly scan and see it.  Mary Navarro.

And then I remember….a month before my own wedding (15 years prior) my mother got married for the 3rd time.  As far as I know, no one has met this person, they never even lived together and yet she had his surname.  It was rumored that the only reason they were married was for him to stay in the country and there was a monetary exchange.  Who could forget that?  //sarcasm//

I point to the name on the clipboard, let out a chuckle, and say “This is her.”

The man marks down on the sheet and lets us in.   We had our visit, gave her the flower basket, and when we left, I knew her name.


*All names have been changed, and not because I don’t know the real ones.

Ok, maybe it’s a little because of that.

Mother’s Day can be complicated

Mother’s day is possibly the most hyped of the Hallmark holidays.    It’s a day of love and admiration for those who have endlessly wiped butts, tears, and pride with baby wipes and sleeves.

But for some…it’s a conflicting holiday.  Not everyone has a mom.  Not everyone has a relationship with their mom.  During this time a year this hyped holiday can be a reminder of what is not in your life and the struggles you might have with it.

I’ve been somewhat open about my struggles with this relationship called “mom.”  Being a mom gives me the normalcy of getting cards, hugs and love from my kids.  I love being a mom to my children.  They have absolutely made me who I am today.  I feel them in my soul.

But I also have a mom.  That fact flips this day into a different set of present and complex feelings.

Growing up with a mentally ill mom has complicated this relationship that this day celebrates.  On one hand, I don’t harbor any angry feelings anymore.  Those have long passed but what is left feels….empty.  Lonely.  On the other hand, I can’t try to connect with something that just isn’t there.  I realize that sounds harsh but when a child has not been on the receiving end of care, concern or love for their whole life, they develop coping skills.  The coping skill I developed was a denial of emotions towards the situation coupled with a wall, in case I was tempted to try.

I’m not saying it’s healthy, but it is what I have done to survive this complex set of relationship emotions that will likely never be resolved.

At times I can feel guilty about this way of coping.  I understand this guilt but also forgive myself for it.  I can no longer hold onto the “what if’s” and “If I just’s…” situations that play out in my head.   They have been played out over and over with no resolution.

I know I’m not the only one in this situation so if you are too, be kind to yourself.  Mother’s day can be a wonderful day to celebrate for most, but not for all.  And that’s ok; we’re doing the best we can.

Mothers Day isnt' for Everyone (4)