“Yes, you are.”
“No I’m not.”
So the argument goes. I live the symptoms of my Bipolar Disorder everyday so I don’t need x-ray vision to see the same traits in another person. When that person or persons happens to share my DNA, it is even more obvious. Doesn’t quite seem fair that they drew the genetic short straw and it certainly isn’t easy. When I had the first of my 6 children I was still in the “oblivious” stage. I hadn’t even begun to accept I had a mental illness let alone consider the genes that I could pass on to them.
I have sat and felt the guilt of passing on such a volatile and unpredictable mental illness on to my children. There is no part in the invisible parents handbook that tells me how to handle it when I couldn’t handle myself for years. Now here comes the tricky part, help them to see they are like the mother they refer to as the “bear.” It’s the tween years and I can already see the moods. I can see the difference in the ups and downs from the normal attitudes of tween years. There have been days where I was thinking I must have the worst acting kids in the world being raised by the worst mom in the world.
My kids are great. I adore all of them. I also strongly dislike their stubbornness. I have had a conversation with 3 of the 6 about the possibility of them being Bipolar. The conversation was more of a playground squabble. “No I am not” my son yells. “Yes you are” I yell louder. This goes on for a good 10 minutes. Then stomping the whole way, I repeat the entire process 2 more times. This would be a good time to pull out my handy dandy invisible parenting handbook and refresh my memory on why I don’t argue like a kid with a kid. Sadly, it’s invisible so I am on my own.
The worst feeling is knowing what is wrong or what you think could be wrong with your child and being helpless to fix it. Feeling they are doomed to repeat your every mistake while you yell directions from the background. I yell, I am a yeller and probably need to join a group of yellers. Yelling won’t fix this, won’t stop this, and isn’t healthy for any of us. I had the “aha” moment and not a moment too soon. So get your invisible handbook and a pen for this:
You are not a bad mom. You are a good mom.
There is no easy answer for you or for them.
This is mental illness.
It isn’t the end of the world.
I have made mistakes — A LOT of mistakes — but I have made a lot of good choices. I have shown my kids what it is like to be in the bad part of my Bipolar Disorder but I have also shown them what it is like to work for sanity. I couldn’t be told and neither can they. I can love them with all my might but I can’t change what they may have to struggle with. I can be there, I can be silent when I need to be, I can talk when they come to me, and I support them when it’s hard. Everyone with a mental illness has to accept it in their own time. I can’t expect my children to accept their illness on my time frame. I wanted that because I am a mom. Now I just want to show them they are loved no matter what. The same love they show the “bear.”
In a weekend of self-discovery author Joan Jessup started writing what would become her memoir. Bipolar Goggles is the first book by Joan and now available. She lives in the sun of Florida becoming a better mom and person every day. She hopes her struggle and acceptance of her mental illness can serve as a reminder to others that they are in it together. She can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and on her website, J. Jessup Writes.
You can purchase her recently released memoir, Bipolar Goggles — available in both paperback and digital — on Amazon now. Just click her book cover to be taken to the purchase site.