Discussion Topic

Daughter of divorced bipolar father and undiagnosed neurotic mother, and deceased step father

Posted on 02/14/11, 10:04 am
My father 68 (bipolar diagnosed at 21yrs old) and my mother divorced in 1980 when I was small(around 5/6yrs), and I left with my mother who went on to remarry about a year later and had my step sister who has downesyndrome. For a period my father would visit me at school and our home in the middle of the nights, phone calls etc... My step father would threaten my father and vice versa... After a couple of years I was sent to boarding school and my father moved to another town and re-married.
I have few memories from my early childhood (before the divorce) and I can only assume I have blocked out all of the darkest ones. My parents only ever talked to me about the bad times and accused eachother of the most terrible things, from sexual abuse towards me(i have no recollection of this whatsoever but have been haunted by the possibility since I was told this in my teens), and physical abuse to my mother...

I always avoided talking about one parent in front of the other, and I never felt part of either family...
Eight years ago I moved abroad and had a son with my partner, and around 3 yrs ago following my fathers most recent episode I decided to cut contact, for my own sanity and to protect my son. I have been troubled by depression myself and more recently phobias and panic attacks which I am now fighting to overcome. I dont think I have BP but I have experienced mild mania and mood swings and I feel like my mother's family always see me as the product of a bipolar and as such unbalanced(crazy)... I also attempted to disown my mother but failed as I am so close to my sister that it wasnt possible, I have very little contact though which is possible as I live in another country! But all this separation doesnt seem to have worked and I see now that not speaking to them is not the answer, and not giving the best guidance to my son about relationships.
My step father died last week after 3 yrs suffering from cancer... and I find myself left with my mother and sister, almost as though the past 30 yrs have been a dream, as I witness the weakness in my mum that I havent seen in many years. I am only now wondering what life would have been like if my step father had not been around, and moreover what will happen next. Im not afraid but feel confused and uncertain as what to do and whether/how get back in touch with my father and whether to tell him that my step dad has died - for fear of spurring an episode and trouble for my mum now that she is alone...

Its so difficult to put so much baggage and a lifetime of stress and confusion in words but hoping there are other children or bipolar parents that can sympathise and help...
Showing 4 Replies
  • Reply #1 03/02/11  8:01pm
    Our father is 75 years old. I remember all too well the insanity of living with a bi-polar father and mother who drank alcohol daily to deal with him and his mania.
  • Reply #2 05/30/11  12:01am
    I can relate to alot of your story. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your step-father. :o( I have very few memories of my childhood as well. I only know for sure that I was more of a parent to my parents than actually having a childhood as a child. Since then, it seems as though I have continued to seek out other people who need parenting. Now, parenting a 14 yr old son from my previous marriage and an 8 yr old daughter from my current marriage, I struggle most with not really wanting to be a parent sometimes, and have trouble taking of myself instead of others all the time. This has been a lengthly process and since I am in a safe relationship/marriage now, I am finally taking the risks necessary to grow through this experience as well.
  • Reply #3 05/30/11  10:10am
    Hi Janejones,

    Thank you (and expectamiracle) for responding to my previous post. I would like to say a few things....

    My experiences with a bipolar mother have also been occurring ever since I remember....I just didn't know it was bipolar until I was in my teens. This when when she finally went to the hospital by us forcing her and she was diagnosed. I had to live with similiar experiences as yours (my mother used to accuse me in front of my father of having sex with my father, for example. This was a recurrent thing and went on when I was very young. She used to think this, I'm assuming, because we were close....we only had each other in the midst of all of this madness. I think that this in itself is VERY traumatizing.)

    I understand how you are feeling with the anxiety. I feel this exact same way...I feel like I literally do not have the ability to be calm. I'm not sure why I feel like this...and I've decided that when I get home, I am going to a therapist. For so long I didn't want to go to one because I thought nothing would change and it felt exhausting to even think about having to explain everything that happened to me (and even with my memory blocks, like you. I barely remember some things at all about my childhood....I can barely remember specific instances of verbal and emotional abuse with my mother....it all just blurs together and HURTS so much every day of my life). I've read an article recently on how children of bipolar parents (this is a new finding) have a higher level of the stress hormone cortisol. This makes sense, but also means that we need to take more precautions to relax. I think that going to therapy, for you, as you discussed in the response to my post, would be really beneficial. It would allow you an outside opinion and to just get everything off of your chest. I have decided, actually, that I will be going to my mother's therapist when I get home (what does everyone think about this? I'm on the fence) from living in Spain.

    My life, I have realized, is just basically utterly confusing. I am a strong person...I've lived with the memories and pain of this life for years and I'm still chugging along, strong, powerful and motivated to succeed in life and make a life for myself which is better than what I dealt with as a child.

    However, I just can't seem to get rid of my negativity. My negative thoughts, my lack of self-esteem, my inability to get close to anyone. How does everyone feel about this?

    I would say, Janejones, in my opinion, from hearing your story, your mother would be better off alone than with a bipolar ex-husband. I don't think that, if they haven't maintained contact, that you should try to get them into contact again. We all know that dealing with bipolar family members creates much stress and angst. If you would like to talk to me about this and our situations in general via email, I can send you my email.

    Also...I want to comment on something else that you said earlier. First off, does anyone know the "symptoms" of children of bipolar? I've heard that some of these are the following: low self-esteem, inability to get close to people, perfectionism, etc. Also, does anyone know if the idea that "if you know you have problems/emotional issues, that means you're not bipolar" is true? I'm wondering if this consciousness of the issues at hand actually means you are not bipolar...as you mentioned earlier. In my experience, it seemed like my mother KNEW she had problems but she didn't want to confront them and denied issues...but deep down, I can't fathom that she literally didn't know she had problems. I think that for so long she didn't want to admit it (perhaps because of the stigma attached or something...or fear of being sent away, again). What do people think about this?

    I just want to, one day, soon, be able to literally relax. I feel most relaxed (still, however, not totally relaxed), after a long run ( I ran 20 miles during a marathon recently), and watching a good movie with my boyfriend. However, I still struggle daily with my anxiety which manifests itself in many ways. I just want to calm down and make sense of this situation I've lived with for years.

    Someone told me in my family that you need to have goals when you arrive in therapy...or else it might not be too helpful for you. I'm thinking my goals are the following: figure out what's wrong with me (bipolar? traumatized after living in a dysfunctional family environment for the first 18 years of my life?), be treated (medication? perhaps) for anxiety and depression and try to come to some sort of understanding of what happened and maybe why everything happened in my life.

    How do people feel about all this? Can anyone relate?

    Thank you all and always stay hopeful.
  • Reply #4 05/30/11  11:15am
    I just wrote a long reply and lost connection! Anyway just to say yhanks til i have energy to write again ;)

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