Where it All Began: Our Family and Bipolar Disorder

For our family, it all started in 1985. That's when my dad had his first manic episode. When I say manic episode- I mean a really violent episode. I was 5 years old at the time, and now as I approach my 30's I still have nightmares about that night.

My father's mother had always been dubbed a 'nervous' person. Back in those days though, mental health was uncharted territory, and there are so many treatments and info that we know now than back then. She had gone untreated for over 20 years for bipolar disorder. We always had to walk on pins and needles around her- and before we went to visit we'd always be 'briefed' on what not to say. I remember my brother saying at a young age he let it slip he was hungry and she went into the kitchen tossing pots and pans and yelling and carrying on.

So, needless to say, my father's childhood was a little rough- a lot of times his father would just go off to work and leave him there with her in her manic state, so there's really no telling what he saw or heard- to this day I really don't know too many details about what went on.

I think a lot of my father's problem was he worried a whole lot about becoming like his mother- he was so scared and afraid that he would become bipolar- and when he worried he kept it all bottled up, so at some point it was bound to explode. Turns out his worst fear came true, and now as he gets older, he becomes more and more like her.

Now, with being bipolar there are different levels of mania, and my father when he had his 'spells' as well called them- usually had to deal with the world ending and if he touched certain items in the house then the world would end. Also, he claimed he would get these 'signals' from Jesus telling him what to do- and for me at a young age, I've been scared of going to church ever since then. Mainly because my Dad used to say Jesus was telling him to kill me- which he attempted to do back in his first episode, and had it not been for a neighbor, I probably wouldn't be typing this. Yeah, that scary, that violent, and that out of control. It lasted for hours and hours, no one really knew what was going on, nor what in the world needed to be done.

He had so much adrenalin running through his system that it would take 3 or 4 police officers to stop him. And yes, once he happened to wrestle a gun away from an officer and point it at my brother. So, after this first incident, every incident after that I would find a place to hide. It was like a different person- this person wasn't my dad- it was some sort of monster that had taken him over and he had no regard for his children or anyone else that got in the way.

Of course at first, they just diagnosed my dad has having 'a nervous breakdown' and gave him some light medication and then he was fine and did not have another episode until 1991. That's when we happened to go to a dinner theater and the play happened to be Jesus and The Technicolor Dreamcoat, which seemed to trigger his manic episode. Perhaps it was something from his past that popped up in his mind.

I can understand- I'm not a real religious person myself, and I have always equated people talking about Jesus with manic episodes- and even if it's a random person I still get a little nervous and always have one foot on the floor ready to run. So, as you can guess, we never went to church. I still have issues with it myself.

Since 1991, gosh all the episodes just kind of run together for me- there wasn't a long dry spell without an episode, but the episodes would come closer and closer together- to the point he'd have 2 a year- and he'd have to be hospitalized for weeks.

For years and years, they tried to figure out what made my father this way- in the past we've heard that it's something traumatic in his childhood that made him that way, but later on we did learn that it's a chemical imbalance in the brain that caused this.