A Peek into a Kid's Life Who Had a Bipolar Parent

Growing up with a bipolar dad, it wasn't easy for me. I was close to my dad at one point and time, but when he would have these manic episodes, I would stop trusting him and it got to the point where I just avoided him even when he wasn't in a manic state.

My father was always very private when it came to anger, feelings, worries, or fears. He was one of those you'd call a bottler- he'd push it all down and bottle it up- and when it finally exploded it was like some monster came out of the bottle. He'd claim that my brother and I were supposed to die and he was supposed to kill us because Jesus told him to, so from the age of 5 on, I had to recognize the signs of a 'spell' and learn what to do.

We lived in a small town- you know one of those where everybody knows everything even though you don't want them to, so I got a lot of weird looks growing up. I had friends, but only one or two very close ones really knew what was wrong with my dad. Growing up, I only knew one other person with a bipolar parent- who was really the only person who really understood. My dad taught high school so you can only imagine what I went through when he was hospitalized and then everyone would come up to me asking questions. This one time I remember this girl I didn't really know or like all that well came up to me and asked point blank- "did your dad have a nervous breakdown?" I really didn't want to get into his actual disease- bipolar disorder, because I really didn't like folks knowing all that. I just said yeah, and to that she said "I would too dealing with all these kids."

It wasn't easy growing up- a lot of folks just didn't understand bipolar disorder and you know- we just got deemed as 'crazy'. My dad's 'episodes' sort of became these urban legends so to speak because you'd hear all these crazy rumors about what he did while he was in his manic state. One rumor that did happen to be true was he wrestled a gun away from a police officer and pointed it at my brother. People would make all these claims and of course, nosy folks would ask you about it, so I just got to where I denied everything.

For a long time, especially when I was in school, I denied all the claims and never talked about anything that went on- ever. It was just some part of my life that flared up every once in a while and then I'd deal with it and try to forget it- but for a while after every manic episode there'd be a strange 'transition' after my dad came home from the hospital and I'd be on pins and needles thinking he'd have another manic episode- then it would get back to normal and as the years went on, the episodes came more and more often.

Of course, with every episode there were warning signs- but then after the fact we'd go back and realize that what he was saying really was a warning sign and we should have gotten him to a hospital before he became so violent- but with that you'd ask him if he was alright and he would just say yeah- so if you forced him into the hospital you'd have a manic episode on your hands anyway. So, you were dammed if you did and dammed if you didn't when it came right down to it.

And yes, for those of you out there wondering- he was on medication. Has been for over 20 years now. It hasn't been the easiest thing to go through either. It's just sort of a trial and error thing- it's like here- take these pills and see how you do- if that doesn't work then we'll go to another pill. He's had allergic reactions, gotten immune to his dosage after taking it so long and having an episode and they'll increase it. It's for sure been a rough ride.