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rockabye

Dealing with new bipolar diagnosis when you have a parent with bipolar

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So, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 16 years old, but I thought they were full of it (and they were for other reasons) and I resented being treated against my will, so I just discounted everything and was in denial for many years. I knew I had bipolar in my gut, just didn't want to admit it over the years.

I was very recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder again, but it feels "real" this time because I know it's true. I was already being treated for a cyclical mood disorder, so literally nothing has changed except for the label. In some ways, it feels freeing and relieving because it's finally coming to terms with things and explaining so much of my life. On the other hand, I feel like I'm spiraling a little because of sharing a diagnosis with my dad - I didn't expect it to affect me or matter at all, but it's just been bringing up a lot for me.

My dad had bipolar disorder and it wreaked havoc on our lives. I did not grow up with him past the age of 5, but it still affected me in big ways. His manic episodes would result in disappearances and missing persons reports, occasional arrests, spending all of our family money, etc. And his depressions would keep him from being in contact with us for months at a time. I was very attached to him and I very much took the ups and downs personally and was crushed by the alternating excitement to do all the things together and the disappearance from my life altogether. He died a few years ago and I had to go to where he was living and was somewhat traumatized by it (technically homeless in an SRO, a level of filth that I've never seen before, completely infested with cockroaches, horrific smell I still can conjure up instantly, etc.). It is relevant that he never accepted that he had bipolar, never got treatment (minus a couple short periods when ordered to by court or his union), etc.

For some reason, this new official diagnosis has me feeling like a fraud in my normal life and that I'm destined to just end up like my dad did and I'm tempted to just give up on pretending I can have a "normal" life. I started messing with my meds to try to trigger I hypomanic episode so I could at least have some short-lived good times (I stopped this and am taking my meds as prescribed now), I'm withdrawing from my relationships with people, I'm spending way too much money (not a typical symptom for me), and I'm just feeling like nothing matters anymore. Intellectually, I know that this doesn't make sense and that my life doesn't have to end up like my dad's, that I'm getting treatment for it, that lots of people with bipolar disorder are able to have families/keep jobs/etc (not that these are the best measures, but it's what I'm afraid of losing in my own life), that I've had bipolar my whole life and have found ways to live fairly well with it, etc. Seeing the diagnosis itself is just affecting me in ways I didn't expect.

I guess I'm wondering if any of you had unexpected reactions to your diagnosis related to your experiences having a parent with bipolar disorder. Or just if a new bipolar diagnosis triggered some self-destructive behaviors. How did you deal with it? Any advice?

 

 

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I don't have a parent with bipolar disorder, but I wanted to add that most people with bipolar disorder to respond to treatment statistically. This doesn't have to be a perfect response, but it can mean fewer episodes which are milder and shorter. You don't necessarily get that sense here because this is a website which disproportionately attracts people who are really struggling with this illness (and people often leave once they're well). When I was first diagnosed, my psychiatrist told me that I'd be surprised how many people were walking around campus on lithium. 

The way I think of it is that I live a fulfilling life most of the time these days (thanks meds!), and if I have to pay for it with an episode or hospitalisation every few years, it's still worth it. 

You've seen what can happen when someone has unmanaged bipolar disorder. Use that as a motivation to stick to treatment. 

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I am a father with bipolar disorder and my illness has greatly affected my relationship with my youngest son.  Suffice to say he claim's to hate me for the abuse I inflicted on he and his mother while he was growing up.  I did gain stability over the past couple years and all I could do was reach out to him and assure him I was ashamed for the things I'd done-I was sick.  All I can do is apologize to him and show him I can be better.  Hopefully I have not scarred him and he will grow to understand how gravely I was affected by my illness.  Maybe you can find the same kind of stability and come to terms with what this illness means for you and not what it meant for your father.

Edited by phidippus

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