When my Bipolar Depression became known to my wife and I a couple years ago it wasn’t a shock as much as relief. We finally had some answers. But at the same time we had a lot more questions. One of the difficulties of dealing with mental illness is how to break the news to the kids and how to integrate it into the existing family structure. I can’t say we know what we are doing all the time, but I think we have discovered some ways to welcome Bipolar into our home.
We don’t dwell on it. We don’t make a habit of talking about it. We generally live our lives as normal as can be because that is what is best for our children. At the same time, they are aware, not in detailed ways, that their father struggles with his mood. In fact, they are so in tune with me that they will ask how I am or reach out when I am faced with a challenge and offer to help. It is as simple as holding my hand and squeezing it tightly. They do all this without being asked. That is love in my book.
We accommodate it by being aware of things like travel. I cannot be away from home for long stretches. The travel alone is taxing as is the impact on sleep, which as many of you know is tough to begin with in our own beds. If there is a choice to be made we always make sure to consider how my Bipolar can negatively impact me and how my actions influence it. Sometimes that means missing out on things. I may not like it but I have gotten used to it.
We make plans and we stick to them. If we have a social commitment we decide what time we will likely leave. We all know sticking to a routine, especially around bedtime, is critically important. Sometimes my wife goes alone. Sometimes she stays longer than me. I know my limits and I must always acknowledge them because I know what happens if I don’t. Fatigue and exhaustion only fuel my Bipolar moods.
We learn about it. My wife and I have learned to embrace any and all opportunities to learn about this condition. If there is something on TV we watch it. If there is something online we read it. We consume everything we can and in small ways share it with our kids. Simply put, we don’t keep it a secret. We have tried to take the scary part out of it by being honest and careful.
We have no choice but to welcome it. So in a lot of ways I feel like we have adopted a new pet. We have to learn its habits, work to train it, take care of it, and take it to the doctor when needed. Most pets adapt to their environment and everything works out. Some do not and some more intervention is needed. I think my Bipolar has adjusted to the place it calls home. It certainly has a say in our lives but it does not rule our lives. We have learned that we have much to say about how our family is affected by it.
Bipolar doesn’t have to be frightening.
Acknowledging it is a powerful and potent way to combat the stigma and uneasiness that surrounds it. It reduces the confusion and worry. Kids, families in general, need stability. That is what my wife and I try to provide despite the challenges I face; my challenges are my families challenges. And we make it through together because that really is the only way we know how.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community