In the post Bipolar: Like Father Like Daughter (2012), I explore the diagnosis of emerging bipolar with my daughter. Four years later, we know that she is, in fact, Bipolar I with very pronounced depressive episodes. We’ve been through a lot. She’s attempted suicide. She’s been hospitalized four times. 1 week, 1 week, 6 weeks, 8 weeks. Her mania is mild. In fact I’m not 100% convinced she is bipolar and not just major depressed. But me having bipolar makes it likely that she does as well.
It took awhile, but through the help of several psychiatrist both inpatient and outpatient, they got her meds right. For the last year, she has been happy and very functional…that is until she developed an aversion to meds. She badly wants to take them, but they make her vomit. It makes it really tough. She’ll go weeks without a problem, and then it will strike again. I believe that she really does want to be compliant. The pharmacist says 20 minutes is enough to get the medicine absorbed. And so that is the goal.
My daughter has had a rough go. My manic breakdown and moving out, bad break ups, poor performance in school, struggles with alcohol and drugs, self-harm addiction, knowledge of my infidelity, suicidal obsessions, all on top of the struggles of just being a teenage girl. But she’s still standing. She is graduating this May. I had my doubts.
She’s depressive and I’m manic, and so our experiences are very different. But we’ve always had a very close connection. We are alike in many ways, both good and bad. She gets me and I get her. I can connect with her in ways that my wife cannot. My wife has a strong sense of what she believes to be “right” and “wrong”. My daughter and I are very much “gray area” souls. Living is living. Not everything is wrong or right to us. We can both be very sensitive to our friends’ and partners needs and yet are capable of being so selfish and callous. We go through phases. We try on identities. We are shifting sand by nature.
As wellness has allowed me to mature, I’ve become more solid. It’s what normal adults do. I want to be dependable at work, at home, and in marriage. But my daughter’s not there. She’s only 18. Perhaps I’m permissive, but I’ve never been preachy with her. I help her process. I listen. I encourage. I counsel only when necessary or when asked.
My wife can’t understand what it means to have a mental illness. What it means to feel and behave in ways that we would not choose. I can empathize with my daughter. But my wife knows what it’s like to be hurt by bipolar. I wonder if it’s hard for her to see my daughter in the throws of it, because of what pain it’s caused her over the years.
My wife and I have played different roles with her. Although we’ve both set boundaries for her in firm ways, my wife is much more inclined to do it. When I do it, it’s because I’ve reached an emotional limit and I blow up with her. My wife wants to tell her what to do. Perhaps that’s more of a typical male approach. And I sit by her and pat her hand and let her cry and talk. My wife is more prone to say that she brought whatever misery on herself and so she doesn’t deserve sympathy, and while that is often the case I believe in love over lecture. I can share my coping skills with her and get creative. My daughter says there are some things she has to go to mom about and vice versa.
When I got manic recently, my daughter become very anxious and scared. She knows by now what the range of possibilities are. She is depressed now. I wonder if it has anything to do with my being manic. It’s tough to be in a house with two bipolars and a depressive/anxious. We try not to play off each other, but it cannot always be avoided. I truly feel for my wife. She’s the only normy among us, except for the fact that she has PTSD not in small part because of the rest of us. We are both looking forward to our kids leaving the nest, but it’s scary. It’s scary to think of my daughter facing the world on her own with medicines, doctors, and hospitals. But I feel more confident about it than my wife does. I know what it’s like to stare insanity in the eyes and defy it.