Parental Guilt and Bipolar Disorder: Learning Acceptance

Parents cannot fix a bipolar disorder diagnosis. This leads to guilt and frustration, but once they accept it as a brain-based disorder, they can learn how to help.

“I never want to leave you,” I whispered from the air mattress on the floor of our family cabin. I tried not to look under the bed, a worried eight-year old listening to the coyotes yip in the darkness and the beaver’s tail slapping the river’s surface.

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Read my Essay on OC87 Recovery Diaries– Bipolar Disorder: Never Giving Up

On the rivers I used to float upon in western Alaska, I liked to just eat the peanut butter out of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. There was just too much chocolate in the whole thing for me. As I sat on the edge of the big rubber raft in my waders and wading jacket, I would fling each piece of extra chocolate into the ripples below. A velvety gift to whoever fancied it.



Still, 18 Years Later, Searching for a Diagnosis

I was diagnosed when I was 21 years old with bipolar, type 1. I had experienced the extremes of mania and depression and because of my short exposure to abnormal psychology in Psych 101 at Georgetown University, I already had a feeling what the doctor would say when she said, with self-assurance, “you are bipolar, type I.” In the months before my diagnosis, I had spent hundreds of dollars on gourmet cookies to distribute among my friends, another several hundred dollars on flower bouquets to give out, and hours of speeding north on the highways north of my house in Anchorage, Alaska.

The manias, or hypomanias, would crash into severe episodes of depression, when I would cut myself on my arms, or even put a gun in my mouth, crying and desperate, until I would collapse on the clothes in my closet, worn out and exhausted.

But now, I haven’t had a manic or hypomanic episode in almost three years. My current doctor now thinks I am bipolar, type 2. I have these agitated depressive episodes where I feel panicked and convinced that I am a horrible person. The “episodes” last about an hour or two and they are almost always triggered by my fear that I will harm my relationship with my husband, or that is something is wrong in that arena.

Are you diagnosed bipolar but have these strange agitated depressive episodes? It feels like my mind is racing but I do not have pressured speech or all the features of a mixed episode. My doctor seems to think I primarily have anxiety. But I know that I have been bipolar my whole life.

What does bipolar feel like for you? Mine is ultra, ultra-rapid, over the course of a few hours or day or two, but not like the “traditional” bipolar of up and down over months.