Archive for the ‘bipolar parenting’ Tag

THE BIPOLAR PERSPECTIVE: OH, IT’S JUST THAT AGE   4 comments

MY CHILD IS MY HEART

Watch any kind of television program where they interview random people. When asked about their children there is an eight out of ten chance they will say, “Oh, my child is my heart.” What does that actually mean? That your child is beating inside your chest creating blood flow to your body and you are taking your red slimy beating heart to the playground and named it Raymond? Or is saying “my child is my heart” the most loving thing you can possibly say about your child? It even trumps “My child means the world to me.” So, are all the times I have said “I love my daughter” insufficient and I have not properly annunciated my love for her? If you are Bipolar with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, this is enough to double your weekly therapy visits.

BETTER CHIMES

I had a really bad upbringing. My Mother was a severely depressed Bipolar sufferer with Beating Disorder. And my Father never saw a set of doorbell chimes he couldn’t ring by raising his voice at me. Plus, nothing I said was without criticism. But I promised myself I would be a better more supportive Father in every way my parents were not to me. And being Bipolar, I was very attuned to everything that came out of my mouth to build up my daughter, instead of knocking her down. Moreover, if I ever felt I did fail, I’d ruminate on it for days trying to make it right. My concern was whether I scarred her for life. Any parenting mistake would practically send me over the edge.

THE COOL FOOL

Many parents decide they want to be their child’s best friend, instead of their best parent. I constantly took my daughter shopping and allowed her to eat anything she liked. I hoped the “let’s keep it a secret from Mom” would further endear her to me. Once When she got suspended from school we spent the rest of the day at the mall. I bought countless cars and old convertibles because I thought she’d get a kick out of them. I don’t even look like a father, with long hair and hip glasses. I was trying to give her everything I would have wanted as a child. In theory it makes sense. Now I just feel foolish.

THE PARENT RAP

In a Bipolar world, your child would love and appreciate you. They’d see how hard you are trying to make them happy and not be a nagging constantly punishing parent. And when you talk to them you try and turn it into a rap session, instead speaking to them as a parent. But in my case, my daughter did not seem to even notice or have much interest in anything I did or do. At almost sixteen she has no idea what I do for a living and nothing matters about what is going on in my life. For me the parent rap is just a parent trap, because everything I did to make her love me just gave me a bad rap. With the negative influence from my ex-wife, she has disappeared completely from my life.

OH, IT”S JUST THAT AGE

Anyone who says “Oh, it’s just that age” should be shot on site. We all remember what it’s like in high school to want to hang out with out friends constantly and not tell our parents anything. Everyone needs to give their teenager some room. But when your child does not return phone calls, emails and texts, it has nothing to do with “Oh, it’s just that age.” Instead it’s, “Oh, I’m your Dad and get back to me in a reasonable amount of time.” Could you imagine your parent’s calling you at sixteen and not getting back to them…ever? If you suffer from Bipolar Illness, the constant analysis of this situation in your mind can overcome you with severe grief, which later turns to anger. You forever feel the need to straighten things out, and at the same time want to de-friend your own kid on Facebook, plus move away without telling them. If you are lucky you’ll remember you’re the adult in the situation and get ahold of yourself.

YOUR SPOUSE IS A LOUSE

Let’s not spend too much time on this. Those of us who are divorced did it because our spouses are louses. And when they’ve got primary custody you have no idea what kind of venom they are filling your child’s head with. If you are Bipolar, you can ponder infinitely until your face turns blue trying to make sense out of the situation. It’s our nature. I’m sure my ex is not doing me any favors. The words “call your father” have been lost behind “I leased you a horse, bought you all the best riding gear and am paying for your lessons and competitions!” I guess I can’t compete unless I were a talking horse like good ole Mr. Ed.

HOPE, DON”T MOPE

So, where do you go from here? You feel disrespected, unloved, unwanted and unsure of what you did wrong. You have done everything you can to try and find out what the issue is and repair the relationship. You hope your child has a conscious and misses you. You hope for that phone call or text from your child telling you they love you and what’s going on. But the bottom line you have no control over it. And unless you subscribe to the concept of “Magical Thinking,” the tendency is to mope. Somehow this is your fault. Could your ex be this divisive? I knew my ex was a control freak when I married her. Almost six years after our divorce I realized Miss Peaches and Cream had issues with telling the truth as well. Like I have discovered, without honesty in return, talking to your ex is like swallowing thumb tacks.

THE HARDEST THING TO DO IS NOTHING

I’m not an expert on child psychology and bitter ex-spouses. And being Bipolar my brain has this need to have everything concerning me right in the world. Disorder and anger directed at me is extremely hard with which to live. But if you are like me, you have to sit on your hands an avoid emails, phone calls and texts hoping to get even a “Hi Dad, miss you,” from your child. They know you feel terrible. This is their only way of exerting power over you. Get back in the driver seat by doing your parental duty by doing absolutely nothing. If they come around celebrate. If not, try and accept it. This may include therapy and medication. Losing a child who is not dead is a horrible thing to go through. How do you explain it to people without giving details you don’t even quite comprehend?

I TRIED AND I TRIED BUT COULD NOT LIGHT UP YOUR SKY

These are some of the last words I emailed my daughter. They are paraphrased from a rock group named “Cracker.” The song is called “I Can’t Forget You.” First they made me cry. Now they bring me comfort. I put away all her pictures and have stopped talking about her. I now have graduated to believing “it is what it is.” Probably the most profound phrase in the English language. It doesn’t bring closure. But for an estranged Bipolar Dad, it allows me to let things rest without completely shutting the door.

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Being Bipolar and a Parent: The Extra Step   1 comment

A few weeks ago we took my girlfriend’s 5 and 7 year old daughters out for pasta on a Saturday night.  As young children do, before their food came they spent a lot of time squirming in their seats, disappearing under the table and bemoaning their food was taking so long to come out like a couple of starving children from Ethiopia.   When the food finally came the older girl proceeded to eat her pasta by sticking her face in the bowl and slurping the tomato sauce stained  pasta directly into her mouth like a cattle eating out of a feed bag.  The younger one just fidgeted in her chair and intermittently blasted out some ear piercing shrieks  like she was being operated on without anesthesia.  Then she went into a tearful diatribe about not liking her pasta and wanting ice cream instead.

If the girls were my younger brother and I, we wouldn’t have gotten past the seat squirming.  My father’s hand would have quickly and silently shot across the table like a python snake snapping out its tongue and cracked us both in the head “Three Stooges style,” telling us to “cut it the fuck out and sit quietly or there is going to be a war!”   And if one of us dared to be a kid and creatively ate our pasta, or spaghetti as it was erroneously called in the 1970’s,  my dad’s lighting arm would make another appearance and connect with my head once again, this time even harder.  “Goddamn it, use your manners.  Don’t eat like a fucking slob!” he would sharply whisper now with the venom of a python.  If my father had these girls as daughters, they’d be “scared straight.”

At thirteen, my own daughter can be extremely sassy.  Now and then she’ll call me by my first name, scream at me to wake up early on a Saturday morning because she is bored and disappears into the ladies room for the better part of a half hour when we go out to dinner to text her friends.  If I did any of this at thirteen  to my father,  no matter where I was going,  his foot would have helped me get there faster.  And he’d scream at me so loud dogs in the neighborhood would start barking or an entire restaurant would grow silent and  just stare at the purple-faced man at our table.

I always vowed to myself mid-head-cracking or ass-kicking that I would never lay a hand on my children no matter what they did, unless they did something unforgivable like spill their milk.  And I’m proud to say that I stuck to this policy, but I found being bipolar made it a lot more challenging.  There were a lot of times I wanted to grab my daughter and “shake some respect for me” into her.  Or, snatch my girlfriend’s seven year old’s pasta and say “Stop eating like a goddamn slob or go take the bus home.”  And, tell the little one in a matter of fact voice “Now it’s no ice cream for a week whether you eat dinner or not.  As a matter of fact, no food for a week.  How-do-ya like that?”   To a five year old you might as well tell them they are going to an orphanage run by bears.

But I knew this was not appropriate parenting,  And patting myself on my back for never hitting the kids isn’t a great accomplishment either.  It’s expected.    However being bipolar and dealing with my own related issues does make it harder for me to curb my emotions.  And I’m sure there are others reading this out there just like me.

Often times I may be depressed and want to sleep all day but promised to do something with my daughter or my girlfriend’s daughters.  My head is already in a bad place going into this activity.  Then kids being kids, burn down the shopping mall we’re visiting.  I want to explode and put the fear of my father into them with everything going on in my head.  But that is when I have to force myself to take an extra step, realize they are just kids playing with the flame thrower, and tell them this kind of behavior is not ok and stop napalming Abercrombie and Finche.

I find this approach usually works.  It just takes the self discipline to put your depression, anxiety or whatever else you may be experiencing aside for a moment and rationally deal with the children.  And I derive personal satisfaction for parenting the right way and not adding another layer of misbehavior on which to second guess myself about in my already over-burdened bipolar mind.

The thing to remember is that kids are kids.  Babies will cry incessantly for seemingly no reason.  Kids start out life eating like slobs.  Teenagers will be disrespectful to their parents.  It’s all part of growing up and out of child-like behaviors.  But kids are immature until we as adults show them the right way to act.  No matter how annoying it can be, you can’t get mad at them for being kids.  And when you’re bipolar and in a bad way, you have to work a little harder to remind yourself of this instead of adding your inability to parent to the list of things currently torturing your obsessive mind.

This is in no way easy.  (I have slipped up and yelled at my daughter on a handful of occasions.  As an overly-dramatic thirteen year old, she’ll contend I yell at her all the time.  I told her to go spend some time with her grandfather and then get back to me on that).  But it can be done.  However, as with everything else, raising children is harder when you’re bipolar.  It’s difficult enough to take care of ourselves,  little yet needy children.  But it can also be the greatest accomplishment of our lives.