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When I Asked Myself, 'Was I a Bad Kid? Or Was That My Bipolar Disorder?'

I have a confession to make. I was not an easy child to raise. Sure,¬†every kid has their moments‚Ķ But I seemed to always be having a moment. I¬†was the kid that got off the school bus sobbing because one of the kids¬†at school was bullying me and then¬†bam!¬†Just hours later, I had punched¬†my sister ‚ÄĒ again.

My parents were not the kind that called that ‚Äúgirls being girls‚ÄĚ or¬†simply ‚Äúsibling rivalry.‚ÄĚ They made sure I didn’t get away with it.¬†Despite how much I hated getting in trouble, I am thankful my parents¬†set clear rules and consequences. But why then ‚ÄĒ if I knew¬†I would be¬†punished ‚ÄĒ was I always getting into trouble?

I remember one summer when I was younger, grade four or five maybe‚Ķ I¬†had been invited to go to a birthday party. I spent the whole month¬†counting down the days and I was so excited to go. That morning I woke¬†up and I was miserable. Not cranky or moody‚Ķ Just outright unreasonably¬†miserable. I was rude. I picked fights. My mom warned me not once, not¬†twice but three times that if I didn’t stop, I was not going to that¬†birthday party. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe her. I did. The fear of¬†not being able to see my friends and missing out was there. But for some¬†reason, as though I couldn’t even control it, I gave my mother one more¬†reason to follow through on that threat. It was not an empty one. I¬†missed out on that birthday party, and it wasn’t the only time this sort¬†of thing happened.

Looking back on these times, I remember thinking to myself, ‚ÄúYou gotta¬†stop. You’re gonna get in trouble. You know the rules!‚ÄĚ But it was like I¬†had no control over it. But what mother is going to believe their child¬†when they say ‚ÄúMom, I didn’t mean to!‚ÄĚ Why would anyone automatically¬†assume that the kid actually had no control over their actions? And as a¬†child and eventually a teenager, that feeling of lack of control only¬†grew ‚ÄĒ yet there was no way to really articulate it to anyone else.

Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 20 years old, a lot of things from my past suddenly make sense. I can clearly see the times where I was hypomanic and the times when I was severely depressed. It got me thinking back to my childhood and how my bipolar disorder was probably always there. If only we had known.

I don’t blame my parents ‚ÄĒ in fact, I am thankful for them. Without even¬†knowing it, they protected me from my bipolar disorder. They helped me¬†manage it without even knowing it was there. It wasn’t until I became an¬†adult and was left to my own devices that I was finally diagnosed.

I read an article¬†recently that discusses the signs of mental illness in children and¬†I encourage parents¬†to read it, too. But more importantly, I¬†want to thank you for being there for your children. Do not be¬†discouraged. When they become adults, they will come back to you and¬†thank you for being there and loving them. It just takes time ‚ÄĒ just¬†ask my mom!

The Mighty is asking the following: Were you diagnosed with your disease, disability and/or mental illness as an adult? Tell us about the moment you finally got your diagnosis. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.