To My Dad on Father's Day, From Your Daughter With Bipolar Disorder

Dear Dad,

Mental illness is hard to bear when you’re alone, but fortunately that’s something I’ve never had to experience because you’ve been there with me through it all. I’ve always been grateful madelyn as a child with her father for your efforts to understand my bipolar disorder, but I’ve never verbalized it, and for that I am sorry. I’m choosing this Father’s Day to thank you for all the ways you’ve ever been there for me, and I want to start by thanking you for being there since the beginning.

I was challenging as a teenager. I broke all of your rules, disobeyed all of your requests and got myself into a lot of trouble. Even though you had to discipline me seemingly all the time, you tried to understand the feelings behind my poor behavior. You always knew there was something more going on, and you’d ask me how and what I was feeling. I got annoyed by all of your questions, but I see now you were simply trying to figure out what was wrong because you knew my behavior was more than just teenage rebellion. When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a young adult, after an entire adolescence of issues, all your questions were answered.

madelyn as a child with her father You were there with me when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, sitting beside me as the doctor explained my new diagnosis. When you took me home, you began doing your own research into bipolar disorder so you could gain a better understanding of the illness and learn how to help me through it. I will always be thankful to you for trying to understand, even if it did take a few years for you to understand completely. What matters is you tried, and you tried hard until you knew what to do to help me cope. I know I got impatient with you as you learned about my illness, and I’m sorry. My diagnosis was hard on you too, and it took just as long for you to wrap your head around as it did for me.

madelyn as a teenager with her father You supported my decision to move away from home to get better, even though you didn’t like it. You blamed yourself for my desire to leave, but I promise it wasn’t your fault. You took care of me after I was diagnosed and after my first hospitalization, when my new medication gave me tremors I couldn’t control. I couldn’t feed myself or brush my own teeth, and you helped me with both of those things — among others.When my medication was finally figured out, I wanted to regain my independence, and that is why I left. Even though I left, you didn’t let the distance separate us. You remained there for me via phone calls and Skype the entire time I was away, and welcomed me back with open arms when I returned.

For each of my three hospitalizations, you were there at visiting hours. You sat with me and talked with me and listened to me tell you why I believed I was in the hospital. You tried to understand, didn’t ask too many questions, and just sat there to comfort me and make me feel like I was not alone. Your presence made me feel more normal, or as normal as I could feel as I sat in the mental health unit. Your being there with me, smiling and holding my hand, brought me a wonderful feeling of comfort I will always be grateful for.

You’ve been there for me during my entire journey with bipolar disorder, and I am so thankful for that, madelyn as a teenager riding a snowmobile with her father and thankful for you. I am thankful for your desire to educate yourself on my illness, and for your willingness to understand what I go through. I am thankful you put up with my mood swings and don’t hold them against me. I am thankful you are my dad, and I am thankful you are the one in my corner. Thank you for always being there for me, and for being the best dad you can be to your daughter with bipolar disorder.

Happy Father’s Day.

madelyn as a child with her father

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