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What I Wish I'd Said to My Loved One With Bipolar Disorder


You are no longer struggling, and for that I am grateful.

I’ve gone through so many feelings since you left this world. Grief, relief, rage that you had to go through so much during your 82 years on this planet.

What I should have said to you is what I have only realized in the past few days: you were brave.

You raised five children and catered to a demanding, grumpy, negative and often demeaning spouse for more than 60 years.

You had one psychotic break and hospitalization after another, one medication failure after another, one that finally worked and had terrible side effects. But you kept going. You didn’t give up.

You didn’t give up when the rest of the family felt ashamed of you and hid you during your times of illness. They told us you fell down the stairs again and would be in the hospital again. We worried. We finally figured out they were ashamed of something they didn’t understand, something that was not your fault.

Yet, later on, you were open about living with bipolar disorder, which affected you so much since you got diagnosed so late.

You were not ashamed. You were strong. You inspired me. I should have said so, and would have said so, but I didn’t recognize it until now. I was so focused on being angry at everyone who continued to marginalize you, fighting for and speaking up for “the cause,” that I was blind to what should have been more important.

It takes an exceptionally strong person to persevere when the people who are supposed to care for you most say they “wish you weren’t so weird.”

You weren’t weird to me. You made me sugar cookies when I wanted them on a whim. You took one step at a time with me on the stairs to match my pace when I was afraid of falling down them. You told me, when I was upset about my mother getting remarried to an awful man, it was important that you knew how I felt on her wedding day. No one else wanted to validate a 9-year-old, but you did that for me.

In fifth grade, I naively asked you for a red velvet pinafore, not knowing your medication made your hands shake. You still made it for me.

*Ninja edit: Speaking of brave, I just remembered how you chased off a bear from your cabin porch in Minnesota. You were just five feet tall, but you said you shook a stick at him, and told him not to come back, and he ran off!*

You were the only grandparent I connected with. It isn’t an accident you were the first person I hugged. (Meanwhile, I refused to go sit on my grandfather’s lap, telling him, “I don’t like you!” What can I say, I was born with good people sense.)

You continue to inspire me not to give up. I have so many more choices than you do. For that I have both gratitude and sadness.

You lived with so much shit you never should have had to live with, and now you are free.

I only wish I had told you how strong you were.

Follow this journey on Riot Kitty.

Getty image via SuzanaMarinkovic