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The First Time I Was Afraid My Child Inherited My Bipolar Disorder

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When you have a mental health condition, you are more aware of the signs and symptoms than those who do not have the illness. Being a mother with bipolar disorder who fears having given my condition to my unsuspecting offspring, I watch for warning signs and triggers. There are two reasons for this. One, I don’t want her to ever experience this disorder and I guess I somehow hope that paying attention to the signs will help me be sure that she is in the clear. Two, and most importantly, I want to be able to identify the signs as soon as possible to get her the proper help she needs. I struggled with my ups and downs for many years before I finally got my diagnosis. I often wonder if I had gotten a diagnosis sooner if anything would have been different. I will never know but I am aware of the signs now that I have officially been diagnosed for 10 years.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

The first time I truly wondered if my child has bipolar disorder is one particular morning when I myself was not feeling very well. I try with all my might not to allow my child to see my darkest days and the mess it makes me. Unfortunately, against my will, that is not always possible. With that being said, what I’m about to relay to you is something I most definitely have never said in front of my 4-year-old little girl.

“I think no one likes me and you don’t love me anymore.”

Woah. OK, let’s get this out there first: In my defense, I never make my child feel unloved. Never! In fact, I almost overcompensate by smothering her with love, so hearing that come from her mouth literally knocked me back a few notches. This mind-boggling sentence that came from my naïve child’s mouth came as a response to my question, “what’s going on hunny, talk to me?” The reason for that question came from her walking around in a mopey tired demeanor most of the morning and when, finally, she walked herself to her room to cry alone. Something she has never done before. That sparked my interest in how my baby girl has gotten to a point in her life that she feels the need to isolate herself to cry uncontrollably. Once I received said response, I started to think of all the warning signs I’ve noticed but didn’t think much about up until that moment.

One reason I found this so astounding is because I struggle with those feelings at times myself. My bipolar mind will go through a phase, convincing me that no one likes me and I am worthless. At that moment, I was really hoping that wasn’t what she was feeling. Other signs I started to notice were the phases she seemed to go through. For a few weeks, she is the sweetest child I know and is helpful and polite and lovey. Another few weeks, she is “demon child” who refuses to behave and deliberately disobeys for attention. Other times she is very emotional, crying and lying around, having no interest in anything going on around her. There are moments throughout a typical day where she will present different personalities in one 24-hour period

I don’t want to prematurely diagnose my child with an illness she most likely doesn’t have. Being that my husband does not have any mental illnesses, the odds are in her favor, or so my doctor has told me at least (fingers crossed). I am trying to pace myself with reassurance that she is a perfectly “normal” developing toddler who will have ups and downs naturally throughout her growing stages. As she is transitioning from toddler to child, she will develop her own personality, as well as some characteristics that I unknowingly pass on to her, therefore her sassy attitude at such a young age doesn’t automatically mean she has bipolar disorder. She is a little human, who has feelings too, and as she grows, they will be intense until she learns how to manage them.

For now, all I can do is watch for signs and reassure my growing child that she is so incredibly loved by her father and I, and that her friends at school like her as well. I truly hope I never hear her say to me “I think no one likes me, and you don’t love me anymore” ever again. But I also want to be able to identify any warnings sooner or later.

Originally published: March 11, 2021
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