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Dear Kids of Parents Who Have Bipolar Disorder

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If you told me 10 years ago I would be writing about bipolar disorder on the Internet, I wouldn’t have believed you. I know having lived my childhood and coming out the other side as delightfully suburban average is nothing short of amazing.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Now, I feel compelled to say something to those kids who want direction. Who feel lost, unloved and uncared for. This is for them.

Dear kids of bipolar parents,

If you’re Googling this topic, I’m going to assume that you’re old enough to start realizing things aren’t adding up. Maybe you’re around 10 like I was. Maybe you’re older. Either way, you’re questioning what’s going on with your parent.

Maybe one day they’re nice as pumpkin pie only to turn on a dime into something that scares you.

You just don’t understand.

I came up with this saying that I say to myself to this day:

“If I understood it, then I would be it.”

Say it. Say it out loud. Repeat it.

I had to accept I might never understand why my parent was that way.

Why they seemed irrational.

Why they sometimes seemed uncaring.

Why they were so unattached.

Listen to me — it’s not about you. Your parent’s brain does not and will not work the way yours does.

So what can you do to survive?

Decide to survive.

Decide you’re worth saving. You’re worth living a life filled with whatever you want.

When I was young, it felt like I was caring for myself. Maybe you feel that way, too. Make the best choices you can. Feel your decisions with every cell of your being. If you feel like you’re making a wrong turn in life, immediately turn back. You have to have your own back.

Stay in school. Do well in school.

I took a job in high school just so I was out of the house more. Do what you have to do to survive.

Look for good role models. Maybe you have a friend who has a stable family. What makes that family work? Look for those examples.

Learn to love. I felt like I grew up without love, and that experience can make you hard and cold.

Open up to people who will listen without judgment. Even though you have your own back, look for those in your life who can offer even a little emotional support.

Learn to trust. I felt like I had parents I couldn’t trust, and I know that becomes ingrained in who you are. Trust those who have your best interests in mind. This might take a while, even years to do.

Don’t stop believing you can do it. Because you can.

If you understood it, then you would be it.

But you’re not. You’re you.

Follow this journey on The Martha Project.

Originally published: August 3, 2015
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