The Mighty Logo

What It Was Like Growing Up With Bipolar Disorder and an Emotionally Abusive Mother

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Getting diagnosed with bipolar disorder so young, I had no idea what I was in for. Being only a kid and having a doctor trying to explain to me what bipolar disorder is, and telling me and my mother that I show the signs and symptoms of having this mental illness… honestly, back then, I didn’t really pay much attention to what was being said because I didn’t even understand or know what a mental illness really was.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

One thing I did know was that the days and nights were getting harder and harder to handle. I would wake up so late for school; that made my mother extremely angry because she would have to come straight home from work to drive me to school. Most of the mornings I woke up late, it wasn’t “my choice.” When I would tell my mother this, she would say, “Don’t give me that shit; be ready when I get home and don’t make a habit of this.” A habit it was not, but it happened quite frequently and I would feel terrible about it. That made the mornings even harder due to the sadness or anger or anxiety I woke up with. All I wanted was my bed and the darkness, especially when I would have the pleasure of having a migraine on top of all the other ailments.

Any time I tried explaining what I felt to my mother or what I thought I was feeling, she would not allow it and would tell me not to use my illness as an excuse. Thing was, I wasn’t using it as an excuse; I was just trying to talk to my mother about the current manic or depressive episode I was dealing with. There would be times she would make it known that she couldn’t deal with this, or deal with my attitude that day, and that triggered my most hated question: “Did you take your medicine?”

I felt like she was tired of me and as the years went on, I was able to come to the conclusion that this is pretty much what happened. She started sayings things that would really hurt, but I couldn’t tell her they hurt me because she wouldn’t allow that. Anything I did or anything I said or any way I felt wasn’t valid in her eyes, and that’s because she just didn’t understand.

Sadly, to this day — now being almost 26 years old — I still can’t communicate with my mother about my illness without her mentioning how she had to deal with it or deal with me. She always made it known I was a terrible child and I was mean, but I was a child who was still developing and, with that, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. No child will fully understand it, especially when many adults don’t understand it.

The other day, when I was trying to talk to her about my life and my goals for my future, I got to enjoy the hurtful and almost emotionally abusive lines of, “I dealt with this for years, Samantha,” and I finally had enough. I told her, “No, you didn’t have to deal with it; I did. I was the one who cried for hours on end until I got so tired I fell asleep. I was the one who felt so bad I wanted to die and began self-harming; I was the one who had nobody to talk to, who would just listen or at least acknowledge that yes, I may have an illness but that doesn’t define who I am.”

I really wish the family I supposedly have, who love and care and worry about me, would take the time to stop and think about how they talk to me, and how they word things, and how they treat me as if I’m still a child who can’t comprehend anything. I’m an adult and I expect to be treated as such — with respect. So until the day comes that they do some research and actually understand what really goes on with a person with my illness, I can’t let them be a part of my life or else I’ll never get better. It was hard growing up, not just because I had no legit father figure, but because my mother made me out to be a burden to her and her life.

I’m sorry I still have days when I’m not 100 percent, but that’s because bipolar is something you manage; there is no cure for this. So, Mother: You no longer have to deal with this, and honestly, you never had to deal with it because you’re not the one with the illness. I am, and I deal with it and I will continue to deal with it without you having to worry about me putting any pressure on you. I hope for the day someone in my family stops blaming me and telling me how to live my life, and stops saying I’m the one who needs help. Well, I am getting help, but it sure ain’t from you and it never was.

Today marks the day I will no longer let my “family” control me because they think my illness makes me an immature child, and think I need to do this and do that and I need to prove to them I want the help in order to receive it. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone but myself and that’s what I plan on doing.

So for now, goodbye. Don’t worry about me; I’ll be more than fine without the constant put-downs and belittling from the people who should’ve shown me the love and support I received from my friends. Blood doesn’t make you family, and my family sure as hell has proven that to more than just me.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

Originally published: August 15, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home