Going Polar…[Bi]Polar That Is

So my life suddenly makes much more sense this week. For anyone who knows me, and anyone who’s read my blog, you know that my relationship with my father has been strained over the years. That is an understatement. He has dealt with mental illness for many years, although he always tells people he has depression. However, recently he made a bit of a slip-up when he had a conversation with my sister in which he said he believes his doctor incorrectly diagnosed him with Bipolar Disorder. This was confirmed by my cousin (also Bipolar) when she told me in casual conversation that he had spoken with her about going off medication. I was speaking with her about the fact that I’ve just come to realize and understand that my dad suffers from mental illness and so I choose not to take anything personally. He says and does a lot of things that most people (okay ANY person) would find offensive and hurtful, and I just let go. It’s better than getting all upset and having no relationship with him at all. Unfortunately, my younger sister is caught in the crossfire: he’s been hurting her recently, which is really difficult for her because they’ve always had a very close relationship. That’s just about when my cousin interjected that Bipolar is difficult. It’s difficult for the person who has it, and it’s equally difficult for family and friends of the diagnosed. Say WHAAA????

Now, let me say that for many years this was my suspicion, but I’m not a doctor…what do I know?! What I do know is that I lived with a roommate in college who was Bipolar, and I have a cousin who also suffers with it. I know what to look for, and when to fade into the background and let the episode happen…and when to pray that it will be over soon.

I guess I’m writing this because although my life makes SO much more sense now, I wonder why there is such a stigma associated with Bipolar Disorder. Why does my dad feel he can’t tell people that he has it? And why does he lie and say that he’s been diagnosed with Depression? He feels that people will judge him, I suppose. And again, I just can’t understand this because I would be able to wholeheartedly forgive him and UNDERSTAND him if he had just been honest. Not only this, but we ALL (family and friends) would be able to help him cope. We could recognize as a family when it’s time for him to go to the hospital, take the credit cards, or even when to just go see his doctor…

Unfortunately he hasn’t been honest with me, or with himself apparently. So we all still have to tip-toe around the elephant in the room that is Bipolar. I hope one day that he’s able to realize that this doesn’t have to be a big deal and that we can all come together as a family and help him cope with this disease. And I also hope that my sister can understand that our dad isn’t like every other dad in this world and not take the things he says and does personally. That’s the definition of unconditional love: love him when he’s unlovable and respect him when he’s unrespectable.

So I’d just like to say that I love my dad, Bipolar and all. And I hope that everyone out there can think before judging someone who suffers from this affliction, or any other mental disorder for that matter. This is the time of the year to be mindful of what we’re thankful for, and I’m thankful to have my dad in my life, flawed and all.